Freedom vs. Responsibility: How to Master College's Greatest Juggling Act - Geneva College, a Christian College in Pennsylvania (PA)

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Faith
June 26, 2020

Freedom vs. Responsibility: How to Master College's Greatest Juggling Act

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1

If Hollywood is to be believed, college students fall into one of two camps: party-crazed coeds or bookish snobs who struggle to relax. These stereotypes play out to a degree in the real world, but not exactly as portrayed on the silver screen. Rather, many of today's students find themselves wavering between academic-induced exhaustion and the lure of irresponsible activities.

The struggle to find a proper balance between responsibility and freedom pervades both the college environment and the professional sphere. Hard work is crucial, of course, but those who overdo it risk damaging both their physical and mental health while achieving diminishing returns.

Conversely, while college provides ample opportunities for personal exploration, students who take this too far risk falling into unhealthy patterns. And it is important to remember that our desires for our own freedoms must always be weighed against the responsibilities of living in a community. And a college is a community in which we need to respect and honor our fellow humans with obligations to look out for their best interests, too, as people made in the image of God.

There's no easy answer, but most can find a semblance of balance by planning when and how they will take advantage of their newfound sense of freedom. The following activities make this much-needed balance easier to achieve:

Build Accountability by Joining a Group

If you've ever tried to establish an exercise routine alongside a friend, you've probably noticed that it's a lot easier to persevere when you maintain a blend of accountability and emotional support. The same is true when attending college. Left to your own devices, you might be tempted to give up when the going gets tough. During these challenging times, likeminded students can give you the push you need.

A study buddy or prayer partner may provide much-needed support, but groups can prove even more helpful. With a study group, for example, you know that odds are at least one other person will be available to cover class material—even when busy schedules force others to skip the occasional study session. Furthermore, a group lends you access to multiple perspectives as you discuss class material.

Beyond academia, multiple types of groups can help keep you accountable as you make progress towards your most important goals. Examples include:

  • Networking groups for sharing leads on internships, job fairs, and other opportunities. These groups prove useful while attending college but could be even more valuable if maintained after you graduate.
  • Fitness groups for maintaining an exercise routine. Depending on your schedule and personal preferences, this could mean signing up for an exercise class or creating a routine for jogging with friends.
  • Bible study groups intent on fostering spiritual growth. In addition to reflecting on readings together, you and your fellow group members can join one another in prayer and help each other deal with temptations and doubts.

Don't forget groups for socializing. This can be accomplished within your fitness or Bible study group, of course, but you can also build social time into other gatherings. Ideally, these meetups will provide a sense of growth or adventure without exerting too much pressure. Intramural sports, for example, deliver excitement and companionship without making you feel stressed.

Find New Ways to Explore

The lure of risky behavior can be significant in some college environments, but partying is by no means a righteous form of exploration available during this special time. From classes to clubs and even weekend trips, college provides plenty of opportunities for broadening your horizons in constructive, healthy ways.

Finding time for new adventures can be tricky, especially as midterms and finals loom. If possible, aim for at least one experience per week that forces you to move beyond your comfort zone. What, exactly, that entails will differ dramatically from one person to the next. For some, it could be as simple as inviting a classmate on a coffee date. For others, outdoor adventures deliver the perfect blend of excitement and satisfaction. A brief trek on a local hiking trail, for example, may be all it takes to feel rejuvenated after a long study session.

Don't Forget Self-Care

Self-care is a hot topic these days—and for good reason. Often, we get so consumed with our busy schedules, we fail to give ourselves the attention we need. Without a few moments of relaxation, we risk becoming too run-down to make progress towards our goals and utterly useless in serving others.

While many people picture bubble baths and massages when they imagine self-care, this concept can take many different forms. For some, it means taking a break from a strict diet to enjoy a favorite meal. For others, self-care involves establishing healthy habits, such as setting aside time for exercise. What counts as self-care for one person could prove the opposite for another.

Once you've defined the role self-care can play in your life, make it a priority. This may mean building care sessions into your schedule. At minimum, plan to set aside an hour per week for much-needed rejuvenation. Each activity should have a defined beginning and end, especially if you tend to fall into the trap of procrastination.

Find Your Why

The responsibility of the college years can feel overwhelming. After all, the decisions you make now can carry a huge influence in years and even decades to come. In the midst of such pressure, it's easy to fall into the trap of relying on irresponsible and ineffective coping mechanisms.

When stress starts to set in and you're tempted to give in to unhealthy or unhelpful temptations, think back to why you took on this challenge in the first place. Are you intent on pursuing your calling in a specific career field? Do you hope to serve your community by developing a particular skill? Whether your motivations are personal, professional or faith-based, they can make all the difference as you strive for balance.

As soon as you identify why this journey matters and how it will benefit you and others down the road, integrate reminders into your daily life. This could mean bookmarking a specific Bible passage, adding an inspirational quote to your decor, or creating a personal mantra to repeat as necessary. Bringing your God-given purpose to mind regularly can help motivate you to fight the good fight, to finish the race (2 Timothy 4:7).

Balance may seem out of reach, but it's easier to achieve than you think. Once you strike the perfect blend of responsibility and freedom, you'll find your college experience that much more fulfilling.

If you would like to learn more about professions that enable you to serve wholeheartedly and faithfully in your life’s work or want to learn more about a biblically-based, Christ-centered education at Geneva, we’d love to chat with you. For more information on how Geneva College can help you pursue your education goals, feel free to phone us at 855-979-5563 or email admissions@geneva.edu.