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Students Speak: Transitioning to College

Name: Gabrielle

College or University:  Chatham University

Year in school:  Junior

Type of church attended in high school: non-denominational, oriented with the missional/emergent church movement


Download Gabrielle's interview as a .pdf to use as a handout.



CPYU: What was the biggest adjustment you faced transitioning to college?


Gabrielle: For me, I started at a Christian college and the biggest adjustment was how to find an identity in Christ in a body of believers. How was I unique? I went to a secular high school so I found that I was unique just by being a Christian. At a Christian college, however, I had to find the qualities that I was gifted with that set me apart from the other believers and how I could use these qualities to serve God both on campus and off.


When I transferred to Chatham, a secular school, I was so glad to have had the lessons from Grove City and the following year I spent away from school. I knew and loved the woman God created me to be and was very excited to share that with the people I’d meet at my new school.


CPYU: Were you able to get connected to a church or campus ministry fellowship? If so, how did you get connected? If not, why was it difficult to get connected? Or, why did you choose not to get connected? 


Gabrielle: It is difficult for me to get connected to a ministry now because my school is so small and, unfortunately, that means there are very few Christians. Because I commute, I cannot always be on campus for the Bible studies and various activities the only Christian group on campus promotes. I do wish I could get more deeply connected to this group because we are all in a similar place in life and could use each other’s support, insight, and prayer. I have found though, that getting involved with the Christian groups at other local schools helps me to meet other people and learn from their similar, yet totally different, experiences.


CPYU: As you reflect on your church youth group experience, what are some things you wish your youth group would have done more of to prepare you for college?


Gabrielle: I was in several youth groups in high school and unfortunately found that youth group was too “soft”—we played a lot of games and had a lot of fun retreats, but rarely learned about the fundamentals of faith, why we believe what we believe, and what it is that we do believe. Now that I am in college, my faith is under constant scrutiny and always being tested by scientific concepts and the secular slant of most universities. I wish I had been equipped with a more solid justification for my faith: knowing how to answer the tough questions, how to respond to arguments, and how to stand firm in what feels like a storm against my spirituality.


CPYU: Understanding the challenges that college life brings, what are some things you wish your youth group would have done less of?


Gabrielle: While I loved the friendships I made in youth group, there were far too many social events and not enough deep studying of God’s word. I felt this left me ill-prepared for the questions I would be faced with in college. Also, instead of so much group time, I wish we would’ve had more time one-on-one with a pastor, youth leader, or mentor. It would have been nice to have a solid connection in one individual that I could have relayed my anxieties to and asked for their wisdom in the tough times. Instead, I felt like the youth leader was just a leader of a group—more concerned about the group’s welfare than any one individual.


CPYU: What advice would you give college bound high school students who are thinking about the college transition?


Gabrielle: TAKE YOUR TIME! You absolutely do not need to know exactly what you want to do with the rest of your life the minute you graduate high school. One of the realities I had to face when I transitioned to college was that it is not possible to know what to do with my future if I don’t know the person God made me to be. Don’t be afraid to take a little bit of time away from school to discover this, make some money, and to try new things. Four years of college immediately after high school is not for everyone!


Also, know that your faith will inevitably be tested—even if you are going to a Christian school.  Take time talking with a pastor or youth minister and get the answers to the big questions. Know what you believe in and why. Ask an older Christian who you are close with to be a mentor to you. This relationship will be so valuable to you as you face new challenges while you are at school.


You have to make a point to never compromise your standards—not even a little bit. Make a list of the things you believe in and the things you stand for and why that is, if you need to. Hold yourself accountable to this list. You’ll find that if you give in even a little bit on one standard, it is so much easier to compromise on other things. As you compromise your standards, you detract from the person God created you to be and you keep yourself from carrying out His work in the place you are so divinely appointed to serve in! Look at college as a new mission field rather than a scary unknown territory—God is with you!