Counsel for a college freshman

A young friend of mine started at Hillsdale College this week, and his dad, with whom I attend church, gave the new freshman a unique gift. The father asked a couple dozen people whom he respects to email our thoughts on two questions, for inclusion in a virtual scrapbook that will accompany the Class of 2012 entrant to campus. Those questions, and my answers to each, were as follows: 1. What is one thing that you did (or wished you had done) to make your college experience great?

My years at a Midwest liberal arts college with high ideals and a small student body, picturesque rural campus (much like Hillsdale in all those ways), were golden in part because I was led to (a) take the smaller, more challenging classes where I could get full benefit of personal tutoring from the professor and (b) participate to the fullest in many extracurricular activities, which often provided me better learning experiences and more lifelong friendships than the academic side of college.

2. What is one "truth" (adage or scripture or quote) that was important to you back then or today?

Very early in college I came across the Latin motto, "Navigare necesse est, vivere non necesse est." It was the by-word of explorers setting out from Europe into distant unknown oceans centuries ago. The translation is roughly, "To sail is imperative, to live or merely survive is not." In other words, risk it! Aim high, go beyond your limits, follow your star. That served me well as a undergrad and ever since.

Endnote: If you want to feel ancient, try confronting the fact that it's been 46 years since you were in this young guy's shoes, diving into college with all the excitement and trepidation that includes. For me that meant August 1962, heading off to my parents' alma mater, Principia College in Elsah, Illinois. The dad's question about "what made your college experience great" was on target in my case; those turned out to be four of the best years of my life. Two decades later, as it happened, I had another great four years working as a vice president at Hillsdale, to which I must regretfully give the edge over my beloved Principia in terms of conservative principles and fidelity to biblical truth.