Four Tips From a College Senior

by Joel Willsey

Whether you’re soon to begin college, soon to graduate, or soon to send off your child to college here are four tips to thriving and experiencing the richness of the Christian Higher Education experience.

It’s hard to believe I’m only two semesters away from graduating college. The last couple of years have flown by! My college days have somehow been the fullest days of my life and also the quickest. No college experience is perfect, but as I reflect entering my fifth year at Crown (thanks to Early College/PSEO) there isn’t an aspect I would change about what I’ve learned, how I’ve grown, and who I’ve met. For me during the college search, the prospect of attending a Christian college and living on-campus isn’t what scared me most, in fact I was excited. What caused anxiety and fear to rise up in me was the question “did I make the best choice?”. So with that, here are four tips from a college senior to help you know you made not only a good choice, but the best choice in the college navigation process.

1. Paying For College

In a recent survey, the US Department of Education found that students consistently listed “Cost” as the top factor when enrolling in both four year, private and public institutions (US Department of Education). With rising inflation and record high averages of student debt, paying for college is no small thought. For most students, paying for college is the single largest financial investment they will have made up until that point. So yes paying for college can feel scary but don’t be scared. As a senior with only two more semester payments to go, there is hope!

You’re the Superstar Free Agent!

For my fellow sports fans out there, if you’re like me one of your most favorite times of the year in sports is Free Agency season. Free Agency is a process in which professional athletes negotiate salary, role on the team, and the athlete’s future with an organization. Contract agents representing the athletes negotiate with teams and advocate for their client to ensure maximum compensation and an agreement is met. When free agency comes around, I’m constantly checking social media to see which players have signed with which teams and who got the better end of the deal.

What does my sports analogy have to do with finding a college?

YOU are both the agent and the athlete when it comes to your college future. You have to advocate for yourself in the school-searching process. Assess which school offers the best combination of academics, athletics, community, and spiritual development that will challenge you to grow. You’re in the driver’s seat, where are you going to go? When I was searching for schools, I had narrowed it down to two options. Crown and another Christian college. I knew I wanted a Christ-Centered community with opportunities to push me spiritually, academically, and socially. Still unsure which I would attend, I visited and applied to each. By the spring semester of my Senior year of high school, I did not know which school I would attend. Both were great options and I could see myself thriving in both communities. So how did I decide? I let the schools decide for me. I reached out to each of my admissions counselors respectively and was honest with them simply asking “how can we make this more affordable?”. Both were able to find revisions to my financial aid package but at the end of the day there was one clear winner. From that moment on I knew Crown was not only a good choice, but it was the best choice to set me up well for my future. To be clear, cost isn’t everything but it is something to evaluate as a prospective student.

2. Be Comfortable With Change

College is a chance to set new goals, new standards, find a new identity, and grow into the fullness of who God has called you to be! When I checked-in with my RA, moved into my room, and met my new roommate, I quickly realized I would have to challenge myself to be okay with change. I was away from my familiar space, my familiar friends, and my familiar routine. The opportunity was mine to redefine those aspects of me. Daunting? Perhaps, yet I was reminded everyone else who moved in that day was in the same boat. So how did I meet people? How did I figure out where my classes were? How did I start to feel comfortable at college? Welcome Week.

Each school year, one of my favorite moments of the year is Welcome Week (WW). The four days of WW every August were some of the most exciting, formative, and admittedly exhausting days of my college years! Welcome Week is the first of many experiences in college that pushed me to make new connections, set new goals, and expand my social comfort zone. One of my favorite opportunities during Welcome Week is the service projects. Groups go to various sites around the local area and show the love of Jesus through service. Serving alongside my new peers helped me feel comfortable and reassured that we were all in this together striving to grow in a Christ-centered community. Opportunities to put others first and serve early in my college years proved to be a foundation for my college community experience. Change might not be your favorite, but it is unavoidable. It’s time to see college as an opportunity for growth through change rather than a fearful time of uncertainty. Lean into the uncomfortable and put yourself out there, you will grow!

3. Time Management

As I mentioned, Welcome Week is four full days long. By the end, I’m exhausted. Yet, WW is the first of many opportunities students have to learn how to balance time and energy. College schedules entrust a lot of time to students to accomplish their tasks and get work done. It was a big adjustment for me from being a passive keeper of time to becoming an active one. I never had a daily calendar or planner in high school but now, I rely on my calendar every single day. Between two on-campus jobs, five classes, an off-campus job, going to campus events, sports games, and hanging out with friends the days fill up quickly! That big assignment due at the end of the semester that your professor keeps telling you about it, you should probably start it! That event your RA is putting on next week you want to go to, put it in your calendar and commit to it. I even go as far with my calendar by designating times for meals and intentional times to rest. As a college student especially, oftentimes I’ve felt like if I’m not constantly doing something, I’m falling behind. The importance of the Sabbath for everyone but particularly college students cannot be overstated. Finding a break from your typical thought space and workflow is necessary! It’s a command from God, even He rested and declared it good. Who am I to stand against that and not honor myself and God by not finding time for rest?

Time management is an ever-changing process and something I will never stop learning how to improve upon. Different stages of life require various levels of discipline and time management. For me, my college years were the first time I developed time management skills. How will you develop disciplines of time management?

4. Student Leadership

An advantage I found in going to a community-oriented school such as Crown was the opportunities for tangible impact and student leadership. Even before I stepped foot on campus, Crown challenged me to consider my future as a leader. At the time, there was a leadership scholarship in which students entered an application process and responded to a series of prompts (today, Crown offers an even more robust academic leadership opportunity for those looking to invest further into academic excellence: Crown College Honors). Alongside many other students, I was awarded this scholarship and it made me rethink what my impact at Crown could be. I began to change my mindset away from trying to make a name for myself “amongst the crowd” towards one of knowing, loving, and caring for my peers in that very crowd.

In my first year, I learned how to lead spiritually through vulnerability as I built trust and relationships with my peers. My first year helped me learn about myself and consequently, who I was with God. In my second year, I served as a Resident Assistant (RA). Being a RA taught me about self-discipline, mentoring, event planning, conflict management, and even emergency response. No RA experience is the same but I learned a lot in my first year and I knew I still wanted to grow as a RA. So in my senior year, I will be an RA again and I’m even more excited this time around than I was my first year in Residence Life. Residence Life is just one example of student leadership. If you’re interested in the many other opportunities for student leadership on campus check out Crown’s Clubs + Organizatations. At Crown College, there are opportunities for every single student to get involved in a club or organization and make an impact.

As I Reflect

As I reflect on my time as a student at Crown College I am reminded of just how much I’ve grown. I came to Crown knowing about God. I grew up in the church and was actively involved in my high school youth group. I knew Jesus as my savior. Yet, it was only at Crown that I discovered Jesus not only as my Savior but as my Lord. It hasn’t all been easy. Some nights have been full of wrestling with God. Some days I come to the end of myself and I don’t have anything left in the tank. Through it all, I can confidently say that I haven’t grown as much in my life as I have in the years I’ve been at Crown College in St. Bonifacius, Minnesota. So my advice to anyone entering college, commit to growth! I’ve seen the power of growth on display throughout my life and through my peers’ lives as we commit toward growth and excellence together, in Christ-centered, authentic community. I am confident that I not only made a good choice in choosing where I would attend college, but I made the best choice.

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