Heading Off to College
About the Guest
College will be the best four years of your life... or maybe not. Hanna Seymour, author of "The College Girl's Survival Guide," talks about the realities of college life, including boyfriends, homesickness, roommates, and other college pressures. Seymour reflects on when she thought college was all about "me time," and tells how a mentor helped her realize her gifting and passion.
Hanna SeymourHanna Seymour has mentored thousands of college women over the years. Her book, “The College Girl’s Survival Guide” contains the answers to the top 52 concerns of college girls today and is packed with down to earth, Biblically-based advice. Hanna received her B.A. from James Madison University, and her M.Ed. from the University of South Carolina. Hanna lives in Nashville, TN with her husband, Tyler. You can learn more about Hanna at...more
College will be the best four years of your life… or maybe not. Hanna Seymour talks about the realities of college life, including boyfriends, homesickness, roommates, and other college pressures.
Heading Off to College
Bob: If your children are headed to college this fall, they’re headed into some dangerous territory. Hanna Seymour says your children need to know that you know what they’re going to be facing.
Hanna: Even just the acknowledgement of “Hey, I know that stuff is going on your campus; I know you’re going to face it,” I think goes so much farther than parents think. Because most parents never even utter those words or topics with their student going off to college. Just to say: “Hey, I know the day we leave you on the college campus, you’re going to be offered alcohol. You’re probably going to be offered weed, maybe even harder drugs. Let’s talk about what you’re going to do.”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, July 23rd. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Your children can thrive on the college campus; but if they’re going to do that, they need your help and your support. We’ll talk more about that today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think this is just a case of blatant unadulterated sexism. I think it’s just completely wrong; we’re not talking at all about guys going off to college.
Dennis: Oh, there’s going to be plenty of application for guys going off to college—[Laughter]—plenty.
Bob: But it’s all about girls going to college. Where’s the college guy’s survival guide to college?—where’s that?
Dennis: I thought you were going to accuse our guest of only being on this program because my daughter, Laura—
Bob: No; that’s nepotism—that’s a whole different subject, and that comes up later on.
Dennis: Our youngest daughter, Laura, loves Hanna Seymour—and she says: “Dad,” [pounding the table] “you have to get her on the program. You must have her on the program.” [Laughter]
Bob: And as Dennis can tell you, he’s come to me many times and said, “Let’s get this person.” I said, “No, no, no.” But when Laura says—
Dennis: Oh, yes!
Hanna: Power of a daughter.
Bob: But when Laura says, “We have to have…”
Dennis: Oh, the power!
Hanna: Power of a daughter.
Dennis: Hanna, welcome to the broadcast.
Hanna: Thank you.
Dennis: You’re here because of Laura.
Hanna: Well, bless Laura.
Dennis: Bless Laura; huh? [Laughter]
Well, Hanna Seymour is married to Tyler since 2014—has a little boy named Isaac. She is an author, a blogger, and a former student development professional on the university campus.
Bob: There is such a thing?—a student development professional? [Laughter] We did not have those when I went to college.
Hanna: The verbiage keeps changing/growing—you know, more important sounding. [Laughter]
Dennis: So here’s what we’re facing—12 million young ladies will go to college this year—
Dennis: —according to the Boston Globe.
Dennis: And you say in your book that they’re glittering preconceptions are shattered.
Dennis: And I want to know: “…such as?”—what are their preconceptions about going to college?
Hanna: Well, they have been told that college is going to be the best four years of their life.
If they haven’t been told that—I was even told, well-meaning: “You were born for college,”—I did good in high school—“but college—Hanna, for you, that’s going to be it.”
We’re sending off our 18-year-olds with this idea that the next four years are going to be incredible—it’s all about self-discovery: “Who am I? What do I want to do with my life?”
There’s elements of that, but there’s a lot of hardship; there’s a lot of challenges; there’s a lot of conflict.
It’s not that college isn’t a great season / a great time of life; but 18- to 22-year-olds get smacked in the face, over and over again, with roommate conflicts/homesickness. They don’t know what they want to major in. They don’t know what they want to do with their life. “Where’s my future husband?” or “Where’s my boyfriend?—or the party scene, sex, drugs, alcohol—so many things going on. They just get sideswiped with these difficult things.
