advice

Alexandra asked me to write her a book of advice for her first year in college.

I originally told her I had no advice, but I thought about it more and realized I had picked up a few things that might be worth sharing. And if they are worth sharing with her, they are worth sharing with the entire internet. So here’s a little advice for incoming college freshman. Feel free to comment suggestions if you have anything to add!

  • Make a list of things you want to tell your mom. You may start out calling your mom everyday, but I promise you that will fade. Eventually you will call her and not remember everything you wanted to say. I keep a list in my notes app on my phone of all the things that I want to tell my mom so I don’t forget and I keep her updated on my life.
  • Remember to call your dad. He might not understand as much as your mom, but he wants to stay updated on your life just as much as she does. He will be so happy when you call him and he doesn’t have to hear how you are doing from your mom. He will try to relate to you with some irrelevant story from when he was in college. Just laugh and tell him you love him. He will always be proud of you.
  • Buy the biggest laundry hamper you can find. Trust me, a normal laundry basket is not big enough. Try to get one that is tall so you can pile your clothes even higher. It can ride in the backseat when you take it home for your mom to wash.
  • Pack light. If you’re wondering if you will wear something, the answer is probably no. Most parties are themed so you will be wearing more costumes than nice clothes. Get familiar with Goodwill. Leave movies, nail polish, piles of makeup, stuffed animals, and breakable trinkets at home. They are just a pain and you won’t use them.
  • Prepare for rain. You should bring a rain jacket, rain boots, and a small umbrella that fits in your backpack. Check the weather before you leave for the day, and if there is even a slight chance of rain, stick the umbrella in your backpack. Put two plastic bags in your backpack. This sounds weird, but you will be all the way across campus and it will start pouring rain. Your umbrella will not cover your backpack, in fact it will drip water directly onto your backpack.  Put one bag over your laptop and the other bag over the rest of your books to keep everything dry. This trick is a lifesaver.
  • Keep Febreze in your room at all times. It can cover up the stench of your tall pile of laundry or the nasty spaghetti-o’s your roommate heated up at midnight. Keep Febreze handy and use it often.
  • Don’t feel obligated to do everything (or anything) with your roommate. You are roommates. That’s it. Whether you are best friends or strangers, you need to make your own friends outside of your roommate.
  • Join two clubs. Join one club for academics or your future job, like Future Teachers of America. It will look great on your resume, especially if you stick with it for four years. Join another club that is just cool, like the scuba diving club. Clubs are a great way to meet people who share the same interests as you. Once you join, actually participate in their events. If you join a club and hate it, stop going and find another.
  • Don’t be afraid to apply for something. So what if you don’t get it? Apply anyways. Apply for everything that interests you. Eventually, you will get something. The more things you are involved in, the easier it is to get involved in other, better things. If you start getting involved in too much, quit something. Just don’t be afraid to try something new.
  • Talk to the people you sit by in class. Start the conversation by complaining about the homework and your classmates are sure to join in. I met some of my best friends by just sitting next to someone and starting a conversation. They are going to save you when you sleep through your 8am and need the lecture notes, and you are going to do the same for them. I had Jacob in my math classes for three semesters before I talked to him, and now we are best friends in the same major.
  • It’s okay to eat alone. At first it feels very weird because eating alone in high school was like social suicide. But in college, no one gives a shit. Everyone is on different schedules and there will be times when you get to eat with a table of friends and there will be times when it’s only you. No one is judging you.
  • Stay for the first four weekends. I know it seems like a lot, but those first weekends can go a long way. Staying in college for the first four weeks forces you to be independent. You’re going to miss your parents and your siblings, your boyfriend, and your friends, but you need to focus on building your new college life. Figure out how to do your laundry, go to the stupid dorm mixer, and meet other scared freshman like you.
  • Have some school spirit. You chose to go to college, so you should support it. Go to tailgates, football games, swim meets, and participate in school traditions. No one is ‘too cool’ to be totally invested in their university. You’ll have a much better college experience if you love the school you attend.
