I have three cousins and 30 former students who are going to be freshmen in college next month.
If they were to ask me for advice, this is what I would tell them.
Hi (excited high school graduate). Your classes that you registered for sound great. I also wasn’t a great (insert subject) student and took (insert course). It turned out okay, but I got a lot of extra help—they have help sessions. I suggest you go to as many as possible. I ended up with a B- in the class, and that was one of my lowest grades in college, but I felt great satisfaction after finishing a course that was so hard for me.
The courses sound awesome. (Language you didn’t pass out of) will seem really basic at first, but it gets hard quickly, so just go with the easiness and try and improve your skills. I was a lazy ass my first year and got burned my second year of (said language) because it got much harder.
Go to your professors’ office hours. Introduce yourself. Go back again. Don’t stalk though. It helps your grade in the end and if you ever need a recommendation, they know who you are.
Read everything they assign even though most people won’t. Also, as a freshman you will have a ton of free time, so instead of being bored or getting into something you shouldn’t, read for your classes. Remember, you’re paying for your education so you might as well learn something and you’ll do better on the exams and sound smarter when you talk during class or when you meet with your professors during office hours.
Go to that library orientation that you’re going to want to not go to. You may think you know everything about research and computers, but you don’t.
If you are not going to celebrate Shabbat, study on Friday before everyone goes out at night or pregames. It’s a great little chunk where there’s not a lot to do on campus, it’s quiet, and you can get a lot done.
Also, do your best. Grades do count in college. Because if you do well, you can stave off the real world and go to a good graduate school and even get scholarships.
Health and Safety
Commit to going to the gym 3-4 days a week. The gym at (university) is AMAZING and you’re already paying for it with your student fees. If you do have to pay something, it’s nominal. When you leave college, a gym membership can cost thousands of dollars. Working out will make you feel better and is good for your health. You don’t have to be the most in shape person in the world, but getting your heart rate up is a good thing. You’ll reduce your stress load, etc.
Only order the pizza/breadsticks thing maybe once a week. Less is better. The freshman 15 is no joke. You can use your time at (university) to become healthy. I’m not saying lose weight, but no need to ingest all that fat and cholesterol into your system. But you do want to treat yourself once in a while.
If you’re having issues see a therapist at school. Again, it’s cheap and you might as well deal with stuff before you get into the real world and it’s a lot harder and more expensive.
When you are at a party, always have a buddy, someone you come and leave with. Watch out for each other: having a friend around is your best protection against date rape. Agree not to leave without each other. Date rape is real and usually happens when someone is wasted. Speaking of wasted, don’t drink and drive, and don’t get in a car with someone driving drunk. People don’t drive better drunk in college.
Condoms, condoms, condoms. With that said, if you’re not having sex yet, don’t feel pressured to lose your virginity. Screw that. You’ll have sex when you’re good and ready. I have several friends who didn’t start having sex until they graduated college and they are perfectly normal, happy people.
Yes, pot is illegal, but it isn't going to kill you unless you drive or something. But it might make you waste a lot of time if you're so spaced out that you won't do as well in school. Anything beyond pot could cause
damage of some sort, usually emotional and definitely financial and possibly legal. You're better off just avoiding drugs.
Spend 30 minutes with your roommate(s) cleaning your room each week. Having a clean place to live will help you emotionally and if someone comes over, you don’t want them to have sit on three-week old pizza boxes.
Sit down with your parent(s) to figure out a realistic budget. There are so many computer programs and apps you can use to help you stick to it.
Learn how to balance a checkbook.
DO NOT GET A CREDIT CARD THAT YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO PAY OFF EVERY MONTH.
Don’t feel that you have to join a fraternity or sorority. If you want to, fine, but it’s not a necessity. If you don’t get accepted, it probably wasn’t the place for you anyways, and instead of being angry, be thankful.
Join a club or two, get involved, but remember you’re there to be a student. However, a club of some sort is a great way to make friends. And remember, a club or organization is as cool as you say or think it is. Cool is relative.
You’re going to come across ethical situations. If your instinct is that it’s wrong, then it probably is wrong. You have a good core. Look to it when you have a dilemma. If you have to rationalize something to go through with it, then you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
Don’t put anything in writing that you wouldn’t want on the front page of the Google search engine. Seriously. You’re going to get pissed off at people. You’re going to fall in love with people. Before sending out that fuck you or I love you email, wait 24 hours and see if you still think it’s a good idea. Anything can wait 24 hours, especially when you know it can be forwarded to half the world.
Employers are looking at Facebook etc., and you don’t want to lose an opportunity because you felt the need to post a photograph of you downing a shot or posing half naked. Also, if someone suggests busting out a flip cam during a makeout session, it’s time to race out of the room.
One last thing. College is not utopia. We old folks make it sound like that, but I shed plenty of tears during my four years. Not every day was good. However, it’s the only time in your life where you will get to act like an adult without any of the responsibilities of an adult. So that’s as close to Eden as any of us will ever really get.
Have a great year!