After 'A' Levels: advice and recommendations for a university undergraduate.
June 22, 2006 5:09 PM   Subscribe

What would you say to a reasonably bright (nearly) 19 year old at this stage of her life?

My daughter finishes her 'A' Levels next week. She has studied sciences - psychology, biology & chemistry, and it looks like she's going to do well - if she gets, as expected, either AAB for Bristol University or ABB for Sussex (Brighton), she's set up.

Which books, which films, even which bands should she not be ignorant of? Any aphorisms, mottos & bon mots - all words of wisdom are welcome: especially those that you wish you had heard when you were a girl of that age (hell, if you are a girl of that age, tell me, what would you want to be told!)
posted by dash_slot- to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
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posted by Zed_Lopez at 5:15 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Don't do anything you already know is stupid. You learn nothing from it.
posted by JekPorkins at 5:21 PM on June 22, 2006

"I love you, I am here for you if you need me, no matter what."
posted by caddis at 5:23 PM on June 22, 2006

Thanks for the quick response, Zed_Lopez. I will read those threads - they were posted by the young people themselves.
Anyone else, maybe parents themselves, have stuff they want to say to someone embarking on life in either of those cities, with an interest in psychology, and - dare I say it - somewhat sheltered (in a sort of 'sweet 18, never been kissed') kinda way?
posted by dash_slot- at 5:27 PM on June 22, 2006

You might be able to get some ideas from
mefi question. Difference in age, but it may be useful. If for no other reason than what feistyferret has to say.
posted by andywolf at 5:28 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't go to university unless you have a really fucking good reason to.
posted by cillit bang at 5:29 PM on June 22, 2006

Conversely, don't feel guilty for having a little fun and making a few mistakes, especially at university, as long as you keep it all in perspective.
posted by muddgirl at 5:38 PM on June 22, 2006

Be Good, or if not, Be Good At It.

Uni was the best time of my schooling years, not because I learnt anything, but met my best friends.

Having a degree meant I can now work in Tokyo. Those without, can not.
posted by lundman at 6:03 PM on June 22, 2006

I'm 18, and I've just finished my first semester of university.

To be honest, at this point your need for independence really kicks in, you don't want to be told advice but find it out for yourself. I think the best think you can say to your daughter is a sincere "How are things?"

She's an adult now, let her tell you a thing or two.

Don't go to university unless you have a really fucking good reason to.

You know, I've kinda found with many people that the only way to really find a good reason is to go in the first place. At this point in life, you have plenty of time to test the waters. 'Course, YMMV.
posted by Serial Killer Slumber Party at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Wow - just read the FiestyFerret link.

I think I'm gonna have to email that to some members of my family...
posted by matty at 6:08 PM on June 22, 2006

Since you mention university, I will answer on that point only. I believe quite strongly that people should not rush through uni. Just because a course takes three years (for example) on paper does not mean you need to complete it in three. Study full-time for a while, part-time whilst working for a bit, take a year off for travel or volunteer work or something, don't be afraid to switch courses, pursue relevant work experience & give it about equal priority to paper-based studies. Doing these kinds of things should enrich that whole period of life, lead to a more mature & experienced graduate, and one with hopefully a clearer picture of where & how to go on from there.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:21 PM on June 22, 2006

What caddis said. It's not advice, which can be ignored; it's love, which is priceless, no matter what your age or situation.
posted by lhauser at 7:32 PM on June 22, 2006

I'm 20, and I've switched majors a couple times. I think what my mother told me then would make good advice going into university as well.

She said, "It's not a race."
posted by benign at 7:41 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't go to university unless you have a really fucking good reason to.

I disagree utterly and absolutely.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:45 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't go to university unless you have a really fucking good reason to.

And if you can't think of a really good reason, you're not trying very hard. So start trying.

And hurry up and finish college. What do you think I am, made of money?
posted by JekPorkins at 8:06 PM on June 22, 2006

Don't be afraid to make mistakes.

You're going to. We all do. It's one of the ways we learn.

Having said that, forgive yourself once you've learned the lesson.
posted by filmgeek at 8:15 PM on June 22, 2006

benign, I think I love your mother.

I would tell a naive young girl, off to college, to "Always use a condom" and "You most certainly *can* get pregnant/HIV/HPV the first time."

