An Open Letter to All of My Former High School Students Now Going to College…

580-institute classWell, you’ve had your first day of freshman year. You’ve already missed multiple hours of needed sleep, thought about your parents more than you thought you would, forgot to charge you iPod, and made eye contact with a pretty attractive person in one of your classes. Now that you’ve got those moments under your belt, can I just share a couple odd pieces of advice? I’ve known a lot of young adults and you know me…I’ve asked a lot of questions. Here are a few things you should know:

lds-young-single-adults-arriving-at-institute1. Take an institute class. Yesterday was my first day teaching institute adjacent to a large university and I asked these upperclassmen why they keep signing up. Two answers set the pattern. First, they all seem to love the break from a very, very hectic and stress schedule at the university. Second, multiple students expressed the idea that institute helps them “not stay in the same place spiritually, for too long”… Just walk into the closest institute building, find the front desk, and they will help you find a class. Any class! Any teacher! If you want to register for a class online, start here: Find an Institute. Whether you liked seminary or not, I promise you will love institute. Plan on attending their activities. Plan on attending classes all through college. Plan on doing some homework in the lounge area at the institute.

2. Stop treating sleep like your ex-boy or girl friend. What I mean is, stop ignoring your sleep. In high school it was badge of honor to tweet about how little sleep you got (#nosleepclub). In college, you will drown. Your instructors expect a lot out of you every day, and classes cost you (or your parents) a lot of cash. Go to bed on time, get up early(-ish) and live like an adult!

3. Get up on the first Sunday of your college experience and go to your assigned ward. Do not go home and attend mommy and daddy’s ward (Parents, don’t freak out…they’ll still come home…they have to do laundry). Walk up to the bishop on that first Sunday, shake his hand, and share your name. Accept a calling. Go home or visiting teaching. It is time to treat your spiritual life like you value it. If you haven’t been in the habit of studying your scriptures daily and praying often, start now and never stop. Ever. I have noticed that students who drive home every weekend and don’t connect with their college ward struggle most of their young adult life to stay connected to the church. God know which ward you live in and He expects to find you there each Sunday.

reminders4. If your junior year at high school didn’t do it, college should help you develop a plan to stay organized. You have to have a way to write things down, keep track of assignments and appointments, and have a schedule of work, play, homework, and sleep. Use your iPod. Download an organizational app and get to know it. Every day should have at least a flexible plan. Set alarms on your phone so you don’t forget things. I don’t know any successful people who aren’t at least moderately organized.

5. Take your dating life off of social media and put it into real life. I know, sounds weird, right? But in high school, you can tell who is breaking up with who by the way they subtweet their life events surrounding the break up. No more tweeting stuff like, “So this is how it is going to be” or “I deserve better” or “I thought things would be different this time”… If you have something to communicate to a significant other, tell them, not everyone but them. Use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc., in ways that will uplift you and others, send others a positive message about the type of person you are, and in ways that invite fun and humor. Want more info about how social media can be used? Go here.

6. Last but not least, if you want to re-invent yourself positively, now is the time to start. Relatively speaking, very few people know you on campus. They don’t know what you were like in high school. They won’t question your motives. If you’ve always wanted to be someone who is friendly, but just weren’t that person in high school, you have permission to start today. If you were always a little hesitant to raise your hand and comment in seminary, you can start in institute. No one knows that you were not a “share-er” in seminary. Determine who you and the Lord want you to be and move that direction, starting right now.

Of course, there’s more to success in college than what I’ve shared. These six ideas are part of a much larger pattern of success in young adult life. You’ll figure it out. I have all kinds of confidence in your ability to discern what invites happiness and success. And please, check in with your old seminary teacher every once in awhile!

Be Encouraging…



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