Dennis: And that’s why you wrote The College Girl’s Survival Guide.
Hanna: I did. Part of that was I’d been working with college students. I knew the issues they were facing, but I was also volunteering in high school ministry. I was graduating groups of girls, sending them off to college; and I wanted to give them a book that might help prepare them to start thinking about some of these things.
While there are dozens and dozens—really, hundreds/thousands probably—of high school graduation gift books, I was looking for something really specific—something practical, easy to read, but grounded in biblical truths. I just never found what I wanted. Finally, I decided, “I think I can write this!”
Bob: “I’ll just write that!”
Hanna: “I think I can write this!”—and so that’s that book.
Bob: And it is for girls.
Hanna: It is.
Bob: But some of these issues—I mean, “What’s my major going to be?”—that’s a gender-neutral issue. There are some specific issues that make going to college for a girl different than going to college for a boy?
Hanna: Sure; yes. I would say the majority of it really is applicable to both men and women. I blogged about a lot of these issues for years. I would have college boys come up to me and say, “I secretly read your blog every week”; you know? [Laughter] I mean—so it’s totally applicable. I just always say: “If you sat me down in front of a computer screen and said, ‘Hanna write to the college boy.’ Uh?!”—you know?
Hanna: I was never a college boy; I’ve never been a man. I don’t—you know, it’s the—naturally, what comes for me is thinking about an audience of women.
Dennis: Okay; I want to go back to when you went to college.
Dennis: Both Bob and I know your mom and dad, Michael and Cindy Easley.
Dennis: When you chose to go to college, you escaped the jail—you went 12 hours away from mom and dad! You had the perfect parents! Why would you try to get so far away from them? [Laughter] I’ve been waiting to ask this question.
Hanna: Oh, that’s good, Dennis. I like that. [Laughter]
You know—I mean, truthfully—I wanted to get away; you’re right. I applied to one school, and it was 12 hours away. I was determined to get away from family obligations—you know, big sister of three siblings—community obligations / the church—grew up a PK at a very large church. I wanted to escape everything that had been both good and negative—all those experiences. I wanted a fresh start.
What’s funny is that I found out, a few months in, that I was running away from something that was so vital to my identity that I couldn’t—I could get 12 hours away from it, but I couldn’t truly escape it. I needed to embrace it and understand that God’s plan for my life was rooted in the legacy of my parents, my family, that church—all of those things.
Dennis: You actually were trying to do your own thing—you were trying to do the selfish thing.
Hanna: I was, because I’d heard that college was a time to be selfish. Again, back to this—our culture tells students: “College is a time of self-discovery.” Well, okay; but what Scripture tells us is that you’re already fully-known. God has created you. He has a plan for you. You are fully known by the Creator of the universe. If 18-year-olds went into college with that as their foundation, how would that change their exploration versus “I need to ‘find myself’”?
Bob: Yes; I tell moms and dads, often, that Ephesians 2:10 is a great place for moms and dads to be. Your child is “…His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that they should walk in them.” So God has prepared them.
It’s not up to you to prepare the path for your child to walk in; but you do have an assignment, which is help your child find that path and know how to walk in that path.
Moms and dads need to be on this journey with a son or a daughter rather than just saying: “Okay; you’re off to college now. Now, figure out what it is that you want to be and what you want to do.” Part of this comes down to helping your child figure out: “What are my gifts? What am I good at? What are my passions and desires? How could I use that for God’s glory?”
This is a kind of intentional thinking that will help a young girl, or a young guy, as they’re headed off to college rather than just, “I’m going to go explore.” “Well, let’s have some direction going in here rather than just, ‘I don’t have a clue,’”—right?—isn’t that right?
