Deciding What College to Go To

I’m 18 years old and about to graduate high school.

God has been at work in my life over the past few years. Besides shaping me as a person, He has opened some amazing doors for me. When I entered high school, I made it one of my goals to get only A’s throughout my high school career. It was my dream to excel in school, go to a prestigious college, become successful in the world’s eyes, and then show the world what success really means to me. It’s not about fame or wealth. Success for me is simply doing God’s will and lifting His name higher.

By God’s grace I succeeded in my goal of maintaining a perfect GPA. I can say with complete confidence that God had His hand over my academics. He lifted me up when I fell and gave me so much more than I deserved.

But my senior year was hard. I dealt with some mentally draining sickness and my lung suddenly collapsed. On top of that, I went through a period of serious doubt that lasted for months. Not only was I physically worn out, but I was also spiritually limping. There was a war waging in my soul and I feared for my life.

When I got the digital letter of acceptance from my dream college, a prestigious local university, my mouth dropped. I stared at the screen in disbelief. I switched the tab on my computer. I switched back. It was still there. I couldn’t believe it. Everything I worked towards seemed to be paying off! God was opening doors I thought were impossible to open!

But there was another college I had fallen in love with: a small Christian college with a thriving community of students pursuing Christ together. Part of me wanted to go to this college. Ultimately I wanted to do God’s will, but it seemed so unclear.

I decided to visit the prestigious college for an overnight stay. During my time there I felt weak and intimidated. On the way home I was filled with an impending sense of fear. What if I drown academically? What if I find no Christian friends? What if I change? What if I lose my faith that feels so fragile? What if I lose my faith.

I lay on my bed staring at the ceiling. Then my eye caught a glimpse of a paper I had taped to the ceiling the year before. It had this written on it:

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16

That verse meant a lot to me when I first taped it to the ceiling, but since then I had lost understanding of its significance. For the first time in a year the verse spoke to me again. What if God is calling me to be a star, shining in a dark world for Him? What if God has been orchestrating my life to lead up to this moment? What if the battles I faced this year were God preparing me for a secular college environment?

Choosing my college was one of the hardest decisions I’ve had to make in my life. On one hand, I knew I would grow in my faith and be surrounded by supportive friends at a Christian school. On the other hand, I felt God was calling me to serve Him in ministry and evangelism during college, despite my fears and anxieties.

I know that I am weak. I will never be able to do it on my own. But I trust in Jesus. God has brought me this far and I believe He will carry me even now. My faith will continue to be tested, but I know that God will pull me through. I also care about the people at the university I’m going to. They need to hear about Jesus! Their identity shouldn’t be placed in their academics. There is so much hurt in the world today, and only Jesus can give us the peace and hope we long for. Let everything be to your glory God! Not to us, but to your name be the glory. I dedicate my college career to you God. I give you all of me.

It was a choice between heaven and a spiritual battlefield. I chose the battlefield.

God won’t leave me or forsake me.

I’m humbled to announce I will be attending the University of Chicago for the next four years of my eternal life.

In Christ,

Tim Utekal


8 thoughts on “Deciding What College to Go To

  1. My senior year was also incredibly difficult with physical and mental health problems. I remember applying to colleges and being so sick and stressed. This is such a great testimony of your faith in God! I’m excited for you!

  2. Congratulations on getting into your dream college Tim and for completing high school. I can definitely sympathize with you in regards to choosing a college.

    I went to a 2 year community college first and now; I’m transitioning over to a Christian college in Pennsylvania where I pray that God continues to open doora for me and close doors that aren’t for me.

    1. Thanks so much! That actually sounds like a great plan. You have two years in a secular environment where you can be a witness for Christ and two years in a Christian college to make friends that will last forever and grow in your faith. I’m excited for you!

  3. I can understand this for sure. I struggled between choosing a Christian college and a secular one, and God brought me to the conclusion that a secular college would give me opportunities to witness to unbelievers, which is something I am passionate about. It’s harder than going to a Christian college but I think I am grounded enough to influence others rather than be the one being influenced. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this!

    1. Amen! I honestly have little confidence in myself regarding being “grounded” in my faith, but I guess that will lead me to lean on Christ more and find my confidence in Him! It’s all in His hands at this point.

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