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.
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.
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.
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
- Just because it’s at the cafeteria doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
- Proofread the paper you wrote at 4 AM, because when you’re awake, it probably won’t make any sense.
- 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.
- Don’t wait until the day before to write a 15 page paper.
- Don’t take an art history class, or really anything that relies on dark slide-shows, at 9 AM.
- Coffee is your friend, but will not enable you to stay up all night, every night.
- 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.”
- 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.
- Go off campus as much as possible.
- Pass your classes. College is expensive.
Collins, La Salle Class of ’05
- Meet as many people and make as many connections as you can.
- Try something different (club/sport).
- Stay in touch with your friends from college over the summer.
- Explore the area that you are going to college in.
- Get in tight with the teachers that are in your major.
- Meet as many members of the opposite sex as possible.
- Go abroad.
- Go to a lot of parties.
- Meet up with people that you may know from home at neighboring colleges.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY
- Don’t let your books get in the way of your education!
Maura, Rhode Island Class of ’06
- Study abroad or do a national student exchange. It’s the cheapest way to get some travel experience and briefly escape your normal life.
- 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.
- Be whoever you want to be. You’ve got a clean slate to work with.
- Save money over the next four years so you don’t have to move home when you graduate.
- There is free money EVERYWHERE on EVERY college campus. All you have to do is ask and hunt around a little bit.
- Seriously, don’t drink the punch.
- 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.
- Avoid your “inappropriateness” being leaked onto the internet. It WILL come back to haunt you.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- Go exploring.
- You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate, just be a good roommate.
- Buy your books ahead of time to get the used ones for cheaper!
- When your moving in, put your clothes in trash bags because they’re easier to carry and throw into those moving bins.
- ALWAYS double check for your key/card/device to get into your room before you leave the room to shower…..!!!
- 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.
- Join a club or team.
- Look for every opportunity to get free stuff in the first month because there will be a TON.
- Who cares? Its life.
Have ten pieces that you’d like to offer to today’s freshmen? Leave them in a comment below.