Christian College Student

August 20, 2019

Dear Christian Freshman, Here’s What I Wish I Knew At Your Age

I recently heard from a Christian father whose daughter begins her first year of college this August. He took the time to thank me for the work that I do here at the Institute on Religion & Democracy and asked that I send his daughter a note of encouragement. This father is incredibly proud of his daughter, a bright young woman who loves the Lord. His daughter has already encountered hostility to the Gospel and spotted unorthodox Christian teaching but has remained faithful. 

As so many of our readers know, the pressure on young Christians to compromise their convictions is intense. College is especially a breeding ground for conformity. What is most concerning to me is the pressure we see coming from professing Christians who work in some campus ministries. And so I offered this young woman my words of encouragement and a bit of caution. I share my note below with the hope that it is helpful to other young Christian freshmen.  

*The student’s name and university have been omitted for privacy. 

Dear College Freshman,

Chelsen Vicari here with the Institute on Religion & Democracy. Your dad tells me that you are starting your freshman year at college and plan to study nursing. First, congratulations on the start of an exciting academic career! How wonderful to be moving to a new place, meeting new friends, and studying the extraordinary ways in which God created the human body to heal with the help of medical professionals.

Second, I wanted to send you a brief note of encouragement as you begin your academic journey. The start of college is a bit overwhelming at times, at least it was for me. Maybe you are feeling a little anxious. If so, that is understandable! Remember that you are a child of God. And just as your earthly father adores you, so does your Heavenly Father who created you. If over the next year, you feel anxious over decisions or afraid of outcomes, then put your trust in Him (Psalm 56:3). You can pray to the Lord about any situation, and He will hear you, answer you, and the Bible says, free you from all fears (Psalm 34:4).

College was a hostile environment ten years ago when I was a student. Colleges seem to be placing more and more pressure on students to conform to one acceptable line of thinking, and the unaltered Gospel of Jesus is increasingly unfashionable. From what I hear, you are a very bright young woman. I doubt you will allow college administrators and faculty to bully you into compromising your faith convictions to fit a mold. But sometimes I know it can be helpful to receive encouragement in the face of new challenges. So might I offer you some unsolicited advice that I wish an older Christian had told me when I was your age?

Please remember that young women and men in your classrooms and dormitory will be watching your actions and listening to your words to figure out what makes you different as a Christian. So keep in mind 1 Peter chapter three, verse 15: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”

Perhaps your private school will provide you more of a haven from the pressures that I experienced at a public state university. Even so, I imagine that you will face new hurdles when it comes to sharing your faith with others.  Do not be surprised if you encounter individuals who are hostile to the Gospel. You might also meet professing Christians in leadership positions of campus ministries who are twisting the faith to accommodate today’s cultural whims. Please stay strong and faithful to the Lord and His Word.

Seek out a campus ministry that avoids fluffy platitudes on Sunday morning. If the minister wears skinny jeans and a fedora, run. Kidding! Seriously do find a ministry whose leaders publically encourage faithfulness to traditional Christian ethics. Be sure they preach sins must be forgiven, warn of Hell, and recognize the urgency in sharing the Gospel with unbelievers. Meet with the leadership team and pointedly ask them about their stances on marriage, the sanctity of human life, and sexuality and gender. These are all hot button issues that far too many Christians want to avoid or downplay.

You probably already know that these issues–primarily sexuality and gender identity–are causing your peers so much confusion. But Christians who avoid the topics altogether only leave confused people more vulnerable to unorthodox or heretical teachings.

One piece of advice that I desperately wish an older Christian friend would have offered me at your age is this: People find themselves at the cross of Jesus because they want salvation from the darkness of sin, not excuses for it.

Make the courageous decisions that might seem unpopular or uncelebrated.

Worry less about what everyone around you thinks, and more about following Jesus.

Never be ashamed of the Gospel.

Write down Philippians chapter one, verse 20, and stick it on a bathroom mirror or desk. This verse reads, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”

Your father tells me that you are capable of spotting distorted Christian teachings. Discernment at your age is quite impressive. Honestly, I wish I had known such a bold young woman while I was in college. Accountability and encouragement from a friend might have helped me avoid some pitfalls. I pray that you befriend many young women with whom you can share your faithfulness and wisdom.

You never know what struggles others are facing. There might be other students feeling pressure to compromise their faith. Your friendship and example of courage will be of great help to them.

In 1 Peter chapter three verse 17, the Apostle Peter goes on to remind us, “For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.”

