BOOK REVIEW: THRIVING AT COLLEGE BY ALEX CHEDIAK

To begin: This book is NOT just for high school students (particularly twelfth graders) or current college students. This book is for LIFE in general. Wherever you are in life, this book provides extremely biblical and wonderful advice and pointers on how to live your life for Christ, avoid distractions, squash idols, manage time and money, nurture God-honoring relationships, and several other aspects and areas of life.

 Mr. Chediak starts out in the introduction of Thriving at College saying that “this book is, in essence, an attempt at taking you out to Starbucks and telling you what I’ve learned about the college years-and, most importantly, telling you how to make your college season the best years of your life (so far).” And that’s exactly what reading this book is: a refreshing one-on-one break with a wise professor in a coffeehouse atmosphere. I wish I could quote the entire book, but as that would be both ridiculous and futile, I have pulled out my most favorite parts and quotes for consideration and review.

(xi-xii) “Our culture has a definite perspective on what college should involve. If you follow it, you’ll throw your best years away, chasing experience after experience, mastering video games, hanging out at the mall, watching movies, and generally delaying responsibility. They’ll tell you that college is about having fun, living it up…our culture promotes the idea of prolonged adolescence.”

I’ve experienced this first hand; like Mr. Chediak, I attend a public high school (I will be graduating in about a month) and I have seen the effects of the “just a teenager” mentality and the laziness and partying that society promotes. And it isn’t just for teens! Adults are targeted as well. In fact, as Thriving at College lays out, the “brainwashing,” if you will, begins at a young age and remains all through life, keeping the cycle of low-educated, mindless, and lazy generations going.

What I loved about this book is that it gently convicts, offers extremely practical advice, and softly redirects. I will admit: I am unfaithful in prayer, a Facebook addict, and a nearly always stressed out person.

“...A life of goofing around and hanging out is unfulfilling. I hope you also know that self-centered, workaholic professionalism can’t satisfy you either. Chasing money and prestige is a fool’s errand. Its pleasure is fleeting, leaving you with an empty, gnawing hunger for more. No, you want to be a part of something great. College is about finding your place in God’s world-not fitting God into your plans, but finding your place in His-so that you can be a blessing to others.” (xvii; emphasis mine).

How my heart sings at this wonderful statement! So often do I discuss MY plans and MY future and MY tomorrow, when I should remember that none of that is mine! My life is God’s time; He has numbered my days and written out my plan and knows every single thing I will do and will not do in “my” life! How awesome is our God! Mr. Chediak touches on this on page xxii: “…There’s no “your time.” You are someone who takes care of the time, gifts, and talents that God has entrusted to you.”

I want to, in college and in life, do as William Carey said and Alex Chediak quoted: to “expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” (xviii)

“The question we all have to ask ourselves is this: Is God going to occupy a compartment of my life, or will he be central? It can be nice to have God in a neat, safe place where He can comfort us when we’re lonely or confused, but not really interfere with us when things are going our way. But then He’s more our copilot…than our Lord and Treasure. And that kind of faith is a fa├žade; it’s not the real thing. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Obeying Jesus is not an option for the Christian; there is no such thing as a nonpracticing Christian.

God doesn’t want just a place in your life; He wants your entire life. If He’s not Lord of all, then He’s not Lord at all. Don’t squeeze God into your plans; find your place in His plan.” (pg. 26; emphasis mine).

So often do I do this: when I give a basic description of myself, I often find being a Christian just a bullet point on the list. It shouldn’t be like that. Being a Christian should not only be a name or a label, it should be a way of life, deeply engrained and interwoven into every word that comes out of my mouth, action that I perform and execute, and thought that crosses my mind.

Moving on, Mr. Chediak’s book is riddled with sayings and mantras that aren’t just bumper-sticker worthy: they should be laws of life.

“Don’t whine, don’t complain, and don’t make excuses.” (xiii)

“Don’t try to be better than someone else. But never stop trying to be the best you can be.”

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

“No one is an overachiever. How can you rise above your level of competency? No, we’re all underachievers to different degrees…Don’t measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished, but rather by what you should have accomplished with your abilities.”

Often I felt that Mr. Chediak was reading my mind. One of the things he mentions in Thriving at College that I’ve always held onto is the principle that someone will always be better than you in an area and someone will always be worse than you. Don’t be jealous of the person above you and don’t boast over the person below you. Instead, imitate the person above you and counsel and help the person below you.

And now I come to one of the major focuses of the book: the current culture, honing in on teenagers, mindsets, worldviews, and academics.

 “We all have a worldview-a “mental map” of reality, a set of assumptions or beliefs…Your mental map informs your expectations about high school, college, friends, guys, girls, church, sports, weekends, and everything else. It informs you of what to expect not just of others but of yourself. What, then, informs this all-informing mental map? Whatever you let shape your mind and heart-your parents, your values, your pastors, friends, what you listen to on your iPod, who you follow on Twitter, your movies, shows, magazines, and all the rest. What does your mental map say you are as a young adult? Are you “just” a teenager or early twenties adolescent who, because you’re still trying to figure out who you are, isn’t capable of doing much? Rather than setting high goals and working toward them, do you need to simply experience whatever your heart fancies at the moment in order to ensure you aren’t suppressing healthy self-expression or somehow missing out? Or are you young adult, capable of delaying gratification and working steadily for meaningful, significant goals, with talent, strength, and vigor on loan from God? Do you see yourself in a season of diligent preparation for becoming the kind of man or woman who can embrace greater responsibilities down the road (job, marriage, family, ministry), even as you do good and bring God  glory now? Broadly speaking, those are the two visions competing for your heart as a young man or woman in the twenty-first century.” (xxi-xxii)

“These days the entertainment and leisure industry is aggressively marketing its vision of youth culture to you…Lots of people have a vested interest in making you believe that being young is all about having fun, partying, and more or less ignoring life’s responsibilities for as long as possible. It’s a culture of low expectations and endless amusement.” (xxiii; emphasis mine).

