Tami Swartz, a freelance journalist and 2007 graduate of Boston University, wrote this in response to "Simple advice for college students from a parent," a column posted earlier on College Bound.
College is a wonderful bubble of youth, fun, learning, and napping. But the seemingly endless wonderment does eventually end, and the hope is that not only do you survive, but that you also get something out of it other than owing more money than your parents owe on the house.
The following are some pieces of advice — some motherly, some serious, and some that every college graduate will just knowingly nod their head to — that will make you the leader of the 44 new besties on your floor. They apply to men, women, transgenders, A-types, extroverts, and virtually all students except grad students. They have to study anyway.
1. Get lost. Go explore, meet friends, find parties, find classes, find the best dining hall and enjoy the honeymoon.
2. You're not in high school anymore -- you don't have to be involved in 12 activities. You've already made it to college. Find one or two things you like, and really get into them.
3. Befriend the other sex and treat them well. Maybe it’s because most dorms separate into gender-based living, but freshman often socialize like they’re in third grade. Grow up!
4. Understand your loans, at least in the very basic of terms. Try to make payments toward them while in college, even if the terms don't require it.
5. Understand credit (and not just credit cards). A lot of credit ruining often happens in college. Those mistakes stick for almost a decade and affect your car/house/loan-getting ability.
6. Use the buddy system if you're drinking. Check in with your buddy throughout the night. This is not just for women. This is for anyone you care about and would not like to see drunkenly fall off a cliff or drown in a river.
7. Stay safe. This means lock your door at night. Do not walk alone at night (call a friend, throw money at the problem and get a cab, or if it's safe, crash — after all, it's what college kids do best), and pay attention to your surroundings. College kids seem to wind up in trouble for some kindergarten stuff: Do not approach a car you don't know. Look both ways before crossing the street, train tracks, the dining hall. Seriously, students get hit by cars, bikes, trains, and other students a lot.
8. Make your bed. Only because everyone will sit on it. Barefoot.
9. Understand when a line is being crossed. Until now, you have had the threat of your parents’ power over your life to deter you from making life-altering mistakes. In college, you are in control and should stay in control. Don't let someone stay passed out in a public space alone; don't let anyone grope an unconscious person; don't drive drunk or let anyone else; don't let hazing go beyond harmless teasing. This is the time when you start shaping who you are.
10. Wear shower shoes.
11. Be welcoming. Remember that some of your friends might not go home for the holidays. Or might need a home cooked meal. Invite them to your parents’ house, or celebrate on campus.
12. Get a job. It can be a dumb job that doesn't take a lot of time. Do something that makes you responsible for showing up and gives you some spending money (work the mail room, copy place, cashier, etc.).
13. Be independent from your parents, even if they're paying your way. Don't let them call your professors or financial aid office -- or if you do, at least also be on the phone, too. Understand that you are responsible to work things out for yourself. You are your own advocate.
14. Learn how to research. Doesn’t matter what your major is, learn to find the source of information (the honest-to-goodness real source) and use it for your arguments. It's dangerous not to understand where your information comes from. This also allows you the ability to know when you're being lied to and instills the value of giving credit where credit’s due.
15. Leaving food and wet towels around your room is gross. At the very least, you must clean these up.
16. Avoid entering into a friends-with-benefits situation. Most graduates can tell you that this is a terrible arrangement. Someone is always getting or going to get hurt.
17. Don't ignore mental health issues in yourself or others. If you're having trouble and you don't yet have anyone to confide in, there are resources on every campus. If you suspect someone else is having trouble, let them know about the resources or better yet, have the resources come to them. College is a tricky time, and so is being a young adult. This is the time when problems arise.
18. By senior year, really start thinking about what you want post-college. It's a sad thought, I know, but being blindsided at graduation is even sadder.
19. Group projects stink. But unfortunately, that's what 9-5 work is like for a lot of people. You might as well try to learn some teamwork skills (this does not mean becoming the boss).
20. Appreciate your family back home. College is a bubble and you will no doubt love the bubble, but remember birthdays and holidays. If you travel home, try not to regress into the 14-year-old brat you once were.
21. Get out of the dorm room. Now.