Hanna: Oh, absolutely! Even at a really young age—and thinking about this, Dennis, my dad may have just ripped this off from you—[Laughter]—but my whole life, my dad never said, “Well, what do you want to be when you grow up?” He would say, “What do you think God wants you to be when you grow up?!”—such a subtle change. The intentionality is there and helped me—and, I think, my siblings—switch our perspective from, again, self-navel gazing of: “Who do I want to be?”—
—and, oh, again: “I was created for a purpose,”—just like you said—“’…He has planned, in advance, works for me to walk in,’—“What might God have for me?”
Dennis: You started with a vocal performance major; right?
Hanna: Yes; I did.
Dennis: I mean, you are headed in that direction, but it took God intercepting you with a mentor. This has to be the result of your parents’ prayers, maybe some grandparents. [Laughter] God has His ways of getting our kids attention when we can’t.
Hanna: Yes. I mean, really, it wasn’t the advice of a mentor at first; it was me falling on my face. I went off to college as a vocal performance major. Truly, I had spent probably 14 years studying music—preparing/training. It was my goal to go into music business.
I get to school. I’m realizing I’m not the best in the room anymore.
I also don’t even want it the most in the room anymore—so: “Okay; I probably need to have a little pivot.” I switched to classical music—I did that for another year. I got to the end of my rope, really realizing my identity was completely wrapped up in how I performed each week in my studio. If I did excellent that week, I felt great about myself; if I didn’t do well, I felt horrible about myself.
I realized I did not want my identity wrapped up in my vocal performance. Then I just felt completely lost, because I had spent 14 years preparing for one thing. It took this staff member to say: “Hey, have you ever thought about doing what I do? You’re super involved in college. You’ve been an RA; you’re a student leader. Why don’t you go get your masters in this?—come back and mentor students like yourself.”
That, for me, was a light bulb of, “Okay; I think that is what I want to pursue.”
I think, looking back, God has wired me—He’s given me strengths and skills that fit in that—and He’s given me experiences that add up to that.
Dennis: You started doing that; and in the midst of doing that, as a vocation, you also started something with high school seniors in your church.
Hanna: I did. I was about two years into working fulltime on a college campus. I was having conversations with students, who had been raised in the Christian faith and were having significant doubts. I am just disheartened and struggling—I’m trying to stay in conversation with these students and trying to continue to bring them back to truth and Scripture.
Over time, I thought: “Man, the problem is these students are going off to college and they have no idea why they believe what they believe. Okay; what can I do to help this?!” Eventually I decided:
“I think I’m going to start working in high school ministry; and if I can just graduate 12 girls,”—I just got this number—“…if I could graduate 12 girls and send them off to college—and if 12 of them knew why they believed what they believed: what the Bible said, who God is, who they are in light of that—if I could accomplish just that, I will have done something significant with this life.”
Bob: When I think about this—as a parent, I think about a kid heading off to school—my biggest fears are: “They’re going to get involved in inappropriate sexual relationships,” “They’re going to do binge drinking; and it’s going to evolve from that to smoking weed and the rest,”—or then third thing is—“They’re going to get in some classroom, and some professor is going to spin their thinking around, and they’re going to shipwreck their faith.”
Bob: Those are probably the three biggest fears I have, as a parent.
Dennis: And can I give you a fourth one?
I know that a lot of young people will establish relationships, their freshman year, that are going to go all the way through college. If you get in the right crowd—I’m talking about a spiritually-grounded crowd—they can pull and tug you along with them; that has a positive impact on your faith. On the other hand, if you don’t go anywhere near those kind of friends, it is back to 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Bob: I know your book is written to the girls, who are high school seniors, who are headed to college; but let’s talk to the moms and dads for a little bit. With those fears in mind—and with a high school senior, who has graduated / she’s headed off to college—and I’m thinking, “Okay; I don’t want her to head off and start drinking in her freshman year and wind up drinking too much and getting taken advantage of.” Can I do anything about that, as a parent?
Hanna: Yes; so I mean—one, I think, making sure that your expectations of your student has been communicated to them. You want to sit your child down and say:
“Hey, I know these are things you’re going to be facing. I know it’s going to be hard. One, I’m here for you. If you want to talk about it, let’s talk. If you make a mistake, come back to me and let’s talk about it.”
