My niece, Kami, and my nephew, Bobby started college this week. Everyone is so proud and happy for them. Now that the dust has settled and they have discovered that this is a truly new and unique experience, I wanted to pass on some “words of wisdom.”
This is not an all-inclusive list, there are hundreds of things to enjoy while attending college and just as many to avoid, but these are the ones that came to mind based on my experience and observations of others’ experiences. Now, don’t think for a moment that I did everything on the Avoid list or was perfect enough to Enjoy everything on that list. These are suggestions I am making using hindsight. I’ll never tell what I did and did not do!
Also, this article is not directed at Kami or Bobby based on their personalities or past problems. They have both been quite exemplary in their studies and in their personal lives. I want this article to have mass appeal and be a reference for all college students.
I am going to start with the “Avoid” list because I want to leave you at the end with plenty of things to “Enjoy.” You will find some overlap in the two, but I have tried to avoid redundancy.
1. The obvious – drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex. I am not going to dwell on this one since I know everyone has heard this already. But don’t. Don’t do drugs, don’t abuse alcohol, and don’t have unprotected sex. It’s really not worth it. I can give you dozens of stories of people who abused their “freedom” and are regretting it every day, or, are not alive to regret it every day, or are not in their right mind to regret it every day. The surest way to prove to yourself and the world that you are not ready to be on your own and not ready for adulthood is to do stupid things that you know better than to do. Don’t be stupid. Be safe and smart. The two really do go hand in hand.
2. Becoming Lazy. This is one that most college students struggle with. You no longer have someone looking over your shoulder, making sure you are doing your homework. Neither will anyone ask you before you go to bed at night if you’ve done your homework. Your instructors will not care, ultimately, if you fail to turn in your homework – you probably won’t turn it in – they will know based on your next test score. And they still won’t really care. When will you care? Five years from now when you are going out for your first really big, important job, your employer will want to know what kind of grades you received and might even want specifically to know the grade you received in Biology. So don’t be lazy. Do your homework and study. One advantage to this is that if you learn concepts as you go, there’s very little “cramming” required come test time.
3. Becoming an adult too quickly. Remember that you are still a student. You’re not a kid, but you are not yet an adult either. Don’t think about getting married and starting a family. Take this time to find out who you really are and, more importantly, who you want to become. You will be glad you did. Most of my friends who got married in college are now divorced, from those spouses at least, and the ones who didn’t laugh about how they are glad they didn’t marry the guys they dated in college. Are there exceptions, sure, always, but they are few and far between.
4. Skipping class. There will be classes that you don’t have to attend to get a good grade. But sometimes, those instructors give out little pieces of information that are on the test that you need to know in order to get the A, or they give out an important assignment in the middle of the class. You will appreciate every A you get, so go to all classes. If it’s really that boring, take something else to work on while you’re there!
5. Skipping social events. You’ve got to put yourself out there and meet new people. For me, this was never a problem. But for some, social events are painful. Remember, you’re not in high school any more. The popular kids are gone. You will be as popular as you want to be and just need to seek out your own group. Remember, “Birds of a feather flock together”? You will find your flock – but only if you look for them!
6. Going back home every weekend. It’s time to learn to rely on yourself and that does mean spending some time alone to think about who you want to become, do your homework, run errands, etc. You have a responsibility to take care of your room, keeping it organized and clean. You will also need time to spend with your new friends – weekends are good for this. Besides, you will soon find that you have less and less in common with your friends back home who did not go to college. That’s okay. It may be awkward for a few years, but things will even out. Your professional degree and successful life will make it all worthwhile. You need to develop friendships and relationships with people who will be in a position to help you down the road. That, more than likely is not your high school friends who are now babysitting full time. (Or whatever.) There will be lots of kids at college who are thousands of miles away from home and would enjoy your company. Get to know them. There may be times when going home is not a possibility. It’s important to be at home with yourself – no matter what the circumstances.
7. Relying on your mother to do your laundry. Again, it’s time to start growing up and taking on some of your own responsibilities. When you do go home, do your laundry first; don’t dump it on Mom.
