My Final 500 Words to College Students

If you had only 500 words to give your parting advice to college students before you died, what would you say Marcel LeJeune (from the Aggie Catholic blog) at the campus ministry at Texas A&M University (my alma mater – Whoooop!) asked me to write my parting advice in 500 words or less:

Dear college student,

When I was in college I made four mistakes. I also enjoyed one major success.

1) First, I lost contact with my family back home. I was so eager to leave home that I simply disconnected from my parents and siblings. It took years to reconnect. You’re having fun at college, but don’t forget your roots. Blood really is thicker than water.

2) Second, I chose some bad friends. Your friends in high school were pretty much forced on you by geography and social class. College allows you to choose friends in a new way. Aristotle says that a true friend is one who “loves your soul.” The friends you make in college will stay with you for life and may determine who you marry and what patterns you follow in life. Choose wisely.

3) Third, I wrongly believed that education was in textbooks, not professors. Engage your professors. I have a BA, two MAs, and a PhD. I am now a college professor. I’ve rode the academic train for longer than most.

Now the one thing I’ve learned is that true education comes from personal encounters with mentors. Find a topic you love, find a prof you love, and befriend him or her. That relationship will enable decades of learning. If you play your cards right, you will have a professor who is a friend.

4) Fourth, I didn’t know that I should find a spiritual director. I was not a Catholic in college, but I could have benefitted by having a priest or spiritual director in my life. Pray for a priest who can guide your soul into holiness.

Those are the four mistakes I made. Let me share one success. I met my wife in college. I was at Texas A&M, she went to Baylor. It was a blind date in our senior year.

I was introduced to my beautiful and fun wife because I had a good network of godly friends. The best way to meet your spouse is to have a huge pool of referrals talking you up and introducing you to quality people. Crowdsource your spouse! We may not have arranged marriages anymore, but I highly recommend arranged dating. Let your friends and her friends be your best reference. Joy and I now have seven children and we are so happy. She is my best friend.

Last of all, since this is my “final footnote,” please consider a “spiritual rule of life.” Believe it or not, college is one of the times in life in which you have the most spare time. Spend this extra time in cultivating good life habits. You won’t regret it. Try to work in the following:

  • daily mental prayer
  • daily rosary
  • daily Bible reading
  • weekly confession
  • daily Eucharist if you can
  • Eucharist adoration

The only way to have a happy marriage and a happy career is to have rich interior life in which you daily speak and listen to Our Lord Jesus Christ. If you don’t have that, your GPA and your high-paying job out of college will bring you no joy.

ad Jesum per Mariam,
Taylor Marshall, PhD

PS: I’ll be speaking at St Monica’s Catholic Church in Dallas on September 28 on the topic “How to Stay Catholic in College.” Please join us. If you would like me to speak to your group on this topic, please check my speaking availability. 

Question: Now it’s your turn. What would you tell college students as they enter college as freshmen? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Gonzalo Palacios

    Dear students:

    Whether you’rebeginning, continuing, or finishing your college days, it is never too late tokeep the following principles in mind and in heart:

    Know that who you are becoming is influenced – for better or for worse – by your roots, your parents, your family, and your ethnic background;

    It is up to you and no one else to direct your life – your “becoming” – to its Original Creator in order to find your true identity;

    Know that all acts of creation are acts of Love, including that of Creation and that which began your “becoming” process (your life).

    Always remember that to be human one must have humility: both words originate in humus (look it up).

    Finally, remember that no one and nothing is in control of your free will and of your intelligence: use them to cooperate in the labor of Love.

    Your friend, Gonzalo T.. Palacios,
    Ph.D. author of The Virgin Mary’s Revolution or Love and do what you will.

  • ThirstforTruth

    As a cradle Catholic, what I wanted most for our only daughter was to meet and marry a fellow
    Catholic. To this end we sent her to a Catholic university where she did meet the man who became her husband and the father of our three grandchildren. I firmly believed then, as I do now, that
    marrying within one’s faith is, while not a given certainty, at least a strong defense against the forces in our culture that work against marriage and the family. Starting off in married life, with the same
    firm faith foundation, gives a real headstart in the race to Christian perfection. This is the message
    I have to pass to the next generation to produce strong families.

  • Theresa Moore

    Live your Catholic faith with courage, conviction, and joy your peers need to see this witness. Your conviction and love may be the springboard they need to live their faith more fully. Joy is contagious, real joy based on Jesus!

  • Lynn smith

    I saw you have an upcoming speaking event in Arizona. You wrote that Fr. Larry Richards was one of the notable speakers.
    Unfortunately, Father should not be listed as a notable speaker in a good way. I have heard him speak a while ago on one of his audios. I stopped listening to him after. He made a comment on there that said Jesus also had sexual temptations. I told an FSSP priest that he said this and he said that was blasphemy. Others on Catholic answers who have heard him talk also say he is a modernist. They have been shocked at some of his talks that they were at as well. They said he says that “No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church,” is an “old teaching” and scoffed at it.
    He also says other inappropriate things when he gives his “Be a Man” talks.
    Between him, Father Stan Fortuna (the rapping priest) and Father Michael Schmitz who says that the t.v. show ” Lost” was one of the best shows ever made and his favorite show. (That show is filled with immodesty and immorality.) Would we watch that show if Jesus and the Blessed Virgin Mary were in the room with us? Father Michael Schmitz also couldn’t wait (or already saw), the new Batman movie(The Dark Night Rises) to come out. This movie was also filled with immodesty and immorality. Catholics can’t watch such movies and still be pleasing to God at the same time. These movies offend Christ.
    These priests do not spread the truths of the Faith. They leave people in confusion and scandalize them.

