My name is Savanna Thompson and I am currently a Freshman at Auburn University. I just want to speak to what to look out for and what to be excited about as students transition from junior to senior year as well as into freshman year of college. I was in your shoes 1-2 years ago, so trust me - I know some of the hardships you are already facing, but the Lord has not forgotten you! I hope the advice I share resonates with some of you and will hopefully prepare you for these new stages of life.
I know Covid-19 still exists right now, but maybe your life will look more normal by the time you’ve transitioned to senior year or college. The Lord provided me with more time to reflect on these things than I could have imagined because, corona. I could talk about how frustrating it was to have my senior year taken away from me. My graduation, senior prom, Apex, and senior mission trip were all cancelled. Which was a bummer, no lie, but having a summer at home where I was not able to see my friends made me appreciate those close friendships more than ever. It gave me a chance to spend my last summer before college with my family and strengthen those relationships before I moved away. I had no excuse not to read my Bible, so I was able to learn so much about the Lord and grow closer to Him even in such a hard summer. I am currently living out my freshman year of college in the midst of a pandemic and you will survive. It may not be all that you expected senior year/college to look like, but you will still be able to make fun memories and suffer through this masked season along with others.
TRANSITIONING TO SENIOR YEAR: WHERE MY SENIORS AT?
Expecting Perfection: It’s easy to come into senior year expecting it to be “picture perfect.” I knew my year would not be perfect, but I expected if I had a great friend group, good grades, a high ACT score, and fun trips and memories then I would be content. Although these are blessings that the Lord may provide, the goal of senior year should not be who remembers you or to have an impressive list of accomplishments, the best grades, or the most fun friend group. The goal should be to glorify the Lord and grow in him daily. Glorify and grow are two small words that are not easily accomplished. It means setting aside time to worship God rather than yourself or idols in your life and recognizing your weaknesses, but it is far better to be able to look back and see how God has worked in your life.
Focusing on Self: Senior year should be much less about you than you think. You are deciding what you want to do when you graduate, what college you want to go to, what career you want to pursue. It is easy to focus on yourself because you are being asked a lot of questions. However, this is the only time you will be the oldest high schoolers. All those seniors you looked up to when you were younger, that is how other people view you. You are automatically given a position of leadership, so use that to your advantage. Pour into girls and boys that are younger than you because what may not seem like a big deal to you is huge for them. Think of ways to challenge those younger than you by asking them hard questions and start conversations so they can see you care about who they are, even if it’s as simple as “if you could describe yourself as a fruit, what would it be?” During my senior year I was able to have deep conversations and form friendships with the 8th and 10th grade girls. It did not take me long to realize, first of all - they are nuts! And second of all - the Lord has given them so much wisdom to the point that I was learning from them.
Senioritis: Let’s be honest, Senioritis is real, but don’t check out too soon. There may be times when you’re thinking “let me out of here!”. You may be so over high school. You may just be excited for a new chapter and fresh start. On the flipside, you may not be ready to leave at all. Being on your own can be a scary feeling. Regardless of which side you are on, God has you here for a reason. You have not graduated yet, so try to be present where you are. “Where you are” looks different person to person, so think about where you are everyday: school, church, sports, dance class, play practice, you name it. You may think of those as mundane, repetitive things, but God has you around those specific people to be a light for Him.
