FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Ready, Set, College!

with John Bryson, Robert Lewis | February 22, 2010
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Classes are finished, finals are graded, and the diploma is finally in your hand! Your next stop: college. All this week, pastors Robert Lewis and John Bryson talk to upcoming college students about making the most of their college years. Lewis and Bryson encourage students to envision their future and know why they are in college before they enter. Those who don’t have a vision for their future, according to Lewis, often drop out.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Classes are finished, finals are graded, and the diploma is finally in your hand! Your next stop: college. All this week, pastors Robert Lewis and John Bryson talk to upcoming college students about making the most of their college years. Lewis and Bryson encourage students to envision their future and know why they are in college before they enter. Those who don’t have a vision for their future, according to Lewis, often drop out.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Classes are finished, finals are graded, and the diploma is finally in your hand!

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Ready, Set, College!

With John Bryson, Robert Lewis
February 22, 2010
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Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, February 22.  The host of our program is Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine.  If you know somebody who is a high school senior just about to graduate, maybe headed to college in the fall, wouldn’t it be great if you could get them some time with a mentor who could get them ready?


Robert:  So you’re going to college.  Congratulations!  You’re in for a great adventure.  My name is Robert Lewis and I serve as President of LifeReady™.  The organization that produced this video series that you’re about to enjoy. 

College as you’re about to find out is one of life’s most defining moments.  It contains a host of new discoveries, eye-opening experiences and personal challenges that, in one way or the other, will forever change your life.  That said the last thing you want to do is stumble into college blindly without clear direction or know-how.  Instead, you want to be college ready. 


Bob:  Welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.  You love those drum beats don’t you? 

Dennis:  I do.


Bob:  You were ready to go, “Go team!”


Dennis:  Go back to college.  What about you?

Bob:  Well, I didn’t get a chance to go to the “Harvard of the Ozarks” like you did. 

Dennis:  Where was it that you went?


Bob:  I went to the University of Tulsa, which is kind of an “Ivy.”  It’s a western ivy school. 

Dennis:  “Ivy”? 

Bob:  Yes, that’s how we referred to it.  And I know you went to one of those big “Rah, rah” colleges.  We were one of the more intellectually substantive schools. 

Dennis:  And I think we need to move on to a more substantive interview here.  We have an old friend joining us on FamilyLife Today, Dr. Robert Lewis, along with a new friend John Bryson.  John, Robert, welcome back.

Robert:  Thank you, good to be here.

John:  Good to be here, thanks. 

Dennis:  John Bryson is, well he describes himself as a social entrepreneur.  What is that John?

John:  I like to be involved in startups and new things and enjoy the entrepreneurial side of redemptive processes. 

Dennis:  Well, he’s a graduate of my alma-mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, teaching pastor at Fellowship Memphis, and does a great job over there.  I’ve heard a lot of people comment on his preaching.  Robert Lewis holds the record for the most number of guest visitations here on FamilyLife Today.  He was actually checking, Bob before we came on the air, if he was going to get full credit for this.

Bob:  Even though we have two people in the studio.  And, we assured you that you get full credit. 

Robert:  I’m trying to stack my numbers up here.

Bob:  We also explained that in the early years of FamilyLife Today, we were desperate and that is one of the reasons.  Robert was local and we just grabbed what we could—No I’m just kidding! 

Robert:  Pull me off the streets “Could you fill this today?”

Dennis:  Well, Robert is a good friend, he’s written a number of books.  Quest for Authentic Manhood, of course he’s the creator of Men’s Fraternity, which is being used in over 20,000 churches across the country.  He has helped create something new that we want to draw the curtains back on today.  Robert, explain what College Ready is.

Robert:  Well, College Ready, the genesis of it started with, actually my son and myself and some of his friends when they were about to go to college.  My son left me note on the window of my car saying, “Dad, I’m scared about going to college.  I don’t know anything about it.  I don’t even know what I want to do when I get there.”  So, I got him in a conversation, and that led to us getting with some other dads and their sons just talking about the college experience. 

