Freshman year: the #1 thing


What’s the #1 thing I should focus on for my first semester of college?

I’ve had this conversation at least a dozen times over the past two weeks.  It’s your first semester of your freshman year, and everyone is trying to figure out the answer to this question.  What should be my top priority?  What is the most important thing for me to do?  How do I strive for success in college?

There are a lot of plausible answers to this question.  People will say you need to focus on time management, organization, eating/sleeping/exercising well, establishing a solid routine, focus on your studies, grades, finding your fit on campus, getting involved, getting to know faculty, choosing your major… the list goes on and on.  All of these are good answers.  All are important.

But the #1 thing I tell students to focus on their first semester is finding great friends.

You were wired for connection and relationship.  The key to your success at college, your happiness in college, will be directly impacted by the friends you choose.

Donald Miller said it best,

Your friends will determine the course of your life.

That may seem extreme, but it couldn’t be more true.  You need to find people who share your values, who inspire, encourage, and positively challenge you.  Again, I’ll paraphrase Donald Miller (he’s a smart dude), choose friends who are people you want to become like.  Choose friends who are going to make you a better person. 

The hardest part about this is that it takes time and intentionality on your part.  It means that the friends you’ve been hanging out with that you made from your orientation group or your residence hall, though they are convenient friends, they may not be the friends that fit the criteria.  Convenient friendships are rarely ones that are inspiring, meaningful friendships. 

I want inspiring friendships. I want to be an inspiring friend.  Don’t you?

But it takes time.  It takes patience and pursuit. 

You will have to meet a lot of people.  You’ll have to observe them and determine if they are folks you want to be like, folks who share your values, who will encourage you, who will be great friends.  And then you’ll have to pursue them and put in the time to develop a great friendship.

The other piece to this is that you have to be a great friend. 

You have to be a person that others want to be like.  That others will find encouraging and inspiring.  You can’t look for great friends until you are ready to be one yourself.

Many sophomores come back to campus for their second year and realize the friends they made last year are mediocre friendships at best.  If this is you, that’s okay.  Now you know and you’ve got 3 more years to find great friends.

Pursue meaningful relationships.

Pursue friends who you want to be like.  Pursue friends who speak truth and show grace (another thought from Donald Miller). And don’t stop with your peers!  Find an adult on your college campus or college church that you want to be like as well.  Find someone a few years ahead who can speak even more wisdom and truth into your life than a peer can.

Just pursue great people. And don’t stop.  If you keep this a #1 priority for your entire life, I promise it will be a rich and rewarding one. Because when you pursue great friends, they will determine the course of your life, which will be greatness.