The Unofficial College Freshman Survival Guide

Because our friends have a daughter who will be heading off to her first year of college soon, I wondered if I could come up with a list of tips that might make her freshman year easier. As I started thinking of things from my own college experience like “Being on a first name basis with the Dean of Discipline makes it harder to get away with things” and “When people start acting like nudity and needles are normal, it’s probably time to leave,” I started wondering if any advice I could dispense to a college freshman would be applicable in today’s college experience.

When I was in college, there were no laptops, there were no digital cameras, and we had to go to computer labs to use Gopher because there was no World Wide Web available to the general public. Know how much we worried about getting a less than flattering picture of us taken with a camera that wasn’t invented and put on an internet that didn’t exist? About as much as someone stealing our uninvented ipods or 90 pound, $300 dollar a minute cell phones. Shit man, the only phones in my dorm were hall pay phones that the served about 30 guys each, so you were lucky to find out if your girlfriend dumped you two weeks after the fact. Coming from a technological dinosaur age like that, I really started to wonder what the hell kind of advice I could offer the constantly-connected freshman of today.

The more I reminisced, the older I felt, so I put everything aside, had a cup of tea, and watched Matlock until I drifted off to sleep under my afghan. When I woke up after a couple of hours of dreaming about snorting coke off the small of Angela Lansbury’s naked back, I realized that an incoming freshman might get better advice if it came from a number of people in a range of ages, rather than from one guy who is twice the age of most college freshmen and quite possibly deranged.

I recruited help from students and alumni who are a little closer to their college years, and asked them to offer their advice on what can make a freshman year a bit easier. Below are sets of independently written advice that range from me, at the top of the age group, all the way down to a current college sophomore. Surprisingly, there were a few similarities that span across all age groups.

If you’re heading off to college for your freshman year (or know someone who is), I hope you find something in here that makes the year a little easier. If you’ve already completed your freshman year, why not lend a hand and add your year and ten pieces of advice in the comments? Matlock would want you to.

Jon, Villanova Class of ’94

1. Make New Friends, And Do It NOW
You’re not in high school, and all your friends are at home. Deal with it. You don’t have to let your old friends go, but you do have to make a whole new set of friends, which can be pretty hard. To make it easier, start early and talk to everyone you can during orientation: men, women, dweebs, geeks, freaks, punks, nerds, jocks, everyone. You’ll feel uncomfortable, but no one knows anyone that first week, and they will be more open to people who talk to them. It’s the one time where you can pretty much talk to anyone you want and have them be open to it. Don’t waste that week sitting in your room. Go to campus events even if they’re stupid and contrived. Go to where people hang out. Sit in the hall if you have to. Just make as many connections as possible as fast as you can, and those people will eventually introduce you to a multitude.

2. Realize What It’s About
College is about figuring out who you want to be, not what you want to be. Take risks with your look, your personality, your viewpoint, and what you think you’re capable of.

3. Learn
Take classes that you are interested in, because there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t work in your major once you leave college. On the flip side, taking golf for credit is a waste of your time and money. An education is incredibly fucking expensive and not everyone can afford one, so understand what a great opportunity you’ve been given, and don’t waste it on anything less than forging the person you want to be out of the person that you are.

4. Don’t Take Things Too Seriously.
College is a transition period between childhood and adult life, so you need to learn to do your own laundry and manage your own finances. You do not, however, need to be an adult. Your college experience is not a job, and it’s not a resume building experience. Try out every club you can and don’t worry about what clubs will look good on your resume. No one is going to give a shit what clubs you were in after you get out of school. You don’t want to be kicking yourself for being a member of four professional clubs that ate up all your time instead of working at the radio station for free CDs and concert tickets like you really wanted to.

5. Refreshments
Don’t drink things you didn’t pour, don’t leave your drink unattended, don’t get left alone in any house with Greek letters on it, and for chrissakes, don’t be that lame a-hole who goes to the hospital with alcohol poisoning the first week.

6. Road trip!
Whether it’s going places with your new college friends or visiting your friends from home at their colleges, road trips are where some awesome college memories are created.

7. Moochers
Don’t give anything to overly good looking people who show up at your room unannounced. They generally take your stuff and you never see them again.

8. Get To Know Some Upperclassmen
…who don’t want to hump you. This is a difficult thing to do because most upperclassmen either ignore or abuse freshmen, but if you can find a few who don’t, they can provide a wealth of tricks and tips on how to get by.

9. Let Go Of The Long Distance Relationship
This is tough to say, but let go of your high school sweetheart before you leave for school. It’s nearly impossible to maintain long distance relationships when you’re away at college, and even if you do, you’ll end up with a lot of arguments, a lot of headaches, a huge phone bill, all while missing out on a lot of fun. Sorry. It’s true.

10. Don’t Get Caught
That’s all I’m saying.

Kathleen, U Penn Class of ’02

  1. Just because it’s at the cafeteria doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
  2. Proofread the paper you wrote at 4 AM, because when you’re awake, it probably won’t make any sense.
  3. Don’t barf on your carpet, because even though you might be able to live with the stain, you won’t be able to live with the smell.
  4. Don’t wait until the day before to write a 15 page paper.
  5. Don’t take an art history class, or really anything that relies on dark slide-shows, at 9 AM.
  6. Coffee is your friend, but will not enable you to stay up all night, every night.
  7. If you have class with a T.A. for whom English is not one of their top five languages, skim the chapters beforehand so you know he’s talking about “binomial distribution” not “bonemeal distortion.”
  8. Your high school boy/girlfriend is lame. Move on. If you are both going to the same school or otherwise not long distance, this counts double. Go meet new people unless you’d like to wake up in 30 years and realize you still hang out with ALL your high school friends.
  9. Go off campus as much as possible.
  10. Pass your classes. College is expensive.

Collins, La Salle Class of ’05

  1. Meet as many people and make as many connections as you can.
  2. Try something different (club/sport).
  3. Stay in touch with your friends from college over the summer.
  4. Explore the area that you are going to college in.
  5. Get in tight with the teachers that are in your major.
  6. Meet as many members of the opposite sex as possible.
  7. Go abroad.
  8. Go to a lot of parties.
  9. Meet up with people that you may know from home at neighboring colleges.

