So many of my facebook friends (or their kids) are heading off to college in the next few weeks, and I feel the need to give you all some advice, from someone who has been on both sides:
1. Let your parents be a little crazy when they drop you off. Sure, they’re embarrassing, but they love you. You’ll be in their shoes someday and only then will you really understand. Until then, just smile and accept it. It will be over quickly.
2. Find your passion. Being able to make a living doing what you love is pretty rare, but if there were ever a time to try, it is now. Sometimes we randomly decide at age 5 want we want to be a doctor (or an engineer or a lawyer), and then we head off to college and discover that literature (or theatre or art or education) makes our heart sing. Don’t worry too much about your future paycheck, worry about your future happiness. THAT is what will make you rich. Take your chances (or make your mistakes) when you are young. Both are much harder when you’re older.
3. Whether you live on or off campus, get involved. Don’t rush home every night or weekend – make friends, find activities, groups, clubs, etc. Grow.
4. Study. I’m not saying you have to tie yourself to your desk and never venture out, but I promise you that you will regret it if you screw up this opportunity. Maybe not for a long time, but you will. Even if you got straight As in high school without even trying. In fact – ESPECIALLY if you got straight As in high school without even trying. College is a whole new ballgame. There will be another party tomorrow and the next day and the next day for the next four years. You can miss this one.
5. That said – have fun! You won’t have opportunities like this again in your life, so seize them when you can.
6. Everything in moderation. Your parents aren’t stupid. We know there are parties and lots of things you probably shouldn’t be doing. We also know that you will probably do them. Be safe, and don’t let the partying become the #1 thing. Consider the consequences of your actions.
7. CONDOMS. Get the giggling out of your system now, because I am serious about this one – CONDOMS! This goes for you too, ladies – even if you are on other methods of birth control – CONDOMS! Do not even consider for a minute having sex of any type without protection. There is too much at stake. So get your ass to the drug store and buy some right now. If you are embarrassed, then you aren’t mature enough to be having sex anyway. But if you must, get a friend to buy them, get your parent, your older sibling, your aunt, me – I’ll buy them for you, for Pete’s sake! But you MUST use condoms.
8. No means no.
9. Form your own opinions about Greek life. If you are interested in a fraternity or sorority don’t listen to anyone who tells you that they are stuck up, or stereotypical, or that you are “paying for friends” (someone told that one to my 11 year old). There is good and bad in everything, and if you think you would enjoy it, go for it. I was in a sorority in college and I loved it. That said, if you AREN’T interested, don’t let anyone push you into it. You’ll be fine without it.
10. Listen to your parents and professors. We aren’t always right, but we do know a thing or two. I know you are at the age of thinking you know everything and that we old folks are out of touch, but I promise you, we know a few things. Listen. I’m not saying obey, necessarily, but LISTEN.
11. Eat healthy food as often as you can. I love pizza and fried everything, so you have my sympathy here. I know you can walk into dining halls and restaurants and get all the carb-y, batter dipped, deep fried, sugarcoated deliciousness your heart desires. But I am begging you – eat some (non-fried, non-cheese-coated) vegetables.
12. Coffee is not a substitute for sleep.
13. Be frugal. Your parents are paying a lot of money for you to have this opportunity. You yourself may have student loans that you will be paying for many years to come. We want you to have everything you need, but believe me – it’s expensive. Maybe not each individual thing, but all of it together? EX-PEN-SIVE. So if we give you money, don’t blow it all on $7 coffees, then call home because you need money for school supplies.
14. When in doubt, wash it on cold.
15. Don’t be a total slob. And believe me – no one in the world would call me “neat,” so I understand. But you have to live with another person, and it’s best for everyone if you are considerate.
16. If you need help, ask for it. If you are struggling in a class, or socially, or emotionally, ask for help. Your professors, your parents, your advisors all want you to succeed and be happy. Don’t wait until it’s too late. If you feel like you are having problems, or not keeping up with your classes, ask for help NOW. Particularly when it comes to classes – your professors will be far more likely to sympathize and be helpful now than a week before the end of the term.
17. If you see someone else struggling, help them.
18. Read something other than what is required by your professors.
19. Register to vote, follow current events, watch the news, read the paper, and when it’s time, vote. Your voice matters.
20. Don’t plagiarize. Not even a sentence. It’s a stupid thing to do and your professors WILL find out.
21. And finally – this one is very important: CALL YOUR MOM! She misses you.