We tried to break it down into some bite sized bits to take some of the mystery out of college.  It actually empowered those sons in a way that, I think even surprised us as dads.  Out of that, John and I have a long relationship.  John was a resident at our church and a church planner over in Memphis.  But, John has a lot more expertise in this area because he worked with college students for over 11 years.  We started talking about this and talked about assembling together a video series that could go nationwide, and empower parents, but particularly their sons and daughters, to navigate the college maze with vision. 

Because, vision is what helps those students know what they need to do when they get to college.  We’ve found, that most college students have no clue other than that they’re getting into college. But they don’t know how to do college.  So, this video series is a way of giving them a vision and taking the mystery out so they look forward to where they’re going to college rather than just going there. 

Bob:  The reality is the issues that students are going to face as they head into the college years, they don’t even know what those issues are yet.  Do they?  I mean they know they have to pick a major, they have to sign up for classes, and they have to move into a dorm.  But they haven’t really thought through what the next four years of their life are going to look like. 

Robert:  No, as a matter of fact, John can say some more about this.  But when we were doing our research for this, we found out that the majority of parents think that their job as a parent is to get their kid into college, and they’re done.  One of the stunning things, about 30% of college students drop-out their first year.  Part of the reason is they’re totally unprepared for the college experience.

Bob:  Thirty percent are dropping out their freshman year?

Robert:  Thirty percent.

Dennis:  You know, the interesting thing is, I did a little research, too, and found out that the average college student spends $1200 in preparation for the first semester.

Bob:  Are you talking about the bedspread and the furnishings for the room, and all that kind of stuff?

Dennis:  Exactly.In fact, the National Retail Federation reported that $3.6 billion will be spent on dorm room décor.

Bob:  They’d like to see that number go up a little bit I’m sure.

Dennis:  I’m sure they would.  But, this is a little bit like what we do at the Weekend to Remember Marriage Conference for pre-marrieds.  We attempt to equip them before they get married around the issues they’re going to face.  And John, that’s really what you do in this series isn’t it?  To prepare these incoming freshmen around the issues they’re going to face?

John:  That’s exactly right.  Something Robert mentioned was just so true in my experience and in watching college students for a little over a decade.  They don’t know what they don’t know.  So these issues hit them immediately.  It’s almost like that moment. 

Every person can remember it where, as soon as the wedding is over, like you referenced.  Or when you bring a son home, or child home, or a daughter home, and you think, “What in the world have I gotten myself into?”  Then everything descends on you at that moment.  Robert used a phrase, “taking the mystery out of college,” that’s exactly what we try to do is equip them in the areas that matter most.  That is severely underequipped for most 18-year-olds to head into life.  So, we’re trying to equip them for those moments.

Bob:  I’ll tell you what’s interesting.  Over the last several months, I’ve been talking to folks, and they’ve been saying, what’s going on at FamilyLife?  What’s new?

I’ve been talking about different project we’re involved with, and I’ll say, “One of the things we’re working on is, we’re working with Robert Lewis and the development of some video curriculum for churches, and one of the first things he’s working on is this series that can be used in churches to help get students in their senior year ready for the college campus.  As soon as I say this, it’s like you start to see a little drool coming out of the side of their mouth.  They’re saying, “We need that.”  The realization of the need is huge.

Robert:  That’s exactly right.  I’ve had that exact same experience.  And I think the reason is, because the minute you say that, that we have this series that could prepare a son or daughter for college, it just instinctively hits at the core of a parent, who thinks, “I hadn’t even thought about that.  All I’ve thought about is getting my kid into college.” which is exactly what the research says.

So, what happens is, these students go and they start the college experience as John just mentioned, and they are clueless other than maybe partying, or having some fun.  But that first day at class they realize, no one’s going to make them study, and they’re asking, “Is this the class I’m supposed to be in?  I don’t enjoy this professor.”  This is clueless.  And they can’t connect any of the dots. 

So what happens is, they end up like so many college students today, spending thousands of dollars in extra classes as they switch majors.  They go extra years.  They don’t finish in four any more.  It’s five, six, seven years, and they wander around.  Even when they finish, they still have no clue what they really want to do.  What passion they really want to pursue.  So basically what they’ve done is they’ve squandered four years that should have been their greatest years preparing for the future.  And now they have to spend their twenties trying to make up for that deficit.

Bob:  John, you identified six issues that you think are the core issues that parents and students need to be interacting about prior to college.  This series is built around those six issues.  Right?

