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Uncommon advice you would give your college-age self
September 4, 2014 11:27 AM   Subscribe

As school starts up again, we're all reminded of the common advice: Actually go to class. Actually read the material if you're taking Lit. Join clubs. But what uncommon advice would you give your college-age self?
posted by markbao to Education (68 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
Make a point of appreciating more than just the campus life. There is a city/town surrounding your university, go take advantage of that! Don't limit yourself to "student" activities. I lived in residence all 4 years and didn't have to leave campus very often. It wasn't until my 4th year at university that I started to involve myself in the town and appreciate the awesomeness of the area.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:38 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


Do semesters abroad.
Intern at companies in your field.
Say yes more than no.
Do things that scare you.
Take up a sport.
Take classes that are unrelated to your field.
Enjoy your freedom.
posted by blurker at 11:40 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Well, as a sort of a follow-up to an earlier question from today: get a credit card now. Use it sparingly, use it responsibly, but get one to make sure you'll have established credit once you're out of college.

Schedule EVERYTHING. When I was in college I always knew I needed some time in the day to just relax so I scheduled in naps around homework time and class. Those scheduled naps prevented me from procrastinating and helped me make sure I'd have time to get everything done without going crazy. During the week, I also spent almost every waking hour either in class or doing homework, for the specific purpose of having my weekends completely free. This is up to you obviously, but I found it helped me keep my sanity.

If you get the chance to do a study abroad, do it, even if it's expensive. If you can't afford an enitre semester abroad, sometimes there will be shorter study abroad opportunities. (I did one just for Spring Break). If there aren't these opportunities, make them -- get a club together of interested students and work with a trusted professor or advisor to find out how you could arrange a study abroad. That's what my study abroad group did.

And lastly--this is something I struggled with but maybe you don't--don't be too judgmental of other students, whether you think they aren't as smart as you or aren't as dedicated to school or whatever. It really pays off to get to know and be able to get along with all varieties of people, whether you personally like them or not. And everyone has something to teach you, even if you don't think so at first glance. Give other students the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Librarypt at 11:41 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


For foundation/core classes that you don't give a shit about have regular, graded exams and/or homework that your grade can be calculated from, keep an spreadsheet around to figure out exactly what you need to get on exams to get out with a 'B'. That way, if you know you'll get out with a B even if you score a 12 on the final, you don't have to study as hard for that exam and devote that time to studying for other things (or not studying at all.)
posted by griphus at 11:43 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


No really, get the flu shot.
Do not continue to date that person who sucks.
Make friends with the folks in the cafeteria because they will give you free food when you run out of meal points in May.
posted by phunniemee at 11:44 AM on September 4 [8 favorites]


I'm not sure what is considered uncommon advice but:
-Get a mini fridge and buy some actual groceries so you are not eating cafeteria or fast food all of the time if you live on campus
- get some ear plugs, you will need them at some point
- the difference between a A and an A+ often doesn't matter in the end unless you have scholarships or other reasons to keep a certain grade. Sometimes it just isn't worth stressing over. Do your best but also make sure you keep your workload and sleep schedule reasonable or else you will burn out very fast.
posted by photoexplorer at 11:44 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Make sure you are getting enough to eat. Despite stereotypes, a lot of college students don't eat three meals a day and don't meet their calorie needs. It makes a *huge* difference in how well you'll do.
posted by dilaudid at 11:44 AM on September 4


Take advantage of student discounts at places like museums, theaters, etc.
posted by capricorn at 11:45 AM on September 4


The most important thing to learn in college is how to be friends with people with whom you deeply disagree about politics and religion. You don't have to hate someone just because they have different opinions than you.

This is tolerance.