It takes guts to care more about our friends’ souls than what others might think of us. You might encounter pushback for your convictions. Keep on for the sake of the Gospel. In doing so, you will be a vibrant witness on your college campus.

I’m praying for you.


Chelsen Vicari

13 Responses to Dear Christian Freshman, Here’s What I Wish I Knew At Your Age

  1. David says:

    This sounds too much like the old conservative libel against those evil liberal professors that live in “ivory towers.” There are actually very few instances where religion arises in college courses. Generally, these are religious studies which one is often not required to take. If there is hostility against Evangelicals among students, it is likely due to the alignment of religion and politics. People are also more likely to discuss religion in the college dorm than in the high school experience.

    You may be surprised to learn that atheism is the norm in science and I say this having spent my working life in medical research. The design flaws evident in the human body evidence random evolution and not creation by a wise deity. Attempting to convert others in college can easily make one unpopular. However, it is doubtful that you will be faulted for attending the services of your choice.

    • Steve says:

      But here you are, faulting her, and proving her point. By the way, you are a guest on this religious board, and I think its rude of you to be making atheistic arguments here all the time. If you want to make that kind of argument, there are appropriate places for that; here, its just trolling. Believe it or not, its not like everybody hasn’t heard the same basic arguments before. On the other hand, IRDs willingness to allow you and me and everybody else to post here just goes to demonstrate their tolerance of all viewpoints, plus their confidence in the validity of their articles.

      • David says:

        Replies to my points always seem to degenerate into ad hominen arguments rather than a discussion of what I posted. Some of the points made by the writer are odd and deserve criticism such as “college administrators ” bullying students on account of religious belief. Administrators typically have little contact with students and would likely not know or even care what beliefs were held except in a religious college. There are much unwarranted fears expressed. Encountering persons with different beliefs can lead to an examination of your own beliefs which can confirm them or not.

        People need to get over the idea that everything connected with the human body is the best. There are many things wrong with the basic design including inability to make vitamin C, the location of the prostate, and vulnerability to cancer. Lately it has been found that elephants seem to have an immunity to cancer, though I would not care to be one, so please do not suggest that.

        • Donald says:

          David – Yes, I am wondering about the prostate, although I no longer have one at my age. Where else would you suggest putting the prostate? On my back? Down my thigh? Perhaps on the exterior of my chest?

    • Anneke says:

      “You may be surprised to learn that atheism is the norm in science”

      You might be surprised to learn how wrong you are, especially in regard to Asian science and engineering students.

      • David says:

        Sorry, that is not my experience at all, and my many Chinese co-workers were as non religious as the rest. By the way, few physicians are “scientists” and merely follow knowledge created by others. Medical scientists are generally found in medical schools and research institutions.

    • John Schuh says:

      The inherent flaws in the human body do not necessarily point to the randomness assumed by Darwin. Randomness tends to disorder rather than order.

    • Donald says:

      I’m curious what “design flaws” you see in the human body? My mouth could be on top of my head, so I could put a sandwich under my hat and eat while running? I could locate my liver on outside on one of my arms?
      Perhaps it is that the orfice through which you speak has been confused with another orfice?

    • Eric Meadley says:

      it is obvious what David is trying to accomplish by posting negatively on this religious site – David exemplifies the reason for Ms Vicari’s note. thank you, David

      life itself is incredibly engineered. James Tour and others on questions of origin of life, Discovery Institute and Creation Evolution Headlines for questions on design v evolution

  2. Johan says:

    This advice reminds me of William Hurt’s line in “The Accidental Tourist: “If you have to travel to London, then with some effort, you can find a meal that’s not too different from a meal in Cleveland.”

  3. Graham says:

    While this letter does seem like the idea behind it is fine, it also seems as if the points being made and suggestions are extremely restrictive and, as someone else here said, quite outdated and non-conforming, especially the part about how being a Christian will make people see you differently or emulate your actions. With changing social conditions around colleges, religion isn’t as major as it was a few decades ago.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I’ve taken college classes over the years and have seen first hand that Christians are treated with disdain in many classes, and I’ve seen the promotion of LGBTQ, witchcraft, scientism, and atheism by students and teachers. This even happens in high schools and grade schools today, I’ve been told. Christians do need to support each other. Thanks for the article.

  5. David Gingrich says:

    Wonderful. Thank you, Chelsen. I wish I’d had this letter for my two daughters who attended public universities and are still in recovery. Being “non-conforming” is EXACTLY what Christians must be to be faithful and healthy.

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