8. Feeling guilty for much of anything – especially changing your mind. Look, just like you had a practice period before walking, and junior high before high school, this is your time to practice being an adult. You are going to make mistakes in every area of your adult life. Might as well get as much of that practicing in now while you still have a good excuse. “I’m a college student,” works for just about every dumb thing you could do. Guilt brings you down and causes you to do things out of a sense of obligation. It is time for you to become your own person – don’t feel guilty for not being all things to all people.
¼br /> 9. Making excuses. While “I’m a college student,” will get you out of a lot of steamy situations with adults, in your mind, know that you made a mistake, why you made it, what caused you to make it, learn from it, own up to it, and apologize for it. As in, swear you’ll never to do that again. If you mess up, just say so. You’re allowed. You’re trying new things and even when you try to do all the right things, you’re going to make mistakes. Being responsible for yourself and your actions is the first step toward true adulthood. So from now on, you have no one to blame but yourself. Everything that happens to you and for you does so because of the decisions you make and actions you take. Your parents may have held you back or pushed you too hard, but once you turn 18, and especially if you are smart enough to go to college, you are responsible for you.
10. Blaming someone else for your problems. It’s time to start taking responsibility for your mistakes. They are all yours. Even if someone else talked you into doing something dumb, you allowed that person to control you. You made the decision. You are your responsibility. If finances are involved, own up to it and make a promise to pay with a schedule. Tell your parents and have a plan for how you are going to come up with the money. While it is their responsibility to pay for your education, it is not their responsibility to pay for your mistakes. Besides, when you pay for them, you remember them. When you remember them, you’re less likely to repeat them.
11. Letting someone else take credit for your work/happiness/achievements. Now is the time to learn to speak up for yourself. If another student tries to take credit for your work, let that person and your instructor know about it. If an instructor tries to diminish something you’ve done, let him or her know that you don’t appreciate it. Make these confrontations in private, but make them.
12. Fitting in with the crowd. Again, you’re not in high school anymore. In college, what will get you noticed by all the right people is being yourself. Every single person in this world is different in some way. So when you’re tempted to be like every one else, and you don’t know who you are yet to be yourself, just be different. If everyone else is wearing blue, wear red. (Okay, maybe not to a football game where the other team’s colors are red—wear white.) Be different. Stand out. Get noticed. Getting noticed is a good thing. It is time to start thinking about your career. It is still a few years off, but successful people are always thinking 5 to 10 years down the road. Start thinking like a successful person. You are still developing your personality, so until you can be yourself, be different.
13. Slouching. It just looks bad. Stand up straight with a high sternum. Lift your head. You’ll feel better and look better. Slouching gives the impression that you’re bored, lonely, depressed, and unapproachable. Not good qualities for a successful college student.
14. Frowning all the time. If you really want to stand apart from the crowd, wear a smile everywhere you go. College age students are always frowning. You’re trying to look serious, but you look depressed and unimpressive. Smile. Not a stupid smile! Show some teeth but don’t be fake. Practice good oral hygiene to keep your teeth white and your breath fresh so that you don’t offend people with a foul odor. In fact, practice good general hygiene as well. Not having to worry a bout hygiene problems will give you the confidence to be outgoing, which will win you friends and help you later in life – and not that much later. Get out of bed early enough to take a shower, brush and floss your teeth, fix your hair, and shave or put on make-up. (Hopefully not both!) Again, you will feel better and look better.
15. Letting someone take advantage of you, your parents, or your money. Since you are not going to know everyone, especially at first, you will probably be nice to everyone you meet. That’s fine, but you should know that there are people out there laying in wait to take advantage of someone nice. If you are thinking of taking in a roommate who says, “Oh, my current roommates and I have a great arrangement. When one of us has money, that person buys all the groceries. Then when someone else does, that person buys everything, etc. It’s a really great arrangement and it always works out about even.” Clue? NOT! This person is a leach. Stay away from her. I don’t know how many guys and gals were taken advantage of by this person in college. If this person is your sister – okay. If not, stay away. If you’ve met someone brand new and they want to go home with you for the weekend “to get to know where you came from better.” STAY AWAY! I know of a situation like this where the girl’s parents were robbed that night and as it turned out, the thief was not a student at that school. So know people you take home fairly well. Don’t borrow money; don’t loan money. Period. Don’t tell anyone how much money you have. Your finances are between you and your parents and that’s it. A true friend will not ask about your finances unless she is totally uncouth in which case, educate her, or dump her.