And I'd give her some condoms to take with her, and make sure she's got all the facts about birth control and STD prevention.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:49 PM on June 22, 2006

my dad was always telling me to "keep my thinking in my pants"
posted by pyramid termite at 9:38 PM on June 22, 2006

(Just graduated from college this past May)

When I left, my dad told me: "You can do whatever you like, as long as you don't get pregnant, wreck the car, or mess up your grades."
My mom told me: "No matter what happens, where you are, what time of day it is, you can call me and ask for help and I will still love you no matter what."

Worked for me. The BC/sex ed advice sounds like a good idea too. I'd also recommend something advising about underage drinking (because more than likely, it will happen) and getting yourself into dangerous situations (date rape, etc.)

Good luck.
posted by sperose at 10:17 PM on June 22, 2006

Retirement is closer than you think.
Invest 10% percent of your income.
posted by madajb at 10:28 PM on June 22, 2006

Wear sunscreen. Everyday. Even cloudy days. Maybe even at night for good measure.
posted by GIRLesq at 10:48 PM on June 22, 2006

University may be the last time you get to utterly reinvent yourself a number of times, and make hundreds of different groups of friends, try out new skills or hobbies, etc. So the old joke "try everything once - except incest and Morris dancing" - is the advice I wish I'd been given when I was in your daughter's position. I only really got round to trying out lots of things by third year - I regret the missed opportunities from the previous two years.
posted by greycap at 10:53 PM on June 22, 2006

Sperose - In the UK, you're not drinking underage if you're 18.
posted by altolinguistic at 11:56 PM on June 22, 2006

As a university lecturer and s someone with a few years as a student under my belt I'd suggest she put off going to uni for a year (they'll agree to that without a problem) and got herself a job, my experience is this gives students lots more motivation and a much more mature approach to their academic work, plus it gives a chance to get a bit of cash together before the debt building begins.
posted by biffa at 2:37 AM on June 23, 2006

"Get on with it!"

Meaning, always keep moving in a direction - towards your dreams, towards stuff you'd like to try.
posted by pollystark at 3:34 AM on June 23, 2006

Start investing in retirement now. Start saving for a house now. Start expecting peers to act like adults, now!
posted by ewkpates at 3:53 AM on June 23, 2006

I'm in exactly the same position... plus 1 year. Yep, I've just finished my first year of university (Cardiff, studying Music).

Here are some things she should know:

- Everyone keeps telling you that university will be the best time of your life. It may well be, but allow room for the possibility that things won't be amazing immediately. Likewise, it is entirely possible that your flatmates (if she's going into halls) won't be your best friends, and that you may even not get on with them at all. If that does happen, don't panic, and don't be afraid to transfer halls.

- In terms of music, films etc... don't worry. Everyone really does have their own interests and tastes, and people respect that. You'll be introduced to a lot of new stuff whether you like it or not, and no-one will care if you haven't read this or seen that or own whichever album.

- Don't do things you don't want to. In many ways university is just like school - everyone cares a lot about popularity, there is a lot of going along with the crowds etc. Despite this you should never feel like you have to do anything. University is partially about being independent, and not just from your parents, also generally as a person. Have the strength to make your own decisions and stick with them, and don't take any shit from anyone who has a problem with that.

There are a million more things I could say. If you (or her) want any more advice/have questions for someone who's just been there please do email me - I'd be happy to help. I've also spent a fair bit of time in Bristol (my boyfriend is at university there) so I can tell her things about what it's like there too.
posted by Lotto at 4:36 AM on June 23, 2006

After just going through an American college and graduating and all that, I think the biggest thing that someone who has an intellegence level of "above-average or more" should be tought how to live:

- How to write checks/make bank transactions/take out a loan/sign up for a credit card all by herself
- How to buy a house/rent an apartment/move to another city
- My list in my head just dissapeared, but this sort of stuff...

