By Renner Clements, Opinion Editor

To borrow the United States Department of Agriculture’s imagery, each person has to fill his or her plate in order to live healthily. While the USDA model focuses on food, there is another plate that refers to how people spend their time; every activity takes up a specific amount of space on the plate, and eventually the plate becomes full. Too many things to do leads to an unhealthy lifestyle; too few leads to the same. The argument lies in whether or not to push the limits of space on that plate, and my argument is that pushing the limits is the only way to truly become all a person was made to be.

Applying oneself and diving headfirst into several new activities and environments as the transition is made into university living can be one of the most beneficial actions as a freshman. Freshmen can engage in the culture, meet new people, make lasting friendships and become well-rounded in their efforts to make themselves and the community around them the best it can be.

Not only does diving into the college community benefit a person socially, it can also boost academics. According to studies conducted by Amy L. Hawkins at Purdue University and Azurdee M. Garland at Western Kentucky University in 2010, student extracurricular involvement correlates to a higher GPA. The growth following these experiences appears to indicate holistic growth, including the academic variety.

Freshmen have the perfect opportunity to test this, to grow in their knowledge of their abilities as well as their weaknesses. But in order to do this, they must challenge themselves.

“It should be the priority of any person to take ownership of their own growth,” said Director of Student Engagement Heather Tyner.

“It’s really important for people to recognize that a challenge isn’t something completely 10 or 20 steps beyond what they can do, but usually just one or two,” she said. “Doable, but stretching.”

Success comes from engaging with a wide variety of opportunities that release passion, build friendships, serve others and ideally do all of the above. But one has to move out of the comfort zone in order to get to the spot where the magic happens.

It can be tempting to settle after finding a comfy spot or schedule on campus, to fall into a relaxing routine that runs at a slow and steady pace. Do not fall for it. These years leading into adulthood are filled with incredible energy and life, and they must be used to discover exactly how much one can do, healthily.

Of course, physical, mental and spiritual health supersedes all other engagements or goals. The aim of pushing oneself is not to steamroll right through one’s personal breaking point; it is to find exactly where that breaking point is. This knowledge becomes a lighthouse, giving the freedom to fully engage without fear of crashing upon the rocks.

The concept of knowing and respecting the boundaries of life is not just inspirational but is biblical too. God gave humanity instructions for living righteously not as a restraint, but to showcase exactly how to live in step with him to the fullest. As 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.” (NLT) Using Scripture as a straightedge, Christians can make the most out of life by running with what is good and not stopping.

College living is daunting; it is also incredibly exciting. Playing it safe is one of the most dangerous ways to fall into the pain of regret. Challenging oneself and stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is not only an effective way to connect to the culture, supplement your academic career and become aware of your limits, but also an ideal way to grow closer to Jesus.

Tyner encourages freshmen to “just dive in! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. God is patient with you- so you should be too.”