    AND MOST IMPORTANTLY

  10. Don’t let your books get in the way of your education!

Maura, Rhode Island Class of ’06

  1. Study abroad or do a national student exchange. It’s the cheapest way to get some travel experience and briefly escape your normal life.
  2. Get to know your professors, even if you feel like you don’t need to see them to get extra help. In the long run they can be a fantastic source for jobs / internships / networking, etc.
  3. Be whoever you want to be. You’ve got a clean slate to work with.
  4. Save money over the next four years so you don’t have to move home when you graduate.
  5. There is free money EVERYWHERE on EVERY college campus. All you have to do is ask and hunt around a little bit.
  6. Seriously, don’t drink the punch.
  7. Make sure you get solid grades to start because they’re much harder to destroy. On the flip side, a bad base GPA is almost impossible to make up for.
  8. Avoid your “inappropriateness” being leaked onto the internet. It WILL come back to haunt you.
  9. You can join ANYTHING. If you’re a guy, join the cheering team- they always want guys and then you can touch hot girls everyday. If you’re a girl, be a coxswain for the guys’ crew team.
  10. Join some professional societies. Most student memberships are free, you really don’t have to do anything to remain active and it looks really impressive on your resume or future school applications.

Beth, Northeastern Class of ’11

  1. Keep your door open and say “hi” to everyone. And walk around and introduce yourself to interesting people and non-interesting people, because you’ll never know if they’re interesting or not until you meet them.
  2. Go exploring.
  3. You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, just be a good roommate.
  4. Buy your books ahead of time to get the used ones for cheaper!
  5. When your moving in, put your clothes in trash bags because they’re easier to carry and throw into those moving bins.
  6. ALWAYS double check for your key/card/device to get into your room before you leave the room to shower…..!!!
  7. Get an ATM card if you don’t already have one and DON’T get Citizens bank, because their ATMs don’t exist in real life.
  8. Join a club or team.
  9. Look for every opportunity to get free stuff in the first month because there will be a TON.
  10. Who cares? Its life.

Have ten pieces that you’d like to offer to today’s freshmen? Leave them in a comment below.

43 thoughts on “The Unofficial College Freshman Survival Guide

  1. You young people…

    Leo, Clark University Class of ’86

    1. Watch those 12:00 Midnight pizzas. They don’t call it the Freshman 15 for nothing.
    2. Don’t give in to peer pressure just to fit in. You don’t want to do drugs, then don’t do drugs.
    3. Take a variety of classes in subjects you are interested in. You never know what you will discover about the subject, or about yourself.
    4. Be openminded. Not everyone is going to think the same way you do.
    5. Don’t trust any guys who say, “no, these pictures are just for you and me”. Please.
    6. Get out and exercise! See number one.
    7. Meet your professors. Get to know them.
    8. Don’t sign up for those credit cards. They’ll be the death knell on your future credit.
    9. If you need to work, try to get a job where you’ll meet a lot of fellow students, like the campus general store.
    10. Respect your parents. They will miss you a lot.

    11. And yes, dump the high school boyfriend.

  2. Western Illinois University ’95

    1. Work hard. play hard. It applies in real life as much as it does in college–learn to do both well.
    2. Stay far, far away from all the enticing credit card offers–student loans are the only debt you want to walk out of college with–and avoid those if at all possible
    3. Join at least one international club, even if for only a short time…getting involved in that diversity will give you a much more open mind
    4. Learn, know, and remember your limits, whether it be with how much alcohol you drink, how much sleep you need, or how you want to handle sex. Set your boundaries.
    5. You don’t have to get straight As, but try hard at your classes–it is expensive, so don’t waste your money or your parent’s money
    6. Avoid 8 a.m. classes on Fridays–chances are the weekend will start on Thursday and it will be hell on wheels trying to get to class every week.
    7. Have a good pair of flip-flops for the shower, groovy galoshes for the rainy days, and scarf, hat, gloves if you’re somewhere where it actually gets cold in the winter–it’s just no fun sitting through classes with soggy feet/socks or frozen fingers!
    8. The intramural sports teams on most campuses can be a great way to meet new people and stop the freshman 15 or 20!
    9. If your dorm cafeteria stinks, check out other dorms–sometimes they manage to have better food!
    10. Take a lot of pictures–10, 15, 20 years later you will get a good laugh out of them, I promise!

  3. 1. Sit up front in all of your classes. It sounds like a kiss-ass thing to do, but it works really well for getting more attention from teachers and TAs, and you really do learn more and get better grades doing it.
    2. Try not to drink. If you drink, try not to get drunk. If you get drunk, don’t be an asshole and ruin anyone’s stuff or barf on anything. And drink lots of Gatorade the next day.
    3. Don’t loan stuff you like to ANYONE, even if they’re your BFF. You’ll never get it back, or you’ll get it back broken.
    4. Try not to move back home over the summer. Instead get a job and live with housemates. If you move back home, you lose opportunities to learn how to deal with supporting yourself which will come in REALLY handy later.
    5. Get some cheap multivitamins from Trader Joe’s and take them every day.
    6. ALWAYS USE CONDOMS. Always always always, even if you’re in a monogamous relationship. I cannot stress this enough. You’ll thank me when your “true love” slips up and gets an STD from someone else.
    7. Wear really ugly old lady underwear to parties so you’re not tempted to strip off on a whim.
    8. Don’t start smoking cigarettes. People who do regret it a LOT later on.
    9. Don’t ever be afraid to ask shitloads of questions in class, and after class. You’re not here to prove how much you already know, you’re here to suck up knowledge and you’re paying to do so, so get your money’s worth! Plus it shows you’re paying attention.
    10. This isn’t the end-all be-all of your life. You’re going to learn a lot more later on, but this is a great place to acquire mad learning skillz.

  4. “The more I reminisced, the older I felt, so I put everything aside, had a cup of tea, and watched Matlock until I drifted off to sleep under my afghan.”

    Ha. Good line. That’s how I feel sometimes…

    My one tip, often repeated above in different ways.

    1. Remember, it’s not all as serious as everyone makes it out to be.

  5. save your money, don’t go to college after highschool. then when you figure it out, get a useful degree and make lots of money.

  6. I wish I would have had this list before I entered college – it would have made a HUGE difference in what I did.

    The only tip I have is to echo several others: participate in a study abroad program. It is the cheapest way to see the world (or a small portion of it that you otherwise might not ever see) and you will NEVER regret it!

