You just started your first semester of college, and I’m a few weeks away from wrapping up my last semester. I thought you could benefit from my thoughts:
Syllabi and Classes
Read the syllabus on the first day, and find out what the attendence policy is. Don’t use up all your absences at the beginning.
Mark down all major deadlines in your planner at the beginning of the semester.
Figure out what percentage of your grade belongs to homework, participation, exams, etc. I almost failed a class last semester because I didn’t realize homework was worth 40%, and I never do my work.
If this doesn’t happen in your first year, I can guarantee that by your second or third you will come across a subject that might be a little out of your reach. Even making one appointment with a professor or a peer outside of class can help you figure it out. It doesn’t mean you are dumb. I would probably have significantly higher grades if I were a little more humble and asked for help more frequently. Offer to buy your friend a cup of joe in exchange for letting you pick her thoughts for an hour about a tough subject.
Professors are smarter than high school teachers. Fact. They have PHDs and write for academic journals and are just way better at life.
…but don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself if you think you’ve been treated unfairly by one. Re: my shitty dance instructor from my first two semesters (who coincidentally no longer works here because I wasn’t the only one to file a complaint).
Roommates and Your Peers
You know how when you were in elementary school and you couldn’t wait to get to junior high, because they were so much older than elementary school kids? Then you couldn’t wait to get to high school, because then you’d be surrounded by people of your own maturity level? And then you started looking forward to being surrounded by college students, because surely your peers would grow up by then? Dad once let me in on a secret: some people never, ever grow up. This is a fact of life. I promise, however, there are some wow-your-pants-off-they’re-so-cool people out there. You just need to find them.
Hanging up their towel on your towel rack is not something to yell at a roommate for. Eating the last of your favorite food without your permission is.
All roommates, even your best friend, suck. Even you suck as a roommate. Now that we’re all on the same page of suckiness, you can learn from other people’s living styles and maybe pick up some cool habits. The other day Gillian couldn’t figure out why someone kept moving her parmasean cheese to the fridge, until three of us told her that most people keep their parm cheese in the fridge. Boom, Gillian has fresher cheese and everyone is happy.
You don’t need to be best friends with roommates, you just need to figure out how to respect each other.
Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll
When you go partying, alcohol and drugs will be present. Know your environment and stay sober if no one else is. I have had to kick two people out of my house because they were violent and I was the only person sober enough to handle them.
People will want to kiss you, and you will want to kiss people. Find your Student Health Center and locate the free condoms box and make an appointment to get yourself on birth control. Mine is $9 a month. If you’re not planning on kissing people, birth control is awesome anyway because it helps you predict the exact day you will start and clear up acne.
HPV shots are cool and cheap on campus. Figure out how to get yours.
On Figuring Out Who Becca Is
If you think you might ever in your life want to shave your head, college is the time to go down that path.
Tattoos are permanent.
Kissing a girl does not make you a lesbian or a bisexual anymore than kissing a black guy means you have a preference to his skin color above all others. I actually don’t think you’ll ever kiss a girl, but should you explore other self-identity experiences, don’t worry about figuring out if you are that “type” of person right away. Going to a rock concert doesn’t make you a groupie and trying pot doesn’t make you a hippie (but doing meth even one time does make you a junkie so don’t even think about trying it).
You’re growing up and might start finding yourself picking up Mom or Dad’s behaviors that you swore you never, ever would do. Sorry, I can’t help you on this one. It sucks when you realize that Mom and Dad really do know a thing or two about life.
On Food and Money
I promise healthy food exists that is just as cheap as ramen. Rice, pasta, frozen veggies, potatoes…all better than ramen. No matter how broke you get, don’t be my friend David who eats ramen thrice a day. If you don’t think you have enough money to buy something healthy, call Mom or Matthew or me and we’ll hook you up. If I hear you’ve eaten ramen more than twice in one week, I will flush [your favorite stuffed animal that I am not allowed to name in public] down the toilet. Unlike all those threats I made when I was 7 to flush him down the toilet, I’m serious this time.
Money is cool and once you land yourself a job, don’t sign up for every available time slot just because you can. Seriously look at how much time you can spend working without affecting your grades; you will have plenty of time to put in the hours after you graduate.
At the end of the day, money is just a piece of cotton with a dead guy’s face on it. If you feel broker than ever, write me a letter and tell me about it. You’ll probably get a response that says: “Me too dude! I looked up the happy hour times at your nearest bar and transferred $5 to your bank account – sneak in and go get yourself a beer and think about how there are cooler things than money.”
And that’s all I got for now. I mean, there’s more, but not stuff that Mom or professors can read. To summarize everything I’m trying to say here, in case you’re like me and skip to the end of a reading assignment just to get to the conclusion (which is a perfectly legitimate way of reading absurdly large reading assignments, by the way):
Sex isn’t bad. Experience something outside of what you’re used to, but fess up to your actions if you get caught doing something you know you shouldn’t have done. Take frequent road trips. Attend campus events and meet a few folks. Be a part of the off-campus community. Treat yourself when you’re tired and surround yourself by people that make you better.
Your partner in crime for all things we will never tell Mom about,