John:  Exactly.  The first one really is the pre-eminent one, and the one Robert mentioned about us needing to start.  Begin with the end in mind.  It all starts with vision.  We really challenge in the opening session, students to picture themselves on their graduation day. 

In each of these key areas whether it’s empowering friendships, or excelling academically, or fun, or doing relationships well, and friendships well and growing spiritually.  We get them to think about where they want to be at their graduation day.  And then reverse engineer their life to make the wise investments of that freedom we’ve mentioned, so they can be propelled into their twenties and young adulthood, not digging out of a hole, as we’ve already mentioned. 

Bob:  So you start them on vision.  What are the other five things you’re covering with them?

John:  We’re talking about friendships, dating relationships, academic life, having fun—making great memories.  College should be fun.  You need to make the right kind of memories.  And finally, we end it with growing spiritually—really making your faith your own. 

Bob:  So, Robert you’re digging into very practical issues as well as the spiritual formation issues.

Robert:  That’s exactly right.  In fact, one big “Aha” for a senior in high school is for somebody like John, in a creative way to simply say, let me tell you what the targets are that you want to succeed in.  When you start listing those targets, it’s almost instinctive that you sit up and go, “Well I want to have empowering friendships, I want to have fun.”  Although John will define “fun” as making great memories, not ones you’ll want to forget. 

He’ll talk about growing spiritually.  He’ll talk about academic success and talk about a faith that becomes vibrant and it’s your own.  And the students simply go, “Well I want that.”  Now the question is how do I get there?  The magic is, he’s not just putting those big targets up above you, but he then goes and explains it in very practical, user-friendly ways how you can establish wise steps to succeed in each one of those areas.  The student gets to craft a vision for themselves off those wise moves.

Dennis:  You know, you begin with the subject of vision, and I want to give our listeners a taste of the cookie.  You tell the story of a college sophomore who had a vision of connecting his friends socially.  This shows that college students need vision and those visions can be highly productive. 

John:  They can, I think I’ve told the story of Mark Zuckerberg and the phenomenon of Facebook.  How he just started off with the vision to feel connected.  I think he was at Harvard, and what took off out of that has been just unbelievable and astronomical.  But yes that’s absolutely right.  We’ve all got to aim for something.  If we aim for nothing we’ll hit it every time.  So we really try to build that. 

As Robert said, my challenge, and the challenge given to me was to build a walking, breathing book of proverbs that we can drill down.  We interviewed hundreds of alumni, in each of these six areas, and said, “What were the key steps you took?”  We compiled those down, and I think, give them one of the best manuals, or how-to books, to succeed in each of six big win areas.

Bob:  I’m just sitting here thinking, what vision did I have when I went to college?  I had the vision of four years later I’d have a degree that would get me a job.  It was high school without all the restrictions, and with some more liberties, but I was going to get a degree, and that was going to get me a job, and that was the next thing.  I didn’t have much vision beyond that.  You’re encouraging students to widen their angle a little bit, right?

John:  Absolutely.  Peter Craft is a philosophy professor at Harvard and is an expert on Socrates.  He wrote a book called Socrates on a College Campus.  The opening chapter is Socrates asking a college student why they’re there.  The college student stumbles and bumbles as most of would have our freshman year, and ends up with this idea, “I’m here to get a degree.”

“Why do you want to get a degree?”  “So I can get a good job.”

“Why do you want to get a good job?” “So I can get a good income.”

“Why do you need good income?”  “So I can send my kids to college…”

And he starts speaking in this endless mindless cycle that there’s got to be a reason bigger than just graduation, job and income, and uses that fertile ground to talk about some bigger targets than just that.

Robert:  One of the things John mentions in this first session that he saw plague college students every year that he was working in the college campus.  He calls it “mindless passivity.”  They come to college with the idea that “I’m going to get a degree.”  But if you were to ask them, “What degree?” they’re still not even clear then.  So, what they then do is just get on this ocean called college in this little raft, they just drift around. 

They have fun, and when it gets painful to think about where they’re going at the end of four years, they just put that aside and keep having fun because they don’t know what they’re going to do.  So it becomes just high school all over again, except the consequences are much more serious.