  7. I needed that. I just needed that. It was great advice, it made me laugh, it made my teenagers laugh, and it completely (at least for the moment) put it all into perspective. Thanks! Teenage Daughter #2 pulled the site up at a friend’s house where all the entering Freshman College Students from our town are joined this evening to wish her good-bye.

  8. Embry Riddle Aeronautical University ’11

    1. Go to a college far from home, you can always transfer if you hate it. You learn to be much more independent and your friends become your family.
    2. You don’t have to be best friends with ur roommate, you both just have to be considerate
    3. get a small laundry basket. when it’s full you won’t have to find 4 available washers/dryers, it’ll all fit in one.
    4. if you have broken ribs and a bruised liver, don’t drink so much that you think u can run around
    5. do not puke into a mesh trash barell, it’s really hard to clean out.
    6. Go greek. Just don’t go for whatever group is most popular, figure out which one you fit in with best.
    7. No matter how boring the class, if you start skipping it, make sure there’s no tests coming up.
    8. Appreciate dorm life. There’s no other opportunity to have all your friends together every day.
    9. DON’T BE DEMANDING. Make sure that something is really an important problem before you go yelling at ur roommate/hallmates for it. If you bitch about everything, they’ll all just get angry at you.
    10. Don’t drunk text ur friends every night. it’s funny the first time, but it seems fake and annoying when it’s all the time.
    11. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR ROOMMATE!!! If you don’t talk about something, it will be a problem. and it will continue to grow into a huge problem.

  9. I’m an entering college freshman, and i really appreciated this list… i can already tell that this knowledge will come in handy.

    thanks guys.

  10. 1. You’re not in high school. Shut up and pay attention in class.
    2. If your college gives credit for playing lacrosse, transfer out now. You’re supposed to be getting an education.
    3. If the psychology department gets more money and a bigger building than chemistry, physics or math….run!
    4. The army vet in back of you in PHY2022 with the fake leg – he got that leg blown off in Iraq while your sister was playing lacrosse at college. So shut up and show some consideration, he’s there for an education, not to party.
    5. Turn off your cell phone. Now.
    6. Statistically, most of you girls will marry soon after college or while still attending. You will then get pregnant and typically not work in your field to any significant degree. If your parents paid for your ‘education’ they will have wasted a lot of money. That’s why women get paid less for the same work as men and explains the presence of ‘glass ceilings’.
    7. I wrote #6 just to piss you off. It worked.
    8. Congratulations if you get your degree. Keep in mind the people who fix your car, roof, air conditioning, heating, plumbing and appliances didn’t get degrees. But they want their children to have one. You will pay accordingly.
    9. Get a broad, generalized educational foundation. Specialization is for insects.
    10. After you graduate, no one will give a s$%t what you did in college. Unless you get into politics, then you deserve to have it come back on you.

  11. “8. Appreciate dorm life. There’s no other opportunity to have all your friends together every day.”
    Amen. Having just graduated from college, I would give anything to go back to a place where all of the best friends I’ve ever had were all around me instead of scattered around the world. To those of you lucky enough to be just starting college, love those amazing people you’re going to meet like there is no tomorrow because soon enough, there won’t be. Also, don’t think getting closer to college friends than to high school friends makes you a bad friend. Please don’t be one of those people who sits in the room and doesn’t get to know anyone because he or she misses old friends. These are really some of the most amazing people you will ever know; if you waste this time, you will regret it for the rest of your life.

  12. Go on your own terms, if you want to keep your High School BF/GF then do it. If you want to party until 2 am and then write a 15 page paper that is due at 9 am; then do it, etc. If you don’t think you are ready for college right after High School then wait a year or two or five. It’s your life, live it how YOU want to. I kept my High School girlfriend and I have now been married for 7 wonderful years, and guess what…shock…we both actually have our degrees. Don’t let anyone tell you how to live life, yes most people who go down a path may end with a certain result; but you won’t if you’ll be the exception unless you try it yourself.

    1. I think your comment was the most useful. I’m heading off to University/College this week and the negativity surrounding high school boyfriends/girlfriends had put me on edge. While I accept that I may not remain in a relationship with my current boyfriend, it’s nice to know that it’s not completely doomed.

  13. 1. meet new people. leaving your old friends behind is difficult. I am terrible at making friends and when I showed up at college i had a hard time. eventually i came out of my shell now i have some amazing friends who have helped me through hard times. the sooner you make friends the better. having upperclassmen friends is also a good thing.

    2. don’t stay up till 2 am when you have a class at 8 the next day. especially if it is a lecture class.

    3. when you have problems talk to someone. whether it be a counsler, friend, or teacher it is always good just to have someone listen.

  14. Florida Institute of Technology ’09

    1. Don’t spend freshman year drunk. I don’t care if you drink, just don’t let it interfere with school. Your GPA will not thank you. However, everyone else will be laughing at you.

    2. Find out what classes you need to take in order to graduate. Broadening your horizons is good and all, but when you find out after 4 years of college you can’t graduate because you took Italian instead of General Chemistry freshman year, you’re not going to be happy. Ask your adviser, or better yet, look in your school’s catalog. Planning your classes out a couple of semesters in advance is a good idea, especially if you end up having to retake a class.

    3. Don’t go greek. You don’t need to pay for friends. See also number 1.

    4. Try to limit yourself to one or two organizations. I know everyone tells you to go out and get involved with everything, but it’s really not a great idea. Those who are involved with everything generally have no time to do anything.
    At the beginning of the year, go ahead and attend a bunch of meetings so you can find a group that’s a good fit for your interests.

    5. Get a day planner/calender/any sort of scheduling device. Place it someplace that you’ll see it/use it every day. At the beginning of each semester mark the dates of all your exams, quizzes and any major assignment due dates and hopefully you won’t have too many “OMG, I HAVE A PAPER DUE TOMORROW!” moments.

    6. It’s ok to nap.

    7. Get an umbrella. No one likes to sit in wet clothes in a cold classroom.

    8. Buy your textbooks used and online. A lot of times, older editions are just as good as the new one, so don’t overlook them.