Okay, enough of the negative stuff. Now that I have you completely scared and ready to stay home for the rest of your life, let’s look at what’s great about going to college.
1. Creating your future self. If you hated high school, you’re not alone. If you don’t like how you came across to others when you were in high school, now is the chance to change that. You have an opportunity to portray yourself as the person you know you can and should be. Even if you see old high school mates, they have changed as well and will not say a word except maybe about how you’ve changed and how great you look. Now is the time to discover who you really want to become. Experiment with who you are and want to become. The truly great news is this: You can try being all kinds of different people with different personalities. I know a guy who tried a different personality with each class, just to see which suited him best. It worked! You can try different clothing styles, different paradigms, different languages – you name it. You are going to be impressed by so many new things, you may want to try them all. Go for it. You will know when you find yourself. You’ll just know. You get to decide, each and every day, the type of person you become and the future you will have. Take time to think about how you would like to live your adult life. What type of work do you see yourself doing? Do you like working with people, or alone? What do you like to do now in your spare time? Is there a way to make a living at that? Start doing what is necessary today to make that life become reality. What classes do you need to take? Are there any courses you need to drop – remember to focus. Don’t use focus as an excuse to quit something hard, make absolutely certain that class in no way could affect your future, but do drop it if it’s not in your big plan.
2. The freedom to make your own choices. No matter how much they call, your parents are not at college with you. (Hopefully!) Now is the time to learn how to make good choices. Remember, everything you are and everything you are about to become will be based on the choices you make today, right now. Make good ones.
3. Becoming an adult. Learning to live on your own, make decisions on your own, make mistakes on your own, all of these contribute to your adulthood. Enjoy your adult chores. Just think, you have finally arrived.
4. Meeting different people – culturally different. Some people are “different” simply because they have a different background from you. Others are “different.” Enjoy getting to know people who come from different backgrounds and people who are a little different. Just make sure it’s a good kind of different. While you need to find “birds of a feather,” diversity is important. In order to become a well-rounded adult, you need to be exposed to lots of different cultures. College is the perfect place for this. I’m talking here about students from other countries – not other “worlds” if you know what I mean. When you have a chance to study with someone from India, for example, do it. You will be amazed at how much you can learn from him/her and you might be surprised at how much you have in common.
5. Staying up as late as you want and sleeping in as late as you want – on weekends. As I said earlier, don’t skip classes, do your homework, party safely, and enjoy every minute of college life. It will never be this way again.
6. Learning how to work smart and hard. Focus on what you need to focus on in the moment. For example, if it’s time to study, really study. Do the assigned homework and use it as study time. Really learn the concepts being taught during class. If you learn the ideas and principles as you go, there will be less cramming to do come test time. You’ve probably heard the old adage that successful people learn how to work smart, not hard. Actually, today’s truly successful people have learned to work smart and hard, and to focus their work. I know of a guy who finished two Bachelor’s degrees, one in mathematics, the other in computer science, in three semesters. You can read how he did it here.
7. Developing relationships with professors and fellow students. You will create bonds and foster relationships now that will last a lifetime. Three to five years from now you will need recommendations from your professors in lieu of employers. Get to know your favorite instructors; help them when you can. It will pay off. The same goes for fellow students. Bonds created now will help you years down the road.
8. Impromptu road trips with new friends. When your work is complete and you are ready to reward yourself for a job well-done, do something a little crazy. Drive to a nearby city with some classmates and see a movie or do some shopping. For fall or spring break, take a road trip a little further away and just enjoy the open road, the free time, the camaraderie and fun! Just drive safely.
9. Figuring things out for yourself. Learn by doing. That has always been my motto. Don’t call Mom for every little thing. Don’t know how much detergent to use? Read the box! Good grief, Charlie Brown, you are in college after all!
10. Learning how to be an adult. Making you own decisions and being totally and completely responsible for yourself is tough. But it’s also liberating and extremely educational. Now is the time to learn as many of life’s lessons as you can, make mistakes, and have a good humor about it. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect. And don’t think for a moment that you’re going to learn everything about being an adult in college either. We are all constantly learning. There’s always more to learn. Learning how to be an adult means realizing that things are not always black or white, making your own decisions even if it means making a mistake, taking responsibility for yourself, and handling conflicts, even making confrontations on your behalf sometimes. Enjoy this process – don’t avoid it.
