3 College Tips for Newbies & Pantsers: Midterm Edition

Strong Hall
Missouri State University
College
Strong Hall on a rainy day at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri.
Picture taken May 2020.

If you’re newer to this blog, you might not be aware that at certain points during the semester, I post some tips for those who are new to college or who tend to fly by the seat of their pants and put things off until the last minute. I believe it is essential that we try our best in every aspect of our work to reflect a godly character and strive toward excellency in all we do. Many of these tips are also applicable to those in high school, and we can even apply the lessons these tips explore to our lives beyond college.

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Midterms are almost here, and so are many big exams and paper due dates. Here are 3 tips I found helpful in preparing for exams and papers throughout my 5-year college experience:

1) Highlight key points & terms in textbooks or sources where you can.

For example, one history professor I had always provided us with a master list of terms we would need to know before each exam to properly define and describe them in paragraph form. Of course, we had no way of knowing which terms she would choose, and the list included some 60 terms out of which she would choose only a handful. Now, I felt she was pulling a Satan move on us, but after freaking out, I was determined to do well on the exam.

I searched through every document and page of every source we’d read thus far, highlighted each term, and wrote everything down about each term that I could find. The areas I focused on were the following: who, what, where, why, when, and how. Then, I wrote down the significance of each term. Doing so helped me prepare and pass my professor’s rigorous exams.

As you read your sources, any term or definition you come across is always worth highlighting and remembering just in case it comes up again later.

2) Plan your essays.

Do it. Even if you tend to be a pantser. A brief outline that simply states your essay’s topic and supporting points will go a long way in helping you create an organized paper that may earn you a good grade.

Brainstorm your ideas. Do some freewriting. Write down ideas for your essay’s intro paragraph and support for your main points. Write down the sources you’ll use to support each main point. Write down ideas for the significance of your essay’s topic that you will reflect on in the conclusion.

If you plan your research and an outline at least seven days before your paper’s due date, then you’ll have at least five to six days to write a page or two each day and finish just in time.

Pro tip: if you prepare two weeks in advance, you’ll have time to send your draft to your professor to get his or her tips on what you should change before the due date.

3) Take time every day to relax.

My ethics professor once explained how he never allowed himself to study so much in college that he couldn’t make time for his social life or to relax throughout the week. This was one of the best pieces of advice any professor had ever given me. I found that through applying his advice, I managed to enjoy my life even when I was juggling several papers and exams due at the same time.

College is stressful. You should be responsible and do your work on time. However, you should also take the time to be around your family and friends and (most importantly) spend time with God. If you study well and prepare for your papers, you’ll find you have more time during the week to relax for an hour or two each evening.

Read a book. Chat with your family. Spend more time in prayer. Take a nap.

Just breathe, pray, repeat, and relax, and you will get through it.

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The above are tips that apply to far more than just college experiences. Preparing for important projects in the workforce and adult world is essential for success. Taking the time out to enjoy your life with family and friends is essential for your mental and emotional health. Prioritizing your time with God is essential for your spiritual health.

We must never let ourselves become too lazy or too stressed or too busy that we don’t approach our work and relationships wisely and seriously.

If you know someone in college or even high school who’s struggling, share these tips with them as an encouragement. College is not forever, but the lessons one learns in college will help them get through the rest of life.

3 Scriptures to Speak Over Anxiety

Anxiety

What will the future hold?

That’s a question we often ask ourselves when life seems more uncertain than usual.

Bills pile up. We’re saving for trips, home maintenance, or a new home or car. We’ve got work and school responsibilities, or we’re in need of a job or financial blessing. It seems we often waste our days away in nervous expectancy for what won’t or could happen. But that’s not what God wants for us.

Anxiety can absolutely consume our thoughts and affect our physical health. I sometimes get more stressed just thinking about stress, and then I try to put away all those things causing me anxiety, which causes me more stress because I know they’re still out there.

For those who struggle with anxiety, overcoming our worries often involves a process of reminding ourselves throughout each day that God knows what we’re going through and has a plan for us. He is our Provider and Comfort.