  15. UK class of ’07 ;)
    1. Don’t give in to the temptation to sleep instead of going to class.
    2. Be responsible with credit cards! They’re useful, especially if your parents don’t support you and you need to pay summer tuition (shop around for “0% interest until December” deals).
    3. Get a job! Preferably on campus–the hours are usually very flexible. Ideally in your field. It takes a bit of hunting, but once you have your foot in the door you can graduate with a KILLER resume. ;)
    4. Even if your dorm walls are thick, your floors and ceilings might not be. Don’t make your neighbors angry!
    5. Call your parents often. It’s easier and less time-consuming to have a five-minute conversation while you’re walking to class than to have a two-hour conversation once a month! Plus, it will keep them happy.
    6. If you think there is even a small chance you might want to go to grad school, get into research ASAP!
    7. Try to find an upperclassperson in your major. They are very useful and can help you avoid making some huge scheduling mistakes!
    8. After you graduate, your friends are probably going to scatter and you might not see many of them again. Take advantage of the time you have, and meet as many new people as possible.
    9. Take advantage of the privacy options Facebook offers! You don’t want future employers to hold those crazy party pics against you.
    10. If you’re a pre-med, don’t act like one! Your TAs, professors and classmates will ALL hate you. Resist the temptation to argue for that half-point on your quiz.

  16. Second-year student at Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville

    1. Whatever you do – keeping or losing your HS friends and BF/GF, doing every club you can or sticking with only two, taking all the classes or working, going out to party or staying in to study – make sure it is for the right reasons. Don’t do it just to do it. Do it because you think it’ll better your life in some way.

    2. Only you know the right reasons. Your friends can’t tell you what to do. They will offer an open ear (and if you have good friends, an objective ear), but the choice is only up to you.

    3. At the beginning of my Freshmen year, I didn’t like my roommate at all. I thought he was weird as hell, annoying, and kind of creepy. After a while as I got to know him, I started to like him more. This year we got an apartment together and I consider him one of my close friends. The moral: don’t be too quick to judge the people you meet, and try to give everyone a chance, because you don’t know the greatness you could be flushing out of your life.

    4. At that, my friend is a Freshmen this year and stuck in the dorms. His roommate is an asshole who steals his shit, doesn’t clean up after himself, is loud and obnoxious, doesn’t respect my friend’s sleeping schedule, and is in general a bad roommate and a bad person. The moral: try to give everybody a chance, but some people just aren’t worth it. Some people flat out don’t deserve your time.

    5. DON’T USE THE SNOOZE BUTTON! EVER! TAKE IT OfF THE DAMN ALARM CLOCK!

    6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look foolish. It’s better to look foolish for the sake of precision and understanding then to not fully understand something and then…whoops, you failed the next test, or couldn’t register for that class.

    7. If you find yourself debating between two things, always go with the one you think you “should” do. I always end up regretting my choice when I decide to do something I shouldn’t do.

    8. Everybody deserves to be a bit selfish sometimes. Your goal in life should be to be able to live with yourself. If you’re working on four papers, have to manage the treasury for the student government, have to practice piano, and your friend just called up crying needing a shoulder, do what you have to do to stay sane and coherent, even if that means sacrificing a blow to a friendship or a bad grade in a class. Sounds heartless, but it’s true.

    9. Have fun when you can. Your purpose is to get an education, so don’t waste money or time, but like I said, the goal is to be able to live with yourself. If you stay in every weekend and study, try to set up at least one weekend where you can go out with your friends. Screw the schoolwork every once in a while! You only get to live once.

  17. I want one of these articles for what to do after graduating: The Unofficial First Year Out-Of-College Survival Guide. That’s what I’m needing right now.

  18. Third year, Northern Kentucky University:

    1) Most people who say “no one works in the field of their majors anyway” are the type who think college is about finding yourself and making new friends. You CAN work in the field of your major–you just have to actually prepare for it. Intro to Chatting Up the Girl Across the Hall is not proper preparation. Neither is Advanced Beer-Bong Lab. Doing research with professors, getting internships and co-ops, taking on relevant academic and extra-curricular projects–THAT will land you a job in your field of interest. Your peers will be too busy cleaning the soap out of their ears from their last Naked Bubble Party to even realize what opportunities just passed them by.
    2) If you have time to goof off between Monday and Friday afternoon, you aren’t working hard enough.
    3) Make sure every professor, every semester, knows your name and your areas of interest by the end of the first week.
    4) Apply for relevant work experience. Avoid bullshit campus jobs–no one cares if you were the campus art museum curator. Employers want to see that you can be MORE than a student.
    5) Find yourself a career mentor–preferably a professor or adviser in your field of interest. Someone who knows you well enough to invite you to professional conferences. Someone who feels strongly enough about your abilities to introduce you to colleagues and recommend you for employment. If you don’t develop a relationship like this within two-three years of college, you aren’t working hard enough.
    6) Don’t become a Resident Adviser/Floor Monitor. You won’t be able to get out of the responsibility for an entire semester if you manage to land a real job.
    7) Don’t let the laziness and incompetence of your peers influence you. Calculus I isn’t ssoooo hhaaarrrdd, your friends just suck.
    8) Develop a meaningful and reliable relationship with one member of the opposite sex at a time, or none at all. Bank on the fact that chasing ass will be a hell of a lot easier and less time consuming once you’re a success. If you have time to chase ass now, you aren’t working hard enough.
    9) Women looking for their Mrs. degrees on daddy’s hard earned dollar–get it fast and get the hell out of everyone else’s’ way. The rest of us have success to achieve and money to earn.
    10) Try to avoid student loan debt if you can. Graduation is generally considered the cut off point for all financial pity from family, and you want to be sure you have enough to live on while you job hunt.

    Reality–it’s harsh.

  19. 1) Do what you want to do, not what everyone else says you should do.

    2) Don’t waste your time. Yes, it’s the most amazing 4 years of your life, but don’t throw it away on partying every day and not getting out and doing something actually worth talking about 20 years from now.

    3) Remember you’re an adult now and Mom and Dad, while still important, do not make your decisions for you now.

    4) Go Greek. It’s the easiest, funnest and most memorable way to meet people. And do it for the right reasons, i.e. meeting interesting people, making life long connections and broadening your social network. These are things you will greatly appreciate in the future. And if you do go Greek, don’t be the idiot who ruins it for everyone by routinely casting your house in a bad light by making a fool of yourself. Leave that for live-out parties without wearing your letters. And if you don’t go Greek, at least have some friends in the system. We have your best interest in mind when we tell which houses NOT to party at.

