About the Guest
Starting college can be scary for the student and parent alike. Author and student guidance professional Hanna Seymour helps young women prepare for college by talking honestly about what they can expect when they get there--gaining the freshman 15, making friends, and handling conflicts with a roommate.
Starting college can be scary for the student and parent alike.Hanna Seymour helps young women prepare for college by talking honestly about what they can expect when they get there.
Bob: As your daughter heads to college this fall, she faces a couple of options. She can either be really lonely or, Hanna Seymour says, she can start pursuing friendships.
Hanna: Pursuing people means asking them out to coffee / asking them to lunch. If you work out every week, ask people to go work out with you. If you walk around campus / whatever the activities that you enjoy doing—grab some other people to go with you, and start pursuing people. Know that most people are not good at this; most people are not going to pursue you. Do not take it personally.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, July 24th. Our host is Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. There are some key strategies that your daughter can employ as she heads to college this fall that will help her college experience be really good. We’ll talk about those strategies today. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. So we’re trying to help moms and dads—particularly, if they have daughters who are about to head off to college—I’ve got to tell you—if I was about to release a daughter to college, I would want to wrap her up in bubble wrap—you know what I’m saying? I would want to send her off, cocooned up and protected, and make sure that somebody was following her around the whole time—that she didn’t get into any trouble.
Dennis: And, Bob, I’d want those vests that the police officers wear.
Bob: The Kevlar®? [Laughter]
Dennis: Bubble wrap? [Laughter] Forget bubble wrap!—put Kevlar around her.
Well, we’ve got a friend here, Hanna Seymour, who’s a friend of Laura’s, my daughter. She has written a book called The College Girl’s Survival Guide. Welcome back, Hanna. Great job on this book, by the way.
Hanna: Thank you.
Dennis: You were on Fox & Friends; right?
Hanna: I was on Fox & Friends.
Dennis: How did that go?
Hanna: It was a blast!—fastest three-and-a-half minutes of my life!
Dennis: And did they let you talk about your faith?
Hanna: They did; yes. They kept bringing it up—they would say: “Well, faith is really important to you. This is rooted in biblical principles.” They were all over it!
Dennis: Okay; go back to the start of how you wrote this book, because you work on college campuses and are a—how did we put that before?—a “professional development”—
Bob: I forget what it was; yes.
Hanna: —a “student development professional.”
Bob: —“professional.” [Laughter] There you go; that’s right.
Hanna: Get it right!
Bob: Is that what we called counselors back in the day?—is that what it is? [Laughter] Okay; alright.
Dennis: Anyway, you’ve done this both on the college campus but you were also doing it with high school students.
Hanna: I was. I’d been working on a college campus for a few years, in a full-time role. I started mentoring high school girls. I wanted to try to help prepare high school girls to really understand why they believe what they believe: “Can they articulate the gospel?”—
—send them off to college with that foundational knowledge.
I graduated my first crop of girls, and I wanted to find a book that would help prepare them for the issues I knew they would be facing. Of course, there are so many books out there!—but I was looking for something specifically practical/easy to read, but biblically-based. I didn’t want it dripping in Christian-ese. I had girls who weren’t “all in” yet; so I didn’t want to give them a book that would be, maybe, toxic to them, or just too Christian.
I never found what I wanted and, in the back of my mind, I thought, “Maybe I could write that book someday.” Now, fast-forward just a little bit. I graduated my first group of high school girls—they are off at college. Each week, I would get two to three emails from that group of 12—really basic, common things: “Hanna, my roommate and I are not getting along. We haven’t spoken in a week,” or “Hey, Hanna, you know, I’ve always wanted to be a nurse.
“I came as a Pre-Med major; I’m realizing I’m failing my core classes in that major. What am I supposed to do? What do I do with my life? This is what I’ve thought I wanted this whole time!”
I was getting these emails. I had answered these questions a million times in my office on the college campus, but it was the first time I was responding to them in writing. Slowly, those email exchanges turned into a blog; and after several years of blogging and answering questions from college girls all over the country—because, real quickly, it went from my core 12 to girls all over the nation—I realized: “I think I have that book. I think I can write this book that I’ve always wanted to give my high school graduates.”