Bob:  You know I have thought back many times to classes I took in college and thought, I wish I could take that class again knowing what I know now, because, I would have been paying attention to learn, not just to pass the test.  My whole orientation was, again I’m going to get the degree to get the job, so all I have to do is pass the test.  It wasn’t about learning.  Since college I’ve gone, “I should have been paying a little more attention.  There was some cool stuff they were talking about there.  I just didn’t know at the time.”

Dennis:  You know, what Robert was talking about and what John does in the video series, you actually talk about this idea of drifting, and how there are five dangerous currents.  Do you remember them?  Can you give them to our listeners?  Because there are some parents who need to hear these.  Just knowing where the dangerous currents are, can really help parents prepare their son or daughter for college. 

John:  I use the metaphor that we’ve probably all experienced at a beach.  You set your stuff down on the beach, and go out into the surf, you’re playing around for a few minutes and you look up and your stuff is way down the beach, and you wonder how you drifted here.  I use that theme of drifting. 

I talked about passivity being one of the currents that can take you to places you never intended on going.  You’ll find yourself doing things you never thought you would do.  Relational chaos is another one of those currents of making bad choices in guy-girl relationships and in dating.  Bad choices of friends is a part of that, you end up being who you run with in most situations.  So being encircled with a group of people that end up taking you places you never thought you would be.  Those are some of those currents that really kind of drag you one way or the other.

Dennis:  If you think about it, in high school, kids go through four years with mom and dad helping to guide them and manage those currents.  When they pull out of the driveway, they really are on their own facing, probably some of the strongest currents they’re ever going to face in their lives, without the maturity, quite honestly, to be able to handle it.

Bob:  Yes, the difference is, when we’re at home, we may not know everything that’s going on in a student’s life at school.  There may be parts of their life that you’re just not in tune with.  But you’re getting a pretty good taste of what’s happening at the high school campus.  As soon as they leave, you are dependent on whatever you can glean off their Facebook, or whatever they’ll tell you in a cell call, or whatever you can kind of pick up via the grapevine.  But you’re not getting a whole lot of data as a mom and dad.  You’re just praying and hoping that your kids are making wise choices because you don’t have a whole lot of say left in the equation at that point.

Dennis:  I just talked to a dad whose daughter went to college.  I said, “How is she doing?”  He said, “Well, we haven’t heard from her in four weeks.  We, got a Facebook post, she called home and talked to us for about three minutes once, but not a lot going on there.”  I think the independence of those freshman years can really strike a young person one of two ways.  They can either run off and go do a bunch of stuff—I don’t think this young lady is off into bad things at that point—but they can on the other hand become very homesick.

Bob:  Well, in some ways, not hearing from your child much in that first semester, you’re going, “That’s a good thing.  They’re making the adjustment.”  My first semester of college was the loneliest year of my life.  You talk about what influences you to make poor choices, being lonely is one of things that will push you out into it.  So, when you don’t hear from your child you think, “Well, good!  They’re making friends.  They don’t have time for mom and dad, that’s okay.”  But by the same token, you don’t know what kind of choices they are making in the midst of that.

Dennis:  So, here’s the challenge.  You’ve got a video resource to prepare your sons and daughters for college.  You’ve got Robert Lewis helping to produce this, John Bryson being the teacher.  Tremendous resource that’s edgy, fun, it’s going to be relevant to young people.  Robert, describe how a mom and dad who are listening to this broadcast could use this resource.

Robert:  I think the original vision we had for this resource was that churches would be the first landing pad, all across the nation, because every youth group has a senior class.  What I would love to see this video series as part of the curriculum for every senior class in every church in America.  I think that’s great place for it to be.  I think it gives spiritual nourishment as well as vision for the next season of life. That the kids are going to come together around and enjoy and their parents—this is the exciting thing—their parents get to participate.

The second place I think it could be used in a really effective way is in schools.  Particularly schools who want to empower their senior classes for that next step.  So there are schools around the country who would take a resource like this.  Obviously there’s some spiritual edge to it, but nonetheless, with very practical ways to empower a student to be prepared for college.  This would be a great place for schools to consider this College Ready series. 