    5) Don’t be afraid to change your major! Yes, it will add time to your stay there, but it will most likely be worth it in the long run. Especially if you’d like to be happy.

    6) Live in the dorms for at least one term, you will make some good friends as long as you’re sociable.

    7) Take advantage of office hours! Even if they are at ridiculous hours.

    8) Have fun for fuck sake! Don’t let a perfect 4.0 GPA ruin a perfect 4 years of life that can’t be replaced!

    9) Some of your most important lessons will NOT be learnt in class.

  20. To the author of Truth … thank you. I have two teens in college right now and you mirror exactly what I have been trying to convey to them since day one. This is not a party and it’s not supposed to be easy. Networking is one of the most important things you can do for yourself in college. I hope my own college students are reading this.

  21. 1. Learn to communicate well. You will be living in other people’s space. You will be working in groups. You will be organizing your own life. If you don’t know how to express yourself clearly, you’re going to find yourself in heaps of trouble.

    2. Find like-minded people. Even if you were the oddball in high school, chances are you’ll find someone even weirder than you when you go to university. And unlike high school, you can choose your friends from a set of thousands, instead of being limited to a few hundred.

    3. Find your own niche to fit in. You don’t have to join everything if you don’t want. You don’t have to join anything, if you please. But make sure you’re comfortable with what you’re doing. You don’t want to reach your 30′s and then wish you had done more with your life when in university.

    4. Study and keep up with your classes. You know all that money you shelled out? Yeah, you don’t want to pay more because you have to take Physics I again after discovering your professor doesn’t give part marks. Believe me, your first failed midterm will hit you hard. Don’t go there.

    5. Your high school friends are important, but realize that if you lose contact with them, it’s not the end of the world. Chances are, you’ll still be able to hang out with them whenever you visit. But your life is here now. Embrace it.

    6. If you don’t want to drink/smoke/do drugs/have sex, you don’t have to. Most people won’t judge you for it, as long as you don’t wear it on your sleeve, and those that do aren’t worth your time. But if you make such a commitment, don’t slack. You will face much greater peer pressure to get drunk as an occasional drinker as opposed to a non-drinker.

    7. Get to know upper-years, especially within your own program. They will be invaluable when you find yourself in need of answers about both your classes and your life, and you might be able to score some sweet deals out of it (they may sell you their old textbooks at 25% the going rate).

    8. Be frugal. Don’t run into a situation where you have too much month left at the end of the money. Food/rent/tuition come first, then treat yourself. And remember: money you don’t spend is money you won’t have to pay the bank back later.

    9. Learn to cook. Seriously, take-out gets really disgusting after a while, and those living with you probably won’t appreciate the mountains of garbage it produces. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort (or money) to eat delicious, filling, nutritious meals that you’ve prepared yourself, and you’ll probably feel better about yourself because of it.

    10. You may have come from high school with a 99% average, but you WILL meet someone smarter than you. Don’t ever think you know everything. This especially applies when dealing with professors/TAs, even if speaking in coherent English isn’t their strong suit.

    12. Have fun. It’s your life now, so live it the way you want.

  22. 1. Don’t worry about what other people think. You really DON’T have to party all through the weekend. It’s not lame to take a day off and spend the night in with a movie.
    2. Make use of the gym! It’s probably the last time you’ll get a free gym membership as part of your living package, so use it.
    3. Don’t live off ramen. It’s cheap and good but you will regret it.
    4. Be friendlier and more outgoing than you knew you could be.
    5. Do all the orientation stuff, even if it’s lame. You can bond with the new friends you’ll make over how lame it is.
    6. Coffee is your friend, but procrastination is not.
    7. It’s definitely worth it to get the printer.
    8. Write things down! Trust me, you WON’T remember it later.
    9. Always lock your door.
    10. Enjoy yourself- college is, in some ways, like a very expensive, four-year vacation. Even the homework is stuff you technically chose to do, so make the best of it.
    11. Call home once in a while. They’ll want to know you aren’t dead.
    12. Bring your old books and movies from high school, but not your old boyfriend.

  23. 1. Be the person everyone knows of during orientation. Wear something flashy, dance at random times, just don’t care what others think. You’ll meet people who are interested in you and you’ll have those friends for a long time after all your antics were preformed.
    2. Experience life, be safe, but experience life. This is the opportunity to try drugs/drinking/sex whatever without being persecuted for it. Just be smart about what you are doing.
    3. Learn what lectures are important to attend, some you can miss and the time can be spent better other places while others you should attend or you will be lost.
    4. The outdoors is where it is at, and I don’t mean camping. Go to parks walk around campus, they are beautiful places and very relaxing.
    5. Don’t let others tell you how to run your life. If you study best at the last minute, so be it, but be aware of the difference between someone controlling your life and trying to help you.
    6. Get a campus job, it may be boring with low pay and crappy hours, but you get promoted quickly, make extra cash, and meet tons of people. Plus lots of free food, clothes, and other stuff.
    7. Club/Job fairs have lots of free stuff, and no one cares how you got it.
    8. For cleaning up stains on carpet that smell, use scented hair shampoo. The carpet will look funny, but it won’t smell.
    9. Everyone is always getting rid of stuff, some broken but usable, some not broken just replaced. Always keep your eye out, you might like something more than you thought.
    10. Travel safe and travel smart. If it might rain, don’t wear a shirt/shorts that are see through when wet, and if they are, wear underwear. Flip flops are your friend, so are boat shoes.
    12. Rush Greek, and go to every house. You may not like all the people, but it will be a fun party, and you will likely meet one or 2 that you do like.

  24. 1: Free food is the greatest thing ever. Volunteer, join clubs, and attend meetings. Free food and snacks are served at all of the above. Frequently there’s extra that you can take home and save in your fridge if you ask.

    2: Everything you believe about yourself will change. I was a agnostic heterosexual, meat eating international management major. I am now a lesbian vegan atheist geography major.

    3: Answer questions often, but as quickly and concisely as possible. The professor will stand there and stare at the class until someone does, it may as well be you. Beware though, if your answer is too elaborate everyone else in the class will hate your guts.

    4: Spell check is functionally useless when it comes to grammar. Double check your papers. Professors will let stupid answers and a complete lack of a point slide before they let a grammar mistake through.

    5: First year sucks for everyone. Don’t let it get you down. And for your own sake, don’t fail any classes.