Dennis: So you wrote a book, and you broke it down into six categories. Quickly, just tick off those six categories; and explain why you chose each one.
Hanna: Roommate conflicts is the first category. Every college girl has a roommate conflict during their four years! [Laughter]
Dennis: I don’t think that needs any explanation!
Hanna: Every single one.
Relational Issues—so everything from “Where are my friends?” to “Where is my future husband?” or just questions about dating: “Should I pursue him?”—that kind of thing.
Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol—how to survive the party scene. “Do I want to save sex for marriage?”—discussions like that.
Academics and Career: “How do I find direction? How do I find meaning? Where do I want to go post-college?”
Faith-based—that chapter is called “Jesus Take the Wheel”—so everything from “How do I find a church?” / “Do I even need to find a church and plug in at college?” to “I’m really having doubts about my Christian faith,” or even “I’m terrified to evangelize. The Bible says we’re supposed to make disciples, and that scares me so much!”
Dennis: And you left out the first one, which is helping your pre-freshman anticipate college.
Hanna: That’s right.
Dennis: What’s that all about?
Hanna: So it’s “First Things First”—the top ten things that every entering college freshman is wondering about—from “Freshman Fifteen” to summer orientation; registering for classes—that kind of thing.
Bob: “Freshman Fifteen”—just in case anybody doesn’t know what that is—do you want to explain that?
Hanna: Gaining fifteen pounds or more. I talked to someone the other day, who said, “I heard it’s now up to 25.” The whole thing is a myth. College students are coming on campus—they’re not eating the way mom and dad fed them—they’re eating junk, they’re eating at 2:00 a.m., they’re not engaged in sports anymore—of course, they’re going to gain some weight; but if they just continue the lifestyle that they had before college, they will not gain weight. And beer calories, which is a huge piece of that whole “Freshman Fifteen.”
Bob: Did you gain the “Freshman Fifteen?”
Hanna: I did not.
Bob: And how did you keep from doing that?
Hanna: I didn’t eat at 2:00 a.m.; I didn’t drink. Truly, it was just maintaining—if you maintain the eating/exercising lifestyle you had at 18—I do talk about, in my book: “Ladies, at some point during 18-22, you are going to add some extra weight; because it’s just becoming a woman.”
You know, they hate hearing that; but it’s just part of the process. We can’t lose joy over five pounds.
Hanna: You just let it go.
Bob: So, there are a lot of young women ready to go now [off to college]. What’s the greatest apprehension that a [graduated] high school senior, about to go on the college campus—what is she most afraid of, do you think?
Hanna: I think [it’s] not finding the friends / not finding their people. A lot of students have been told by their parents—you know, their parents’ best friend probably came from college / not always, but often, folks that we hang onto for a lifetime, we met in college. And that fear of: “I’m losing all the best friends I had from high school. I’m going to a place where, maybe, I know a few people; but am I going to find my people? Am I going to find those best friendships? And how do I cultivate them?”
Bob: I did not have that fear, but I had that reality.
Bob: My first semester at college was the loneliest five months of my life.
Hanna: Yes; yes.
Bob: And here’s the deal—I went from being kind of a big deal in high school—
Bob: —President of the Senior Class—people knew me. I got to the college campus; I am walking around, and it was like: “Hey, guys. Don’t you know who I am? [Laughter]
Dennis: More than fifteen pounds ago! [Laughter]
Bob: “I was kind of a big deal. Why aren’t people high-fiving me as I walk around here?”
Bob: And I just found myself incredibly lonely. What I tried to do was recapture past glory—talked to my old friend: “Hey, do you remember this?
Bob: “You still think I’m great; right?”
Bob: I just remember that it was an incredibly lonely season—
Bob: —in part because I was hanging onto the past, and in part because I didn’t know how to break into a new group.
Bob: So, if somebody’s heading off to college, what’s your coaching tip for them on how they begin to establish a friendship network in a place they’ve never been to before?
Hanna: I talk a lot in my book about the art of pursuing people.
Where that first has to start is you knowing: “What kind of friends do you even want?”
Bob: That’s right.
Hanna: You need to know who you’re looking for—what values you want them to hold / what characteristics you want them to be exhibiting—it starts there; and, then, it’s you being that friend—you being the friend that you want out of someone else.
