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Five Not-So-Obvious Tips for Incoming College Freshmen

Discover our not so obvious tips for incoming college freshman. pro wants to walk with your to find the right college. Learn more.

My name is Max Boruvka, and I am an incoming third-year elementary education student at pro. While searching far and wide for the right college for me, I received some pretty stereotypical advice. I heard statements such as, “Make sure the school has top-quality academics” or “Search for a place with low cost and high value.” While these people had my best interests in mind, I ultimately chose Grace because it felt the most like home.

Now that Grace has been my home for the past two years, I have learned what it takes to succeed in college. Now, I have some of my own not-so-obvious tips for incoming college freshmen.


1. Embrace your quirks (even if it means picking up a ukulele).

While I was still a high school senior, I had the opportunity to interview at one of Grace’s Presidential Scholarship Days several months before my first class at Grace as a college freshman. This is an event where students interview with faculty for the chance to earn scholarships. To qualify for the interview, students must have a certain grade-point average and meet various other academic qualifications. I knew I would be competing against an assemblage of mini-Einsteins who would all have compelling answers as to why they deserved this scholarship.

When practicing for the interview, I tried to be fancy and proper. Everything seemed off before I made a major discovery: I was not a mini-Einstein. I was Max Boruvka. I may have been top of my class in high school, but I was also homeschooled.

And I didn’t have to feel bad about that. I leaned into who I was and made the only logical choice: I re-wrote Elvis’s classic hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love” into the brand new classic, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with Grace.”

On the big day, I trotted past the other students in suits who looked like they could all ace a test with their eyes closed, hands tied, and bodies spun around eight times. I then entered the interview room and after they were finished asking their questions, I pulled out my ukulele and began to sing.

Watch Max sing Falling in Love with Grace

I wish I could accurately describe my interviewers’ looks of pure shock. They seemed to be holding back laughter or tears as I soothed them with my melodies. After I was finished, one interviewer clapped awkwardly, while the other sat still with a stone-cold face.

My guess is that was a first for those faculty members. But of this, I am sure: I tried my hardest to be authentic. After all, who is going to forget the kid who pulled out the ukulele during a college interview?

I ended up winning one of the scholarships that day, and I learned one of my tips for incoming college freshmen: Lean into who God made you to be, and if you get the chance, pull out a ukulele and strum a nice tune.

Discover our not so obvious tips for incoming college freshman. pro wants to walk with your to find the right college. Learn more.

2. Laugh at your failures.

Christmastime is my favorite season of the year. Jesus was born, carols are sung, and loved ones watch movies around the fireplace. There’s nothing like it. In fact, I love Christmas so much that afterward, I often get down, and when I say “get down,” I do not mean get funky.

I learned the next of my tips for incoming college freshmen in my second semester. I returned to school after Christmas break ready to tackle one of my hardest classes, “Physical Science Survey.” It had a reputation for giving students a hard time. I was determined to push through and remain positive to avoid the post-Christmas blues.

Before long, I was having a bit of trouble understanding the concepts, so I met with my teacher before class multiple times and reached out to a tutor. I entered class on the day of the first physics test with the mindset, “I will be victorious!”

Thirty minutes later, I walked out of the room with a 57%.

It obliterated my confidence.

My once-positive thoughts turned into, “Oh my gosh! I am going to fail this class!” and, “I did all that work and still failed. I must be a failure.” I faced a crossroads. I could sit in these lies, or I could choose a different option: laughter.

I started busting a gut at how dumb that was. I mean, gee-willikers, I tried so hard only to bomb in historic fashion!

At that moment, a quote rang true for me. Brad Paisley, my favorite country singer, said, “You are going to be laughing about it in five years, so you may as well start laughing about it now.” If you ask me for tips for incoming college freshmen, I’d say to try your hardest in everything, but when you fail miserably, laugh about it and move on.

Fortunately, I did pass the class.

3. Start a band with a group of like-minded believers.

My parents have a video of me singing my heart out in the car when I was 5 years old. Funny enough, they also have another video of me doing the exact same thing within the last year. I’ve always loved music, and I recently noticed that most dads have a “band story,” reminiscing on the “good ol’ days.” This sounded enticing, so I decided to form a band as a Grace college freshman.

Before I arrived at Grace, I prayed for a roommate, and the Lord brought me a friend who sang like an angel. We combined our love for music and started writing songs about Jesus in the wee hours of the morning, often sung with a little bit of country twang. Naturally, we decided to combine the meaning of our last names to form the band name:

Once we had enough songs, we put on a show at a local farmer’s market and jammed our originals during an open mic night at Grace’s coffee shop!

During these rockin’ shows, we made sure to give Jesus the glory. Eventually, we decided to form a Bible study group with the band members and other friends on campus. Even though our playing time was amazing, the Bible studies were a place of true growth. We began to look forward more to the Bible studies than practicing.

I smiled at these memories as I wrote my tips for incoming college freshmen. I would advise everyone to find a group of people who love Jesus, and if they are musical – form a band.

Bands such as the Beatles and One Direction have ugly breakups, but if a band is centered on Jesus – it will never lose its bond.

Discover our not so obvious tips for incoming college freshman. pro wants to walk with your to find the right college. Learn more.

4. Whatever it is, send it! Try new things, and do them with 100% effort.

There is no greater feeling than hitting a gap jump on a mountain bike. I remember being scared out of my wits when I first considered hitting the gap. What if I missed, fell, and hurt myself? My brother, a mountain biking legend, always gave me the same advice: “Send it.” In other words, “Even if you’re scared, do it anyway.”

I listened to him and decided to give it my all. When I attempted my first gap jump, I soared through the sky like an eagle spreading its wings and landed safely on the ground below.

This advice helped me succeed in mountain biking, so I applied it to my first year at Grace as a college freshman. I committed to saying “yes” to new opportunities. I tried new clubs, such as the outdoor club and intramurals.

Saying “yes” to these opportunities, led me to meet some of my closest friends. These companions have stayed by my side through thick and thin. In the same way, being involved and staying busy with my new life at college also eased the homesick bug that many freshmen catch.

One of the most valuable tips for incoming college freshmen is to live with the “send it” mindset. If you do, you’ll unlock a fun and adventurous life, both on the mountain bike trails and at college.


5. Learn how to play Euchre.

One mark of a Midwest native is knowing how to play the card game Euchre. This fast-paced two-on-two game requires an equal dose of skill and luck. Whenever my uber-competitive extended family comes together, this game takes center stage. I tried to learn once but became confused and gave up. For years, I sat feeling lonely on the couch as the members of my family ferociously and jubilantly competed.

Finally, last summer, I decided to learn how to play. After a couple rough games, I became so confident in my skills, I was ready to go to Vegas! (Unfortunately, they do not have Euchre in Las Vegas.)

Once I got to school as a college freshman, I was pleasantly surprised. Everyone in my hall knew how to play Euchre! During the first semester, my friendships with the guys were so close, it felt like I was playing the card game with my family again.

Each person on the floor had different interests, tastes, and personalities, but as soon as we pulled out those 26 cards, we forgot about our differences and had a blast playing the game. Euchre taught me a valuable life lesson that has shaped my college experience: People at Grace become like family when you spend time with them.

Interested in a college experience that trumps the stereotypical experience? Need a place to practice these tips for incoming college freshmen? Learn more about pro, here.

Tagged With: Student Stories