    6: The food in the cafeteria is not, in all honesty, food. It’s actually an unsanitary mix of every cheap fattening agent on the planet. There will be no healthy options. Also, 250 ml of milk will cost two dollars. There is nothing you can do about it.

    7: Don’t talk in class. Also don’t ask questions. The question is definitely stupid as all hell. Don’t make yourself a laughing stock. Ask questions after class.

  25. 1) make friends…………..its most important to be in a circle because once the year gets going ppl aren’t so welcoming anymore.
    2) Adjust ur timetable so u can go with ur friends to malls and etc………have free time
    3) study from day 1………..because the exams are not like highschool they ask things never taught in class
    4) attend class regularly……..impression on teachers count……unlike highschool uni prof don’t have to explain the grades they give.
    5) Live in a dorm if possible……..best and most easy way to acheive tip #1
    6)Concentrate on the important subjects of ur field most……….the less important subjects won’t help u in the future
    7)Concerning booze………where i live the legal age is 18………..be a smart drinker………don’t compete till u pass out………don’t compete till u start speaking spainish………(unless u are in a spainish speaking uni)
    8)Smoking………..its very popular in uni……….i leave it up to u…..just don’t get addicted
    9)Money……..don’t spend it on the whisky and vodka…….be wise…….and use the cheapest means of transportation if not in an emergency
    10)Girls……..don’t go to pubs, bar which have naked female pic
    11)Boys……….don’t go to pubs, bar which have naked male pic
    12)Always stay up-to-date on all activities
    13)MOST IMPORTANT ENJOY!!!!!

  26. UNC junior.

    1. no greeks, it really isnt worth it unless you need cheep drugs and cheet sheets for your exam. Frat guys are actually not as cool as high school kids think, they are often ether fat slobs or narcissists. My dad owns a large company and he says that himself and his associates actually generally turn down applications with frats listed because the actual community service aspect is so minimal. Frats have a better reputation than they should because they manage to keep their grades up with coke and speed cramming sessions and brothers old exams/ papers.

    If you havnt been to college yet than get this– Its nothing like high school. remember those stupid social rules and feeling like you had to look good every day, social upkeep,
    gossip and all that…. No one gives a s#%t in college.. you can be whatever you want and be friends with anyone- some of my best friends are stunning ladies, pimply geeks, jocks, fat nerds, quite art kids, social party animals, and everything in between… be friends with everyone and never judge on who they are, the only thing you will be known for is how nice you are

    get good grades, and seriously if you really do study every day, even only for 2 hrs you will have absolutely no problem making all A s

    Unless youre against it ( never do something you dont want) do some light drugs, get drunk and let loose and then stop. the biggest problem ive seen on my campus is some kids dont know that you shouldnt let loose, party or get f%&d up every day or even every weekend. I go out once every 2 weeks, i am much healthier and honestly i have more fun at the gym than huddled around a keg in the cold sucking on a poorly rolled blunt.

    No snooze button ever
    no 8 am classes ever
    off campus living is always more expensive than what the landlord says you will have to pay
    NO HIGH SCHOOL GF/BF I have seen it fail about 25-30 times and work once but they went to the same college.

  27. I am halfway through my freshman year and as I read, I can agree with a lot of what is being said. I also picked up some tips for the next semester. Thanks for a great list!

  28. Vanderbilt Class of 07

    1. All those required classes you have to take? Actually go and pay attention, you might discover something you really like.

    2. If you can’t pronounce it, do not eat it.

    3. Fruit juice in your room that ferments is garbage not homemade wine.

    4. Make a good friend, as in one who you trust to take care of you if you drink too much and not one who would just draw obscene things on your face with a marker.

    5. Just because there are more students doesn’t mean everyone won’t know about it if you’re that kid who was table dancing at the Sig Ep party.

    6. Be careful what you put up on facebook, you might want a real job someday.

    7. Call your mom. Seriously she loves you.

    8. Don’t be afraid to change things.

    9. Try out for a club or organization because it’s a good way to meet people who aren’t in your dorm or your major.

    10. Explore the city around your university, especially if you are somewhere far from home!

  29. Randall, Class of 10′

    This is from a more Aussie point of view.
    And a day student point of view.

    1. Student cards or ID. You’ll never know when you might do something spontaneous like go to the cinema only to find that students get 45% discounts, and you end up paying full price.

    2. Don’t be a bitch!! Nobody likes lousy team-members for group assignments, and being an asshole/arsehole doesn’t help. It won’t help you in the long run.

    3. Why doesn’t it help you? Because you get people like me who will name and shame you on the course boards and when people start looking for partners, they will know your a lousy team-player and prefer not to work with you.

    4. Join ALL the clubs. Well, as many as you can anyway. Some unis/colleges will have “BOOZE CLUBS”. You like booze? Everybody likes Booze!!

    5. If your an international student DON’T do stupid things. You MIGHT get your visa revoked. Fighting after a few drinks is one of them.

    6. MAKE FRIENDS!! Connections are what makes businesses and powerful people. Be friendly and don’t act like your dads a King. Your just another brick in a wall like everybody else.

    7. Don’t believe that Hollywood stereotypes bullshit. The “emo” or “nerd” who you see at time to time could one day bloom and become successful in life. He could be your boss!!

    8. Money is power, and like all strong men/women, we all want power. SO!! Don’t share it. A soft heart can cost you hundreds. For guys, this is especially true with women. They only love you for your money and your beers.

    9. Long distance relationships are like weights on your shoulder. Cutting lose is like lifting those weights away. It’ll be good for you.

    10. Don’t be a fool, wrap your tool. Last thing you wanna be is a daddy/mommy in college.

  30. 1. Rate myprofessor.com and myprofessorsucks.com are your BFFLs! when choosing courses. USE THEM if ur future professor is an A-hole it’ll let u know and save you a lott of headaches.

    2. Get a trashcan without holes in it…when ur roomie wakes u up at 3 by puking into a backpack u’ll suddenly regret not having a better puke bucket :)

    3. Do stuff. Join things. Get out of your room. Great stuff goes down at college.

    4. Become as close as possible with your neighbors they’re the people most likely to help you out and know wether or not u get home in one piece. Take care of them and they’ll most likely look after you as well.