Also, although it's a little early for her to experience it, the book Quarterlife Crisis by Robbins and Wilner might be a good read for her to think about before she encounters the "twenty-something confusion."
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:57 AM on June 23, 2006

Don't let inertia get the best of you! You're at an age and in a position where changing your mind about things - even the big things - is not a big deal. Don't like your program or major? Switch! Or whatever. "I have to do X because I've always wanted to do X" is really bad reasoning. People change, and if you don't want to do X any more, think hard about what you do want instead.
posted by miagaille at 6:04 AM on June 23, 2006

Everything is going to be more expensive than you think, and not just in monetary terms. Your actions, your relationships both personal and professional are the coin of the realm. (or something not so corny).
posted by Gungho at 6:34 AM on June 23, 2006

1. Start talking to people (professionals, that is) about what their jobs are so she has an idea of what she might like to do after uni.
2. Talk to your professors and be friendly with them.
3. Start looking at where you might want to intern.
4. Study abroad.
posted by onepapertiger at 7:10 AM on June 23, 2006

And if you can't think of a really good reason, you're not trying very hard. So start trying.

Well yes. The point I wanted to make was that she needs to have an eye on the bigger picture. Getting a degree is not an end in itself. If she's going into it for the mythical "getting a better job at the end", she needs to make sure that happens. She needs to take up opportunities for experience, or to network with people in whatever industry she wants to work in. Hell, she could even phone some employers today and ask exactly what they want.

Kind of related: Most employers expect you to have done work experience/an internship, and most internship programs are only interested in people who haven't graduated yet - getting one afterwards is very hard. So she needs to be thinking about that.

Another thing: Unless they've changed it, the government are happy to pay for one "false start". If she changes her mind before the end of the first year, she can start again on a different course the next year, no problem. But if she starts the second year, she forfeits this option.
posted by cillit bang at 8:09 AM on June 23, 2006

You will quite likely spend the rest of your life surrounded by people just like you who aren't looking for new friends. University may be your best chance to encounter people who will show you a perspective you've never considered. Seek out the mature student, the foreign student, the downright odd student, the student with a different background.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:24 AM on June 23, 2006

Start investing in retirement now. Start saving for a house now.

I would have felt complete contempt for anyone who told me this when I was 19, and frankly I would have my doubts about anyone of that age who would listen seriously to it. Sure, it's good advice, and she should floss and look both ways before crossing the street and never have sex where there isn't mutual respect and blah blah blah... There's plenty of time to be sensible and money-grubbing later on. Tell her to enjoy the college experience and do whatever she might not have time or energy for later on. At that age, experience is far more valuable than money.
posted by languagehat at 2:54 PM on June 23, 2006

There's plenty of time to be sensible and money-grubbing later on.

Compound interest. I'll say it again: Compound interest. It doesn't take much money early on to make lots later. It's not "money grubbing," it's simple savings, and it doesn't even have to be much.

Show her a graph of how much she'll make on a small investment now versus a large one later, and she'd be an idiot to have contempt for the suggestion.
posted by JekPorkins at 3:10 PM on June 23, 2006

Yes, I understand about compound interest and how it all makes sense. If you were into that stuff at 19, you were a very unusual 19-year-old. I'm glad I wasn't, even though it means I don't have as much money now as I would have if I'd spent my college years investing.
posted by languagehat at 5:07 PM on June 23, 2006

I would and did laugh at the notion of investment at that age. The opportunity cost of that small amount of money is a lot of learning that could be done with it - travel, less time working for minimum wage, extra study time, etc.

My advice would be: relax, have fun, make friends.

For most young people who haven't been very independent, university turns out to be a time for self-discovery and learning about the world. The course is very much secondary, if not redundant for many (not necessarily in this case, but the point stands). As cillit bang said, there is often as much to be gained from postponing, taking it slow or switching courses, as from ploughing through a degree the person lacks passion for.

The point being, it doesn't matter if you mess up a year, don't get a first or 2:1, or decide the course is waste of time - there is a lot of life afterwards, and little of it depends on university (unless she wants to go academic in the long run, and even then, there's no hurry).

Also, if she is passionate about her subject, she may find the course doesn't live up to her hopes, or has areas of serious deficiency - this is common. It is up to each student to make the most of the resources they have - independent study is the key to success in any course.
posted by MetaMonkey at 9:30 PM on June 23, 2006

Everyone keeps telling you that university will be the best time of your life. It may well be, but allow room for the possibility that things won't be amazing immediately. Likewise, it is entirely possible that your flatmates (if she's going into halls) won't be your best friends, and that you may even not get on with them at all.

This bears repeating. A lot of people set themselves up for a big let down. Uni gives great memories, but at the time can suck as hard as anything else. It's also a lot more like school than most people let on, just with more choice of social group and less discipline.
posted by MetaMonkey at 9:37 PM on June 23, 2006

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