This is a struggle because there are a lot of people, especially faculty, who will try to convince you that you should hate them, and that the only reason to ever spend time with them is to convince them to change. Oddly enough, this is often referred to as "tolerance", even though it is deeply intolerant.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 11:45 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


My constant advice to young people is to try as hard as they can to actually do some work in the field they hope to be employed in. Work part-time entry-level jobs, intern, volunteer, whatever. My wife knew she wanted to be a veterinary technician so she worked at pet stores then vet hospitals then did a bunch of internships during college and with all that experience, she's never been turned down for a job. I thought I wanted to be an architect, but then I took a job as a receptionist at an architecture firm for a year before applying to architecture school and realized I would hate being an architect.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:46 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Save f**king money! Take classes at a community college over summer to get out a semester early. Live cheap. Eat ramen. Splurge sparingly (but study abroad if you can manage it, eating and living cheaply while you do so).
posted by the christopher hundreds at 11:46 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Start drinking before your junior year, go to more parties, make more friends. YMMV.
posted by geegollygosh at 11:46 AM on September 4


Save some electives for things that you think you will enjoy that are outside your major.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:46 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Also, unless you're going to grad school or you're trying to be employed in a field where this is incorrect: after you successfully graduate, no one will give two shits about your grades except you. A year after graduation and into employment (or whatever you choose to do) I will bet you you'll have no idea what your graduating GPA even was, or how many times you made the dean's list.
posted by griphus at 11:46 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


Also, don't rely on wall of text long lists that are "things I'd wish I known in college." A lot of it's stuff you have to figure out on your own and won't make sense until later. It's like giving a ten-year-old sex advice.
posted by Busoni at 11:47 AM on September 4 [8 favorites]


Say yes more than no.

This. All the times I said "no" were times I closed the door to possibility.

And, stop a moment, get outside of yourself, and open your eyes to the beauty, even in things you think now are banal and trite. These years will never happen in your life again. Treasure them, because time is short and you will realize it only when it is too late.

Most of all, I would tell myself: Stop living, thinking, and acting like an old man when you're 20 years old. There will be more than time enough to be an old man.
posted by blucevalo at 11:47 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Being smart and having opinions means you will sometimes be on the wrong side of a professor. This is OK, expected and probably good for you. Don't stress over it.

Just 'cause the professors or the department won't take you up on your idea doesn't mean it's not a good one, just that the timing wasn't right. Don't abandon an idea, just file it away for later.

Network more, make more friends. Sure, it's easy to stick your head in a study carol and study, ignoring the rest of the world. But that's not going to be in your best interests later. Bite the bullet and get out there.
posted by LN at 11:48 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Don't study abroad, because you'll be paying it off until you're 35. In fact, it's in your best financial interest to get out of that institution as soon as humanly possible. Study during interims and get your degree done faster!
posted by theraflu at 11:50 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


Your roommate can be your best friend, but your best friend can't be your roommate.

Split your electives between things you would enjoy and things that you are totally ignorant of (but make the latter 100- and 200-level classes).
posted by Etrigan at 11:54 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Countering griphus: just because you're planning to go into a field where your GPA is irrelevant now, don't assume it won't be relevant later. (Says the person who blew off class to do theater, and is now trying to become a doctor.)
posted by ocherdraco at 11:55 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Some of this may be very specific to me but:

1) Actually meet people and do things, even if it seems scary. Don't just hide in your room.

2) There's more to life than drinking. (I wasn't an alcoholic and didn't get in trouble, but sitting in a dorm room with other dudes getting drunk is *boring!* I wish I had gone out and done more)

3) Don't sell yourself short with who you hang out with. I hung out with people I wasn't really suited to because they were there, and because I was afraid to seek out people who shared my interests.

4) Don't think you need to have a stereotypical "college experience" of wild frat parties and whatever. You can if you want, but you don't have to. "Everyone" doesn't really do that in college, in fact it's more like 5-20% of the students, depending on the school. You won't regret missing "crazy parties" later, but you will regret not doing exactly what you wanted.

5) Definitely explore the world beyond the campus and "student" areas immediately surrounding it.

6) Don't fall into the "college/real world" dichotomy. It's all real. You're living your real life right now in the real world. Decide what you want to do and go do it.
posted by drjimmy11 at 11:58 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


If the required introductory courses outside your major aren't appealing, get permission to take a higher level one that sounds more interesting.

Keep taking a foreign language class.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:59 AM on September 4


Wear earplugs at loud concerts.

I didn't even go to that many shows as a kid, and sweet jesus, I'm paying for it.
posted by furnace.heart at 12:01 PM on September 4 [6 favorites]


Oh and, if the school you're at turns out to be wrong for you, transfer!

I clearly belonged at a liberal arts school, but when I was in High School I literally didn't even know what one was. By the time I did know, I was entrenched at the big state school and thought it was too late to change, which in hindsight it definitely wasn't.
posted by drjimmy11 at 12:01 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


This would actually be a great time to dye your hair blue.
posted by steinwald at 12:04 PM on September 4 [9 favorites]


Put effort into figuring out your schedule so you can have Fridays completely off if it's feasible.

