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Helping Young Women Navigate College With Emily Wilson Hussem

Spring often coincides with large life changes, from graduations to a surge of weddings. Father Dave welcomes back speaker and author Emily Wilson Hussem to offer guidance for young women through her courses “Navigating College” and “Navigating Engagement.

Emily shares her passion for helping female high school graduates stay grounded in their faith as they head to college. “A lot of [young women] are receiving academic formation, they may receive formation at their parishes through their youth groups. But what about talking about homesickness? What about, ‘How do I actually keep my faith in college?’ What about choosing my friends, like how do you choose friends?” Emily says, “There was a big gap I saw in the Church for practical formation that was missing for girls before they go off to college.”

She describes how the course covers different facets of the common college experience, such as drinking, dating, and discerning a career path. Emily says, “Everything under the sun I tried to cover to really help her think about what kind of college experience she wants to have. Before she gets there, never thought about it, and gets swept up into what the college experience is today, which is parties and hooking up and leaving your faith. I want that not to be young women’s stories, and I want to help them write a better story for themselves in every way that they can.”

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One piece of advice Emily offers is for freshmen to seek community from fellow people of faith early in the school year. Emily says, “That first week, go to the Catholic center. There will be wonderful people there who want to help you, want to support you, and you will meet like-minded people. Go on day one, don’t wait until week three when you’re like, ‘Oh, it’s too late.’ That is pivotal for keeping your roots and yourself anchored where you want to be to have a positive, enriching college experience.”

Another important choice is attending Mass every weekend. “Look at the Mass times, see what will work, and make that commitment. If you can find an accountability person in your life, whether that’s a gal or a guy that you meet at the Catholic center, to say, ‘We’re going to make the commitment now, starting here.’ Because if you just say, ‘Oh maybe, we’ll see,’ and you start going every once in a while, it’s so easy to just let it fall to the wayside. Making that commitment, having that accountability is transformative.”

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Part of Emily’s ministry focuses on the dating scene that young women face today. She says, “So many people think you have to go to college and meet your future spouse the first week that you show up. And I just want to give these girls encouragement, just relax, you can just show up and focus on making friends and having a wonderful time.” Emily also reminds them that everyone still needs time to mature, and that college isn’t a “miraculous portal” where young men and women are immediately ready for a serious relationship.

Emily also offers resources for couples who have gotten engaged through her “Navigating Engagement” series. “That is a crazy season for a young woman who’s trying to plan a wedding, prepare for marriage, but also discern, should she get married to this person?” She says, “So many women arrive at that moment saying, ‘Nobody told me about this, I thought engagement was sunshine and roses and happy pictures.’ But it’s really gritty, it’s really authentic, and it’s very challenging. So I walk [her] through those facets of engagement to guide her, so that when she arrives in those moments she says, ‘Emily told me the path forward and how I can navigate this.’”