Nine Tips for Incoming College Freshmen

I just got back from dropping My Favorite Domer (AKA College Guy) on campus for his third (Junior) year.

Seeing the confusion on the faces of parents of incoming freshmen — and the fake bravado on their youngsters’ faces — I feel obliged to share some tips gleaned from this move-in experience, as well as hints for surviving that first year. Today I’m speaking directly to incoming freshmen (to keep it fair, I’ll be back Tuesday with advice for their parents!)

  1. You don’t need to bring everything you own. Yes, your Homecoming tiara is special to you. So’s the game ball from some high school sports competition. So’s your pet cat. Face it, chances are the university you’ve chosen won’t allow Fluffy in your dorm room. And suddenly you’re going to find yourself surrounded by kids just like you, kids who have also won awards and excelled. Unless you want to get into a bragging contest with them (trust me, you don’t), leave that stuff where it belongs, in the past, at home.
  2. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Your mom or your dad can help with your move-in. You don’t need both; nor do you need younger siblings or grandparents. Leaving home for the first time is likely to be enough of an emotional upheaval, without involving hangers-on who won’t be of much help anyway. Most schools have wheeled carts to help, as well as upperclassmen, and you don’t want everybody’s first impression of you to be that of a red-faced kid squabbling with his/her family.
  3. Be appreciative. Your parents are probably sacrificing their cushy retirement (well, hopefully not all of it!) to send you to college. Say “Thank you” once or twice. Maybe more. You are grateful, aren’t you?
  4. Expect to be embarrassed. You’re used to Dad’s comfy sweats and the way Mom shuffles her reading glasses on and off all day. Your peers, however, aren’t, and you might catch them making faces or snickering behind the adults’ backs. You might want to snicker, too. Don’t. You’ve known your parents longer than you’ve known any of these kids, and your loyalty should be to your family. And don’t laugh at their families, either — you might be working for them some day.
  5. Recall that “Sharing is caring and it can be fun.” You’ve probably already “met” your roommate through Facebook or a phone conversation. Try to get along, okay? Maybe you didn’t have to share tight quarters before, but you will now. He might snore or keep odd hours; she might listen to music 24/7, singing off-key to genres you dislike. You probably have equally annoying habits. Sit down like the young adults you are and draw up a set of mutually acceptable guidelines. And be grown up enough to revisit them if you find they’re not working.
  6. Watch your diet. They don’t call those extra pounds the “Freshman Fifteen” for nothing. When Mom’s not around to prepare healthy meals for you, it’s easy to slip into bad habits. Try to eat balanced meals and get some exercise every day (and no, pushing buttons on your video console doesn’t qualify as exercise!)
  7. Expect to be homesick. Even if you’ve been away from home before, you’ll find yourself missing it. Your old friends, your old haunts, your family, your routine. Trust me, it hits all of us, some harder than others and at different times. Don’t try to tough it out alone. That’s what counseling offices are for. Call home more often, at least until you’ve acclimated and made friends.
  8. Classes will be harder than you imagine. Maybe you made straight A’s in high school, but university is a whole new ball game. Expect to put in 2-3 hours outside class for every hour you spend in class. You’ll have papers and projects, presentations and exams. Keep up with the work on a daily basis. Seek help if you need it. Don’t stretch yourself too thin by joining every club imaginable. Start off on the right foot, making a favorable impression with your peers and professors. Oh, and catch some of those profs outside class — they can help you immensely.
  9. Be prudent. Be safe. Just because everybody is drinking doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t hook up with strangers. Stay away from the shady side of town. Don’t spend all your time partying. Remember, to somebody you’re the world, and their world would come crashing down should something horrid happen to you!