11. Thinking on a higher level. You will begin to think differently. Up until now, you’ve mostly been task oriented; do this to accomplish that. But you will now be asked to ponder the reason behind doing things. Instructors will push you to consider the meaning of various things. They will challenge your existing concepts and truths: Two plus two equals four, except try it with drops of water and you get one. This is to challenge your thinking and cause you to learn at a higher level. This level of thinking is one of the reasons why college graduates make more money. The person who knows how to do something will always have a job. The person who knows why that something is being done will always be his boss.
12. Preparing to change the world. Because of this new way of thinking, you are going to discover new processes, new needs, and new ways to meet those needs that will literally change the world. Each generation contributes something of great significance to the world at large. You are on the verge of that contribution. Take time to ponder what that is going to be, because the people who think about it now, become the leaders of that change. You want to be a leader, don’t you?
13. Developing confidence. The more you choose options that are in line with the future self you want to become, the more your confidence will grow. Everything either increases your confidence or decreases it. Increase the activities that improve your confidence and eliminate the things that don’t. In high school, you might have been expected to do a little of everything, including things you knew were not for you. You don’t have to do that anymore. It’s okay to be a little “unbalanced.” It means you’re specializing in something. They do call it a “major” after all. Be honest with yourself. It’s not about choosing what is easy, although the things you are naturally interested in do seem easy. That is what confuses a lot of people. The word, “work,” makes us think that what we choose to do for a living should be hard. That’s not the case. Sure, what you’re choosing would be difficult for anyone not interested in it. But for you, if you love it, it will seem easy. My business and education courses to me were the easiest I had, yet many people flunked out of those programs. Get it? I loved those classes so I thought they were easy. I even enjoyed the homework because I could fly through it in no time. (With the exception of Business Statistics.)
14. Dating. Definitely have a social life. Honestly, you really don’t know what type of person you like yet. You’re too young. Period. Date different people, develop relationships as they feel right to you, but know when to cut it off. Don’t do anything out of a sense of obligation; it will not work out in the long run. Marriage is for life. Dating can be too. Somewhere in the middle, you’ll figure it out. Enjoy the process. Don’t let anyone talk you into anything you’re not ready for. Enjoy the process.
15. Setting your own rules. While you are still bound by the laws of this land and certain rules your parents may have set regarding your money, you are now free to establish your own set of principles by which to run your life. You’ve been bound by things that you know are not right for you, and you have probably broken rules that you knew were right for you. This is a good time to think about what is and is not good for the person you want to be and make your own rules to follow. Some of these will fall in line with rules your parents have set for you, some will not. Some will fall in line with rules the college you’re attending has set for you and some will not. The most important thing to remember when thinking of breaking someone else’s rule is what consequences you will suffer. Sometimes, there are none – rules can be created for crazy reasons – not necessarily good reasons. It’s time to start thinking about your actions and decisions in an adult manner. To got out and break every rule in the book just because you can is childish – don’t do it. But take time to reflect on what your conscious is telling you is right for you. For example, to use a simple one, I had a friend whose parents tried to set a bedtime for their child when he went to college – something ridiculous like 9 PM. (!) They would call to make sure he was in his dorm room at 8:55. So, of course, he always was. What do you think he did as soon as that call ended? Yep – that’s right – he went out partying. He would sometimes stay out all night. When you stay out all night on a regular basis, it becomes impossible to attend classes. When you don’t attend classes, you fail. He almost did. Then he finally figured out that he didn’t have to use an all-or-nothing approach. Since his first class was at 9:10 AM, he stayed up until midnight, got up around 8 each morning and made it to all classes just fine. See, come college students do have common sense, it just takes us a while to figure it out!
I hope you have enjoyed my article. Again, not every item applies to every person in every situation, so please take what applies to you and learn from it.
I’d love to hear from you. What questions do you have about college life or adulthood?
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This post was written by Debra Moorhead, Motivation, Education, Inspiration on August 26, 2006