by Jennifer Hall

As I prepare for my first year of college, I’m very excited for all the new things to come. But I’m also feeling overwhelmed. Not only am I starting a new chapter, but I’m also seeing my friends go their separate ways. And I’ve come to the realization that my education at this university is not only an incredible opportunity, it will be very expensive. The phrase “student loans” makes my head hurt.

Jennifer Hall

Even though I’m anxious about this transition, I am trying not to be afraid. Thankfully there are others–other freshmen–who feel the same way I do. At one moment, I’m really excited–and the next moment, I start to freak out. And then I have to remind myself that this is really happening.

Even though I’m anxious, I remember that God is always going with me and I don’t need to worry. “I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Here are some things I’ve learned as I prepare to leave my friends and family for college.

Saying goodbye is tough
This can be one of the most difficult things we do. When we start new beginnings, we have to accept that we won’t be seeing the same group of friends or teachers anymore. Even though I’ll be attending college only an hour away from my parents’ home, some of my friends are going to schools far away.

I want to tell anybody reading this that it is OK to cry about this. This is an emotional time and if your friends are anything like mine (adventurous, goofy, talented and amazing), then it’s understandable to shed a few tears – or even more.

The best thing to do is keep in touch with your friends and pray for them. Pray that they’ll achieve the dreams they’ve been wanting to come true, and ask them to pray for you too.

Preparing yourself
Now that you’ve said goodbye to many of your friends, it’s time to get yourself ready. How did I prepare for school? I went shopping for supplies! (I’ll be living on campus so this involved a few trips.) It’s daunting to realize that I needed all these new things for my first year.

All this preparation reminds me of getting a new gadget without a manual – so you have to play with it until something happens.

For me, school is that new gadget. Even though I don’t have an instruction manual, I need to just dive in and get going.

Talk to God
Growing up in church, I learned the stories of Jesus helping others. There’s the ongoing theme of our Lord telling us not to be afraid, for “I am with you” (Isaiah 43:5; Mark 28:20). After hearing this so many times, I’ve come to believe it. No matter the situation, good or bad, Jesus will be there for me. We can all trust in God as we go forth in our new journey in college.

If you are content, give God the praise and glory. And when you are worried or just not feeling good, talk to God. Prayer is one of the most powerful things we can do in this lifetime, and as a witness, the power of prayer works.

Discussion questions:

1. What does starting a new beginning mean to you?
2. How has God helped you through your hardships?
3. What are some of the ways you have prepared for school? Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually?

Closing prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you. Thank you for getting me this far in my journey. I have come such a long way and I know that I could not have gotten through this without you. Lord, I still look to you for guidance as so many are starting a new journey of college. Please watch over my loved ones and my friends as they encounter new obstacles in their lives. I know I serve an amazing God and will always be your humble servant. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Jennifer Hall graduated high school this spring. This past summer, She worked on staff of Women of the ELCA for the triennial gathering. She is now attending Temple University in Philadelphia and studying psychology.