How Youth Workers Can Help High School Seniors Plan for College Admissions

August 30th, 2017

Perhaps you’ve never stepped foot on a college campus or it’s been two decades since you’ve attended college.

Don’t worry!

Every youth worker can be a tremendous source of encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and have an eternal impact on college-bound seniors during the fall college admissions process.

We know that Jesus hung out with people (John 1:14), talked about the future and ate a lot of fish. So as your seniors are excitedly talking about their future independence, grab a fish sandwich and join the conversation when seniors start talking about college.

Encourage seniors to stay focused on their journey

College planning can be confusing and stressful – especially for first-generation students and others who don’t know where to attend. They need a trusted youth worker to share advice.

When you’re at a tennis match, cafeteria table or in the church parking lot, listen to their story. One Wednesday after worship service, Daniel and I began discussing his grades, his career choices and his college choices. He wanted to study music and shared that his dad wanted him to study something else. It was causing conflict in their relationship. So, I listened and encouraged him to consider God’s calling while respecting his parents. After a lengthy discussion, we prayed before he left.

Host a college planning seminar at your church.

Invite college students, educational consultants, school counselors and college admissions officers to speak.

Connect your students with other seniors who are scheduling official college visits.

This is especially important if they are still unsure about where (or if) they want to attend. Visiting a campus is an important step in the process.

Take an informal visit to a college campus.

I was driving a group of students back from a leadership camp that was held at a private university campus. As we were nearing a Historically-Black College or University (HBCU), Albert asked if we could stop and visit. He was going to be the first person in his family to attend college and I wanted to encourage his options. So, we stopped for a thirty-minute, informal visit. It was a blast! Hearing his friends get excited about attending college was fun as well. After taking a few pictures near the entrance, we discussed their college future for the remainder of the trip. And yes, he was accepted to that HBCU!

Keep your seniors focused by asking career and college based questions.

Start with these:

  • “What is one college admission task you completed this week?”
  • “What skills do you want to learn?”
  • “What problems do you want to solve in the future?” Tim Elmore uses this question to get students to think practically about majors and careers.
  • “What do you want?” This question might be asked dismissively of a senior to a sixth grader. However, Jesus asked this of two disciples who were following him (John 1:38). The word “want” means “to seek.” Jesus was asking, “what are you seeking?” Asking a senior what she is seeking will help her make wiser decisions about college.

Share information about college planning through announcements or social media.

Use this College Application Timeline to get started.

  • September – write essays, take tests, apply for scholarships (two each week), request recommendation letters
  • October – finalize college lists and essays, apply for financial aid
  • November – submit college applications, apply for more scholarships!

It is easy for seniors to get distracted with drum rehearsals, AP classes and homecoming floats. Youth workers can keep seniors focused on their college journey and strengthen their faith in Jesus.

Challenge seniors to strengthen their faith in Jesus

David played loud harp music, worked outdoors, took on challenges bigger than himself, made mistakes, failed and succeeded as a leader, sinned and followed God with all his heart.

So will high school seniors.

So how can youth workers influence the spiritual lives of college-bound David’s?

Challenge them to attend church regularly

This is especially important in the first two months of the school year. Why? It’s biblical (Hebrews 10:25)! Fuller Youth Institute researcher Kara Powell suggests that college students who do not join and begin attending a local church within the first six weeks of the semester, may not attend over the next four years. Seniors who serve will stay. Get them involved!

Challenge them to pray with and for one another.

Pray about everything (1 Thessalonians 5:17). You can lead the way.

  • Tests can be stressful! Pray with students before major testing events like the SAT and ACT.
  • Decisions are hard! Pray with students as they are selecting the right fit major and college (Proverbs 16:3).
  • I need tuition money! Pray with students and parents as they search for scholarships, submit financial aid forms and manage money.

Through prayer, you are helping them discover God’s calling on their life!

Challenge them to learn how to avoid (and respond) to temptation.

It’s more than just running from temptation like Joseph from Potiphar’s wife. They need to learn how to stand firm, make wise decisions, be mature and show self-discipline.

Challenge them to know who they are in Christ Jesus.

Writing and reading their faith story will develop and strengthen their spiritual growth. Christian students who are not confident in their faith will lose their voice in a noisy college environment. Their faith story has three parts: before knowing Christ, the moment they put their faith in Christ, and after trusting Christ. Review it. Share it. Own it.

Challenge their beliefs.

In my “I Believe” class, we discussed six major doctrines and examined the beliefs of our denomination, other denominations and other religions. Then students wrestled with what they believed. Write it down. Share it out loud.

If our teenagers do not know what they believe when they begin college, there will be plenty of voices sharing theirs. School counselor and former youth worker Jen Lynch said the best advice she gave her students was “the importance of putting a stake in the ground and deciding that you are going to follow Christ in college.”

Now grab some fish sandwiches and join the conversation!

Brett Rachel is the founder of Higher Calling – connecting higher education with God’s calling. He merged 18 years of youth ministry with 10 years of educational consulting and wants students to “live a life worthy of the calling” (Ephesians 4:1). Brett and his wife of 16 years are in the process of adopting three kids. He enjoys fly fishing, percussion, stingrays, and snickerdoodles. For more content about college planning, connect online at HigherCallingPlanning.com, on Facebook: HigherCallingPlanning, on Twitter: hcplanning41, or on Instagram: hcplanning41.


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.