If there are days where you think “I hate my school. I have made as many memories and impacted as many people as I can. I am just ready to be DONE”, the Lord is not done with you. You may think “there are so many kids at my school, the Lord can pick someone else to eat lunch with that person who sits alone” or, “God can find someone else to share the Gospel with that atheist in my math class.” Don’t wait for someone else to listen to the Lord, YOU listen! If God has put lonely and lost people in your life, it’s because he wants to speak through you. If you have already checked out, he’ll find someone else to use for His glory, but don’t you want to be part of that? You may have thought “I don’t want to play soccer again this year. It was exhausting, I’m not close to my teammates, and I have too much on my plate.” Now, I’m not saying you should spread yourself too thin and get involved in everything you can senior year. If you have too much on your plate, it’s ok to say no. However, if the Lord is calling you to play a sport or sign up for the school musical but you are dreading it, it’s likely because He has a bigger plan that you cannot see yet. I started playing volleyball in 7th grade and decided I wasn’t going to play my senior year…so I thought. As the season got closer I kept thinking “maybe I should just play one more year.” So, being the procrastinator I am, I decided to at least go to tryouts the day before they started. The Lord gave me peace about playing and although it was not always something I looked forward to, the Lord used my last season to draw me closer to the girls on my team, lead devotionals, and be a leader on and off the court as much as I could. I am not saying that I changed anybody’s life, but those girls looked up to me they payed attention to the way that I pursued the Lord simply because I was older.
If you are not wanting to show up to church anymore because you don’t feel as close to people, you have to study for the ACT, you’re not in a good place with the Lord…whatever your reason is, that is Satan getting in your head. No church is perfect and there are times where you may not feel as close to your grade because maybe they are struggling. Whatever the reason is, you should not go to church solely to see your friends, because when they become distant and do not meet your needs you will likely stop coming altogether. You may have to skip a week to catch up on school, but do not let homework be your coverup for not wanting to be challenged by the Lord. You may feel distant from the Lord at times - all the more reason to show up. If you are convinced you do not need a church family, that is Satan playing into your pride and your heart. Please please please make church a priority your senior year.
-- All that to say…invest in the relationships right in front of you, and make the most of your time so that the Lord can use you in the lives of those around you.
Relationships: I decided my senior year that I was not going to date at all. I knew I was about to go to college and meet all these new boys that I did not know existed and I did not want to be tied down to someone else. It is not a sin to date in high school, I dated someone my junior year, but there is a high likelihood that you will break up with that person either during high school or college. At least four people in my friend group broke up with their high school boyfriends/girlfriends since coming to college. I don’t say that to scare you because a relationship in high school can be very glorifying to the Lord. Many people have married their high school sweethearts. But, thinking realistically, if you cannot see yourself marrying that person, then you shouldn't be dating them. Yes, they may grow up and turn into this amazing woman/man who is on fire for the Lord and would make the perfect husband/wife, however they may not. Don’t date potential, date actual.
To the Senior Parents:
Senior year is different for every child. Maybe yours wants to spend more time with you than ever, or maybe they are so ready to leave that you hardly see them. For the child that is more attached to home, make sure you give them enough freedom and space to see how they act and what decisions they make when you are not the one calling the shots. This shows what their motivations are and how they will be able to take on freedom when they are no longer at home. For the child that is ready to leave, they just want some independence and a fresh start. When you want to spend time with your child, bonding over folding laundry, doing the dishes, or washing the dog is not the quality time a senior in high school wants. (I’m not saying they shouldn’t do their chores! Kids, if you’re reading this, obey your parents and take care of your responsibilities at home.) What I’m saying is, if you want to spend quality time with your child, make them an offer they can't refuse. Go hiking, out to a favorite restaurant or explore downtown Birmingham. Find fun things to do with them when you have the time. Also, do not forget about your other kids if you have them! The senior in the house will likely be getting a lot of attention. It’s easy for them to feel forgotten or less important.
TRANSITIONING TO COLLEGE FRESHMAN: COLLEGE KIDS WHERE YOU AT?
A few steps I would encourage you to do:
Step One: Find a CHURCH! Get plugged into a biblically sound church that preaches scripture, not only knowledge and wisdom. If you are having doubts about the messages being preached after lining it up with scripture, call your high school pastor for advice and then get out of there if there is any legitimate concern. Preaching done right should be straight out of the Bible with interpretation added on. It should not be one man’s interpretation with sporatic verses thrown in to back up the pastor’s theme. Find a college ministry that is pursuing you, is easy to get involved in, and where you feel welcomed by the staff and church members.
