Wednesday, May 29, 2013

9 Tips for the College Class of 2017

My little sister is graduating from high school this week, so in honor of her wonderful achievement, I have several pieces of advice to future college freshmen everywhere, from someone who's been around the block several times:

Recognize that College is EXPENSIVE
If you're lucky enough to be like me--with a wonderful four years on the "daddy scholarship"--it's easy to forget just how much college costs and how much your loved ones sacrifice for your education.  So actually look at the bursar statement and see how much your parents are paying for you to be there.  And then figure out just how much each class meeting costs you.  Knowing how much your classes actually cost puts a whole new perceptive on wasted Wednesdays when you know you have an 8a.m. bio lecture on Thursdays.  Be respectful of the sacrifices others are making for you, and get your ass in class.

Watch What You Wear
This sounds super shallow, but first impressions are lasting.  I'm not saying dress up for class every day (because I've worn my fair share of sweatpants), but shirts with inappropriate sayings, the outfit you wore to that great Jersey Shore party, and your Halloween costume are not appropriate for class (and I've seen all of those and more).  Also--wearing clothes with your graduation year on them may earn you respect in high school, but they'll definitely get you judged in college.  Just put them away.  This includes letterman jackets.

Watch What You Say
Stop saying "um," "like," and "I mean."  It makes you sound stupid.  I actually tallied the number of times a girl in one of my classes every time she said "like."  In the hour and fifteen minute class, she said "like" a grand total of 57 times.  Especially in discussion-based classes, formulate your ideas before you speak, and be confident.  Otherwise, people like me will tally the number of times you say "I mean" (16 for a girl in another class and she only spoke for about 5 minutes) and then write about you on their blog.  This also includes starting your sentences normally and then runningeverythingattheendtogether.  Nobody likes a mumbler. 

Be Open to Change...
I changed my major four times.  Yes, four.  While that's slightly above the average, statistics show that you'll probably change your major at least once.  So embrace it.  Try new things.  Take introductory courses in subjects you think you might be interested in. Take an introductory course in a subject you didn't even know was a subject.  You'll broaden your horizons and you might learn something too.  This doesn't only apply to changes academically.  College will undoubtedly change you in more ways than you can imagine.  You may change friends (more than once), change your style, you'll change the kind of alcohol you like to drink roughly every week.  You'll take classes and meet people that force you to question beliefs you've never questioned before.  Welcome it.  Ride the wave.  But hold on to the values and principles that make you you.

 ...But Stay in Touch with Your Past
I know I just said to be open to change, but if you have great friends from high school, great memories, great connections in your hometown, don't lose those.  Make it a point to meet up with your childhood friends who went to different schools over Christmas break.  Get coffee with your favorite elementary school teacher.  Volunteer in your little sister's school when you're home.  Those connections help keep you grounded.  They remind you of where you came from and where you're headed.  It's easy to get swept up in the "college experience," but before you know it four years have gone by and you realize you haven't talked to those friends who went to other schools in ages.  One of my biggest regrets is not keeping in touch with the people I grew up with once I left for college, so don't let it happen to you.

Find a Major You Love, and You'll Never Do Homework Again
You've probably heard the saying by now that if you find a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life.  The same goes for your major in college.  Over my last two semesters (when I crammed all of my major in), I wrote over fifty papers.  Yes, you read that right.  Over fifty.  But here's the thing--I love my major, and none of those papers felt like homework.  Maybe I'm a nerd, but I genuinely like writing papers (maybe that's why I like to blog).  The point of all of this is, if you like math, it's not going to feel like homework when you have a huge list of math problems to do.  If you love to read, it won't be a bummer when you have to curl up with a novel for an entire weekend.  If you love working with children, that service learning assignment at 6am every week won't be that bad.  Do something that you're passionate about, and you won't ever feel like you're working.

Don't Take a Class because Someone Told You It Was "Easy"
Even if that person was an academic advisor.  That's not to say that the class won't be easy--because it very well might be.  The reason I hate the concept of taking an "easy class" is because it puts you in the mindset that the material in the class doesn't matter.  Maybe it won't matter to you in the long run, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take it just as seriously as your other classes.  Not to mention this attitude is incredibly disrespectful to your classmates and to the instructor.  And ultimately, this kind of attitude closes you off to anything you might learn in the class because you're already so negatively oriented toward it, and that only hurts you.

Listen to Older Students and Follow Their Lead
When I was a freshman in high school I (somehow) was a grade ahead in math, putting me in sophomore geometry instead of freshman algebra.  My biggest fear in that class was that the sophomores (or juniors, or seniors who flunked the first time) would know I was a freshman.  On the surface that makes me sound a little insecure, but hear me out.  Once you're an upperclassman, you can practically smell freshmen a mile away.  Sometimes it's because they're wearing hoodies and sweatpants with their graduation year on them (see point number two), sometimes it's because they're wearing the lanyard they got at orientation around their neck with their student ID attached, and sometimes it's because they talk when they have no idea what's going on, and that's really annoying.  Last semester I was in a 400 (senior) level literature course and somehow two freshmen weaseled their way in.  And when all of us seniors (who have been taking literature classes for a long time) were drawing overarching conclusions or interpreting complicated imagery, the freshmen would say something like, "well he uses alliteration in line nine," or "do you think this has something to do with apartheid?" (in a class about South African literature).  The message?  If your comment doesn't fit with the discussion, don't say it.  If you're pointing out the obvious, don't.  If everyone is discussing the meaning of life, now probably isn't the best time to giggle and ask if that staff is really a phallic image (answer: yes it is).  If there are questions you have or things you want to talk about that didn't get touched on in class, make it a point to go to the professor's office hours (they don't bite, one professor actually made me a pot of tea when I went).

Your Education Doesn't End at Commencement
Since you might be reading this as you sit in a crowded gym full of other soon-to-be high school graduates, you're probably not thinking much about your college graduation.  But call me cliché, the four years will fly by faster than you think.  I sat in an even larger, crowded convention center listening to commencement speeches at my college graduation and was honestly depressed.  I LOVED college.  I get upset going through the course catalog for next fall because there are awesome classes being offered that I want to take.  But remember, to commence is to begin.  Your college (and high school) graduation is not the end, it is the beginning.  After graduation, you have an entirely new world open to you.  Right now for you, that's college.  Right now for me, it's the prospect of working in the real world, making a significant difference in the lives of others based on  my (undecided) occupation, and even the possibility of continuing my formal education in a graduate or doctoral program.  Commencement is like the doors and the windows flinging open--you pick where you're going.  It's scary, and it's a lot of responsibility, but you're now equipped with the tools you need to succeed.  So take advantage of every moment.

So there you go, class of 2017.  My advice is my graduation gift to all of you.  Take it if you want, but if you get funny looks because you're wearing the same thing you wore to that "Risky Business" party to class, don't say I didn't warn you.


1 comment:

  1. Fantastically written! Great advice all around. I agree with every bit of it!