Every 18-year-old going off to college wonders what the next four years will bring.
As freshmen, you look forward with excitement, hope and curiosity to the changes that lie ahead. If you grew up in a religious household or practice a certain religion, a fear of losing touch with your faith (or your parents’ fear of this) can contribute to feelings of anxiety.
If you follow a few simple steps, however, and remain committed to the goal of staying faithful, your journey will be much easier.
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1. Find Supportive Friends
Finding at least one or two close friends who share your values, even if most of your friends don’t, is the key to success. Going to church on Sundays or to regular religious worship is much easier when you have company. Being able to discuss and share your faith with others is key to your success. There is a reason we have faith communities — to support one another.
I’m sure there were times during my college years when a roommate’s gentle reminder about Mass on Sunday morning kept me going. None of us is perfect, and none of us is constantly unwavering in our faith. It takes good influences in our lives to keep us going. Occasionally I would joke with two of my good friends that they pressured me to do the right thing, and I am so grateful they did.
Not every college friend, of course, should be exactly like you or share your same religion. That’s not what college — or life — should be at all. But a few close believers just like you can make a surprising difference.
2. Have Confidence and Humility
One reason college students lose their faith and stop going to church (apart from just laziness) is wanting to be like everyone else. Especially in the first few months of school, the majority of freshmen just want friends. They don’t really care who they are.
Having confidence is critical. As St. Francis de Sales said: “Be who you are and be that well.” The desire to blend in and sleep in on Sundays will be appealing, but having the strength and confidence to stand up for your beliefs and practice them is important to maintaining your faith.
“Be who you are and be that well.”
Remaining faithful throughout your life also requires the humility to recognize this is only possible with God’s help. This is perhaps one of the hardest aspects of keeping our faith: trusting God completely. It goes against our human nature and desire for complete control. However, if we can move past that desire and trust God with our lives and our future, He will not let us down.
3. Create a Prayer Routine
If you are about to leave for college, or have a son or daughter who is, prayer is one sure way to remain close to God. Just like exercising or planning ahead in your studies or your work, making prayer part of your routine will keep God at the center of your life.
My mother always told me, “If you just pick three times a day to pray, it will become like brushing your teeth.” Of course, she was right. Working in those little prayers throughout the day may seem like a small and unnecessary addition to an already busy schedule. But remembering to pray should not be left to just one hour on Sunday. Adding in daily prayer will give you strength when keeping your faith isn’t so easy.
4. Know It’s All Up to You Now
One of the most thrilling aspects of college is the freedom that comes along with it. Keeping your own schedule, living on your own for the first time, going to get pizza at 1 a.m., eating dessert before dinner … all of these new and different experiences are exciting. However, keeping your faith is truly up to you.
If you want to remain loyal to your faith in college, it cannot be something you just expect to happen. You have to work at it. Your parents won’t wake you on Sundays. You’ll need to be accountable for your actions and choices. Finding like-minded friends, remaining confident in your own good decisions, and adding prayer to your routine will all help in this journey, but you need to be persistent.
This is a decision. You have four years to grow, live, and learn as well as make your mark on a new community. Who will you become, and how will you express your faith? It’s up to you.