    5. DO NOT use your dust buster to suck up vom. Even if its the kind that can suck up water. If you try pouring laundry soap on ur floor and try sucking that up too it will not get the staank out. Your beloved vacuum will never smell the same. just saying.

    6. Be crafty. people love interesting decor. Bring craft supplies, Don’t let your room look like a jail cell. Decorate everything and people will like being in your room. you wont get lonely…yoga balls make great chairs.

    7. Go greek but not first semester!! Going greek is great. First semester is hectic. Second semester’s the way to go.

    8. Have a designated friend who will save you from any and all people deemed creepy as soon as you give them the “get me the eff out of here” look. Just have them grab ur arm mid dance/mid convo/mid anything and tug you away like its important.

    9. Go to the gym from day 1. make that habit early otherwise you’ll be chasing after your fabulous highschool abs for-ev-err.

    10. Be independant. Dont be afraid to do things by yourself. If you’re always waiting for someone to do everything with you you’ll miss out on a lot. Not to mention going places alone you’ll meet loads more new friends. Everyone loves someone with connections.

    11. Get a B.S. job. Or two such as gameroom attendant, mailroom person, receptionist to the receptionists receptionist etc. you’re basically being forced to study for hours at a time while being paid. not a bad scenario

  31. 1. During exam season, get a battery alarm clock. If your cellphone has an alarm feature, use that. Set both alarms.

    2. Papers are easier to write if you enjoy the topic, so try to pick topics you’ll like. My favorite elective ended up being the one I did the most work in.

    3. Nine times out of ten, if you don’t like the people you associate with, it’s because the people who you would like don’t like you. It’s up to you to change that.

    4. Related to the above: be who you are. It will make your life alot less stressful, and the right people will like you more for it.

    5. In high school, people always wore some sort of mask. It’s not the same at a university. People have dimension, even if they seem uninteresting at first. Remember that.

    6. Spilt alcohol really stinks up a small, carpeted dorm room.

    7. It’s cheaper to pre-drink.

    8. Figure out what is your hugest stress-releaver, and practice it. Always. Mine is looking at an hourglass or a lavalamp, so I have each of those in my room. They get looked at often.

    9. Try to sleep 8 out of 24 hours. How you get them is up to you.

    10. Smile, cause it’s going to be a heck of a ride.

    AND THE MOST IMPORTANT ONE!!!

    11. Experiment: A good thing to do is to try to set a weekly goal, something that you’ve never experienced before. Try new things. Eat different foods. Play new games. Look for cultural events on and off campus. Check out the gay bar. Visit a coffee shop poetry reading. Open mike night. Shop in small boutiques. Eavesdrop on other people’s converations, try to learn something from it (except don’t be a creep about it). Listen to new bands. Talk to random people. The more diverse your experiences, the more you’ll learn about yourself – and isn’t that the whole point of university?

  32. Wow, “Mac” (and the others who said not to go greek) you have a very skewed and incorrect view of fraternities and sororities. While there are always going to be people out there who rightfully deserve such awful reputations I highly doubt that you have any actual experience within a greek system. All of the greeks organizations on my campus have required study hours every week based on each member’s gpa, and we help each other out when it comes to classes that we’ve already taken by giving advice on what to focus on and helping explain things. My school (and I always assumed others did too) has a policy of not giving students tests back. If I want to see my actual test I would have to do so in my professor’s office or in class but I would never get to keep it or give it to someone else.

    If anyone doubts the legitimacy of the large amounts of community service that millions of greeks have contributed to society then they should probably take the time to talk to someone and ask them about what they did. Just because I chose to join one organization that has given me the opportunity to do community service, make friends, network, attend conferences, speakers, educational events, as well as have fun you shouldn’t dismiss me as a potential employee. Your father is passing up alot of really great, motivated and experienced leaders that I’m sure would contribute to his company.

    …and coke? seriously? If my national organization ever found out I was doing drugs my membership would be terminated.

    I’m sorry you haven’t had all of the opportunities that i have

  33. JLK:
    I have been involved in a Greek organization that does all of what you mention and more, and it was STILL one of the least productive experiences I’ve had in my college career. It was little more than a major time-drain all for one close to meaningless entry on my resume. Employers are right to consider it a useless thing as those who would choose it over a REAL job in their field of interest is a fool. If you have time for Greek bullshit, then you either can’t get a real job or don’t know what the hell you’re in college for. Either is a reason to quit school now and come back once you’ve gotten a real hard look at the world.

    JAK:

    Good luck! Let the rest of the posters be an indicator of the “feel” of college campuses these days. This crap goes from RAs mouths straight into their heads–most professors don’t even try to give students the real scoop on life and work because they know most wouldn’t make it through one semester of reality.

    The smart ones get it from day one, though. If you prepare your kids, they’ll see through the vanity of Naked Bubble Parties and Frat Fun Houses.

  34. “TRUTH”
    hahaha, I’m sorry to burst your anti-fun bubble, but JAK is actually my mother. So, I am proof that you can focus on your education and go to “naked bubble parties” -(I just thought I’d mention that I have never actually been to anything that would even remotely resemble a “naked bubble party” but I’m sure it would be a really memorable experience).

    clearly there was alot of things wrong with the greek community that you joined. Your generalization however is exactly the same as someone who went to a notorious party school saying that a college education is completely useless because everyone just drinks until they’re hospitalized and no one goes to class.

    If you don’t look into the group you’re joining and get to know the people in it then it’s your own fault for joining a group that will waste your time. If you read my first post I specifically said that you shouldn’t just join any greek organization, you should figure out which one you feel is right for you. It’s the same as any group of friends that you could make, there’s some that party too much, there’s some that study all day and there’s lots in between. You have to know what it is that you want to get out of it.

    You will get out of greek life whatever you put into it. Because I have taken on officer positions in both my sorority and panhellenic (the organization that governs over the sororities) I have had opportunities to plan events, influence the direction that our greek community is going, attend regional conferences, workshops on ettiquette, business attire, networking, marketing, leadership, resume writing, and so much more. I know more students, professors, advisors and others who work in every area of my university than I could ever imagine.

    Not everyone has the option of finding a job that applies to their career, and not everyone knows exactly what career they are looking for. If there is a homeland security job in Daytona Beach that would also work with my class schedule I would do anything for it. In the mean time, I plan on taking advantage of the infinate opportunities that I have not found anywhere other than the greek community.