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  • Will O’Kelleher

    “I’ve rode the academic train for longer than most.”


    • You’re right…but I speak the Texan dialect of English. 😉

      • Will O’Kelleher

        I was wondering if that was the case!

        A guy who occasionally says “broke” instead of “broken.”

  • Dee Dunderhead

    JMJT Even though I didn’t get to finish college, I would say: 1) Pray before each class, “Come, Holy Spirit, help this dunderhead!” 2) Participate in /Organize group dating, e.g., picnics, hiking, Sunday Mass+ outing, advantages of which are: 1st, safer; 2d, size up people in a relaxed setting, 3d, cheaper, as all pitch and chip in, 4th, lotsa fun. 2) Pray 3 HM’s every day to Our Immaculate Mother for the spouse Her Son wants you to have, if that’s what He wants for you: It absolutely works! God bless.

  • Elizabeth Cecilia Wellner

    As I am continuing to chug along trying to finish my MS in Chemistry, here is my advice:
    Every morning I send my Guardian Angel to Mass and make a spiritual Holy Communion since I cannot go myself. I have no doubt that many of my graces to remain patient and continue to hope and work have come from this practice.
    Further is a habit I developed about 2 years into my studies. I had always prayed before taking a test or giving a talk, but I changed how I went about it.
    Any time I have anything really serious going on in university, anything that makes me very nervous, I put it in God’s hands (I do this in other things in life too, like musical performances). This is my method:
    A few minutes before my test, I make the Sign of the Cross. I ask God, my Guardian Angel, and Saints relevant to my work (Thomas Moore, Thomas Aquinas, Cosmas and Damian, and Albertus Magnus) to help me. Then I do NOT make the Sign of the Cross to finish the prayer. I take the test. After the test I thank all of them for their help, and I make the Sign of the Cross again to finish the prayer.
    In this way, the entire test/talk, etc., is a prayer in itself. It is me putting myself in God’s hands, giving my work to Him, trusting the studying I have done, and knowing that I can do nothing without Him, that I am entirely dependent on His help and goodness.
    I have had A’s on tests, even D’s on a few (multivariable calculus and quantum physics… [sigh]), but I have never once failed a class, never even had a grade lower than a B except for 1 B-. And as much as I even went home and sat sobbing in the bath after one of those D’s, I knew that with His help I would pull through somehow, and I always have (like by getting an A on the next test), and always knew that He had a reason for letting me slip that low, but that I had done the best I could.
    TRUST God. Ensure that everything you are doing is moral. He will take care of you during these very tough formative years.

    • I like how you send your Guardian Angel to the Eucharist when you cannot make it. Great idea.

      • Elizabeth Cecilia Wellner

        Thank you. Something my mother taught me. 🙂

  • Ronald Orso

    Dr. Taylor,
    Great article- as usual- Only thing I would add is to pray daily for your future spouse, especially if you haven’t met him/her yet!

  • Jasper Monroe Ylanan

    Thanks for the excellent advice, Dr. Marshall!

  • Stephanie

    Make sure that you don’t follow what everyone else is doing. It sounds simple, but it isn’t when they’re questioning your beliefs. Know what your Faith is and be proud of it, in a holy way. Study hard and don’t procrastinate! The number one thing is to stay on top of your homework besides prayer.

  • Melanie Baglow

    Hold onto your moral standards and religious beliefs and don’t neglect your spiritual life, the life that lives forever. As a first semester freshman in college, I had to stand up to an English professor who was attacking the Catholic faith at every opportunity he could get. I admonished him to stop and told him that if he had the right to challenge our beliefs then we should have the right to challenge his beliefs. Surprisingly enough he agreed with me and never brought up the subject again. He never retaliated by giving me unfair grades, in fact he recommended me for the honors class. Sadly enough, he was arrested in the middle of the semester for having pornographic material in his apartment and for luring college students there. I believe that I received many blessings for defending my faith. This all happened in the fall semester, 1961.

  • isabel kissinger

    This advice are not mine but God’s, it consist only of phrase or sentence or what?. Sorry, my grammar fails me again, lol: My Son, to my WORDS be attentive, to my sayings incline your ears…Prov. 4:20-22 and; My son, to my WISDOM be attentive, to my knowledge incline your ear, that discretion may watch over you and understanding may guard you…Prov. 5:1-2

  • Popo2

    “…in 500 words or less…”
    I have only three degrees, but even an Aggie, especially a supposedly educated one ;-), should know that it is 500 words or “fewer,” not “less.” Yes, it does matter.