Pursuing people means asking them out to coffee / asking them to lunch. If you work out every week, ask people to go work out with you. If you walk around campus / whatever the activities that you enjoy doing—grab some other people to go with you. “Play together” is what I talk about in the book, and start pursuing people. Know that most people are not good at this; most people are not going to pursue you. Do not take it personally.
If you have asked some girl to grab coffee with you three times and y’all hit it off, and she’s never reciprocated, believe the best about her—believe that she’s just not good at pursuing people, and continue to pursue.
Eventually, you will start finding those friends who reciprocate, and who are investing in you as much as you’re investing in them; but it takes time.
Hanna: That’s, I think, the other piece that’s really hard for college students to wrap their minds around. Like you said—you have friends from high school, who had known you for years!
Hanna: And you have all of these memories, and you also have the context of your family growing up; so my high school best friends all knew my mom and my dad and my siblings. There’s so much more context of friendships, growing up. Then you get to college, and you expect to find your best friends in a snap. Well, how long did it take for you to cultivate those high school best friendships?—probably a long time. So to think that you’re going to find your best friends, first semester/freshman year, and everything’s going to be hunky-dory until the end—it is just not realistic.
Dennis: Exactly. I’m now going back to a time when I got a phone call from a family, who said, “Our son’s at the University of Arkansas, and we know your daughter goes there.
“He’s kind of heading off in the wrong direction. Is there a chance that Laura could just make a contact?”
Bob: “…go rescue him?”
Dennis: Well, not rescue him; but introduce him to some different friends. Now, I know I’m getting over on the guy side, but the principle is the same.
Dennis: This is what I wanted you to comment on, Hanna—what do you think of parents, who call ahead to a group—like Cru®, Navigators™, or RUF—and give them the name of your daughter—
Dennis: —and what dorm she’s in and say: “Would you guys mind going by and striking up a friendship with her?—maybe inviting her to some of the group meetings that are taking place?” What do you think about that?
Hanna: That has happened to me more times than I can count. Your example that you’re giving is a soft example—
—I have had parents call me, explain their child’s roommate conflict, and conference call in the parents of the other roommate.
Dennis: Oh, my goodness!
Hanna: I’m on a conference call with two sets of parents—there’s no student involved in this conversation—hashing out what their children are supposed to do for this roommate conflict.
I’ve had crazy, crazy conversations with parents, about issues their students are facing. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time—parents, I love you—I know it’s coming from a good place—don’t do it! It’s up to your student!
You can tell your student: “Hey, there is a great Cru on your campus,” “There’s a great InterVarsity,” “There’s a great RUF! In fact, here’s the name of that staff person,” or “…leader.” You can even give your child that much information, but put it on them: “Hey! You should attend that large group meeting, and then you should go up and introduce yourself to that staff person—just shake their hand.”
I talk about that in my book: “Introduce yourself to professors. Go introduce yourself to the President of your university.” Who’s doing that?—encourage/challenge your child to do it, but don’t do it for them—it’s not helping them. They need to learn to take the initiative; again, they need to learn to pursue people. They have to learn to make their own way, and you can’t do it for them.
Bob: Here’s what you can do, as a parent—instead of calling Dennis and saying, “Hey, can you get your daughter to do this?” or calling Hanna and saying, “Will you make all of this happen?”—you call Jesus. [Laughter]
Bob: As parents, you hit your knees, and you pray and cry out and say, “God, You can do what I can’t do.”
Bob: “You can arrange what I can’t arrange. You know who my child is going to meet today.”
Hanna: That’s right.
Bob: “Would You put people in their path? Would You do this?” And just keep crying out to the Lord, because God can do stuff that the arranged situation between somebody’s daughter and your son—God knows what He’s doing a whole lot better; right? [Laughter]
Dennis: And I would say that I want to touch base with you in about 18 years, Hanna—
Hanna: I know! [Laughter]
Bob: —and see if she’s calling to arrange something here?
Hanna: I know!
Dennis: I have to say—in this particular case—the illustration I used—Laura did go befriend the young man—not in a romantic—just in friendship—
Dennis: —and she got him to go to one of the Cru events.
