Monday, August 16, 2010
This weekend my oldest nephew, Justin, begins his days as a college student at the University of Hartford. So WooHoo to that!
When I left for college no one gave me a whole lot of good advice (or any advice really). To be fair, I was the first in our brood to actually go to college so there wasn't a lot of life-experience to be passed down. But I know I could've used some pointers. So tonight I took it upon myself to flatten out the learning curve and pass on some pearls of wisdom.
So soon you start your life as a college student. That's completely amazing and I am so proud of you. I'm the only one in our family to graduate from a four-year school (at least the traditional way), so I look forward to having you join the club. In five years we can spend Thanksgiving making fun of everyone else.
Here's the thing... No one really gave me any advice when I left for college, and I wish they had. So I’m going to pass on a few tips to you.
First of all, my college soccer coach was also our dean of students. On freshman move-in day he met with the entire freshman class (there was only like 200 of us). He told us that college was a chance for a whole new start. He said that it was our chance to break free of whatever labels people tagged us with in high school. We could become whoever we wanted to be. He said that freshman meant "fresh start." That's good advice. Here's more:
1. Make a point to have an open-mind. You're going to meet people who listen to strange music. Don't say you hate it. Give it a chance. By the time I left college my whole taste in music had changed. And if you don't like it, just ignore it. People are defensive about their music. Want people to hate you? Tell them their music sucks.
2. People are going to dress differently, talk differently and have all types of different interests. Enjoy this! Diversity is an amazing thing! Imagine how boring the world would be if everyone was the same as you or I. I've come to enjoy and appreciate hippies and head-bangers and athletes and actors and lesbians and math-nerds and pretty much everything in between. Don't judge these people on their appearance. Enjoy the different side of life they can share with you. Don't be afraid to mix with people who you wouldn't normally hang out with. If you shut these people out, you're going to miss out on a lot of really cool opportunities.
3. I read a lot. One of the best things I've ever read was this passage: "Everyone on this planet is in some way superior to me. Of this I soon learn of him." I'll give you an example... Think that there is no way a homeless person is superior to you? Try living on the streets for three days and see how you do. Get it? You can learn from everyone.
4. Beware of the digital age! Everyone has a camera in their pocket these days. At your most embarrassing moment they will snap your photo and put it on their Facebook page. Be careful! A lot of colleges now scan their students' facebook accounts. There are many stories of students getting busted for drinking in the dorms (or doing whatever) because of facebook and myspace. I know you're going to do some stupid things. Don't sweat it. We all do. Just be careful about getting your picture taken.
5. Some girl is gonna break your heart. It's gonna hurt like hell... probably for a good while. Trust me, it will pass. It may take a few months, but you will survive and get over it. Don't panic!
6. Cut back on your swearing. You swear way too much. People will respect you more if you don't drop F-bombs every sentence.
7. Take pride in your room. It's a reflection of yourself. Keep it clean.
8. This is important! The best time to study is in the afternoon. When I figured this out my life got exponentially better. There's not a lot going on between 1-5 P.M. Don't waste those hours sitting in front of a computer goofing off. Buckle down and study and you'll stay ahead of the game AND be able to have a social life at night.
9. Speaking of academics... come out of the gate FAST! College is easy when you stay ahead of the game. It's hard as heck when you're playing catch-up. Think of it like this... in every class you start the semester with an 'A.' All you have to do is maintain it. Maintaining an 'A' is a whole lot easier than trying to work your way up from a 'D.'
By the way, professors are interested in helping students who are interested in their courses. So first of all, go to class. Want them to think you don't care? Skip their class once a week. Get your profs to like you. Go visit them during office hours and ask some questions about the material. And by all means GO TO THE REVIEW SESSIONS BEFORE EXAMS! Half the time they give you exactly what will be on the exam.
And while we're at it.. never plagiarize! Every university has software to check for plagiarized work. They use it and they will bust you and throw you out the door. So how about this? Just don't cheat.
10. Your first two weeks are going to be freaking incredible! There will be all types of parties and you may want to go to all of them and stay out all night. If you do this at the expense of academics you're going to fail right out of college. Take care of your studies FIRST. Make time to study!
11. Exercise and eat right. If you don't you're going to end up weighing 400 pounds and you'll feel like crap.
12. Share your stuff. Your friends are going to need you and some day you'll definitely need them. Don't be a hog.
By the way... when you're in your dorm room, leave your door open whenever possible (not when you sleep, though). An open door will aid your social life. Shut the door and you're shutting out friends.
13. Be PROACTIVE and GET INVOLVED! Hartford is going to have a zillion opportunities, but they won't come knocking on your door. You can kick-box or sky-dive or have a radio show. You can play intramurals or join a frat or be in the school play (I was). You can go to basketball games and concerts. Don't get to the end of your career and think 'I wish I had done more.' It's up to you to make it happen.
14. While you're doing all the stuff you want to do, don't let people talk you into doing stuff you know you don't want to do. Don't do stupid things so someone will think you're cool. Be strong and true to yourself.
15. Don't stalk the girl who breaks your heart. That's not at all cool.
16. If you don't know how to do your own laundry, learn now. Make sure you buy some bottles of Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It's a freaking miracle product. (And for Pete's sake don't get all dressed up for the first day of class.)
17. Cologne? Polo Black. Always. (Send me your address at college and I'll ship you a bottle.)
18. Put down the computer and Gameboy and all the other electronic junk and go interact with, ya know, people. Seriously. If you don't do this you will regret it. Understand?
19. Help people before they have to ask. It's just good policy.
20. Want to WOW your mom? Surpirse her by mailing her a hand-written letter. She'll cry.
21. Hartford has a huge pipeline of alumni that will love helping out Hartford students with internships and jobs during and after college. You can connect with them through the Career Services Office. This is an absolutely AWESOME resource that not nearly enough students utilize. Don't make the same mistake. Seriously, if I was going to be there with you, I'd drag you into that office if I had to. Trust me, Justin, you want to get familiar with the people in that office. They can help you out sooooooooooooooooooo much!
22. Don't freaking drink and drive. It's NEVER worth it! Spend the money for a cab. It's better than killing a family of four. Ask anyone who's done it.
23. Plan spring break in the fall. Go somewhere warm. And spend at least one summer in Myrtle Beach or some other really groovy place. Get internships in divine cities and you will LOVE your summers. Summers after college basically mean working when you'd rather be outside. Enjoy your summers!
Okay, we're winding down now. Only a few more...
24. I want you to do me a favor. This is really important. I want you to take 30 minutes by yourself and think about this... Your college career has just ended. You've just graduated. When you look back at what you did in college, what do you want your college career to look like? What's your GPA? Will employers be impressed or will they laugh at it? What was your social life like? Did you make a lot of great friends and do a lot of amazing things? Did you get involved and try the things you always wanted to try? Figure it out before you start and write it all down. This may be the very best advice I give you.
25. Life after college makes you really appreciate college. This is the last segment of your life where you won't have to pay rent or a mortgage or make a car payment every month. Once you leave college you don't have half the time or 5% of the opportunities you had while you were a student. Squeeze that orange for every last drop of juice. You only get to do college once, Justin. Make it count.
26. I got your back. If you ever need me, pick up the phone. I love you, buddy.
Have an awesome college career! Make us all proud!
Got a comment about this blog? Contact me.