Graduation is here for many high school and college students. Several students I've had to privilege to know and love are leaving for college in the Fall. So, here's some practical advice for high school graduates. This list isn't exhaustive, but in my experience it is very helpful.
1) Don't go home every weekend and especially not the first weekend.
Your parents might not like this advice, but it is good advice. So much of what you learn at college will not be learned in a classroom. You will learn from the experience of being around new people. Weekends are so important for meeting people, especially the first weekend. Some of those people you meet your first weekend will possibly be life-long friends.
2) Leave your door open.
When you're in your room just hanging out leave your door open. This will give you an opportunity to bond with those students living on your floor. Most, if not all, of those students are also scared freshmen and that common experience is a great catalyst for friendship. People who close their doors all the time often miss this companionship in a shared living space.
3) Don't overlook the weird kids, they're often the nicest.
High school may have been about cliques but college doesn't have to be like that. Those "weird kids" are often the most friendly people on campus. If you want college to be cliquey like high school it will be; but if you befriend people of all walks of life you'll learn so much more and have deeper friendships that aren't based solely on your social strata.
4) Don't believe everything your professors say, but think about everything they say.
Newsflash: many professors have an agenda. A great number of these men and women want to teach you the subject matter and share their opinions with you as if they were facts. These professors range from the atheist to the extreme liberal to the libertarian to the feminist that will make you sorry if you were born male. Not everything presented in your class will be strictly factual. However, don't use that as an excuse to stop thinking. Some of my best professors were the curmudgeon former Christians and passionate near communists because they forced me to think sharply enough to defend my own opinion.
5) Plug into a church.
This is my most useful and impactful piece of advice for a few reasons. In college you will be surrounded by 18-22 year-olds who think they know it all; your church will give you a chance to learn from your elders and give you an opportunity to mentor those younger than you. Your church will keep you rooted in your faith. For so long you've probably gone to church because your parents did, college will be a chance for you to go to church because you want to. Don't underestimate the power of this.
9 years ago I plugged myself into a church in my college town, Waverly. I was a nervous freshman at Wartburg College and I can't say enough how awesome the decision to go to Grace Baptist was for me. Grace gave me a chance to be my own adult in the congregation. No longer was I Jack and Kathie's son, I was just Matt. My faith became even more my own and being plugged into Grace helped that immensely. I'm still a member of Grace and I can only begin to say what a difference my church has made in my life.
Seniors, congratulations on your graduation. I'd advice you to consider all the advice I gave above but I implore you to plug into a local church above all the rest of the advice that was given. You'll be glad you did. Again, congratulations and consider this advice today.