Step Two: Look for solid COMMUNITY. By “solid” I do not just mean sweet, fun people. Find people that clearly love the Lord and motivate you to pursue God above all else. Find people that you can talk to honestly about what is going on in your life and what the Lord is teaching you. Look for friends that are not bitter or jealous when your life is going good. Find people that will listen to your sin struggles, family issues, and breakups without judging you or making you feel alone. The right kind of community is at every school and every city for those of you working straight out of high school. I promise. Just be patient! You may not find those people immediately, but church is a great place to look for them.
Step Three: Evaluate your RELATIONSHIP with the Lord and see if over time, you have drawn closer to Him. Or, have you become more distant since high school? What has caused you to drift? Are the people in your life a bad influence? Are you over committing to too many things? Are you neglecting to read your Bible? or What has caused you to feel closer to God? Are the people in your life sharing wisdom and encouraging you to read the Word? Are you pushing yourself to pray everyday? Is it just because of the Holy Spirit inside of you? (that’s definitely part of it). Think about what you believe. If your faith was based on your parents' faith, now you have to decide what your faith and hope is in and hold tightly to those values. Your opinions may change slightly when you get to college, but think about the foundation of your belief and what Christianity is at its core. My student minister in high school once used this analogy:
As you learn more about the Lord, there are some things that should never change, while your perspective on secondary matters may shift as you experience life. Open and close your hand for a second. When you make a fist with your hands, it is tight and would be hard for anything on your palm to come out. The core truths of Christianity, like God being the Creator of the world, marriage being intended for a man and a woman, Jesus dying on the cross for your sins when we deserved death, the fact that Jesus resurrected and is coming back for us one day should be wrapped in a closed fist because those truths are not questionable if you are a Christian – I’m not saying you will never doubt these truths, but if this is what you base your life on then your opinion on these matters should never change. Where as secondary matters such as answers that we will not know until we get to Heaven can rest in the open hand and may shift overtime. It’s okay to change your opinion sometimes, just make sure it aligns with what scripture says.
Step Four: Get INVOLVED with your college! Say "yes!" to all the good, clean, fun things you can because it will force you out of your comfort zone and allow you to meet different people. Go to questions you’ll discover are, "Where are you from? What’s your major? What made you choose that?". Try to answer those questions in a way that points to the Lord. It’s very normal to give your number out to people if you want to meet for coffee or lunch, so try to be as intentional as possible in following up with the people you meet.
Step Five: Don’t get TOO involved! Say yes to a lot, but not everything. The party lifestyle will be easy to access no matter how big or small your school is or whether it’s Christian. You will find ways to pursue the lifestyle you want. People may say “everyone experiments in college.” You do not have to participate in everything to realize it is harmful to you and not glorifying to the Lord. If you do fall into those temptations, there is absolutely grace for those who ask for forgiveness, but wouldn’t you rather avoid having to carry that burden in the first place? Nothing in this world will satisfy you as much as you think it will. No drink, drug, sex, friends will fill the emptiness you may feel, that peace comes from God alone. It’s okay to say no to good things, too. Good is the enemy of best, so consider what options will be the most fun and beneficial things in your walk with the Lord and say no to the invitations that will cause you to disobey the Lord. It is easy to get distracted by the craziness of freshman year, so be intentional about spending some time alone with the Lord, praying and reading the Word.
Step Six: Consider the TEMPTATIONS in your life. Does the party lifestyle appeal to you? Are drinking and drugs a weak spot for you? Do you give into peer pressure? Are lust, pornography, or other sexual sins a struggle for you? Are you willing to cross boundaries in order to have a relationship with or get attention from a girl or guy? Do you have a hard time admitting that you are wrong and need forgiveness? Do you find it difficult to give second chances and show mercy to those that hurt you? Do you show too much mercy to the point that people walk all over you? – This is not near all the possible sins you could or have already faced, but it is important to recognize weak areas in our lives. Knowing this before entering college will prepare you to better handle a situation where you are tempted to sin. Sometimes, it takes being put in a hard position to see sin struggles you did not know you had, but there is freedom in forgiveness when you come to the Lord.