Figure out in advance whether you're likely or not to get a good grade in a class before you decide on taking it. Then you can decide whether there are good enough reasons to take it anyway, or if you should look for a class better suited to your strengths and learning style.

See what options there are for taking additional credits that don't add too much time or stress to your life: if you take one additional class a semester you can graduate early, maybe saving a ton of money.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:05 PM on September 4


Take care of your teeth. Two years after college, I got my first real job. I also got an infected impacted wisdom tooth. The dentist had to put me on antibiotics because my mouth was a disaster from going years without getting my teeth cleaned. And it was super painful. The sooner you get into the habit of flossing, the better.

Also, try to figure out what you want to *do* in addition to what interests you. I hear from a lot of people who want to work in human rights or international relations but when I ask them what they want to *do* in those fields (communications? fundraising? research? etc.), they have no idea. If you have a skill like development, you can do that in a lot of different fields. If you have to work in a niche area, that limits your options.

And learn how to cook. You don't need to make crazy ambitious meals but nail a few basic recipes. And eat some damn vegetables. Your metabolism might be great now but that catches up with you so try to get into some good habits.
posted by kat518 at 12:08 PM on September 4


Don't "find what you love," find what there is to love about whatever it is you are doing.

You're best in a job you enjoy that not a lot of other people want to do.

Listen to women/minorities who tell you about problematic aspects of campus culture and culture in general, and don't get too enmeshed in a group of friends that uses misogyny/homophobia/racism as social currency, even if it's "as a joke." Call shit out when you see it.

Sit in the front of the classroom/lecture hall.

Take a class on symbolic logic if you can.

Play hacky sack.

Live in the dorm where all the freaks/artists/LGBTQ folk live, the one everyone on campus is kind of uncomfortable with. The people who live there are awesome and will know the best parties.

If you can sing and want to get laid, join the a capella group.

The barrier to entry to student government is often pretty low, and can give you a lot of insight into the way power works and the way problems get solved in a bureaucracy, and looks good on a resume. In-body elections often get held to replace people who quit, so you can sometimes get on just by getting elected by the people who are already on it. If you want to do this, read the student government's minutes or a summary of the meetings in the school paper. They'll announce the elections a couple weeks ahead of time. Show up to the meeting the week BEFORE the in-body election so the other people see you there, and stay for the whole thing, and you'll have a huge advantage over the people who just show up for the meeting where the election is held. Have some ideas about what's going on at your school and what committee you want to serve on.
posted by alphanerd at 12:11 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


There's a lot more going on at most universities than just classes and parties. I've never been much of a joiner, so I avoided clubs and interest groups. In retrospect, that was probably a mistake -- I missed out on opportunities to engage in subjects in which I had an interest and meet and befriend likeminded individuals.

Your professors are so much more than just gatekeepers you have to please to pass their class and get your ticket punched so you can get a job. Some of them will be jerks who have neither the time nor the interest to deal with students, but many of them are genuinely passionate about their fields and are delighted to share that. Developing a relationship beyond the minimum with such people can be immensely rewarding on a personal level and they can be great sources of advice and insight on how to develop your potential.

If you don't have at least one class that you are excited to go to, you may be in the wrong program. It can be painful and embarrassing to admit that to yourself, but it's so much better to come to that realization now, rather than 10 years into a career in a field you can't remember why you chose.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:12 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


If you are an art major , take some business courses. If you are a business major take some graphic arts courses.
You will drop your laptop and lose the thumb drive, have backups.
IT help desk personel are more helpful if your request is preceded by an offering of cookies.
If you see a business opertunity that isn't too risky, go for it. Go example, cold orange and cranberry juice can be sold at a 6x markup to someone holding a bottle of vodka outside your dormroom door at 3 am on a Friday night.
posted by Sophont at 12:16 PM on September 4


Also -- try to make some friends who are studying very different subjects from whatever you're into, e.g. if you're an engineering student, make some friends from the art school, don't just hang with other gearheads (and vice-versa.) They'll teach you cool stuff, you'll introduce them to things they'd never heard of, and you'll have fun vigorously discussing things from different points of view. Everybody wins.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:22 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Ask. My biggest regret from college is that I had no idea how many unadvertised possibilities were out there.

