11 Things to Teach Your Son Before He Heads Off to College

Todd Wagner

10/23/20235 min read

silhouette of man carrying child
silhouette of man carrying child

Much to my surprise, I have found dropping off (“turning loose” may be a better term) a young man on a university campus to be a much more sobering experience than dropping off a young woman.

The first two times I loaded the Suburban and headed to college towns it was to drop off my oldest daughters, which, as you can imagine, has its own set of concerns. When I dropped off Ally and Kirby, they were ready to meet, enjoy, and integrate into their college campuses with their eyes wide open and their hearts cemented to the idea that whatever college was about, it was more than just themselves.

My girls and I had long ago shared all the necessary conversations about the duties and dangers of being a young woman in a university setting. Though it is never easy to leave any child you have invested in and enjoyed daily for eighteen years in a strange land to care for themselves, I knew it was time and we were all sad, excited, and ready.

Fast-forward a few years and all of a sudden my wife and I were about to make our way to Fayetteville, Arkansas, home of the Razorbacks (the boy had said “no” to the Ivy League option) to drop off our firstborn son. As the day neared, and much to my surprise, I had a growing and much different sense of responsibility in sending off a young man to college than I did a young woman. I knew college meant my son, like my daughters before him, would have a new and greater freedom to live and lead his life as he wanted, AND I knew that there were dads, just like me years earlier, who were dropping off their freshman daughters where they would either be blessed or burdened by the young men around them.

One might think that dropping off a girl and leaving her alone around a bunch of newly unleashed young “men” with unlimited freedom and limited maturity was the more daunting task, but such was not the case for me. Without going into too much detail, suffice it to say that I found it more sobering to turn loose a potential predator then I did potential prey.

What you have below is a summary of the last hours of conversation this father had with his son as he dropped him off to prayerfully be faithful in “Fayetteville and forever.” I pray daily that these truths would be embedded in his heart for more than just the four years of college, and you can be certain that I am praying now that they will be in some way useful to you as you seek to be faithful yourself and with any men you are charged with shaping. Fayetteville is not the only place that needs faithful men…right where you are does too.

So to my son Cooper (and later Cade and Camp) and to you today, I say…

It’s all about Jesus.

  • College is not a time to taste the world. It’s a time to increase your appetite for God’s Word.

  • First, believe that college is not a time to sow your wild oats. It is a time to show your world Whose you are.

  • (John 1:1-4; Colossians 1:15-17; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Jesus is all about bringing you to the Father, and the Father is all about restoring His glory in you.

  • God does not deny men pleasure; He makes them great.

  • College is the beginning of your revealing the greatness of your God, not having what the world calls a “great time.” What the world calls a “great time” does not make great men; God does.

  • John 14:3 ; 1 Peter 5:10; Colossians 1:13-14; Psalm 84:11; Proverbs 22:4; Hebrews 7:25

If you know the Father and the Son and yield to the Holy Spirit, you will love and serve others.

  • Nothing is about you. Your life is not your own. Great men know this. College is for men.

  • Men understand the principle of delayed gratification. College boys do not.

  • Ephesians 5:18-21; Philippians 2:3-5; Proverbs 13:16; Ecclesiastes 10:16-17

You can’t love and serve others if you don’t lead and feed yourself.

  • Discipline is the heavy door that leads to freedom. Lead yourself to be free to serve others.

  • Everything you read, watch, eat, and do is a blessing or a burden.

  • 1 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:26-27; Proverbs 12:27

How you start each day, each week, and each semester determines more than you can imagine.

  • You will be what you are daily becoming.

  • Every day is a day you are preparing for something. Make that something faithfulness.

  • Galatians 6:7-9; Matthew 6:33-34; Psalm 27:4; Proverbs 15:14; Proverbs 18:15

Who you choose to run with and live life with is how you will choose to run and live.

  • The best way to lead yourself is to run with men who follow the King.

  • Make sure your “mighty men” are committed to going to war against enemies of God’s people.

  • 2 Timothy 2:22; Proverbs 1:10-18; Hebrews 3:13; 1 Corinthians 15:33

Who you are when you’re alone is alone who you are.

  • Live honorably in the dark so you can walk boldly in the light.

  • Proverbs 10:9; Proverbs 11:3; Matthew 5:11; Matthew 5:16

Women are not play toys. They are God’s daughters. Honor them. Protect them. Serve them.

  • Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

  • Wait to taste the lips of a woman. Don’t waste yourself on lust.

  • Consult your dad on all dates and consider every time you are alone with a woman a date.

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; Proverbs 31:30; Proverbs 22:3; 1 Timothy 5:2

Do not choose your friends or your future career by how much fame or finances they offer.

  • Money takes wings. Fame is a vapor. Character endures.

  • Love people. Use things. Avoid those who love things and use people.

  • Proverbs 23:4-5; Proverbs 28:20; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 13:5

Be wise. Be humble. Be fun. Beware of the lie that those three are mutually exclusive.

  • You have a powerful enemy who wants you to be foolish, be prideful, and believe that faithfulness to the Father is a fast track to futility. He is a liar.

  • John 8:44; Proverbs 13:13-15; Psalm 16:11

Be ready. Be bold. Be kind. Be faithful.

  • Go forth with courage. Return with honor. Live fearlessly because of your future hope.

  • Play the man: Step up. Speak out. Stand firm. Stay humble. Serve the King.

  • 1 Corinthians 16:13-14; Jeremiah 1:17-18; Micah 6:8; Proverbs 20:6; Hebrews 6:10

If you’re dropping off your own son at college (or know that you will be in a few short years), now is the time to teach him these things. And if you are the newly-minted freshman yourself, commit to building your adult life on these life-giving truths.