Friday, August 21, 2009

Advice for the College Bound

My little cousin isn't quite so little anymore, and yesterday he moved into the dorm for his first year of college. Seems like only yesterday he was chasing my grandparents' dog around in his walker. *sniffle* Anyway, I'm offering a few lessons I've learned in my, well, many years spent in higher education to him and all the freshmen out there.

  • What to bring. Those lists you get at Target or Bed Bath & Beyond are intended to get you to by more of the stores' products. Take inspiration from them, but use common sense, and know your school's regulations.
  • Computers. If you don't buy a Mac, by the third Blue Screen of Death in a week, you'll wish you had. And anyway, no matter what the Windows commercial says, Apple offers most colleges way better deals than PCs do.
  • Quarters. They are the most valuable piece of currency you will have in your pocket for the next four years. Use them for parking meters, bus fare, vending machine snacks, and, above all, laundry!
  • Laundry. I know what your moms told you about sorting colors, but most clothes are ok mixed together if you wash them on cold. It's cheaper (no tiny load of whites wasting your precious quarters), keeps your colors brighter, and is better for the environment. There are even detergents specially designed for cold wash use. At the laundromat, sometimes it's cheaper to shove everything in the triple-loader. Finally, ladies, most commercial washers don't have a delicate cycle, so get yourself a bucket and some Woolite to wash you unmentionables.
  • Cafeteria food. It's disgusting. But it usually comes in all you can eat format, so be wary. Sure, the meatloaf could probably get up and walk around the room, but it's so easy to add to it a side of french fries, pasta, soup, salad, pie, ice cream, cookies... hey, where did those extra 15 pounds come from?? Self control is a must, as is keeping an eye out for healthy options. Other on-campus eateries often offer more palatable fair, but watch out--it might not be on your meal plan. (Susquehanna students: Beware the Encore fries.)
  • Snacks. I like the little individual packs of cookies and chips like you'd put in a kid's lunch box. Sure, technically it's cheaper to buy the big bags, but it's easier to control your portions this way. You'd be surprised how fast that can of Pringles goes. Again, consider healthy options like those little cups of applesauce or fruit cocktail. And for those times when for one reason or another you can't be bothered to leave your room to go eat, Ramen noodles, Easy Mac, and those little microwavable cups of soup or Spaghetti-Os are your new best friends. Also, find out who delivers to campus.
  • Beverages (the boring kind). Avoid those energy drinks. They keep you up, but not focused. Stick to good old fashioned coffee, tea, or soft drinks. Be sure to drink lots of water, and juices high in vitamin C, especially in cold and flu season.
  • Beverages (the fun kind). Get completely wasted once. This will help you know what your limit is, and will also hopefully make you never want to do it again. Also, drink wisely. If you're under 21, don't get drunk. It'll be much easier to convince the cops that you've just come from Communion... uh, I mean, Don't drink at all! It's illegal! Shame on you! If you're over 21, it's ok to get drunk occasionally, but do it safely. Keep an eye on your friends to make sure they're not getting taken advantage of or being an ass. Paying cash at the bar means you have a set limit on how much you'll drink. Obey B.Y.O.B. or else you'll be drinking nasty keg beer. Drink water to avoid a nasty hangover, and KEEP AN EYE ON WHAT'S GOING INTO YOUR DRINK!
  • Hangovers. Here's my cure: 1) Wake up as late as possible. 2) Turn on football, lay on bed or couch, barely paying attention to the game. 3) When you feel you can keep something down, take 3 ibuprofen with a bottle/large glass of water. 4) When you can move around, make Ramen noodles and consume with sufficiently caffeinated beverage. 5) Continue watching TV until you're feeling better. (Note: This works best on Saturday and Sunday. Contrary to popular belief, the weekend does not start on Thursday.)
  • Roommates. You will hate them. And they will hate you. If you're lucky, you can draw a line in chalk down the middle of the room, but chances are you'll be living on top of each other. To survive the year, you both need to be considerate, but sometimes you get stuck with someone who just doesn't get it. The only ways to really get along with your roommate is to a) never EVER be in the room at the same time, or b) get drunk and/or high together.
  • Classes. Don't just take things to fulfill a requirement. Always try to take classes you're interested in. You'll do much better in them. And don't be afraid to challenge yourself or take something way outside your major. One of the best classes I took was taught by a chemical physicist.
  • Studying. Find the place to do so that's right for you. Some people need absolute quiet, some need to study with the TV on. Do all the readings on time, pay attention (and TAKE NOTES) in lecture, and ask questions, and you will do better on the test. Form study groups with other students.
  • Papers. Don't write them the night before. (I know, I'm the last person you'd expect to hear that from, but the only way that works is when it's the paper you've been dying to write for ages.) Do research well in advance. Take advantage of your professors/TAs and talk over your ideas or show them some paragraphs. Make an outline, if only on a napkin. AND FOR THE LOVE OF GOD USE A THESIS STATEMENT!!!
  • TAs. Remember, they're students, too, and probably have a full course load in addition to their teaching duties. There's a lot you can do to make their job easier, which will benefit you in the long run. Do the reading on time, pay attention in lecture (and TAKE NOTES), and participate in class. If their method isn't working for you, tell them what you need. And if you don't understand something ASK QUESTIONS!
  • Professors. If you go to a large university, chances are you won't interact with one for about the first two years. If you got to a smaller university or college, you'll more than likely get them straight off the bat. Either way, you need to make them know who you are. The obvious way is to do well in the class. Suck up, but do it sincerely. Don't tell them you loved their book when you haven't even read it. But, if you found something in the class interesting, ask them if there's anything else you can read on it. Let them know if you found a connection between what you're doing in their class and something you learned in another. (Interdisciplinary stuff is hot right now, and profs are always looking for new article ideas.) And if you actually did read their book, ask them questions about it. Professors love talking about their work.
  • Work. The best jobs are the ones that let you play Minesweeper, um, I mean , study while you work, so look for something at the library, in an office, or at a reception desk.
  • Advice. Your parents are good at the general life stuff, but, remember, when they were at college, they had card catalogs. So take what they say with a grain of 20-year-old salt. Good sources of advice: older siblings or cousins, professors, TAs, RAs, upperclassmen, councilors, etc.
  • Activities. Don't spread yourself too thin, but get involved. Your life will be so much better if you do something you enjoy to get your mind off classes and other crap. Most colleges have something for everyone, and if there's nothing you're interested in, it's usually pretty easy to start a club.
  • Travel. Whether for spring break or a whole year, waste no opportunity to go abroad. Don't know where to go for Spring Break? Here's a hint: the cool people might go to Florida or Mexico, but the interesting ones go to Poland.
  • Free Time. At colleges in a big city like New York or Boston, it's not hard to find something to do. And most big universities are in college towns, which, despite their rural local, usually have a vibrant and varied social life. But if you go to a small college in Podunk, U.S.A., your campus may be the only hot spot around. Now, your college will probably provide you with things to do (i.e. other than consuming copious amounts of alcohol), but you may find yourself some Saturday night having to choose between IM-ing your friend in the room next door while watching SNL and going to a frat party and getting drunk with horny Greeks. But fear not! You and your friends can always get creative and make your own fun (see below).

Feel free to add your own advice or anecdotes of what not to do in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. :D Hehe. This post brought back so many memories.

    Also, YAY THOUGHT CLASS! It really was awesome. What a great way to start out our college career.