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University of Destruction

University of Destruction

By David Wheaton Ready? Set? Transition!

So will it be tremendous or traumatic ... your transition to college, that is?

My story notwithstanding, your transition from high school to college has the potential to be positively tremendous. If you're prepared, you should be eagerly anticipating it. What an opportunity to gain an education, grow into adulthood, and get ready for your future.

And let's not forget the fun! If you make the right choices, you will have the time of your life in college. What an opportunity to make lifelong friends, create fond memories, and experience a new world.

Going to college--what a potentially tremendous transition for you ... if you're prepared, and if you make the right choices.

But, whoops! The transition can turn traumatic in a hurry. You just read my story; you probably have heard many others like it.

Sure, the particulars of any given version are different, but the scenario is exactly the same: Christian boy or girl goes to college and falls away from his or her faith. Potentially tremendous turns into devastatingly traumatic.

The actual statistic is staggering: As many as 50 percent of Christian students say they have lost their faith after four years in college. (See appendix.)

Did you get that? Fifty percent! One out of two! Fifty out of a hundred! Five hundred out of a thousand! That's a lot.

I'm actually not surprised. From what I continually see and hear as a Christian speaker and radio talk show host, I certainly wasn't the only one to suffer spiritual shipwreck in college. It seems like the majority of faith stories from a twenty- or thirty-something details a story of decline in college ... even at religious colleges.

The question is, why? Why is college such a minefield for Christian students?

The answer is actually quite simple: The majority of Christian teens are spiritually unprepared for the most challenging transition they will ever make in life.

Transition Defined
The verb transition means "to change from one place or state of existence to another." For most of you, that is exactly what will happen when you go to college--you will transition from life at home to life on campus. More than just a change of place, though, your stage of life is also in the process of changing from boy to man or girl to woman.

It is the transitional periods in life that are often the most difficult and perilous. Familiar is replaced by new--new surroundings, new friendships, new temptations ... new everything!

I believe going off to college is more challenging than some of the other major transitions in life, like moving cross-country, changing careers, or attending a different high school. It might even be more challenging than getting married or having children! (Not that I would know.)

Your Transition to College
But what about your upcoming or recent transition to college? To varying degrees, you have just spent the first eighteen years of your life in familiar and secure surroundings. You went to school and spent time with friends, were involved in after-school activities like sports, music, or work, and then went home to your family in the evening. Perhaps you went to church on Sunday mornings and to youth group on Wednesday nights.

While you associated with your friends quite a bit, much of your time was spent with people older than you--parents, teachers, coaches, employers, youth leaders. Yeah, you spent a little time with your younger brother or sister too.

More often than not, you had to abide by the rules of your house. Sure, you broke them at times, but there was an abiding presence at home limiting your freedom to do whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. You had to let Dad or Mom know where you were going and with whom, and what time you would return. If you botched your end of the bargain, there were consequences.

In short, you lived a real life. You had a daily routine, associated with people of varying ages, and heeded someone's authority. As a matter of fact, you had it better than real life because you weren't fully supporting yourself financially. What a deal!

College is going to be different ... a lot different. First of all, unlike any other time in your past or future, you will be living and spending almost all your time with people your own age. While this may seem perfectly splendid, this is actually not ideal because it often fosters an environment of immaturity.

Spending time with people older than we are tends to mature us. Even spending time with younger people can lead to the development of leadership qualities. But I believe spending the majority of your time with those of similar age results only in stunted maturity. The positive influence that parents, teachers, coaches, or other leaders provide won't occur naturally in college because they are simply not around as much. This lack of authority and the same-age dynamic on campus are just two of the ingredients in the recipe for collegiate disaster.

The difference between home life and campus life doesn't end there. Most aspects of college will be solely up to you: registering for classes and getting to them on time, keeping up with schoolwork, feeding and transporting yourself, managing your finances, choosing new friends, doing laundry, and sleeping enough hours to function.

Congratulations--you are now on your own!

And therein lies the major problem: You--a young adult still in the process of maturing mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually--are leaving all that is familiar to you for an extremely different and precarious environment that is going to require critical and mature decision-making skills the moment you step on campus.

The transition to college would be less serious if all that mattered was polishing up your personal discipline and time management skills. In reality there are far more important and difficult issues you will have to face in college, namely the three Pillars of Peril, which I'll explain in chapter three.

Better be prepared, for you are going to be smack-dab in the middle of a battle for your soul on campus. What does that mean?

It means that the broad way that leads to destruction will be battling and beckoning your soul to stray off the narrow way that leads to life (see Matthew 7:13–14). It means that your present, future, and even your afterlife are going to be directly affected by which "way" you choose in college.

An overstatement? Not at all. For example, if you choose to have premarital sex in college, you will be weakening yourself for future sexual immorality and extramarital affairs, which often result in broken marriages and families. If you choose to get drunk or use drugs in college, you will be setting yourself up for all kinds of future trouble and anguish, even bouts of addiction. If you choose to believe the anti-Bible, truth-is-relative philosophies taught by certain professors, you will eventually become unprincipled, unstable, and ungodly in your thoughts and action. If you choose to cheat on exams or schoolwork, you will be desensitizing yourself to future deception in business or taxes.

Yet the opposite is also true. If you navigate the troubled waters of college successfully--if you are true to God and His Word--you will be paving the way to a life of purpose and contentment, a life that honors and glorifies God. There is no greater accomplishment than that.

You might be thinking, "College is my four years to experiment. I'm going to have my fun now and settle down later in life." Don't believe the "later" lie. First, you don't know if there will even be a later--no one knows his or her future. And second, you (and everyone else) are not exempt from the consequences of sin just because you're in college, where "everyone else does it" and then appears to carry on with no lasting effects.

Rather, the later truth is this: When you choose the beginning of the way in college, you are determining the end of the way later on. Realize it or not, you are composing your own destiny by your actions in college. And it all starts with your mind.

Consider this process: A thought becomes an action. An action becomes a habit. A habit becomes your destiny. Think about that. Your thoughts, your ideas, your views of the world determine what you do and what you will become. In short, they determine who you are as a person.

The Bible states this important principle in the book of Proverbs: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he" (Proverbs 23:7a).

There it is--what you "think in your heart" will determine your degree of success--or failure--in college.

* * *

Everyone knows the positive results of a tremendous transition to college: the opportunity for you to gain an education, to grow in maturity, to get prepared for the future, and to have the time of your life. Wow.

Unfortunately, not everyone fully understands, or cares to understand, the other real possibility--the transition to college can turn traumatic in a hurry if you're unprepared and make the wrong choices. Whoa.

The purpose of this book is to help you make a tremendous transition to college, all the while avoiding a traumatic one. It is not written to a boy or a girl, but to the young man or young woman that you now are. It will push and it will prod you. You will not find pie-in-the-sky platitudes, but rather practical and powerful ways to make college a University of Instruction, not a University of Destruction.

Ready? (Are you prepared for college?)

Set? (What are you thinking in your heart?)

Transition! (Tremendously, not traumatically.)

Very Important Principle:

Although the transition to college can be difficult and dangerous, how you think on campus will define your destiny.

Message to Memorize:

For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.

Proverbs 23:7

Related Stories:
Success, Surfing, and Stanford
Read the author's account of his own transition to college.

Faith on Campus: Is It Possible?
Charles Colson shares tips and resources to help Christian college students finish their education with their faith intact.

Excerpted from: University of Destruction by David Wheaton. Copyright © 2005 ; ISBN 0764200534. Published by Bethany House Publishers. Used by permission.

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