Then I think, a third place is on the college campus.  With a lot of campus ministries who are receiving college freshmen for that first semester.  Like Bob said a minute ago, they arrive for the first couple of weeks with that “Deer in the headlights” look.  They’re lonely, they’re overwhelmed.  The campus has so many things going on that they don’t even know where to begin.  What a great way for campus ministries to draw those freshmen in and say, “Let us help you prepare for college.  Let us give you a vision for college.”

So, those are the three targets we have for this series.  But if a parent were out there listening and saying, “Our church may not do that, but I’d like to get that.”  They could get the series and actually host it in their home.  Get some other students or their son or daughter’s friends together and host in their home, and show the series. 

It’s self-explanatory in a lot of ways.  And there’s a leaders guide that’s involved in that for help as well as a website that you can go to for further help.  But this series would be a great way of joining the friends of your son or daughter together along with the parents to go, “We’re developing a language and a vision for college together.”  I think, long term, that’s the great win.  Because you’ll get your kid in college with a language that you can interact with around things like, your empowering friends, or dating right, or you’re excelling academically.  It gives something that the son or daughter can talk with to their parents about vision and succeeding in college well.  That’s what it’s about.

Dennis:  We know that these days are incredibly determinative.  A child going off to college is a dangerous time.  Here is a practical way for parents to build a fence at the top of the cliff.  Rather than running an ambulance service at the bottom of the canyon.  I’d just challenge every parent listening.  If you can get it in your youth group, but if not, fire up your DVD player and take a group of young people through this series.

Bob:  We’ve got clips from the video series on our website at, so if folks want to get an idea of what this looks like, just go to the web, and you can watch a couple of the clips.  You can order the entire DVD series, if you’d like, get workbooks for the students to use as well.  Again all the information about the resources that are available can be found at 

While we’re on the subject of high school graduation and getting kids college ready, for the last couple of years we have suggested to parents a possible graduation gift you can give to a son or daughter.  It’s a CD/DVD combination called ConGRADulations.  A music CD with 20 tracks on it, including tracks from Reliant K and Toby Mac and Lecrae and Skillet, Flyleaf, and Owl City.  Then there’s a companion media DVD that has interviews and speakers and graduation video greetings.

There’s a 48 page graduation gift book that comes with it.  Then we send you a gift as well.  The gift we send you is some thoughts from Dennis and Barbara Rainey about what we need to do as parents to make sure that we’ve done our part in getting our sons and daughters ready for the launch to college.  Making sure we’ve covered our bases.

So, there’s information on our website, again, information about the ConGRADulations: Class of 2010 CD/DVD package.  There’s information about the College Ready material, how you can order that.  Or if it’s easier for you to call, 1-800-FLTODAY is the number.  1-800-358-6329.  That’s 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.

One of the things we love about our radio program is the opportunity it gives us each day to connect with listeners all across the country.  To be a part of a dialog on strengthening marriages and families and what we can do to effectively develop the kind of godly families who change the world one home at a time.  I know many of you are new to FamilyLife Today.  You just started listening recently, or somebody told you about it.  You’ve just tuned in.  Maybe you’re not connected.  We were thinking the other day, is there a way to get folks connected?  We thought; well let’s just send our friends a book. 

We came across a book called 99 Ways to Entertain Your Family for Free: fun creative ways that you and your family can just have a good time together.  So, we thought that, maybe that can help us get connected with some of our new FamilyLife Today friends.  So, if you’re a new listener, or if you’ve been listening for a while, and you’d like to get a copy of the book, 99 Ways to Entertain Your Family for Free, just call 1-800-FLTODAY, and say, I’d like that book they were talking about on the radio about entertaining your family.  And we’ll get it out to you. 

It’ll be nice to connect with you, we appreciate you listening to FamilyLife Today, and we hope you find the book a helpful tool and helpful resource for your family.  Again the number, 1-800 F as in “family” L as in “life” and then the word TODAY.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about one of the key issues your son or daughter is going to face on the college campus.  That’s the issue of friendships.  Making the right kinds of friendships can be an important part of success at college.  Making the wrong kinds of friendships can be dangerous.  We’ll talk more about that tomorrow.  I hope you can back with us for that. 

I want to thank our engineer today Phil Krause and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Raney, I’m Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.

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