I just went back to the 50th anniversary of Campus Crusade for Christ®—now Cru—at the University of Arkansas. I’ve got to tell you—the friends that I made in college were there—
Dennis: —around Cru and a great church—University Baptist Church, led by H.D. McCarty. Those friendships do endure.
You’re on to a very important thing here—your daughter and, yes, your son need to be really equipped to know how to select the right group of friends as they go away to college, because who they hang out with will be who they become.
Bob: And I just have to say too—and you talk about this in the book—
—in spite of the best eHarmony-like intentions of universities to match up your daughter with a like-minded roommate—
Bob: —it doesn’t always work that way.
Hanna: Most times not.
Bob: One of your chapters is: “I’d Like to Kill My Roommate, but I Don’t Know Where to Bury the Body. What Should I Do?” [Laughter] You tell the story about somebody, who was roomies with a pot-smoking, free-loving, non-shaving kind of girl—
Bob: —who—I mean, they couldn’t have been more different.
Hanna: It was my roommate. [Laughter]
Bob: Well, let’s talk, sister! So what did you do?
Hanna: It was hard for 18-year-old Hanna to figure out how to live with someone that was—I mean, could not be more opposite and, sometimes, offensive. I mean, the way in which we were opposite rubbed against me the wrong way. There are things I can’t even say on the radio about what went down with that roommate and the things that she brought into our room.
What I will say is I learned to: A) Choose my battles.
I knew that her eating my food was so much smaller than some of the bigger problems we were having in our room. I learned how to decide what the one message was that I needed to communicate with her that week. I couldn’t come with a laundry list of 100 things that she was doing that were driving me crazy.
I learned how to communicate in kindness—because I will say the one thing I think I did well, as an 18-year-old—I remembered that I was an ambassador of Christ—and that she did not know Jesus. I knew that, as much as she drove me crazy, it mattered more that I reflected Christ well to her than anything else.
I didn’t have to be a doormat; I didn’t have to, you know, just sweep everything under the rug and let her do whatever she wanted; but I did have to tread lightly, because she knew I was a believer. I cared more about that testimony. I wanted her to remember that about me when we ended our nine months of living together over than, “Hanna was always nagging me about ‘X’, ‘Y’, and ‘Z.’”
Dennis: And what if it’s a big issue, Hanna?—like your roommate locking you out of the room; because she’s having sex with her boyfriend in the room.
Hanna: Yes! I talk about that in my book.
Dennis: You do!
Hanna: I do. I say—I think that is the hardest roommate conflict, because your roommate knows that she’s inconveniencing you. This isn’t just like: “I don’t realize my habit is annoying you.” This is: “I know my behavior is locking you out of your bedroom.”
But I still think—I always call them back to—“You’ve got to talk to your roommate.” Half of the time—more than half of the time—college students don’t want to even confront their roommate. They haven’t been trained to communicate in conflict; so to say, “You’ve got to talk to her about it.” I walk through the steps of how they can do that. In that chapter, I really talk about the bigger picture of: “I know this sounds crazy, but what if Jesus were in college today, and He had the same roommate conflict? What would He do?”
If your roommate isn’t a believer, she doesn’t abide by the same biblical principles that you and I abide by.
Hanna: There’s no reason for her not to be having sex.
Hanna: So we need to let go of being upset by her sin; because first, she needs to know Jesus to have a heart modification before she can have a behavior modification—so we’re not going to go there. We’re going to care about her heart.
Again, just like my similar roommate scenario: “How do you stick up for yourself / communicate with your roommate, but know that you are representing Jesus to her?” I am positive that Jesus cares way more about her heart and what’s going on with her. If she’s having sex every single weekend, a lot of times that story is: “It’s a different guy.”
Hanna: Right?—[they’re] so caught up in the party scene, and drinking, and drugs—[they’re] bringing different people home with [them] all the time.
What does that look like, for you, as a roommate?—to care more about her heart, and to try to walk with her, and love on her and care for her, than just to be all up in arms about getting locked out?
Now, you need a place to sleep at night; so I’m not advocating, “Just get over it!” / “Only be concerned about her,” but “What might that look like?” and “What might God do in that relationship and in her heart if you approached it from that angle?”
Dennis: That’s really great advice, and that’s the high road.
Dennis: It’s very easy to be judgmental in that situation—
Dennis: —and for parents to drive up to the school and say, “I’m going to fix this!