Seriously, if the class or major you want isn't available, ask if you can create it. If you want to do a higher level class that isn't your major and don't want to bother with the prereqs, meet with the prof and offer to read a recommended book or two beforehand. If a class looks great but you don't have much available time, ask to do a modified version for less credits. If you need a job and you want to go into the field, ask if they need an assistant. Ask if you can write and perform a interpretive dance in lieu of a paper. Etc, etc. It's all flexible, and professors are likely to say yes to engaged students.
posted by susanvance at 12:35 PM on September 4 [6 favorites]


Go to office hours in the classes that you're acing.

Learn the tricks for gaming the Registrar's office and use them. If you need to grab a signature from a muckity muck to get things done, don't be shy, just walk right through that red tape like a boss.

Favor the interesting way to earn a requirement over the generic way. Test out of or take summer versions for as many generic classes as possible.

A good advisor is worth their weight in gold. The majority of underclass, big University advisors are worth their weight in crap and can't answer a question that's not in the documentation. If you can gain a real mentor or an honors advisor, do it.

Three day weekends and late starts are brilliant, but so is getting the right class. It's a toss up but if I had 8 am Calculus again I don't know what I'd do.

If you're shy, talk to your RA before the big dorm floor icebreaker and ask them if there's anything for you to mentally prep and ask for their help making introductions. "Didja meet Ted?"

If you're going to a college with a lot of your hometown buds, branch out. If there's only one or two acquaintances from your hometown, set up a regular hang-out, lunch or dinner date.

Always have a plan before any break.

Familiarize yourself with the Uni health services before you need them. Getting into and scheduling therapy in Uni is a bit easier than it is as a professional.

Take advantage of the gym or PE classes.
posted by Skwirl at 12:38 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


When Maya Angelou, Bill Nye, Conan O'Brien, Neil Gaiman, or John Stewart visit your college and do some sort of event, GO and do not worry about missing that midterm. Just go.

Instead of studying abroad or buying into Greek Life, get internships every single year, if not every semester you can.

You having fun and "finding yourself" at the expense of others or your health/body = messed up. Don't do it.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:42 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Talk to more people, and care less what they think of you.
posted by Flexagon at 12:56 PM on September 4


Test out of every general education class you can.

Skip class from time to time, because this is one of the last times in your life you can roll over and go back to sleep without explaining to someone why.

For readings heavy classes, find the reviews of the book and read that. Then read the first and last chapter of the book. 90% of the time, this is enough. For that 10%, you'll know because you'll want to read the whole thing.

Make friends. Make lots of them. This is the easiest it will be to bond with a stranger over totally random shit.
posted by teleri025 at 1:17 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Yes, take business classes. In fact, minor in business. No matter what you end up doing in life, everyone needs to have a general understanding of accounting, business management theory, and business law.

Also, I agree with the above advice to say yes more than no. Everytime you say no, people are less likely to ask you to participate in future events, thus compounding the opportunities you will lose out on.
posted by vignettist at 1:18 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Suck at stuff with purpose. Preferably not graded stuff, but go deliberately find something that you don't think you'll be good at and is maybe a little daunting, and go do it, and stick with it a bit. College offers lots and lots of low-risk opportunities to learn to suck at the arts and various sports, and it's a lot easier to learn to overcome and deal with failure/perfectionism when you're young.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 1:23 PM on September 4


my advice: Learning something well enough to be the smartest person in the classroom is only good when you're in the classroom. It's a waste of time or money otherwise. Learn things so that you can talk to people who have never stepped foot inside your classroom, who are experts in other fields.
posted by rebent at 1:24 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Talk to more people, and care less what they think of you.

This is probably just my personal hangup, but I severely wish I had cared less what people thought about my gender presentation, so generalizing that absolutely resonates with "Care less what they think of you."
posted by odinsdream at 1:25 PM on September 4


Riffing slightly off rebent's comment:

Remember when you were the smartest person in the classroom all throughout high school, including your teachers? So does virtually everyone else at your school. You're going to be amazed at how smart you really aren't. Use that. When someone's smarter than you, learn from that person. Now you're smarter too.
posted by Etrigan at 1:30 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Don't let your new campus become the center of your universe. Get to know your new city.
posted by kinetic at 1:34 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Familiarize yourself with the Uni health services before you need them. Getting into and scheduling therapy in Uni is a bit easier than it is as a professional.

