All across America, freshmen are heading to college campuses and class for the first time. They be getting their matriculation on! They are bright-eyed, nervous, and excited about all they’re going to experience and learn during the years ahead. That’s how I was back in 1998. I was so eager for someone to fill my head with knowledge, but looking back, I really wish I knew then what I know now. Here’s what my 34-year-old self would tell my 18-year-old self.
“Ben, college debt is dumb.” At that point in my life, I had almost no financial experience. I had had a job for three summers prior to beginning college, but honestly, the reality of money had not set in with me yet. I didn’t even consider the debt that I would have coming out of school. Perhaps that’s why I turned down a 100% academic scholarship to Western Kentucky University to run off to Hanover College on a 50% academic scholarship. Tuition while I was at Hanover from 1998-2002 was around $15,000. As a quick aside, my eyes about popped out of my head recently when I saw that tuition there is now over $30,000. Needless to say, my children won’t be legacy students there! I came out of Hanover with around $18,000 in debt, which is way below the average student debt of $29,000 but is still too much in my opinion. Since attending Hanover, I’ve become very leery of debt. I’m not one who says never go into debt, but we should be very careful about how much debt we go into and for what reason. I’m more and more beginning to believe that college debt is dumb. There are just so many options out there today that make college debt unwise. If I had only known this then.
“Ben, fraternity guys really aren’t your brothers.” In the college realm, one of the biggest decisions a person has to make is whether to pledge a fraternity or sorority or to stay independent. At my college, fraternity rush started toward the end of your first semester. They feed you a line about how you’ll have “brothers” and “sisters” and all sorts of other things that make you think that Greek life is where it’s at. I actually took the plunge and pledged a fraternity. Honestly, I did it against my better judgment and ended up reneging on that pledge about half way through pledge training. I had several reasons for stepping away from the Greek life, but one of the reasons is that I realized that as a Christian, those guys in that fraternity weren’t my real brothers. My real brothers and sisters are the ones who are blood kin and those who are blood-bought by Jesus Christ. They’re not found in the frat house. They’re found in my house and the church house. Boy, would I have saved myself a lot of grief if I had only known this then.
“Ben, the question ‘Can God build a rock so big that He can’t move it?’ is a logical absurdity.” Undoubtedly, there is an atheist professor somewhere on each campus just rubbing his hands and licking his chops waiting to unload this question on some poor unsuspecting Christian. Perhaps it’ll be in the philosophy class. For me, it was in my required theology class. The college I attended is Presbyterian USA affiliated, and my Mormon theology professor dropped this intellectual bomb on us. By the way, I just listed reasons two and three why my children won’t be legacy students at my alma mater. The question is supposed to throw its hearers into an faith shaking quandary. If you answer “yes,” then you’re admitting that God can’t do something. And if you answer “no,” then you’re admitting that God can’t do something. Either way, the goal is to leave the hearer thinking that God is not all-power and even doubting God’s very existence. I forget which year along the way I was asked this question but wasted a lot of time thinking about it, and if I had only known then what I know now, I would have saved myself some unnecessary wrestling. The truth is that the question is a logical absurdity. The omnipotence of God as stated in the Bible never means that God can do anything imaginable. It means that God can do everything logically possible and in accordance with His character and will. There are many things that God cannot do. He cannot cease to exist. He cannot sin. He cannot create a round square. He cannot make 1+1=3. Yet, He is still almighty. If I had only known this then.
“Ben, truth is not socially constructed.” I was a sociology major, and one thing that was drilled into our heads is the social construction of reality. This is the idea that people decide what’s true and is rooted in theory of relativism, which is best summed up in the statement, “What’s true for you might not be true for me.” Those who hold to this view would say that there is no absolute truth, which is hilarious because they always fail to see their own self-defeat as they make an absolute truth statement about there being no absolute truth. The truth of the matter is that if there is no God or if God was silent about truth, there would be no absolute truth, but since God is, and He is not silent about truth, absolute truth absolutely exists. In Him and through His holy, inerrant, infallible, authoritative, sufficient revelation contained in the Bible, truth is discovered. If I had only known this then.
“Ben, the degree on the wall means something but not nearly as much as you think it will.” When I was finishing up high school, I was so worried about getting into the right school. I was convinced that future employers would scrutinize the college or university who conferred my degree. If only it said Harvard or Yale or Brown, I would have doors open to me that no one could shut, I thought. Now, undoubtedly there are a few professions that where you graduate from really matters, but for the vast majority, folks couldn’t care less. Most simply care that you have a degree, and that’s about it. I’m sorry if this throws water on your fire, but it’s true. Employers are much more interested in your skills. I always chuckle a little when I say with pride, “I went to Hanover College,” and then have the person I’m talking to ask, “Now, where is that?” So, yes, the degree on the wall means something but not nearly as much as I thought it would. You should certainly get a degree, but where you get that degree isn’t as important as the degree. If I had only known that then.
“Ben, the statement, ‘We will not tolerate intolerance,’ is on its face intolerant.” Some of our professors at Hanover College got together toward my senior year and made a whole campaign out of this slogan in the wake of something they didn’t like. They had posters hung up in dorms and articles in the school newspaper. It’s stunning to me that a whole roundtable of PhD’s were blind to the self-contradiction of their statement, but we don’t want logic and reason to get in the way of a good slogan! The hypocrisy aside, the statement is just silly. If I had only known that.
So, what would your current self say to your pre-college self? Let’s help these “greenies” out!