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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