  • Participate in volunteer work and philanthropy events. One thing that really surprised me about college was how many philanthropy events there are. Seriously, there’s always a charity that is raising money, and they are usually pretty fun. Go, have fun, and feel good about raising money for philanthropies that are improving the world.
  • Let high school go. Stop talking about high school. Talking about your achievements sounds like bragging, talking about your old friends is boring when nobody else knows them, and talking about your boyfriend makes you seem clingy and pathetic. No one cares that your volleyball team was ranked number one in the nation or that your boyfriend plays D1 football. You can tell the occasional kick-ass story, but focus on making new memories with new people and leave the past in the past.
  • Celebrate the little things. Go out for ice cream when you and your friends ace your biology exam. Decorate your friend’s dorm for her birthday. Buy confetti popper when your friend gets a leadership position or an internship. It feels good to celebrate your friends achievements, and if they are worth keeping around, they will celebrate yours with you.
  • Keep a memory jar. Okay, this one sounds stupidly corny but some of my friends who just graduated kept one at their house. They wrote funny stories, cherished memories and every achievement on little pieces of paper and stuck them in a huge mason jar on their mantle. Then when they moved out, they went through and read all of the memories from their house. They laughed and cried and said it was the best decision they made in college. My roommates and I are planning to do this next year and I think you should start now.
  • Only keep friendships that make you a better person. You are going to naturally grow apart from some people. That’s okay. People change in college and you won’t stay friends with the same people. Don’t stay friends with the girl who gets on your last nerve or the guy who only texts you once a month for relationship advice. Even the friends you make freshman year might not be right for you sophomore year. Let friendships go if they don’t make you a better person.
  • Go to class. Going to class is so easy. You just go and pay attention and take notes. It will make the class so much easier. You’re going to need to study more than you did in high school. It sucks, but it’s true. Go to class, read the book, do the homework, study for the tests. Ask those friends you made in class  if they want to meet up for a study session at the library. It helps to have people to bounce your ideas off of and they can help answer questions you don’t understand.
  • Tutoring isn’t for stupid people. I will admit that I thought only stupid people went to tutoring my freshman year. Sophomore year I learned that tutoring just helps you better grasp the material. Sometimes, the concepts are taught in a different way that makes it easier to understand. Don’t be ashamed to go to tutoring, your grades will only improve.
  • Bad grades aren’t the end of the world. I never thought I would actually believe that, but I do. I had a 4.0 in high school and I’ve made two C’s in college. You’ll probably fail a couple tests and have to drop a class. It’s okay. It’s part of learning how your brain works and what you’re good at. Your GPA doesn’t define you. Grades are important, but your mental health is more important. Don’t stress yourself out.
  • Balance your life. Going to class and studying should be a priority, but academics aren’t the only thing you’re suppose to learn in college. Go to a movie with your friends, get drunk at that fraternity party, go on the date with your cute lab partner, Go to the fraternity formal with a guy as just friends. Your boyfriend should understand. If he doesn’t, tell him he’s being a possessive jerk and dump him.
  • Take time for yourself. Workout. Get a pedicure. Go shopping. Read Cosmopolitan magazine. Watch Netflix for an entire day. Eat kale for a healthy body and ice cream for a healthy mind. Make sure you are taking care of yourself.
  • Don’t let what people might think of you hold you back. It’s not like high school. People ma judge, but in the end their opinion doesn’t matter. If you want to wear a slutty halloween costume, college is the time. Make out with that guy on the dance floor at that weird bar. Drink so much Fireball that you can’t stand the smell of cinnamon for  a month. It’s okay. That’s what college is for. But be safe and never drink and drive.
  • Don’t take adderall. It’s a serious drug and not worth it. You can study without it. Your friends will take it and say it works wonders. Don’t do any drugs. They are all bad for you. Just say no. Have some vodka instead.
  • Plan a spring break trip with your new college friends. You might be tempted to go home or spend it with your boyfriend, but you will regret it if you miss out on a great trip with all your friends. You only get four spring breaks, so make every one count.
  • Never be in charge of getting the Uber for a 21st birthday party. At least one person will throw up in the car. The driver will charge you to clean the car and you will be banned from using Uber for like a month. Offer to help with decorations and let someone else deal with the rides.
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