  35. “Wow, “Mac” (and the others who said not to go greek) you have a very skewed and incorrect view of fraternities and sororities. ”

    I’m always baffled about the legitimacy of someone who feels the need to tell someone else their opinions are ‘wrong’.

  36. I wasn’t saying that they can’t have their opinions, I was saying that they’re going off of a stereotype that is grossly inaccurate.

  37. Dont go Greek, you may regret it. I have friends who join different kinds, one of them is sigma beta chi or some shit like that and they just keep complaining about what they do there (running errands during the week for their meetings and shit, hooking up with other frat boys, gossipping about frat boys, talking shit behind people’s backs). Invest the time into your own education and volunteer in your field. Don’t damage your GPA. Waste of time with Greek shit!!!

  38. 1— College isn’t cheap. Don’t waste your money. This means that you should show up to those classes and study hard for them. But don’t forget you’re paying to meet people and have amazing weekends and breaks too. Utilize all the facets of your college of choice to their fullest.

    2— Open your mind and shut your mouth. You’re 18 years old and there’s never been a better time for you to learn that you know an utterly insignificant amount about the world. If you get this right, you’ll never feel like you know everything there is to know. Overconfidence is a bitch. Nothing is less sexy and nothing will blow apart your dreams any faster.

    3— Learn about your school’s Greek system. Some colleges have great Greek life, some do not. If it fits you, join. If it doesn’t, stay the hell away. Don’t let other people decide this for you. Feel it out and move forward.

    4— Drink, smoke, get stoned, get laid, do the walk of shame, hallucinate, streak, stay up all night, listen to music way too loudly, skip class on a Tuesday to get wasted mid-morning and drive across state or across country or to Mexico and back with $6 in your pocket. Or don’t. It’s your life, this is your time to figure out how YOU want to live YOUR LIFE.

    5— Buy an army surplus duffel bag. A huge one. Because doing laundry blows, you won’t motivate yourself to do it more than a couple times a month. That said, it’s best to be able to lug it around easily. These are THE BEST things you can get.

    6— Get a box of condoms. Keep them in your dorm. Make sure they aren’t expired. When they expire, buy new ones. Even if you throw away a full box every 6 months, keep at it. Even if you are committed to remaining a virgin until you’re married, do it. College is about learning responsibility. Shit happens. Maybe you’ll wind up with a member of the opposite sex in your dorm and things will go places you didn’t mean for them to go. Well, regret over sex is a hell of a lot easier to manage than pregnancy or an STD.

    7— Keep a gallon jug of water near your bed. If you go out and get wasted, commit yourself to drinking as much of it as you can stand before you go to bed. Hangovers are nothing more than alcohol-induced dehydration. You can avoid them pretty easily by drinking loads of water before bed. In the morning, wake up, pop 3 Advil, drink a Gatorade and get on with life.

    8— Make friends. When you graduate, your friends and their friends will become your network. Your network will expand and grow, and let me assure you that your network will serve your job-hunting needs better than ANY degree you’re ever going to get. Your friends are also the family you choose, and it’s by pouring out our love for others that we find our own happiness.

    9— Learn what it means to do for others. School clubs are great, but they don’t mean a damn thing to anyone outside of college. Join the rescue squad or the fire department. Volunteer a day a week at the soup kitchen or a local homeless shelter. You’ll learn more about the world and yourself than you would during a lifetime of classes, you’ll learn some valuable skills and you’ll get something that you can actually put on a resumé that people will care about.

    10— Don’t get married right out of college. Wait at least a couple years. Once you’ve graduated and had the world kick your ass for a while, you’re going to look at things very differently. A deferred marriage is an awful lot easier than a divorce.

    11— Ok, so the original post asked for a list of 10 things, but you’re getting a freebie eleventh from me. Here it is. Ready for it? If you haven’t by now, learn to write and speak and punctuate. I don’t care if you have a PhD in Nuclear Physics from Berkeley, you’re going to come off as an idiot if you can’t communicate. From engineers to journalists, we all need to be able to use language to the best of our ability. Take some English classes, learn to diagram a sentence in your sleep and acquaint yourself with the fundamentals of successful argument and debate. You’ll be more interesting, you’ll seem smarter and you’ll succeed in ANY job you take, regardless of the field, easier as a result.

  39. 1- College is not high school. You are not at the top of the totem pole anymore. In college, there is no totem pole. Everyone is pretty much equal. That’s right, even the geeks. So stop acting like you are the shit.

    2- Don’t see the freedom of college as an excuse to act stupid. Don’t hoot and holla at the top of your lungs outside the dorms at 2 am, move out of the way of people when they are walking and driving, don’t ask stupid questions.

    3- DO ask smart questions. If you are lost during the first week, find someone that looks like they have been there a few semesters and ask them where your classes are. Most upperclassmen don’t mind pointing the way.

    4- If you feel like going Greek, wait at least till second semester or even sophomore year. That way you can get a feel for the Greek life at your school.

    5- Find the local bar, taco place, coffee shop, grocery store. They probably offer discounts if you have a student ID and you may meet some cool people there.

    6- Don’t feel like you absolutely have to be social. College is for learning too. If you have a test the next morning, don’t go out all night just because you think you need to make friends.

    7- If you live in a dorm, learn to clean up your own shit. Your room mates are not your substitute mother.

    8- Get to know at least one or two professors in your major. When it comes time for job or grad school recommendations, you don’t want to be empty handed.

    9- Be generally respectful on a daily basis. Respect your room mate, your professors, your classmates, the librarian, the chick at the burger stand and your RA. People will remember respect and appreciate it a lot.

    10- Don’t bend over backwards, but try to be nice to people. College can be hard and it can totally suck ass sometimes. If you are a bit nicer, some one will have a better day for it.

  40. This has to be the coolest and most helpful thing I’ve read. I start in 2 days and it has definitely helped take the edge off any nervousness.

  41. wow, thanks everyone – this is all really helpful.

    i do have to say though – i beleive the high school boyfriend/girlfriend situation has some exceptions. when you are lucky enough to go to college near eachother, or are especially serious, i’d say stay with them. obviously don’t give up new opportunities at making new friends, but i wouldn’t suggest just dumping them because you think you’ll find someone better off the bat.

    haha, sorry for the rant. i’m an optimistic hopeless romantic. good luck everyone!

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