Dennis: “We’re going to get this straight!”
Dennis: But it’s where your child needs to begin to own her faith and know that her faith is more than her morals. It’s also her love—
Dennis: —and the compassion she shows for someone who doesn’t know Jesus Christ.
Bob: Okay; so here’s a quick question: “Should a mom or a dad send their 18-year-old daughter a link to these programs, online, and say, ‘Sweetheart, you should listen to FamilyLife Today’?”
Hanna: Totally! Again, I think that’s the line of arming your child—you’ve got resources; you’ve heard things; there are books out there—you know, I would love for parents to buy my book and give it to their student!
Bob: But you know that the student is going to say: “Oh, geez! Give me a break!”
Hanna: They might, but they might also listen. I listened if my parents—not all the time!— [Laughter]—let’s say half the time.
Dennis: We can call your dad!
Hanna: Fifty percent of the time, I think.
Dennis: We can call him right now! [Laughter]
Hanna: I think that’s good—one out of every two. I mean, truly, sometimes I would read what they sent me or listen to what they sent me, and you just never know. I would say: “Never shy away from sending your child things that you want them to read or to think about. They may, or they may not.”
Bob: Okay; well, we have the link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com—you can go there.
Dennis: And I would not be above bribery here. [Laughter]
Dennis: Well, college kids—
Bob: “I’ll pay you twenty bucks if you listen to this”?
Dennis: —they’re starving to death, because they’ve partied all their money away; so say: “I’ll give you twenty bucks if you’ll listen to Hanna Seymour for the next 24 minutes. Listen to it, beginning to end; $20 will be in the mail.
“If you listen to the whole series, $100!”
Hanna: There you go!
Bob: You’re going big!
Hanna: What’s the hourly rate?
Bob: What if they read the book?
Dennis: Um, I would have to throw that in with the series to make them read that thing.
Bob: Okay; “Read the book, and I want a highlighted copy when you come home for Christmas.”
Hanna: “Notes in the margin!”
Bob: We do have copies of the book in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. The book is called The College Girl’s Survival Guide: Faith-Filled Answers to Your Biggest Concerns. We’ll send you a copy when you order from us, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to order: 1-800-FL-TODAY. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call 1-800-358-6329—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Order your copy of The College Girl’s Survival Guide by Hanna Seymour.
One other thing we’d encourage you to do, as your children head off to college this fall—or maybe you’ve got children or grandchildren headed to elementary, or middle school, or high school—as your kids are going back to school—wherever they’re going / or your grandchildren—you need to be praying for them. We’ve put together a “30-Day Parents’ Prayer Challenge”—it’s a back-to-school challenge. Every day, we will send you emails for 30 days. These emails are designed to prompt you, every day, with suggestions / ideas of things you can be praying for your children as they get ready to head back to school or as they begin their first days of school.
This is free to sign up for; you can do it, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’s a part of our commitment to help effectively develop godly marriages and families. We’re trying to provide you with practical biblical help and hope for you and your marriage and family—things like our new Art of Parenting™ video series / the Art of Parenting online course that’s available for free.
At FamilyLife®, we want to do all we can to extend the reach of this ministry to reach more people with more help every day.
“Thanks,” to those of you who partner with us in this. Every time you make a donation, you are really giving so that other listeners can, not only enjoy this program, but they can take part in the prayer challenge or they can use the Art of Parenting online series. Your donations are helping your fellow listeners grow in their understanding of what God’s Word has to say about marriage and family.
If you’d like to help with a donation today, we would love to hear from you. You can donate, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com; or call to donate—1-800-FL-TODAY is our number. You can also mail your donation to us. Our address is FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
By the way, we have a thank-you gift we’d love to send you if you can help with a donation today. It’s a copy of Dennis Rainey’s newest book, which is called Choosing a Life That Matters.
It’s our way of expressing our thanks for your partnership with us in this ministry.
Tomorrow, we will be back to talk more about sending our daughters off to college; and particularly, about the issue of them continuing to have a faith walk as they go off to school. “Why are so many kids abandoning their faith?” and “I there anything we can do about that, as parents?”—we’ll talk more about that tomorrow. I hope you can be with us.
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 tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas; a Cru® Ministry.
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