If you’re battling anxiety, here are 3 passages of scripture to study and speak over your fears so that the Lord can calm the troubled thoughts within your busy mind and speak peace over the storm in your life:

(8) I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.
(9) Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee.
(10) Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about.
~Psalms 32:8-10 (KJV)

(3) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
(4) Trust ye in the LORD for ever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength:
~Isaiah 26:3-4 (KJV)

(6) Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
(7) And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:6-7 (KJV)

Our God has a plan for each of us. He is faithful, and He never fails.

No matter what you’re facing, rest assured that He is right there with you.

He will guide you.

He will keep you.

He will give you peace.

3 Steps to Mastering Consistency in Your Life

Prayer, coffee, and the Word.

When we’re stuck in a spiritual rut, life always seems to get out of focus. Our days are rushed, our mind is busy, and no matter how hard we try, moving forward is practically an impossibility. How do we juggle our hectic lives, overcome our flesh, and maintain a healthy relationship with our Creator? The answer is both simple and complex—consistency.

We have to learn to be consistent in our lives in order to live a life dedicated to serving the Lord and His Kingdom while fulfilling earthly duties, such as work and school. Consistency is the key to unlocking our potential as children of God and living a purposeful life. But there are three components, three steps we must take in order to master consistency in our daily lives.

Step 1: Consistency in Thought

We must make up our mind every day that we will serve the Lord.

“Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;” ~2 Corinthians 10:5 (KJV)

When we keep our mind stayed on Christ and our thoughts in obedience to Him, then our lifestyle, our actions, and our words will follow suit. We must choose every morning to serve the Lord, and throughout each day, we must continue in righteous thoughts, remembering our resolve to serve Him and only Him. Consistency must begin in the mind.

Step 2: Consistency in Word

Consistency must also continue into our speech. If we only act the part at church but speak unwisely outside of church, then our words betray us and reveal our heart.

(34) “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.

(35) A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.

(36) But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.

(37) For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”

~Matthew 12:34-37 (KJV)

Our speech must exalt the King and reflect His Spirit within us. This is why it is essential that we maintain righteousness in thought. If we first determine in our minds to follow and serve the Lord, then we begin to allow His Spirit to dictate our words to others. His Spirit within us helps us guard our tongue and keep our speech in check. Consistency in word will lead to a more righteous life.

Step 3: Consistency in Deed

Of course, it is not enough to mentally choose each day to serve God or to pay only lip service to serving Him, but our actions must follow suit as well, and we must become consistent in our deeds.

(23) “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

(24) Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.”

~Colossians 3:23-24 (KJV)

Consistency in our actions requires not only a conscious, daily decision to serve the Lord, but it also requires making smarter choices. We can replace unhealthy or unhelpful habits with spiritual ones. For example, instead of starting the day on our phone for half-an-hour, we can begin our day by reading the Word. Consistency in deed requires making decisions to put God first, such as building consistent prayer lives and daily Bible study sessions. Consistency in these areas should then carry over into our actions around others, showing the world His character in us through our righteous actions.

Once we have learned how to become consistent in each of these three areas, then we will truly be able to show the world the transforming power of our God. When we become consistent in living for Him, others will notice, giving us the opportunity to become active soulwinners and grow the body of Christ. Becoming consistent is not easy, and there will be days in which we will fail. And that’s okay. But we must then become consistent in our determination to get back up each time we fall and strive harder to serve Him more.

Consistency brings results.

It brings us closer to God, and as we become consistent in our daily walk with Him, we learn to love Him and His Word more. We learn to replace old habits with spiritual ones. And we learn the value in making up our mind each day to live for God in righteousness, in checking and guarding our speech (and our thoughts!), and in choosing each day to become more like Jesus and to become the people He has called us to be.

Prioritizing the Kingdom

So, I have this need. A time-sensitive need. It’s one of those needs that you try not to worry about too much, but as the days go by and nothing changes, you start to worry a lot.

“God,” I say, “I have this need. Now, You know I have this need, and I know You know that, so if You could maybe speed up Your need-fulfilling machine and meet this need ASAP, that would take a load off my mind. We’re dealing with a time-sensitive issue here, and the funny thing about time is that it’s always running out. Right, God? God? Is this thing on?”

I scratch my head and wring my hands and ramble on and on until all I can think about for the next hour and day and week is that one need that keeps coming closer to its deadline.