Step Seven: Think about where you stand on DATING. I decided going into my freshman year that I was not going to date first semester, maybe not all year. This was a very wise decision because I was not as distracted by looking for my future husband. Sure, when I met guys with great personality that loved the Lord, in my head I would wonder “is this who God has for me?” Girls are crazy aren’t they? Even though this thought may come across my mind every once in a while, I was not searching for a boyfriend and it got to the point where I genuinely didn’t want one. I could not imagine the stress of trying to date someone, meet a bunch of strangers, manage my classes, go to freshman events, go to church gatherings and small groups, eat, sleep, the list goes on. But then this boy showed interest in me and I had to remember why I was deciding not to date. People do it all the time, including many of my close friends, but I didn't even try it. I wanted to be plugged into a church, to find solid Christian community, and to have confidence in my relationship with and closeness to the Lord before I added anything else to my plate. Second semester rolled around and all of these “boxes” had been checked off. I found an amazing church, precious community, and I was consistent in reading my Bible daily and seeking the Lord’s will over my own. Once I reached this point, I was not asking for a boyfriend and was honestly content being single, but the Lord plopped someone in my lap. After praying about it almost constantly and getting opinions from the people in my life that I trust most, I did not feel guilty about going on a date. Sometimes the Lord does not put a gift in your life until you know it’s not something you need and truly believe that it cannot satisfy you. If the Lord intends for you to get married, you have so much time to find someone, so do not miss out on friendships the Lord has in front of you because you are searching high and low for “the one.” God puts people in our lives in His own timing, often when we are not expecting it. If you get married, you have the rest of your earthly life to spend with that person, so enjoy being single for a little while.
If you do decide to date freshman year, it's not a sin, just be careful. If it's someone you have not known for long, or even if you know them pretty well, ask for wisdom from people that know and love you. Don't let your emotions be the only thing driving your decisions. Think about what physical and emotional boundaries you should set for yourself before you go on a date. Although physical stuff may not seem like a huge deal to some people, being a freshman means you have at least four years with that person. If you cross every boundary that is not considered “sinful” in your first month of dating eachother, it will make it much harder to not fall into sin and cross other physical boundaries down the road; it’s especially hard if you do think you’re going to marry this person because it’s easy to think “oh we’re most likely getting married anyways so it’s okay if we push the boundary a little bit.” No, that is Satan trying to get you in a place of darkness where you will feel guilty later.
To the College Parents:
Whether your child is going to college 15 minutes down 280 or flying 10 hours across the country for college, I know it's hard to watch them go. You are watching someone that you have raised establish a home somewhere else and you may feel like it’s hard to be involved in their life. I often forget to text my mom back about some things and she’ll respond for me saying “yes mom, I did make it back to Auburn safely!” It’s not because I don’t want to talk to her or have forgotten about her, but I just have a lot going on. Check in every once in a while, but give them enough space for them to enjoy these new freedoms and make decisions for themselves now that they do not have you to lean back on every step of the way.
Takeaways: I know that was a lot! If you take nothing else away, remember this: God has you on this earth for HIS glory, so look for ways that you can glorify him everyday by looking outside yourself. Find ways to serve others because you will never regret going out of your way to make someone’s day a little bit better by showing them the love of Christ. Don’t look so far ahead that you miss the joys the Lord has placed in front of you. Be present where you are and make the most of where God has placed you. Pray without ceasing, because you cannot do anything on your own. Ya’ll are going to kill senior year and freshman year of college. Whoop whoop!
-- If you have any specific questions for someone who has recently finished high school and is currently walking through college, don't hesitate to reach out to me!
Phone: (205) 994-4658