When it comes to college preparation, answering difficult questions is expected. “What extracurricular activities have you participated in? Please list activities beginning in kindergarten.” “What is your combined family income, and how much can your parents contribute to your education? Do not round your calculations; enter data to the exact cent.”
Okay, you probably won’t be asked to dig that deep. But the thing that I didn’t expect, after all the applications were submitted and I began my college career, was to be stumped by the simple questions that seemed to pop up on a regular basis. I faced five questions in particular that, as an incoming Christian college freshman, I expect you too will be asked. In writing it may seem a little unreasonable, but even the college atmosphere, and in particular the Christian college atmosphere, can be a test in unexpected ways. Like any other test, it’s always best to be prepared with answers in advance.
1. What do you want to do with your life?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with coming to college without a comprehensive plan for your future—in fact, I recommend it. However, “I don’t know” and “Anything but Burger King” are not only terrible for conversation, but they also limit your chances of connecting with likeminded people who can help you on your journey. Nobody expects a freshman (or even a grad student for that matter) to recite a detailed 10-year projective career plan, so be honest with people about where your future is going, even if it’s unclear.
If you do know what kind of career path you want to pursue, that’s great. Talk about your dream of curating at the Met. If you haven’t gotten that much figured out yet, discuss your major in art history instead. And if even that much is still foggy, don’t panic; you aren’t alone. Let it be known that, while you aren’t sure where it will take you yet, your love of art runs deep, and ultimately your future will reflect that passion in some form or fashion. The close-knit atmosphere of a private Christian school is a safe place to explore your calling in life instead of hiding it away and pretending as though you don’t have one.
2. What are you looking for in a significant other?
This is where Christian colleges begin to diverge from other institutions. The “ring by spring” culture that is stereotyped of Christian campuses is not exaggerated. At Dallas Baptist University, where I attend, most returning alumni seem to be married to a fellow Patriot, and many seniors marry right after, or even before, graduation. At my freshman orientation, one mom even admitted to a room full of parents that her son only came to DBU to find a wife. Kind of intimidating for us singles, but that’s just the way it is.
Among all the wife seekers and ladies looking to earn their MRS degrees, you will also encounter, as on any college campus, guys and girls looking for nothing more than a casual hookup. Either extreme you encounter will demand a response on your part. Romantic interests may not directly ask about your long-term intentions, but it is unwise to ignore the question altogether. Freshmen who come in unclear about their expectations of dating relationships end up hurting themselves and their partners once they realize neither person is seeking the same thing. By all means, get out of your comfort zone now and then, but be honest about your ultimate intentions for your love life, both to yourself and to your significant other.
3. What is an interesting fact about yourself?
As opposed to attending a state-run university with a higher population than most towns in Nebraska, going to a smaller, private Christian college means you are bound to have at least one professor who will want to “get to know you.” If not a professor, then it will be an RA, an organizational leader, or an overly friendly upperclassmen trying to make you feel at home. Interesting facts rank near the top of common personal questions to be asked, along with favorite food and drink, of course. Anybody can answer “I like cheesecake and green tea” off the top of their head, but I noticed, both personally and as a bystander, that interesting facts are difficult to name on the spot.
Maybe I have just lived a really lame life, but I highly suggest that you go ahead and pinpoint that one defining talent, experience, or fact about yourself before you get to school. You never know when you’ll have to go first, and nothing screams “I’m boring” quite like a long pause before sheepishly answering: “There isn’t anything interesting about me. I mean, I can play ‘Thinking Out Loud’ on the guitar; does that count?” You are an interesting person—I know you are—so think of that one awesome thing about yourself now and get ready to impress your peers later.
4. What is your stance on Calvinism and Arminianism?
If this question draws a blank with you, don’t feel alone; it surprised me too, because I wasn’t very knowledgeable on what either of those theologies implied. Just as health care and immigration issues are a common battleground for liberal and conservative students to discuss, so is Calvinist and Arminian theology for evangelical students. Friends of mine, both in and out of college, told me it was a common debate topic for the guy dorms, and I personally encountered Calvinism and Arminianism discussions around campus. With time, and through the guidance of professors and older friends, I was able to follow discussions, but I would recommend researching the basic facts before someone brings it up. There are countless websites, books, and videos comparing and contrasting Calvinism and Arminianism, but as with anything else, be cautious of who you trust and what you believe. Issues of this nature are easy to blow out of proportion, so be careful not to let the thrill of argument blind you to all the other things that truly matter.
5. “Who do you say that I am?” — Jesus
I truly believe this is the most important question a college freshman needs to answer. Jesus asked his disciples this question directly, and Peter’s response is recorded in Mark chapter 8: “You are the Christ!” Author C.S. Lewis acknowledges in his book Mere Christianity that, because He claimed to be God, Jesus could only be one of three things; a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Peter and Lewis openly called Jesus Christ Lord and Savior.