And then I read Matthew chapter 6, and I realize God is speaking to me:

(30) “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
(31) Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(32) (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
(33) But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

From these verses, God reminds me, and us, that we need not allow worry over our needs to consume our thoughts. Sometimes, we prioritize our cares on earth over Kingdom concerns too much.

What should we do?

We should seek first the Kingdom of God and trust that God will meet our needs. My Apostolic Study Bible explains it as actively pursuing the Kingdom while passively expecting the meeting of our needs.

Indeed, Matthew 6 says it perfectly as well. If God takes care of His creation, then how much more will He care for His children? For He knows our needs. And so we should not busy ourselves with overloaded concern for our own selves. Rather, we should busy ourselves with His Kingdom.

Prioritizing trust in Him breeds more trust in Him and the assurance that God will take care of us no matter what life throws our way.

I may still have a need, as do we all, but I also have the promise that my Savior who knows my need is working on my behalf and will come through for me at precisely the right moment.

If we are faithful to Him, then He will provide for all our needs in this life, for the righteous are not forsaken.

5 Encouraging Songs for When You’re Struggling with Depression

Depression is something with which many of us are far too familiar in our world today. The lockdowns, financial issues, COVID restrictions, and loss of friends and loved ones during 2020 have left many still struggling with grief and anguish. Now, depression is not something of which we should be ashamed. It is a daily mental struggle, after all, and we all wrestle against our own mind and flesh every day.

Emotional ups and downs are exhausting on a physical and spiritual level, and while I tend to be a private person, even I have moments in which I struggle with keeping my head above emotional waters. In those moments, however, I have found that there is one thing in particular that helps pull me above the water and enter into the presence of God—music. Not just any music, but it’s the anointed songs of those who use their gifts for God to glorify Him and bless others that help me find strength in God.

If you’re struggling with depression right now and with trying to feel His presence and peace, here are five songs I discovered in those low moments that have blessed me. I return to them often and hope they bless you.

1. Defender by Francesca Battistelli

This song speaks of how God’s ways, though we may not understand them, are higher and so much better than ours. He goes before us and fights our battles, and all we have to do is praise Him. “Defender” beautifully reminds us that even when we feel we’ve lost ourselves, God knows exactly where we are, picks up our broken hearts, and puts us back together with His love.

2. Never Let Go by IBC

One of Indiana Bible College Choir’s songs from their powerful 2020 album “Victory,” “Never Let Go” describes the immeasurable depth of God’s love and saving grace and is an encouraging reminder of how He will never let us go.

3. Perfect Love by Lakewood Music

God’s love is perfect, breaking every stronghold and overcoming fear, and this beautiful song perfectly reminds us of this truth.

4. The Isaiah Song by Urshan College Choir

There have been many moments when in the wilderness, I’ve felt dry spiritually, desperately needing to simply feel His presence again. This song describes how God makes a way for us in the wilderness, and it’s a great way to usher in the presence of God and bring you to a place where you can receive water for your thirsty soul.

5. This Dwelling Place by Urshan College Choir

“This Dwelling Place” describes the essence of the presence of God and is a song to which I listen often when I want to enter into His presence, simply worship Him, and bask in His love.

If you find yourself in an emotional or spiritual struggle right now, I encourage you to listen to one or more of these songs and take a moment before prayer to worship the Lord. I hope that perhaps even one of these songs can bless you in a moment of grief and emotional turmoil, bringing you closer to God and to a place of peace and healing.

The Most Important Decision

Ah, l’ amour.

The thing that makes men and women do silly things to impress each other. The thing that makes people giddy, nervous, anxious, and nauseous. The thing that makes the stomach flip-flop, the heart race, and the palms sweaty.

Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

All those things may seem like love to many young people looking for a new or first relationship. Some may base their love for a crush on a feeling—butterflies in their stomach. Yes, some forms of love are based on emotion, but emotions are fleeting due to the nature of changing hormones and chemical reactions in the brain (dopamine and norepinephrine, for example, which are chemicals the brain releases when we feel attraction). It’s when the emotional high of love wears off that love becomes much more than what we feel. It becomes a conscious decision.

We choose to love a person and stay committed to that person. And in this same way must we approach our relationship with God.

One doesn’t have true love if he or she only loves his or her spouse when things are going well. One doesn’t truly love God if he or she only loves God during Sunday and Wednesday service.

True love is a constant, daily decision.

