Whether you’re on a college campus or pursuing a degree online, the university experience can bring a mixed bag of emotions: excitement that you’re paving your own path in the world and maybe some anxiety about completing higher-level coursework and paying tuition. For me, going to a university was a completely new experience. I chose to attend on a campus, which meant living away from home, sharing a room with a (frequently messy) stranger, and trying to eat something other than sandwiches—all while taking difficult courses!
College involved a lot of change, and I often wondered if I had what it took to succeed. Although getting used to university life took some time, I eventually learned habits that helped me succeed in my college experience. Here are five tips that helped me navigate the adjustment to college.
This may be the most important tip of all. As I started college, juggling homework, classes, and jobs—all while trying to find time to spend with friends—was sometimes overwhelming. But I realized that I wasn’t often focusing on scripture study and prayer. Because when I did, everything else seemed to be much more doable. Now when I feel stressed, I take a moment to evaluate how I can prioritize the gospel in my life. I’m not perfect at it, but I strive to pray and study the scriptures daily so I have more opportunities to “hear Him,” as President Russell M. Nelson has encouraged us to do.1 I’ve realized that what matters to me matters to Heavenly Father, especially my education. When I give my best effort and ask Him for help, He is with me and strengthens me to accomplish everything else I need to do.
At the beginning of each semester, I like to make long- and short-term goals. Short-term goals are small goals that can help me reach my big long-term goal. For example, my long-term goal is to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, and one of my short-term goals is to turn in all my assignments on time. I write these goals down and put them where I can see them often, like on my phone or hanging on my fridge. Focusing on them has motivated me to push through many hard times in school.
Making a weekly plan of when I’ll be in class and when I’ll be studying is always helpful. I typically plan three hours of studying per week for each credit hour I’m enrolled in (i.e., one 3-credit course equals nine study hours per week). And when I stick with my plan, my extracurricular activities are much more enjoyable without the threat of unfinished homework looming in the back of my mind!
Taking care of your body has everything to do with being successful in school. My physical health has always impacted both my mental and emotional health. When I start feeling overwhelmed, I go on a run. Exercise helps me clear my mind, and eating healthy foods keeps me energized. When I’m physically healthy, I’m better prepared to focus on my studies.
Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep every night—this is a goal I regularly strive for (and often fail at). As much as I might want to stay up late to read a good book or chat with friends, sleep is always more important. Sleep reduces stress and can improve a person’s ability to retain what he or she has studied. On nights before tests, I prioritize my schedule so I can get enough sleep and perform my best the next day.
Once I regularly did these five things, I not only adjusted to college life—I thrived! Remember, fear doesn’t come from Heavenly Father. As you prioritize Him, He can help you do anything and accomplish all that’s required of you.