Since I was young, I can remember practicing Lenten traditions with my family. Lent is a time of year in Christian faith for repentance, fasting, and preparation for the coming of Easter. It lasts for 40 days, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter. In observance of this time, many Christians choose to give up something or to take on volunteering.

As a college student with an extremely busy schedule, I've continued to participate in the Lenten season as best I can. Here are some of my tips on how to participate in Lent while away at college. 

1. Throw a Mardi Gras party.

Mardi Gras mask

Caitlinator on Flickr

Although rooted in traditional Christian faith, Mardi Gras, or "Fat Tuesday" has evolved into a decadent celebration that occurs the day before the start of the Lenten season. Gather your friends and create your own traditions while still incorporating some of the old, such as dressing in gold, purple and green and feasting on King's Cake.

2. Get your ashes.

Fr Andrew marked her with ashes

Johnragai-Moment Catcher on Flickr

Ash Wednesday is the official start of Lent and services are often offered on college campuses. If you can't find a service on campus, take a couple of your friends to a local church nearby. If you have class on Wednesdays and can't make a service you can still honor this holy day by fasting and avoiding meat and dairy products. 

3. Choose a way to get closer to your faith and spirituality.


Katsunojiri on Flickr

 No matter what your religion or your personal beliefs, Lent can be a time for you to gain a better understanding of your own spirituality and faith. One way to accomplish this goal is to choose a special treat or luxury to give up, as a sign of repentance and an exercise in self-control. However, another option is to take on something that will bring you closer to your faith, such as attending weekly church services, or praying every day.

4. Be realistic.

guinness cupcakes

amlamster on Flickr

When it comes to changing something about your daily routine, be realistic with your goals and know your limits. As a college student, certain things are definitely more difficult to give up than others (ie. late-night pizza, alcohol, etc.), so pick something that you know you can stick to. For example, instead of giving up all desserts, try choosing one specific type of dessert such as chocolate or ice cream. 

5. Try something new.

Day of Service

SJU Undergraduate Admissions on Flickr

If every year you try to give up some food related item (and often fail to succeed), try something new this Lenten season like. Remember, the purpose of Lent is not just to give something up, but it is to connect with your faith and spirituality. Some ways to do this could be volunteering once a week at a local soup kitchen, practicing random acts of kindness throughout the day on campus, or dedicating time every week to talk to your parents on the phone. 

6. Don't use it as a diet plan.

Barbie's Diet II

LauraLewis23 on Flickr

Something to seriously consider before beginning your Lenten journey is your motives behind participating. Lent is not a 40-day diet plan, so if you're planning on giving up sweets with only the motivation to lose weight, consider giving something else up. Eating healthy is a great way to challenge your mental stamina and self-control, however, if that's your only reason to participate in Lent, just diet instead!

7. Have fish on Fridays.

St. James Fish Fry

Steve Snodgrass on Flickr

A traditional Lenten practice is to avoid meat and on Fridays. Make it a habit of eating fish on Fridays at the dining hall, or travel into the local community to find a fish fry. If you're not a fan of seafood, try one of these vegetarian meals

8. Go to church.


greg westfall. on Flickr

Whatever your religious domination or beliefs, try going to church as much as you can during the Lenten season as it's an important part of developing your faith. Many colleges offer several different religious services on Sundays, and some have religion based clubs. Attending can help you meet other students that may be going through the same process.