“…The Harris brothers [authors of Do Hard Things] write:

            …Prior to the late 1800s there were only 3 categories of age: childhood, adulthood, and old age. It was only with the coming of the early labor movement with its progressive child labor laws, coupled with new compulsory schooling laws, that a new category, called adolescence, was invented. Coined by G. Stanley Hall, who is often considered the father of American psychology, “adolescence” identified the artificial zone between childhood and adulthood when young people ceased to be children, but were no longer permitted by law to assume the normal responsibilities of adulthood, such as entering into a trade or fining gainful employment. Consequently, marriage and family had to be delayed as well, and so we invented “the teenager,” an unfortunate creature who had all the yearnings and capabilities of an adult, but none of the freedoms or responsibilities.

            Teenage life became a 4-year sentence of continuing primary education and relative idleness known as “high school” (four years of schooling which would be later be repeated in the first two years of college)…Cultivated…was the culture we know today, where young people are allowed, encouraged, and even forced to remain quasi-children for much longer than necessary.” (xxiii-xxiv; emphasis mine)

            This section made my blood turn cold. I thought to myself “I KNEW it! I was right all along! High school IS a waste!”

I always wondered why on earth we had to complete “general ed” courses in college when we’d already done it in high school. This quote from the Harris brothers totally answered that question: because high school should NOT exist! College is where the REAL education is! I honestly am frustrated and furious with the childishness of my generation, and I feel the yearnings of adulthood as well: I feel cramped and contained in a category that doesn’t define me! I shouldn’t be here! As I mentioned, I am currently a senior in high school, and I am sitting here writing this review because I HAVE NOTHING to do. I never have any homework and I have straight A’s AND I’m taking an AP course. I took AP Government this past semester and it WAS challenging, which I was EXTREMELY grateful for. Sadly, it was only a  semester course and now I am only taking AP Literature, which is a year-long course. And, sadly, it shouldn’t even be called an AP course: I am not challenged at all. 90% of the work assigned is pointless busywork, and the other 10% is actual reading-of-books, essays, and, currently, a research paper, which I finished a few days after it was assigned (I wrote 9 pages in about 2 hours). This is extremely disappointing and almost offensive to me because I WANT to be challenged. I LIKE to have my butt kicked academically. I took AP US History and AP Composition last year and spent every night with over 6 hours of homework, crying and tearing out my hair, and it was AWESOME. I earned A’s in both of those courses and they were EXTREMELY hard to achieve. AP US History especially was a mountain all on its own. I received an A in the course because I spent over 7 hours on the final project, which bumped my grade from the seemingly-permanent B to an A. I received C’s on all of the tests and DBQ’s/essays in that course, and received a 3 on the AP Exam. It was NOT easy. History isn’t my strength, but English is. In AP Composition, my blessing of a teacher Ms. Evans was having us read AND annotate challenging books (one being nearly 600 pages), annotate articles/poems/etc., complete difficult projects, and write essays EVERY SINGLE WEEK. I can’t count the number of essays I wrote and papers I annotated. And I received a 5 on the AP Comp Exam, a 5 being the highest score anyone can earn on any AP Exam. THAT is what an AP course should be like, and what our academics should be like!

I love Mr. Chediak’s analysis of the fool, the sluggard, and the wise (pages xxviii-xxxii).

The fool is lacks sense, is gullible, and has dullness and obstinacy. (pgs. xxviii-xxix)

“Sluggards are lazy: They don’t attend to their responsibilities and so are ultimately overwhelmed by them (Proverbs 6:9-10)…They rationalize their laziness (Proverbs 20:4) and have a generally high and unsubstantiated view of themselves (Proverbs 26:16). It is difficult for them to learn and grow since they think they’re already awesome. Because they lack diligence, they are a nightmare as employees…” (pg., xxix)

“[The wise] are the ones who actively and vigorously give themselves to instruction-not just in classes, but in life.” (pg. xxx)

Fools and sluggards (particularly sluggards) seem to be the ones plaguing our  society the most. We should all strive to become wise in order to be examples and to reflect Jesus Christ so others too may rise to their full  potential and see Jesus as Someone real, alive, and all-powerful.

Which leads me to my next point.

Mr. Chediak explores arguments from non-believers as well as the biblical truth and the awesomeness of God. (pgs. 6-10).

I especially love how he includes the atheist view and the “spiritual but not religious” view (pg. 12) because I have met people from both these views. The “spiritual but not religious” view is very popular and common today, I feel.

Another helpful section is where he touches on being “tolerant.” (pgs. 16-17) So many times have I heard Christians being called “intolerant” because they won’t support abortion, gay rights, etc.

Alas, this review is getting quite long and I must retire to bed. Typing up all of the quotes and concepts I noted and jotted down would take forever and I don’t have that time! But I will keep the list so that when I buy my own copy I can highlight and annotate. J

Overall, this book receives 5 out of 5 stars and 100/100 on the point scale. In my book, it’s 110% amazing. This is a book I MUST own and I will be sure to have my future children read it, as well as my younger sister, boyfriend (who is currently attending CBU!), and others. Thank you for writing this book Mr. Chediak, and may God bless you!!!
~Amanda

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