Last week, the girl I mentor, the girl I consider like a little sister, moved into her first college dorm room. The night before she left our hometown, she asked me if I had any advice for her, and like a fountain, I spewed a novel-length text message to her. Upon reflection, a lot of the things I told her, I wish some one had told me as I entered into my freshman year of college:
Enjoy the freedom.
It took me until about my junior year of college to realize that I was an adult, completely on my own. In my first few years of college, I was constantly looking for validation for my choices. When I was a junior, I began to recognize that I did not need validation from anyone but myself.
Always pour your own drink at parties.
This seems almost like common sense in the wake of the twenty-first century, but for many naive college freshmen, it is not. In fact, just a few days ago, my "little sister's" roommate was taken to the hospital after a night out because it was alleged that someone drugged her drink. Always pour your own drink, and always keep your drink in your hand.
Don't live in sweat/yoga pants.
Once you're on your own, it gets easier to just wear "comfy" clothes all the time. However, I think it is important to dress up at least once a week, and wear jeans or something similar to class at least three times a week. The freshman fifteen is real, and by wearing form-fitting clothes with no elastic, you'll be able to realize if your body is getting a little thicker.
Meet friends with the same major.
While I was in a sorority, and I made a few friends there, there is nothing like a bond between people who are studying the same thing. Not only do you have classes together, but you also have common interests, common goals and a generally similar outlook on life. These will become "your people" over the next four years.
Be respectful to your roommate.
You may be best friends with him/her, or you may not have anything in common and barely talk. Regardless, always respect their space, privacy and general humanity. He/she is in the same boat as you, and you probably have a lot in common. No one wants a roommate war, especially your RA.
Never underestimate the power of a hand-written thank you note if a professor or advisor helps you.
Thank you notes are something that almost seem trite in the world of emails and text messages, but adults (and personally, I think everyone) really appreciate a hand-written note that sincerely thanks them for helping you. This can open a lot of doors for you in terms of networking and being remembered in a good light.
You have the opportunity to redefine who you are.
Up until this point, who you have been pretty much does not matter. You can go into college and change your name, your style, your brand. If you are happy where you are, that's completely fine! You do you! But, if you feel that your high school years have prescribed you an identity of which you're sick, now is the time to change it! You can now recreate your life exactly the way you want it to be.
Do not dwell in the past.
Obviously, things are changing. You are going to grow distant from your high school friends, but that is okay. You are now going down different paths. Stay connected to them, but do not dwell on your former friendships so much that it takes away from the opportunities to form new relationships.
Indulge in takeout when you get bored with cafeteria food.
The first three weeks of all-you-can-eat deliciousness is heaven. But around October, you are going to get very sick of the same cafeteria food for all your meals a day. When you have a little extra money, order yourself some "real" food that is no mass-produced. I'm not talking Chinese from down the street or a delivered pizza, I'm talking about the local places. Order some good, homemade food from a real restaurant and savor it.
Remember to take an umbrella with you on days it is supposed to rain.
I cannot even recall how many times I opted not to take an umbrella with me to class because "it's not raining right now," only to regret it when I walked out into pouring rain and had to walk back to my dorm room drenched.
Be present in class.
I don't mean just show up. I mean actually be present; engaged in your courses, analyze the things you are told, and ask questions if you don't understand something. Not only will your intellectual curiosity grow, but class will go by much more quickly than if you're just sitting there with your laptop open, browsing Pinterest.
Introduce yourself to your professors.
This is especially important if you go to a big college with hundreds of classmates in a single course. Go into office hours, ask if you're taking notes the correct way, and get to know your professors. They do, in fact, want to help you, and they appreciate students who show actual interest in learning the material instead of memorizing to receive a grade. This will help you significantly when you begin filling out applications for things and you need a recommendation. Professors will remember you and be happy to write on your behalf.
Take naps when you want, pull all-nighters when you need to.
One of the most glorious things about college is the random schedule you will have. You will be able to say to yourself at two in the afternoon, "Self, you're an adult, you take that nap!" It's wonderful. On the flip-side, you will most likely have to pull several all-nighters in order to complete work and/or study. There is no shame in that. Just get it done.
Don't forget hobbies.
You might get so sucked in to classes, binge watching Netflix and building a social life, that you forget what makes you happy. Keep a hobby that allows you to take some "you time" every few days. This doesn't have to be underwater basket weaving or the like, it can be as simple as reading a book for pleasure or coloring in a coloring book. Just remember things that you enjoy doing; they keep you grounded in your identity.
Keep your dorm room organized.
Always try and keep your stuff relatively neat. Your roommate will appreciate this, and you will feel much better about yourself when you come home from a busy day and your room isn't as messy as your mind is at the time.
Always be polite to service personnel.
Thank the janitors, smile and ask the cafeteria workers how their days are, let the IT guy know you appreciate him. The people who are "serving you" are people, too. They have identity beyond their titles, and oftentimes, freshman don't recognize this. Always be nice to them.
Don't fall in love with the first person who shows you attention.
There is no shame in being picky with finding a partner. Maybe the first person who shows you attention is great, but remember that there are always more fish in the sea. Keep your options open and don't be afraid to "date around." You don't have to subscribe to the "hook up culture," in fact, you shouldn't. Respect yourself enough to have high standards.
There is no shame in dating apps.
You might have to sift through a lot of dick-pics and creepers, but there are actually a lot of nice people on dating apps just looking for companionship. Meeting people organically is hard for our generation, and a lot of the time, people will pick each other up at bars. Is online dating really any worse than meeting someone while sloppy drunk in a dirty bar/club? Not really.
Find a "study spot" in one of the libraries and make it your own.
Get comfortable there, and study there often. This will help you when you are an upperclassman, having a hard time focusing or going through and identity crisis. Having your own "place" in a library will allow you to return to that spot later in order to realign yourself with your goals and ambitions.
I ended my message with, "That's about all I got! Good luck!"