Yes, this. And know that your campus mental health system isn't just there for the kids who have really serious problems. If you have any issues at all with anxiety, depression, attention problems, or insomnia, go talk to someone now and get your money's worth.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:35 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


When Maya Angelou, Bill Nye, Conan O'Brien, Neil Gaiman, or John Stewart visit your college and do some sort of event, GO and do not worry about missing that midterm.

Shit, I went to go see Bill Nye at someone else's college and it was more than worth it.
posted by griphus at 1:40 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


If you've ever suspected you might have ADHD or similar learning/studying issues, get evaluated now, don't wait until you're about to get kicked out. Most schools have a streamlined system set up for this kind of thing, and it should be low cost or even free - ask at your health services department.

Same thing goes for any mental health issues, really. Even if you don't think it's severe enough to "waste their time" with, it's really worth getting a professional's opinion and possible help. The consequences of unaddressed mental health issues can sometimes last a long time. Again, often low cost or free for students, depending on the school.
posted by randomnity at 1:43 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Whatever you do, do NOT panic!

Have a problem? Ask for help!

And remember, No one else knows what they're doing either!
posted by Middlemarch at 2:11 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


I went to a small religious school that had a lot of rules.

I wish I'd broken more of them.
posted by beep-bop-robot at 2:17 PM on September 4


Stop apologizing/explaining yourself so much. You're not living at home anymore, you don't have to rationalize why you choose to do something to other people, just to yourself.
posted by deludingmyself at 2:20 PM on September 4


If I was going to give advice to MY college age self, it would be this: Have as much safe, consensual sex as possible without destroying your GPA. DON'T move in with the first person you have sex with.
posted by subtlemel at 2:26 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Loans are not free money. You're going to have to pay them back, and the more loans you pile up, the harder that's going to be. Just because everyone else is up to their ears in debt doesn't mean you should be.

If you borrow too much money, you could ruin the rest of your life.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:36 PM on September 4


1. Stay in touch. Not just with old friends and classmates, but with relatives-- especially if your grandparents are still alive. More importantly, with old professors and with extern/internship supervisors-- I seriously wish I had done more of this.

2. Keep a database of addresses and phone numbers and emails outside of Facebook.

3. Play a sport, join a running club, take a dance class-- I was not at all athletic, at a college where ragging on PE credits is a way of life, and I will never regret playing rugby and starting to run long distances.

4. Get a job or work study, and not just for the money. Use it to develop skills that you will need to prove in the outside world, and so that you have a professional reference (or two!) Even if your degree gives you lots of relevant and useful skills, companies often want direct experience. Talk to your supervisor if they're in a field at all relevant about how they got there, what they did, what they wish they had done. I mean, go to the career center too, but talk to the people around you too. If you can volunteer or do an internship at a different college/institution, do that too-- experience as much of a diversity in jobs/settings/kinds of fields as possible. Also, then you can have references that aren't all from the same place. However: ACTUALLY GO TO YOUR JOB AND DO IT ON TIME. If you get a reputation for being a great worker in an on-campus job, it will sometimes lead to better and greater jobs.

5. Get off campus, explore the city if there is one, learn how cabs and train times and public transportation works. (I wouldn't have thought that was a problem, but I have seen grad students be confused by or be put off from events that were train-accessible.)

6. Learn a language. Study abroad if you can, work with an international student on a language trade, something.

7. Even if you don't like cooking, learn how to assemble food, added gold stars if it involves a fruit or a vegetable. Cheese plates, for example, are useful for most low-key social event you will host later and will also come up at nearly every networking thing.

8. Most colleges and universities have funds for summer internships and projects. Find out what departments offer them, if you'd be interested, and how to apply very far in advance.


and yeah I mean much of this is probably stuff you have to learn yourself through mistakes-- I just wish I had taken the train more, done more exploring for volunteer opportunities outside of campus, maybe even have spent more on takeout and hanging out instead of studying.
posted by jetlagaddict at 2:52 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Get to know your department administrator and/or receptionist. They wield a lot of control over your future happiness regarding collegiate bureaucracy. Seriously, I gave them cookies every year at Christmas, and I'm pretty sure it paid off.
posted by dbarefoot at 2:52 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Ctrl+F "Student loans." Nothing? Seriously???

