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This is the first time in 16 years that I will not have a “first day of school.” It has not really sunk in yet. For the past 16 years, on my first day I would get ready for class, grab my backpack and take a commemorable picture. From Kindergarten through college graduation (Go Pokes!) I have completed the task the last 16 years of education prepared me for — working in the ‘real’ world. More than that, I have experienced many friendships, memories and growth because of these five tips.

1. Get involved. Remember in high school when you were a part of 251 different organizations, sports and groups? One of the worst things college students (especially Freshmen) can do is avoid being involved for fear of being “over” involved. If you have time to sit in your dorm room alone for more than two hours every day (after finishing your homework of course)–that is not healthy! You need to find something to do.

You have passions, pursue those. Join professional organizations. Join clubs. Go Greek. Join gym classes. Do intermurals. Try out for teams or shows. Join a band. Volunteer around the town. Tutor. Get a part-time job.

For Christian students. You need to get involved in Christian organizations. Most campuses allow you to try the BCM, Cru or StuMo. Join a Bible Study. Start a Bible Study. Most churches have college ministries, go to those.

2. Meet people. I would guarantee that for most students who move to a new town for college experience a season (short or long) of loneliness. At big state universities, you are surrounded by so many people who you don’t know as a Freshman, and that can be intimidating and lonely. But the more people you meet and can wave to as you walk to class, the more you will feel involved in the campus community.

There are probably at least 20-30 people (if not 150 people) in your classes. Meet those you sit next to in class and ask to join them after class for things. Go to gym classes and find a workout buddy. Look on social boards for different fliers. Go to popular hangout areas. Typically, upperclassmen are welcoming and know about different groups that are good to be involved in.

Don’t be afraid of people.

3. Go to church. You may be able to find friends to go to church with you. For me, I was invited to a church by a sweet upperclassman. (Upperclassmen, you should be talking about your churches and inviting people to join you. Offer to car pool.).

I went several weeks to that church by myself. And that is okay. Why? Because church is about an individual coming to worship their Creator. Find a church that YOU feel comfortable in and where you feel at home. Stretch yourself to try more than one church.

Remember that worship is not the most important part of Sunday morning, you need to find a church home that preaches, teaches and lives by the Word of God and does not add to it or take away from it.

4. Stand firm. You are embarking on a new ground of freedom. You will be asked to go to parties (yes, there will be alcohol involved). You might be asked to go on a date that turns out to be more that you expected.

You need to decide on your personal views of sex, drugs, alcohol and even academic achievements. More than that, you need to stand by your word. People respect people who are true to themselves. Don’t be stupid and try things just to try them. Have a reason behind your stance, or else you will get swept away and lose who you want to be.

5. Study. This might shock some of you, but colleges are institutions for higher education. That means that you are going to school. Some of your classes will be challenging while some will be less than that.

Learn to manage your time and make studying a priority. While it might seem fun to put off your homework, it becomes quite stressful to be a procrastinator when you are tackling a full-time load of classes, and they all have tests within the same two-week period. If you work on projects, studying and homework a little bit every day, you will reduce your stress, get more rest and have more time for fun along the way.