As a man about the college campus for the last four (five) years, I have learned a great many things about living the college life. As I near graduation (less than a month away), I start looking back on the things I’ve learned in college and what sort of wisdom I can impart into the nubile minds of incoming freshmen. A previous post dealt with all the things I had learned so far in college, and this one will hopefully help some of you young whippersnappers navigate the college jungle.
1. Do you really need to go to college?
I may catch some flak for this one, but it’s my honest opinion. I think too often people go to college just because it’s the thing to do and they end up leaving 4 years later with a degree that didn’t really want or know what to do with, and thousands and thousands of dollars in loans to pay off. Fast forward 5 years and they are doing a job that they never ever wanted to work in the first place and they’re miserable. In my search for graduate schools, I’ve noticed that jobs that used to require just an undergraduate degree now require a masters, and ones that used to require a masters now require a doctorate. It’s academic inflation, and it’s partially caused by all these people who get degrees because they feel its the thing they’re supposed to do, not because they have a genuine passion about something. So if you’re in high school and you’re passionate about fixing cars, you don’t need to go to school to be a mechanic. If you’ve always wanted to be a fireman, go be a fireman, you don’t need to go to college. Now granted, if you really want to learn some things and pursue a career then by all means, go to college. But if your passions don’t lead you down the college path, then maybe you don’t need to go, at least not right now.
2. Schedule your classes carefully.
This is something I learned early on: class scheduling is a fine, fine art. Too many times I have seen first semester freshmen walking around halfway through the first semester looking like zombies, completely exhausted and overwhelmed. Why? Because they decided to take 7 classes in a semester, from 8 in the morning till 5 at night. This is folly. Schedule your classes so that you have a little bit of free time to have fun and/or work. Going to school all day every day will cause you to burn out more quickly than Vin Diesel in a muscle car. My last semester of college consisted of this schedule: 1 class on Tuesday/Thursday from 9-11, then 3 classes on Monday/Wednesday that started at 12:30 and ended at 6:30. No Friday classes. Every weekend is a three-day weekend, and it’s AWESOME.
3. The right roommate can make all the difference. Or screw everything up.
I had… interesting roommates my freshman year of college. The first one was a wild child that kept many things in the room, some of them illegal, and also had sex with a girl one night in the room WHILE I WAS ASLEEP and then left her there for me to find the next morning, which was easily the most awkward experience of my life, especially because I knew who she was, but that is another story for another time. Basically, picking the right roommate or roommates is a big decision. Now granted, even if they’re great people, you’re still going to have disagreements and such from time to time, but you need to have people who will encourage you to be better, not worse. You don’t want to go to bed one night and realize that your roommate and his friends had a glowstick rave the night before and you can’t sleep because the entire room is glowing.
4. There is nothing wrong with being “Undeclared”.
Not everyone goes into college with a concrete plan for what they want to do for the next 10 years, so don’t feel pressured to have it all together. Freshman year, take a bunch of Gen Eds and see what interests you. Don’t just pick something to pick something. Pick something that you like and are passionate about, then go for it.
5. Get involved!
There are a ton of things to do on a college campus, everything from following the athletics, participating in intramurals, campus organizations, greek life, religious organizations and clubs, whatever. Get out there and get involved in something. Going to class and then going straight home makes for a dull college life.
6. Stick to your principles.
College is traditionally known as the time to let your hair down and experiment a little. This is dangerous. I’ve seen many people get into things they never should have and then are never really able to climb back out of that hole. If you want to earnestly follow God and live for him, then stick to your guns. Be disciplined, try to surround yourself with good people, keep in the Word, get involved in a local church. Think of college as an opportunity to grow in your faith, not make mistakes you’re going to regret later.
7. Try new things.
I know I just said that experimenting is dangerous, but I was saying that in the light of doing potentially dangerous things like drinking or hanging out with fast women. I mean try new things as in pursue new interests. Take an art class or a writing class. Take a PE class in something really crazy like Padded Weapons, Camping, or Scuba Diving. Try to meet new people, read more books, see more movies, expand your music collection, or take up a new hobby. College is one of the biggest times of growth, so try new things!
8. Some small pieces of relationship advice…
– Never date a woman with tattoos of daggers on her. She’s probably dangerous. Or scary.
– If a girl can’t have fun without alcohol, then stay away from her.
– You don’t have to see each other every day. Both of you should pursue your own interests and have each other there to encourage one another.
– Don’t let loneliness dictate your relationship decisions. Wait for something better instead of settling.
– Don’t be in a rush to get married or engaged. Yes, I know all your friends are doing it, but you’re not your friends, you are you.
– Don’t go to a school just because of a girl. If it’s meant to work out it will regardless of where you are.
– Don’t have sex before marriage. It complicates things.
9. If you ever find yourself asking “Is this really a good idea?” before doing something, then it probably isn’t.
10. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Having a big head as a college freshman is like the smallest kid on the playground thinking he can beat everyone up. Learn to laugh at yourself. Relax. Don’t run yourself into the ground. Enjoy college, because it is pretty sweet.