Even just the acknowledgement of “Hey, I know that stuff is going on your campus; I know you’re going to face it,” I think goes so much farther than parents think; because most parents never even utter those words or topics with their student, going off to college—just to say: “Hey, I know the day we leave you on that college campus, you’re going to be offered alcohol. You’re probably going to be offered weed, maybe even harder drugs. Let’s talk about ‘What are you going to do?’”
The other thing that I’ve heard my dad say a thousand times: “They are free agents,”—and that is so hard to hear, as a parent. I mean, I can’t imagine. I have a four-and-a-half month old—[Laughter]—I don’t know what that’s going to be like when I send my firstborn off to college.
Dennis: Let me tell you—hard! [Laughter] Look at me closely—very hard!
Hanna: I remember my parents weeping as they dropped me off. [Laughter]
You know, I have that picture; right?
Dennis: Mr. Lepine, over here—he became putty on the—
Bob: I’m pretty stoic, but not that day; no! [Laughter]
Hanna: But they are—they are free agents. They’re going to make mistakes.
I think, again, parents underestimate the power of their own shared story. Parents, if you went off to college and you made a bunch of mistakes / had a bunch of successes—whatever—finding opportunity to share those with your student so that they can learn from your own story.
My mom shared with me her story of—really, she had been raised in the Christian faith; but truly did not make a decision to follow Christ 100 percent until her senior year of college. She sat down and shared that part of her story with me during a time when I was kind of half-in/half-out, not really sure who I was wanting to serve, myself or the Lord.
To hear her share that story—to be able to imagine my mom, as a 21-year-old, deciding:
“Okay; I can keep one foot in/one foot out. I can go to church; I can party on the weekends; and”—you know—“continue doing ‘X,’ ‘Y,’ ‘Z’; or I can decide to own this. If I own this, this means that the gospel has transformed my life enough to where my daily habits look different.” Just her sharing that with me—I mean, the fact that I can still share that with you today—that mattered. It stuck with me, and it helped me in my own decision-making process during my similar journey.
Dennis: But, Hanna, there’s a lot of parents, wholistened to you tell that story about your mom: “I could never share how I failed—
Dennis: —“in college, because I’m going to ruin and blow the image I’ve been trying to keep for my kids.”
Hanna: I totally get that; but your child, especially—and I have two incredible godly parents—I needed to see my parents as sinners. I know that sounds maybe crazy, but it truly—
—I mean, I joke—I didn’t know that my mom was a sinner until I was in college. It’s not—I mean, I look back; and I could think about times that, you know, maybe she got angry and whatever.
Dennis: Both Bob and I know your mom—we agree with you. [Laughter] Now, your dad—that’s another—[Laughter]
Hanna: Oh, I knew he was a big fat sinner—no; I’m just kidding; I’m just kidding. [Laughter]
I needed to know that they were sinners. I needed to see how they received God’s grace, because I needed to be able to confront my own sin and also receive God’s grace. And I needed to learn to extend God’s grace to my parents, because I think that was also part of the childhood-to-adulthood process. As I become an adult, I start relating to my parents differently. Our relationship changes, and I needed to learn to extend grace to them.
All of that to say: “I think sharing your failures—I can imagine how hard that is—but it will go so much farther in your child’s story than you pretending like you had it all together.”
Bob: I got to jump in here and just affirm that. As I’ve worked, over the last couple of years, on the Art of Parenting™ video series—as you and Barbara have been working on the book on this—I think, for me as a parent, as we were raising our kids, I thought, “My job is to be a model of righteousness.”
Dennis: And it is.
Bob: It is, but I thought any chink in that armor was a deficiency.
Dennis: Right; right.
Bob: So what my kids never saw modeled was how to confess and repent, because I kept all that hidden. The other thing is—in being a model of righteousness, I had kids, growing up, looking/going, “I’m not like him.”
Bob: They knew themselves; they knew their own sin. They’re looking at me and going: “Well, I can’t do what he does. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.” It’s because I was keeping—I was keeping it hidden—the fact that I was not perfectly virtuous.