What is more important than choosing whom we will marry and love for the rest of our earthly life is choosing whom we will serve for all eternity.

God chooses to love us despite our flaws. No matter how much we error, He still welcomes us back into His Presence with open arms. And so, we must choose to love and stay committed to Him. Every morning, we must renew our love for the One Who loves us unconditionally. We must choose Him each day and fall deeper in love with Him.

Love, real love, is not temporary or based on what we feel in any given moment. That’s why spouses who truly love each other can stay married to each other despite having disagreements. They’ve already made up their mind to love their spouse no matter what.

Charity—true love, agape love—endures all things and does not fail (see 1 Corinthians 13).

This is the kind of love that will never fade. If we model our love for others after Jesus’ love for us, then it will endure forever, rooted not in our emotion but rooted in our determination.

This Valentine’s day (whether you’re single, dating, or married), choose to set time aside to celebrate God’s unconditional love for you. Renew your decision and commitment to serve and love Him with all of yourself.

Love Him because He first loved you.

This is the most important decision you will ever make.

How to Survive a Big Problem with a Little Faith

Have you ever been in a situation so long that you wonder if there’s anything left to life?

Sometimes, that wilderness we’re going through feels like a dark, empty cave. No one and nothing around to be seen or heard save for the echo of our weary cries and reminder of our problems bouncing off the piercing stalactites and stalagmites. Sometimes, the storm that rages overhead keeps getting darker, and we begin to doubt things will ever change for the better. The wildernesses and storms of our lives have a way of testing our faith so much that it wears thin. Let’s consider Peter for a moment in Matthew chapter 14:

24 “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.

25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.

26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.

27 But straightaway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.

28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.

29 And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.

30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.

31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

Here we have Jesus walking on the water, and Peter, after hearing Jesus announce that it is Him walking on the water, decides to join Jesus by getting out of the ship, stepping onto the sea, and walking on the water as well. Now, the sea often represented chaos and a hostile force to the Hebrews. So, not only is Peter walking on top of the storm, but he’s walking on top of a hostile force in a dangerous situation. For at least a few steps, Peter overcomes the storm and keeps his eyes on Jesus, but then he walks a few more steps. Then, he begins to look around and notice how big the waves are and how strong the wind is, and panic sets in. And as he’s worrying about the ongoing storm, he begins to sink. He calls out to Jesus to save him, and Jesus immediately takes his hand and says, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”

What happened to Peter? He was literally walking on water with Jesus. He was the one who called out to Jesus to walk on the water with Him. He must have had a bit more faith in that moment, but somewhere between the boat and the midst of the storm, Peter’s faith weakened.

Let’s be honest. In that moment, we’re probably all Peter. The longer a storm rages on, and the longer we’re in a difficult situation, the more we begin to panic. We look around at our situation and wonder, “God? I know You can do all things, but can You do all those things a little bit quicker? I’m trying to have faith, but those waves are getting higher, and the wind is picking up, and I’m starting to drown here. Just a little water in my lungs now, but things could go south pretty soon. I’m beginning to think there might not be a way out of this. What if this is my life now? What if this situation sweeps me away? What if things don’t get better?”

But just a little bit of faith is what helped save Peter from his situation.

He may have lost his faith that he could continue to walk atop the waves of the stormy sea, but when Jesus saved Peter, He stated that Peter had “little faith.” Yet it was just a little bit of faith that told Peter Jesus could still save him. Peter didn’t need big faith to know that in the middle of his situation, Jesus would come to his rescue.

When we’re in the middle of a difficult situation and staring down a big problem, it’s natural to panic. We’re only human, after all. We don’t have the ability on our own to look beyond the storm in the natural and see our salvation in the supernatural. We might let our faith dwindle when we’re stuck in the wilderness. But we mustn’t let our lack of big faith keep us from calling on our God. Peter didn’t wait around to call on Jesus, and when he did, Jesus immediately saved Peter who only had a little faith.

So, if you’re in the middle of a storm or a barren wilderness, you will survive if you hold on to your little bit of faith and call out to Jesus.

You know, today’s post was going to be different. I had a different theme in mind, especially since I wrote a post on faith several days ago. But this morning, I woke up with Peter’s story in my mind, and I couldn’t let it go.

