“College is like death.”

That lovely analogy came from my dad while he was trying to give an inspiring speech to our youth group during one of my late high school years. (Yep. Thanks, Dad.)

At the time, I laughed it off as just another one of his off-the-wall mental pictures designed to hold the attention of  an ADHD prone bunch of teens. However, over the years of my own college experience, I came to realize the truth of the statement.

Though it’s an unusual (and alarmingly depressing) idea at first glance, there is a surprising amount of truth in what is, to this day, my dad’s most quotable quote. To all high school students, college is a venture out into new and strange environments. Just as there is great wonderment and fear surrounding death, even for Christians, there is great trepidation surrounding that first semester.

While scores of books, tips, websites and “when-I-was-a-freshman” stories exist, the fear of the unknown is still very daunting. So daunting in fact, that one study reported up to 35 percent of freshmen drop out and never continue on to their sophomore year.

As current university students know, college can certainly feel like death at times. Late nights, demanding classes, presentations gone wrong and difficult roommates can all add up to forgetting how to place one foot in front of the other (either that or breaking out into Disney duets with the stranger in the shower stall next to you—stress does weird things to people).

Sometimes during my college years, the analogy of the scariness of death was frustratingly accurate. Whenever times got tough, it would pop into my stressed-out brain and put a wry smile on my face (again, thanks, Dad).

But recently, I’ve begun to realize that college, rather than being like death, is actually a lot more like life. My dad was right in talking about the unknown, but rather than being  that final, downward plunge, college is the springboard to bigger and better things.

In a study by Rasmussen College, people who graduated from college reported a higher rate of job satisfaction, more learning on the job, better time and money management, and higher socioeconomic status.

It’s a well-known fact that college is a time of intensive learning. You start out as a freshman expecting learning and knowing to be simple. Then you fail your first quiz, get a parking ticket or maybe get a tough call from home. You are stretched, placed in uncomfortable situations, proven wrong, shown character flaws and challenged in your beliefs, and yet in the end, you see there was a purpose to it all. You end up a more complete person.

That, in some small way,  is life. We begin our adult lives thinking we know how to deal with adult things. We think we know ourselves, our opinions, our future and even our God. But life progresses, true learning occurs, and just as freshmen grow into seniors, we grow into better, wiser, more complete human beings along the journey.

So, is college like death, that scary unknown? At times, maybe. But college is also a lot more like life, that wonderful, amazing gift with which we have been entrusted to have great, yet to be known adventures. Thanks, Dad.