This is where—for a mom and dad to sit down and go: “I struggle with this stuff too,” “I’ve fallen into this stuff too,” “I’ve made these mistakes when I was in college. I did this stuff wrong,”—
—it does give your kids a sense of: “Oh, then I’m not as flawed as I thought I was. It’s not just me. This is a part of our shared human condition.” That gives relief to a young person to know that.
Dennis: It really does.
Hanna, I’m looking at the clock here; and I’m going, I’ve got to ask you this question—
Dennis: —“If”—and this is tough. Bob doesn’t like me to ask these kinds of questions—[Laughter]—“If you could give an incoming freshman, who’s about to go to the university, one piece of advice—
Bob: —“Of all the advice there is—you’re thinking through everything—
Hanna: There’s 52 in my book!
Bob: I know, Hanna! [Laughter]
Dennis: Alright; we know about the 52 in the book. But I’m just saying: “You’ve got one shot.” I’m thinking of: “Okay; you’re surrounded by 12 girls, and they are about to graduate. You’re about to say good-bye.”
Hanna: I don’t even know if it’s advice as much as it is the reminder that: “God created you.
“He gave you a unique set of skills and experiences, and He has a plan for your life. If you can keep that in mind, as you walk through the four years of college, your experience in college will look so different from your peers.”
Dennis: You’re talking about being on a mission—
Dennis: —talking about fulfilling the Master’s desires for your life.
Hanna: That’s it.
Dennis: Paul said that we are ambassadors for Christ. That means, when we step outside our dorm room—if we’re a freshman—we step out of the embassy / the embassy of the King. We step into the world, representing Jesus Christ and the gospel; because there’s a bunch of lost people, who really need to—well, they need somebody, who’s got skin on, to show them what the love of God looks like.
But they also need to hear about the good news of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, too; and you, as a young lady or a young man, may be just the person they need to hear that good news from.
Bob: I’m just thinking about the number of parents listening, who, in a couple of weeks, are going to be packing up the car, heading off with their children—or sending their children—off to college and all of the things they’re facing. It would be good for them, especially if they have daughters, to get a copy of The College Girl’s Survival Guide and give them a copy. Maybe read through a few of them and highlight some things before you hand it off to your child. I think, Hanna, what you’ve written for college girls can be very helpful as they step into a new season of life.
We’ve got copies of The College Girl’s Survival Guide in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can request you copy when you go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the title of the book is The College Girl’s Survival Guide by Hanna Seymour. You can order, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order:
1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, as you are thinking about kids heading off to college—or maybe your children or grandchildren are just headed back to elementary school, or middle school, or high school—if you’ve got kids or grandkids, who are heading back to school this fall, we have set aside the month of August for a 30-day prayer initiative. We’ve put together 30 days of emails we’ll send you that will provide you with a prayer prompt so you can start, now, praying for your children or your grandchildren heading back to school this fall. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and sign up for the “30-Day Prayer Challenge.”It’s free,and the emails will come to you each day with recommendations on things to be praying for.
Of course, here at FamilyLife®, we’re committed to providing you with help and hope as you raise your children.
We’ve just created the new Art of Parenting video series. A lot of churches are going to be using this series this fall for small groups or for church classes. If you want to find out more about using this material with your small group or in a church setting this fall, you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about that. There’s the online Art of Parenting class that’s available as well. Find out about that when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com. All of this is because of our commitment to provide you with practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family. That’s our mission here at FamilyLife Today—to effectively develop godly marriages and families.
We appreciate those of you who make this ministry possible and help extend the reach of all we’re doing together. You do that every time you donate support the work ofFamilyLife. If you can help with a donation right now, we’d love to send you a copy of Dennis Rainey’s new book, Choosing a Life That Matters. It’s our gift to you when you donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com or when you call to donate—1-800-FL-TODAY is the number.
You could also mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Tomorrow, we want to talk about loneliness and other challenges that students face, particularly college-aged girls. Hanna Seymour is going to be back with us tomorrow. I hope you can be back with us as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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