I sent in my application for the University of Washington a few weeks ago – I should find out if I’m accepted in mid- to late-November. If I am, this will be my first time at a traditional university – I graduated from art school in 2007. Art schools are quite different in a lot of ways (Think Stella Artois and cocaine instead of Pabst and pot – though there were those things, too)(I also never did any coke, just saying.), but there are some guidelines that are universal. With college right around the corner for many, I thought I’d share some of my very, very wise tips for the incoming freshman.
- Befriend people in your major who are ahead of you. They have a lot of good advice – what classes to take and from who, how to get in good with a professor, what topics are the most important, etc.
- No one cares about what you did in high school. Seriously. No one in college is going to care that you were the head cheerleader/Homecoming royalty/star quarterback/valedictorian/whatever. It doesn’t carry the cache it did in high school. Please do not wear your high school letterman jacket to college. It’s embarrassing.
- Teachers will not hold you accountable. Your education up until now has involved a lot of handholding, largely because classes were smaller. College classes can be enormous, and professors don’t have the time, energy, or inclination to make sure you don’t fall behind.
- Learn to cook. Going out to eat with new friends or ordering pizza is a lot of fun and is certainly easier than cooking at home, and you should do it on occasion. But it is also extremely expensive and bad for you. Learn to cook a handful of relatively cheap, healthy meals to have on hand. A slow cooker is a great idea, as your meal can cook while you’re in class.
- Don’t buy your books at the school bookstore. Colleges mark up their books so much. Look on Amazon, Half.com, and other resources for much better prices. Amazon even lets you rent books for a quarter.
- Go to class. This one is related to #3. Your parents aren’t around anymore to wake you up and make sure you get to school on time. Go to class, pate attention, and you’ll be doing better than a lot of your peers. College is also very expensive and every class skipped is money down the drain.
- Remember to sleep. It can be hard to get all your studying done without staying up extra late, but it is equally hard to do well in school if you’re a zombie. Study every day to avoid late night cram sessions and make sure you are getting adequate sleep so you can operate at your best.
- Use alcohol/drugs in extreme moderation. Technically you shouldn’t be drinking at all if you’re under 21, but pretty much no college student follows that rule. Alcohol will be made available to you, and it can definitely be a great way to loosen up, meet new people, and have fun*. Know ahead of time what your limit is so you don’t get too crazy – 1 or 2 drinks an hour, plus 1 glass of water for every drink – is more than enough. Make sure to eat and stay hydrated, and keep close, trusted friends with you at all times. These rules apply for drugs, too. Basically, don’t be a dummy.
- Eat right and exercise. Freshman 15 is very real for most people. This relates to #4. Pizza, fast food, and cafeteria offerings are not the healthiest of options. And it can be tempting after a long day of classes to go home and crash. But try taking a walk, going for a run, or lifting weights at your school’s gym instead to blow off some steam. It can do a world of good.
- Make a few practices trips of your class schedule before school starts. This can avoid being late and having to ask for directions.
- Get to know your professors. They can help you out in a number of ways. Familiarize yourself with their office hours and try to set up meetings with them throughout the quarter. As a for-instance, years ago I had a Buying class and would get terrible test anxiety. My teacher knew that I knew the information, but despite this I’d still get average grades on tests. After setting up a meeting with him to discuss the problem, he came up with a great solution: He’d split my test scores between the actual exams and questions he’d ask during class. No one else knew, so it wasn’t embarrassing, and I was able to bring up my grade.
- Take notes with a pen and paper, not a laptop. Laptops lose power and can also be very distracting. I also find the act of writing material down further cements it in my brain.
- If you’re feeling depressed or otherwise not mentally up to snuff, there are plenty of free resources for you. Talk to your school counselor, the college health clinic, a trusted professor, etc. Don’t suffer in silence!
- Be considerate of roommates and others in general. I had a roommate in college who would routinely eat my food (it was clearly marked with my name, too. One time she ate all the delicious bread my stepdad had made for me before I came home from class. I wanted to punch that bitch in the throat.), leave body hair she’d shaven off on the bathroom counter and in a ring around the tub, and once I came home around 1 AM to our front door open with her inside, passed out. She was the worst. Don’t be this roommate. Clean up after yourself, ask before using/eating other people’s things/food, be quiet if you have to wake up before them in the morning, etc. In short: Don’t be an asshole.
- WATCH YOUR BEVERAGES! This is true for the ladies and Do not ever accept a drink from someone you don’t trust implicitly, unless it’s from an unopened can or bottle. Before I left for college, one of my older brothers told me to never go to parties, because I would get roofied, and I would get date-raped. While that’s a huge overreaction from a protective brother and you should definitely go to parties if you want, be smart and aware of yourself and your drink.
*You do not have to have alcohol or drugs to have a good time! If you’re not comfortable drinking or doing drugs, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about that.