The time has finally come. You’re moving out of the house, you’re spreading your wings, and you’re going to college! This new chapter is an exciting time of life filled with a new school, new friends, new city (potentially), and endless opportunities to explore. And with change can come a lot of other things as well. You might be feeling really anxious, scared and intimidated by all the unknowns to come. Being a Resident Director in a freshmen residence hall for the last six years, I’ve picked up a few tips along the way as I’ve watched freshmen navigate the college terrain. Here are five tips to help make the most of your college experience.

College: Making the Most of It

Practice healthy communication.

I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you most likely will not come across lions, tigers, and bears during your college experience. But I do imagine you will encounter relationships, roommates, and conflict… oh, my! Relationships are hard. Period. You may have heard this before, but the rational part of your brain is still developing until about the age of 25. What this means is that until then, you will be processing things from a more emotional point of view. This can make relationships tricky when they were already tricky to begin with. When you take two imperfect people and place them in an itty, bitty living space (Aladdin anyone?), things can get off track quickly.

My first piece of advice is to not jump ship at the first sign of trouble. These things take time. There are going to be quirks you each contribute that will take time to figure out. Your two best friends that you should pack in your suitcase when you come to college are compromise and communication. Healthy communication that is. There are lots of ways to express ourselves and our feelings, but they are not always healthy or productive. It is possible to be both honest and kind. The two are not mutually exclusive. You can talk to someone about what is bothering you that can collectively be calm, respectful, direct and kind. And while I’m sure you’ve heard this before, tone is everything. How you say something makes a world of difference.

So when you’re trying to figure out how clean you keep your room, what temperature you prefer, if you want the lights on or off etc., keep this tip in mind before you come out guns blazing in a disagreement with your roommate. Practicing healthy communication, especially during conflict, will help all of your current and future relationships.

It’s okay to fail.

I should clarify first. This does not mean it’s okay to never go to class and end up failing them as a result. What this does mean is that you should give yourself some grace and put things in perspective. This is a new school, with different expectations and with professors you have never had. There is going to be a big learning curve. The first test you take in every class is always a little nerve-racking, especially when you have never had the professor before. So if you don’t end up doing quite as well as you hoped on that first test, take a deep breath and realize this is a learning opportunity. Instead of beating yourself up, blaming others and/or thinking that the world is over, make a game plan for how you will study differently next time and keep your chin up.

Who better to teach us a lesson about this than Batman?! He told Alfred, “I wanted to save Gotham. I failed.” To which Alfred replied:

“Why do we fall, sir? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up.”

This tip will help you through your entire college career. Things aren’t always going to turn out the way we hope. And while it’s important to work as hard as we can and to do our best, our identity isn’t in the things we produce or accomplish. Our identity and worth come solely from Jesus Christ. Not our grades, not our athletic ability, not our friends. Only Christ.

Find a balance.

I’ve seen students fall on both sides of the spectrum. On one extreme, some students see their newfound freedom as an opportunity to live life to the fullest and to take advantage of every social opportunity available. From social gatherings with friends to signing up for every student organization on campus. But when you lose sight of why you’re here (to get an education) or over commit and subsequently spread yourself too thin, both scenarios can be detrimental to your education.

I’ve also seen students on the other end of the spectrum. The students who take their education so seriously that they never take the time to meet friends or explore other opportunities on campus. They are pretty much always studying. And while their grades are doing really well, they are not. They end up getting burned out and lonely. They may even end up transferring because they never got connected.

It’s important to find a balance. Get out there and meet people, maybe join an organization, go to class and study hard, get some weekly exercise. And while there may be some really great fast food options on campus, you might not want to eat there every day. Everything in moderation!

Take advantage of resources.

Every university has resources on campus for students. Take advantage of them! Don’t be afraid to ask for help. College is tough! Take advantage of tutors or the success center. If they have a health or medical center, stop by sometime. If they offer free gym memberships/classes, go work off some stress! Take advantage of these resources while they’re free!

On a serious note, I see a lot of students battling tough situations, but they’re often scared to talk to someone. One of the biggest tips I can offer you is this: get help when you need it. Don’t battle your battles alone. There are people who care about you and can help you. We want you to succeed. If there’s a counseling center on campus, please use it. It’s completely confidential and many times free. Many students seek help from counselors during their time in college. You’re not alone!

Revival at UMHB

Find a church and stick with it.

The last piece of advice I can give you is to find a church, get involved, and stay committed. You will never find a church that’s exactly like your church back home. For some of you that excites you, but for some of you that’s really scary. It takes time to find a church that you want to commit to. But it shouldn’t take all four years (or five). Shopping for a church shouldn’t be like shopping for pants at Target. Instead of trying to find the perfect church (spoiler alert: they don’t exist!), and instead of focusing on how the church can serve YOU, try to find a church where you can serve THEM. Prayerfully consider where God is leading you, pick a church, use the gifts God has given you to serve the church and community around you, and stick with it. You will experience more spiritual growth by being committed to one church than to church hop for four years (or five).

At UMHB, we want you to receive an education for life, but also have the experience of a lifetime. Choosing to attend UMHB might be your first step toward making the most of your college years! For more information, we invite you to visit our website, or stop by for a visit!