DON'T TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS. Work your ass off to get a scholarship. Work your ass off to pay your bills. Your 33 year old self will thank you so, so hard.

Related rant: the financial aid office should be telling you this themselves, but they won't. If you're taking out loans, you can figure out what they'll eventually cost you. It's ungodly what compound interest does, and when it's not working in your favor, it's really disheartening.
posted by nosila at 2:59 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


DON'T TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS.

I'll agree with a modified version - don't take out student loans blindly. Put a lot of effort into finding other sources of income like scholarship, work, and co-op options, then figure out how much income you expect from your planned career (note: if you don't have one, school is not where you should be), and how much loans you expect to accumulate over a degree. Then figure out how long it will take you to pay it all off, realistically, with a reasonable budget (note: if you don't have one, get on that), taking into account interest.

Student loans are the only way a lot of people can reasonably attend school (hi), and for a lot of people, the benefits of attending school end up vastly outweighing the costs of things like student loans (hi again), especially if you can keep the debt fairly low. For many others, it's the other way around. Do your best to figure out which group you're in, although of course nothing in life is guaranteed. Also keep in mind you don't have to spend everything they give you - it makes a great emergency fund, if you're disciplined enough not to spend it.
posted by randomnity at 3:41 PM on September 4 [4 favorites]


You're never going to be in another situation in life where you're literally surrounded by hundreds (if not thousands) of people who are in the same exact boat as you: similar or compatible interests, values, questions, passions, fears, hopes, everything.

And you're all amazingly horny.

(Be safe, be decent to each other, but:) Have fun!
posted by danny the boy at 3:47 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Hang out with the international students. I didn't realize until I moved overseas how much fun they were having. My best guess is that because they usually arrive at US universities before the rest of the students, they start out with a strong cohort and are making their own fun. This is a fun way to make friends, learn about other cultures, and start being a "global citizen."

Everywhere I've lived I've also heard the international students say they are kinda timid to approach the "locals," and assume that the locals already have enough friends and won't be interested. Be the one that breaks that barrier!
posted by whatzit at 4:18 PM on September 4


Something someone said at MY orientation: go to your classes. But if you do get into a hole where you are not going to a class or doing the assignments, go speak to the teacher or TA. They won't be upset; they'll be glad to see you. In general, don't be afraid to go talk to people. It's their job to help you.

That's not really uncommon enough, is it? Maybe if I put it this way: Expect things to go wrong and/or feel out of control. There is such a thing as overdoing in college but if you are not doing enough things to wake up at night remembering you have not kept up to date with this or that thing for a while, you're likely not doing enough. A lot of college is getting off balance and correcting for it and that is perfectly normal so don't make a guilty secret of it. If you are feeling on top of everything and in control, you may not be getting challenged enough.

As far as studying abroad, don't reject it out of hand. Some colleges make it affordable. If you are not going to do that, consider doing an exchange year with another college in your own country. Hopefully a small college if yours is a big one, or a much different part of the country, or something like that. (This is assuming you are doing the luxury, live-in college thing.)
posted by BibiRose at 4:41 PM on September 4


There is no shame in getting help for mental illness. In fact, it'll probably save your life.
posted by kathrynm at 4:51 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


never drink the punch (this advice was given to me by a recently graduated frat dude and served me well)
posted by magnislibris at 6:27 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Go to therapy. It's cheaper now than it'll ever be, and it isn't just for people who can't function.

Come out of the closet. YMMV.

Talk to your professors outside class. Realize they actually enjoy getting to know students.
posted by zahava at 6:44 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Realize that the least important thing you're doing there is socializing.
posted by stormyteal at 6:46 PM on September 4


Just one more for go to office hours or find other ways to talk with profs outside of class. This served me very well as an undergrad and connected me to valuable experiences outside and after university that I never would have even imagined on my own. That one professor who seemed so strict and standoffish in class was maybe just shy; stopping by his office with a friend to eat lunch, he was a whole other person and lots of fun.

And, making friends with some grad or law students opened up a superior grade of parties.
posted by Gotanda at 7:13 PM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Don't start smoking, even a little bit.