Perhaps you’re going through your own storm and facing a big problem. Perhaps your faith has dwindled. Perhaps you’re discouraged. But even with your little bit of faith, God can and will still save you.

The Master of the sea is right there, waiting with His hand outstretched.

How to Live a Balanced Life

There’s something about birthdays that spins the wheels of reflection in my mind. As I turned 25 this week, I began to reflect on what I’m most grateful for during this first quarter of my life, and I settled on one of the most important aspects of a Christian’s life that I realized has helped make my life balanced—having (and listening to) consistent leadership.

Having balance is the only way we can survive in this world and still live for God. Life gets hectic, and we get distracted, and then we find ourselves guilty because we’ve been spending more time on distractions and less time on God. He is the one for Whom we exist, after all. Consistent leadership is an essential element that we must not only seek out but also appreciate to create a healthy balance and make God and righteousness the center of our world.

We find consistent leaders in our pastor, ministers, mentors, and our parents who lead us according to God’s Word so that we might grow up as a well-watered child of God. As we grow from childhood into adulthood, we need pastors and leaders who will not only preach the Word as it is but live the Word. What’s even more essential, however, is not only listening to consistent leaders but applying their teachings from the Word to our lives.

My pastor during my childhood and into my upper teenage years taught many lessons rooted in truth, and because I could see from his lifestyle that he loved truth, I valued his lessons all the more. There is one such lesson that I will never forget—

the dogfight taking place inside ourselves.

He explained that there are two dogs waging war inside each of us—the carnal dog and the spiritual dog. But which dog will win in the fight?

The one you feed the most.

As I went from high school to college and into the adult world, I learned how much more balanced my life and each day were when I fed the spiritual dog inside of me through prayer, spending time in the Word, and fasting. It became obvious that this was a daily battle against the flesh, and I knew that consistency was key because I’d seen my childhood pastor and many other leaders apply this lesson to their own lives by living consistently for Jesus.

We’re all human and obviously make mistakes, but if we lean on God for strength, we can win this daily dogfight within ourselves and strengthen our walk with God.

We find balance by consistently serving Jesus no matter what.

It’s what my spiritual leaders have taught me and what my parents have shown me.

Maybe today isn’t your birthday, but it’s as good a day as any to take stock of your own life and reflect on what your leaders, parents, or mentors have shown you. It’s a good day to show your appreciation to them for their leadership and faithful service to God. It’s a good day to start feeding the spiritual dog within you more than ever before. And it’s a good day to endeavor to live a balanced life for Jesus no matter what may come your way.

Walking by Faith

We live in a society today in which knowledge is not only power but in which society’s chosen thought police view knowledge as a danger—a danger to their preconceived plans to control the thoughts and minds of others and influence new generations to believe only a carefully manufactured manifesto of ideas that aligns with a strict code of “acceptable” beliefs.

Knowledge is powerful, of course, but what these self-appointed arbiters of “acceptable” ideas don’t know is how little each of us truly knows and what this means. Yes, these people believe they can control others’ thoughts by limiting their access to “dangerous” ideas, such as the Gospel Truth, and these people believe they can stamp out a move of God to reach the lost by labeling the Gospel as “false” and by discouraging believers. What we followers of Jesus Christ must remember, no matter how much opposition we may face, is that we truly know extraordinarily little, but there are no limits to God’s Power and understanding. Thus, even if society’s arbiters of “acceptable” ideas attack our liberties to spread the Gospel, they still have no power to prevent the world from knowing the Truth of our God.

I’m a visual person, so here’s a visual demonstration to illustrate my point.

Take a look at the image above this post. All that we know and understand—our thoughts, beliefs, opinions, etcetera—we can condense down to a tiny black dot on a sheet of white paper. That tiny dot contains every song we’ve ever heard, every Bible verse we’ve ever memorized, every sermon we remember preached, every person whose name we know, every childhood and adulthood memory we have—everything. We can limit all that we know to a tiny, enclosed space, and what surrounds it—the white space—is an infinite chasm of unlimited knowledge to which only God has access.

So, although we may scratch our heads and wring our hands and worry ourselves sick over how we’ll be able to overcome opposition, personal struggles, financial dilemmas, and spiritual battles and still receive the blessings of God in our lives, God has already prepared the victory for us. We simply cannot see it, for we see through a glass darkly (see 1 Corinthians 13:12).

