It was a college football game weekend, and as my friend walked down sorority row with her teenage daughter, her daughter took it all in.

The energy. The buzz. The sea of people dressed in the school colors, full of excitement and hope. Out of the blue, her daughter asked a question.

“Mom, what’s the hardest part of college?”

Her mother said the first thing that came to mind: Saying no.

It was a funny answer, yet really true. Saying No is the hardest part of college.

Whether it’s No to Domino’s pizza at midnight, No to going out on Tuesday night because you need to study, or No to someone who is pushing you against your better judgment, it is beneficial and wise to get comfortable saying No.

Yet even with the invitations you pass up, college is unbelievably fun. It is a time of freedom, fun, and lifelong friends you’ll always feel close to because you help each other grow up.

Having four daughters, I think a lot about preparing them for college. Here are 20 things I believe college girls should know.

1. Boundaries are good, and it’s imperative to set boundaries for yourself because nobody will set them for you. College is one season of life where you can compromise your values without anyone blinking an eye. With nobody to monitor you – making sure you study, take care of yourself, and choose healthy relationships – it’s important to set personal standards and decide in advance what you will and won’t do.

2. College is when you turn into the person who you’re going to be. Since friends play a MAJOR role in shaping this person, it’s important to choose your friends wisely. The best friends are fun and good from you. There is strength in numbers, and finding friends on the same page with you helps you live out your convictions. It gives you allies who can say, “These are our goals. We can do it.”

3. Your friends fill in the gaps when you’re homesick. They become your family as you lean on them for comfort, advice, and strength. The new friends you make today will eventually be the old friends with whom you’ll share a long {and often hilarious} past.

4. What you put into your body matters. Whether it’s food, alcohol, or drugs, it impacts your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Love your body enough to protect it. Make healthy choices that help you feel strong and good about yourself.

5. Taking a few steps in the wrong direction can lead to more steps in the wrong direction. If you do something dumb, learn from it. Don’t repeat the same mistake or let your mistake become a pattern that’s hard to reverse later.

6. You always have a choice. You don’t “have” to do anything you know isn’t right. It’s okay to leave a party that’s getting too wild. It’s okay to ditch a date who’s being disrespectful. Think for yourself, be a leader, and look out for those around you.

7. Take care of your friends. If a friend is not thinking clearly, then think clearly for her. This may mean taking away her car keys so she can’t drink and drive. Or pulling her back before she leaves with a strange boy. Or calling her parents when she has a serious problem that needs attention. Love your friends as you hope they’d love you.

8. College can be a time to either neglect your faith or take it to a new level. Taking it to a new level gives you something to cling to. It provides an anchor that can center you and remind you of what’s real, right, and true.

9. Loneliness can sneak up on you at the oddest times, and this is completely normal. With so many changes and uncertainties, you may occasionally miss the stability of home and the familiarity of your old life. These growing pains of becoming an adult happen to everyone, and talking yours out with someone can help you feel less alone.

10. Stay aware of your surroundings. Keep your eyes wide open and your radar up. If you feel someone watching you – or someone gives you a bad vibe – stay away from them. Avoid placing yourself on their path or getting in situations that might make you a target, like jogging alone at night. Also, consider taking a self-defense class with friends. Knowing in advance how to protect yourself could make all the difference in helping you escape an evil encounter.

11. Professors love proactive students. And when you talk to them, ask questions, engage in class, and seek their guidance, you build a rapport that may lead to job opportunities, increased confidence, and better communication with adults.

12. Learning to manage stress is a gift you give yourself. Having academic pressures and adult responsibilities is a lot to juggle. Finding ways to decompress and deal with stress – e.g. exercising, praying, listening to music, spending time in nature, sleeping well, eating well, taking breaks with friends, and keeping a gratitude journal – can help keep you calm instead of overwhelmed.

13. You were made to chase your dreams, not boys. While boys are clearly a part of your world, it’s unhealthy to make them the center of your world. Pursue your passions instead and build a great life for yourself. Become the girl who eventually attracts the right guys as they notice you and think, “Wow. She’s awesome. She’s the total package: pretty, smart, talented, and kind. I want to be part of her world. I want to know her better.”

14. Knowing when you may be tempted to compromise your values helps you stand strong. Usually when we fall into poor habits, it’s because we don’t think ahead or set personal standards. Common times for girls to cave are freshman year (when you’re excited and caught up in the taste of freedom) and sophomore year (when the novelty of you and your friends wears off, and the attention shifts to the new girls on campus). Knowing your trigger points can help you avoid the people or situations that make it hard to say No.

15. God’s grace is bigger than any mistake you make. Your mistakes don’t define you. If you happen to wake up one day and can’t believe who you’ve become – or if you’re simply disappointed in yourself – ask God to forgive you. Turn the page and choose better next time. God’s mercies are new each morning, and regardless of what happened yesterday, today can be a different story. 

16. Learning to listen to various ideas without believing everything you hear is a crucial life skill. As Aristotle said: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” College exposes you to many personalities, perspectives, and lifestyles. This can be both thrilling and confusing. Open your mind to be enlightened, but form your own convictions and conclusions. Seek the truth by getting to know God since God is truth.

17. Treat everyone with kindness and dignity, even if you don’t agree with them. Get to know their backstories to understand the “Why?” behind their beliefs.

18. Your parents love you more than you know. They long to hear from you and be part of your life, and if they’re anything like the parents I know, they will always welcome you back home.

19. You were made to change the world, so don’t let the world change you. Remember you were born to be an original and to serve your generation like no one in the universe has ever served before. God has an amazing plan for your life, and college is just one chapter in a much bigger story.

20. Your best years are still ahead of you. Your future is full of HOPE.

College, in so many ways, is an unforgettable experience. It offers the ultimate opportunity to expand your mind, your heart, and your social network.

And as you start a new life on campus, I have two other words to remember: Enjoy it. Look around and take it all in. Get ready to laugh and cry and experience countless adventures. Enjoy the memories you make and the friendships you seal. Know that for every time you say No, there’s another invitation around the corner.

Yes, college prepares you for a career, but more importantly it prepares you for life. It introduces you to life beyond your home and some of the best people you’ll ever meet, friends you will treasure and count on for decades and decades to come.

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Thank you for reading this article today.  If you found the message helpful or compelling, please share it through the social media below.COVER

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Also, I’ve written two books for teen & tween girls designed to empower them through faith. The newest one, Liked: Whose Approval Are You Living For? is available on Amazon and everywhere books are sold. It’s getting a fantastic response as a resource for the digital age, and along with the bestselling 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know, it’s being used widely across the U.S. for small group/church studies. 

If you’d like to hear me speak, I have two mother/daughter events in April and would love to see you! On Sunday, April 23 at 5 p.m., I’ll be at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Tuscaloosa. This event is open to the public, so bring your daughter or a group of girls to be encouraged in the teen years.

On Wednesday, April 26, I’ll be at Washington Golf & Country Club in Arlington, VA for a 7 p.m. event. Tickets may be purchased HERE, and again I invite you to bring your daughter or a group of girls for a night of sisterhood and faith!

Have a great day, and thanks again for stopping by!