Self-Care for Students: 10 Tips for Thriving in College

When you start college, you’ll have a choice about how to approach life. Do you want to just get by, or do you want to thrive? Here are some suggestions for getting the most out of the time and effort you put into earning your degree.

1. Study consistently throughout the day.

Experts recommend completing at least a third of your studying before 3 p.m., when you are most alert and distractions are at a minimum. And don’t hesitate to visit your college’s tutoring or academic support center. That’s something good students make a habit of doing. The Peer Learning Center at Northwestern College offers free tutoring and group study sessions with 180 student tutors—including one for nearly every class we offer.

2. Put your phone on airplane mode and out of sight while studying.

The sound of incoming texts, emails and social media notifications—not to mention phone calls—is too hard to resist. And once you pick up your device, you know how easy it is to get sucked into endless scrolling and to waste valuable study time.

3. Don’t overcommit.

Sometimes the best thing to do is to say “no.” That allows you to be fully committed to the things you’ve agreed to do that are most important to you.

4. Take advantage of the gift of rest.

You need time to relax and play. You also need sleep. Make getting enough a priority. Multiple studies show that getting sufficient sleep (7 to 9 hours per night) will increase your productivity and decrease your likelihood of experiencing poor mental and physical health. Make it a habit to wake up and go to bed at the same times each day.

5. Check in with yourself.

Pay attention to your thoughts and emotions, your actions and behaviors, and any tension you might be carrying in your neck and shoulders. If you can change an unhealthy thought to a healthy one—for example, “I had a horrible day” to “I had a tough 5 minutes”—your well-being and productivity will improve. And if your thoughts, emotions or behaviors are impacting your life in a negative way, consider getting counseling. Northwestern provides free access to licensed professional therapists who work in our Wellness Center.

6. Eat well and take time each day to move/exercise.

Some simple steps to becoming healthier include eliminating sugar-sweetened beverages, limiting ultra-processed foods and caffeine, starting your day with a balanced breakfast, and eating more plants and colorful foods. To boost your activity level, go for a walk with a friend or sign up for intramurals. Northwestern has a fitness center with free weights, weight machines and other exercise equipment, as well as treadmills, ellipticals, stationary bikes and stair climbers. There are also racquetball courts, an indoor track, and four courts for a pickup basketball game or indoor tennis match.

7. Connect with God.

Spending time in God’s presence—listening to him, praying and reading your Bible—is the very foundation to living a life of thriving.

8. Connect with others.

Start by leaving your door open when you’re in your room. You’ll be surprised by how many connections and conversations that simple decision will initiate. (You can feel free to do that on Northwestern’s safe campus.) Get to know the people on your wing by asking questions and learning their stories. Stay on campus as many weekends as possible, and go to that wing or hall event, discipleship group meeting, game, concert, play or student activities event. Nearly 90% of Northwestern students live on campus, and unlike other colleges where freshmen-only dorms are the norm, many of our juniors and seniors choose to stay in the residence halls to live with and mentor underclassmen.

9. Extend your learning beyond the classroom.

Take advantage of opportunities to talk with your professors before, after and outside of class. Soak up their wisdom! And if your college has chapels and special guest speakers, attend them and have discussions with friends about what you heard and learned.

10. Look for ways you can be a blessing to another person.

Be the kind of friend you’d like to have yourself. Join another student sitting alone in the cafeteria. Lift someone’s spirit with a smile and a hello. Ask God to open your eyes to needs around you and be prepared to serve when they are revealed. In doing so, you’ll find yourself blessed as well.

Northwestern faculty and staff are committed to helping students thrive. From a professor’s open-door policy to student life programming and resources, you’ll find a supportive community at NWC that will prepare you for a life of significance. Learn more at