Our victory may be approaching just outside the rim of our tiny, enclosed circle of knowledge, but we often allow ourselves to perceive our own knowledge as much greater than it is and convince ourselves that victory isn’t coming simply because we just don’t understand how victory is possible when the odds against us seem too great.

If we can grasp how little we know and understand in comparison to our Creator, then we will increase our ability to walk in faith.

“(For we walk by faith, not by sight:)” ~2 Corinthians 5:7 (KJV)

No matter the obstacle that comes our way, no matter what the opposition thinks it has the power to do, no matter what we cannot see with our own eyes, God is operating in that infinite chasm of knowledge and power and is working miracles on behalf of those who are faithful to Him. No person of finite power and being of limited understanding can stop the move of God and the spread of Truth.

God makes a way when there is no way.

He is the God of the impossible.

3 Ways to Create Healthy Relationships and Reduce Stress This Semester

A light rain falls in front of Siceluff Hall at Missouri State University in August 2018.

The new semester is underway for many college students, and many who are new to college or who tend to leave assignments and studying to the last minute may be feeling stressed already about the busy weeks to come. As a recent college grad who spent five years taking both online and seated classes, I acquired many tips and tricks to help me get through each semester as smoothly as possible. One of the biggest components to reducing stress and finding success in college concerns your working relationships with classmates and professors. Here are just a few tips to get you started on the right track this semester and connect better with others.

1. Get to know your professors.

Having a good working relationship with your professor is essential to controlling your level of stress and having a firm grasp on your workload. Meet with your professors early this semester to talk about their expectations for the class, to ask questions about the course material and upcoming assignments, and to simply chat and let them know with what assignment-related issues you tend to struggle.

Over my five years in college, I met with my professors regularly and quickly learned that meeting with them early helped me make a positive impression on them. Meeting with them to ask questions and inform them of my major and intellectual interests helped open a dialogue that would continue throughout the semester. Because I initiated and continued an open dialogue with my professors, they knew I was serious about doing well in class and was open to suggestions and advice from them in order to meet (and sometimes exceed) their expectations. Meeting with your professors will also help you gain an understanding of how well they think you’re doing in the class and in which areas you may need to improve.

2. Be open to other listening to other viewpoints, but don’t be afraid to explain your own.

You’ll hear a lot of different ideas and points of view in college—something for which I was not quite prepared when I entered college in 2015. I knew what I believed (an essential component to maintaining your Christian lifestyle while in college), but I didn’t realize how open others would be with viewpoints that directly opposed and challenged my own beliefs. There were many (many) times during class discussions that my classmates would discuss (and argue) about atheism, their perceptions of Christianity, capitalism, and other issues regarding history, race, and identity.

Now, I’m quite the polite introvert during public discussion and rarely engage in debate, but there were a few times when I (being the only Apostolic conservative in the room) took it upon myself to explain (and sometimes defend) a religious ideal or conservative principle that another student had difficulty understanding. Instead of berating the student or becoming engulfed in my emotions about the topic, I carefully worded my response and maintained a calm composure, often asking a follow-up question to the confused or frustrated student. What I learned was that a friendly and thoughtful response and dialogue with students of other backgrounds and belief systems often calmed tension in the room and helped the class further our discussion without arguments breaking out.

3. Pray before class each day.

This one seems like a no-brainer, but praying before class each day, whether it’s in your car or walking onto the campus, is essential for maintaining focus on God and giving Him control over your day. When I started college, I attended a smaller community college in my hometown and had classes as early as seven in the morning. There were many moments when I’d arrive on campus at half past six, and as I watched the sun rise, I’d pray over the day. They were often simple prayers, but I noticed that when I failed to do so (due to getting around and arriving late), my days were out of focus. Stress about upcoming assignments and my busy to-do list cluttered my mind and soured my mood as I shuffled from class to class. Praying over your day, your coursework, and your classmates ensures that you start your day with Jesus and surrender control over your work and relationships with others to Him.

If you apply the above tips to your lifestyle while in college, you will not only form meaningful connections with others, but you will also develop stress-reducing habits that will help you move forward with confidence during college and into the adult world.

Happy spring semester to all the students out there! If you know someone already struggling with school-related stress, share this post with them to give them encouragement and motivation.