Go to the campus gym and exercise regularly. To the extent that you can meet women in a non-creepy way by doing this, your best bet would be to go early in the morning.
posted by alphanerd at 7:43 PM on September 4


You can take loads of classes for free if you go to the professor, tell him that you're really interested in the class but it doesn't do anything for your graduation requirements or you can't afford the extra registration fee or whatever, but you'd like to attend lecture and turn in homework anyway. The key part is to do the work: it shows the professor that you're serious and forces you to put in the work to learn the material. Also, tip the TA/grader some baked goods or some other small, impersonal, consumable gift.

I've had great conversations with professors and TAs in classes I audited. Especially if you're auditing big intro courses that are requirements for other programs, I think the staff tend to be pleased to see someone who's interested in the material for its own sake. After all, most of them chose to enter this department.
posted by d. z. wang at 8:02 PM on September 4


You should be very wary of any professional advice from your school's career center. Seriously. Think about it - these are people who haven't actually worked in the "real world" in quite a while! I'm sure that some career centers are good but they are the exception not the norm. Their advice is usually either outdated or just plain wrong.

If you don't believe me, check out Ask a Manager's "Why do so many college career centers suck?" and "Is it time to close down college career centers?"
posted by radioamy at 9:20 PM on September 4


A lot of this is personal, but here's what I would tell myself:

In many ways, college will be the best time of your life. It will also be the hardest, but sometimes you need to be completely broken down before you can build yourself up again.

Just because something is hard, that doesn't mean you shouldn't do it. But you also shouldn't do things just because they're hard. Accepting a challenge can be character building, but at a certain point you're just banging your head against a brick wall for no good reason.

Be open to the other people in your life. For the first time in your life, you will have a lot of people who care about you, who want to support you, and who are actually able to do that like you family never could, so let them. Let yourself be vulnerable. Rely on other people. Sometimes. A little bit at a time. Over and over.

Be patient and kind, to yourself and to people around you.

Go ahead and get staggeringly drunk, just the one time, just to see what's on the other side of temptation. You'll wake up feeling miserable and sick and swear never to do it again. And it's fine, because we all make mistakes, and college is the right place to make them, but when that happens multiple times in a week, it's time to put down the bottle and reach out for help. Alcohol will destroy you if you let it.

Never pick up that first cigarette, because once you do, you'll never fully get away from its grip.

The worst thing you can do for yourself is to settle for being miserable. No one should wake up every morning wanting to die. Get help before you let the next four years pass you by in a haze of angst and depression.

Never give up, even in the darkest moments. You are so much stronger than you ever dreamed you could be.

None of this lasts forever. The good and the bad. It all goes away eventually, which is why you should take advantage of every opportunity and every moment of the next four years.

Your life won't come to end when you pick up your diploma. College can be an amazing experience, but life after college is really wonderful too, just in different ways. Never lose sight of your final goal, but don't waste the next four years fretting about what's on the other side.

On that note, there is no right or wrong when it comes to planning out a path for yourself. There are very few mistakes you could possibly make that can't be undone. You've got your whole life ahead of you, after all.
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:47 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


- Don't say everything you're thinking, and think before you act.
- Be casual but not rude.
- If you have a tried and tested friend, hang on to them; but don't burn out and spend all your money on doing fun things with people you've just met.
- Don't be quick to argue but once you're in an argument, stand up for yourself.
- Listen to everyone but don't blather on to just anyone.
- Take others' criticism on board but don't criticise others.
- Wear the nicest clothes you can afford - not necessarily fancy but good quality - because people often judge you by what you wear.
- Don't borrow money or lend it unless you want to lose friends. Also you need to learn how to live within your means.
- Most of all, be true to yourself. If you're true to yourself, you have integrity and will be honest with others as well.
[with apologies to Polonius, who sometimes said some useful things]
posted by Athanassiel at 1:02 AM on September 5 [2 favorites]


Balance sleep and work time because sleep is so important. I still have not recovered from the change in my sleep and it is over a decade post-undergraduate graduation.

Go ahead and make mistakes, interpersonally, professionally (through internships), and in the classroom. College is a low stakes time to make those mistakes.

If you are a woman with male friends, provided they are straight they are probably interested in you as a potential romantic relationship. I wish I knew this back when I was in school. don't be afraid to make the first move.
posted by Jewel98 at 9:49 PM on September 5


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