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 | By Anna Stankewitz

10 Tips for How to Thrive on Campus

For some, moving onto a college campus for the first time is a daunting immersion into an unfamiliar landscape. For others, it is a rousing adventure bursting with opportunity. 

No matter which type of person you are, this move will create a lot of change. As a former Big Ten university student — and now a campus minister — here are my best suggestions for how to accept and embrace your new life:

1. Explore your campus.

Whether big or small, it’s helpful to familiarize yourself with your surroundings. You should be able to locate more than just your classes, dorm and the dining hall. Knowing where campus landmarks and other key places are, as well as how to get there, will make your campus feel smaller and like home. Plus, when a visitor asks you for directions, you’ll be able to confidently point them in the right direction and be proud to give them a warm welcome to your school.

2. Take advantage of the perks.

Schools intentionally provide beautiful indoor and outdoor areas for you to enjoy. The possibilities are endless these days, and students usually get free or discounted access to many of them. It is unlikely that you will have this many awesome things to do for free later in life, so take advantage! 

3. Know your spiritual resources.

Most people working at your college or university are there to support your well-being and help you grow in some way. Be sure to check out your on- and off-campus resources, including your local Catholic student parish or Newman Center, which also has many resources for you! It’s amazing how much of a difference having a spiritual home makes. 

4. It's OK to sit some things out.

Especially during move-in, orientation and the first couple weeks of class, you will be invited to participate in so many activities and events. It might be a little overwhelming (and you won’t be the only one)! While your school will have some requirements — like an opening convocation or meeting with your academic adviser — many events are optional. If you are tired after a full day of orientation, it’s OK to tell your new friends that you just aren’t up for one more walk to get ice cream or an open gym. They will most likely support your decision. And if someone tells you that they aren’t interested in something, let them know that’s OK, too.

5. But do get involved.

Clubs, events, outings–they’re all opportunities to learn and/or have fun! They will also help you find some of your best friends. Again, I encourage you to find the Catholic campus ministry closest to you. Follow their social media or subscribe to their newsletter to learn about the sacraments and events they offer. Campus ministry is fun, too!

6. There is community for you.

It might take you a while to find your group, but it’s out there. Don’t lose hope if you and your roommate don’t hit it off or everyone else on your floor or in class seems to have made all their friends on the first day. I promise there are people with a similar background and interests as you on your campus, and, with a little effort, you will find them.

7. Sleeping and eating are important.

For many first-year students, this is the most independent you have ever been. Awesome! But if you’re used to Mom or Dad planning your meals and reminding you not to stay up too late, the transition to young adulthood might be tricky. Even with the best intentions, you’d be amazed how quickly a healthy schedule can unravel. So remember what you learned about the spiritual fruit of self-control in Confirmation class and form good habits right away! Your friends will admire you for it.

8. Be open.

You will be challenged in college — by exams, an unfamiliar environment, peers, ideas or interest in a different major than the first one you declared. Newness and change are inevitable, but don’t be afraid to embrace them. Stick to your values and beliefs, but allow differences to become opportunities to learn. 

9. Give.

You are going to get so much out of your college experience. And while receiving is great, so is giving. Find a way to give back each semester. Volunteer at a blood drive on campus, sign up for an alternative spring break trip, or take a leadership position in one of your clubs. It is a gift to support others!

10. Include God.

As your family, friends, professors, and advisers want you to thrive, so does God. Many times, he is a lot easier to get in touch and communicate with, too. So turn to him every day in prayer, thanking him for the many blessings in your life, asking him for peace when you are stressed, and telling him you’re sorry when you make a mistake. Just like your parents, God loves to hear from you (and wants you to get to Mass)!

Anna Stankewitz is the Director of campus ministry serving Michigan State University St. John Catholic Student Center and St. Thomas Aquinas Parish.