When my daughter left for college she had just barely turned 18. Not only was she young, but she was attending a college over 2000 miles away from home. I was afraid for her; very afraid. She was entering a world of the unknown: she had no friends, had never spent time away from home, and was going to experience a completely different culture than what she was used to.
Not only was she young and inexperienced, so was I. I did not attend college. I had no idea what to expect. I also had no idea what she would be facing. We both jumped into deep water without a life jacket. I have since then become a seasoned parent and now know what words of advice about college I wish I had told her before she left home.
1. Choose your friends wisely
Most people who attended college will tell you that the friends they made in college stayed with them after graduation. For my daughter, that was true. Your choice of friends will dictate your study habits, your social life and even your future job prospects.
2. Make studying a priority
If you don’t study in college you will fail. College is much more difficult than high school. The reading is extensive, the homework can be overwhelming, and the study requirements can be brutal. Find a study plan that works for you and stick to it. Your good grades will be your reward.
3. Soak up every bit of knowledge
It’s true when they say colleges are institutions of higher learning. But you have to pay attention, be motivated to study, and do the work. The knowledge won’t just soak in, you have to do your part.
4. Don’t waste a moment of your time there
College is a world of opportunity: from social activity, to academic pursuit, to Greek life, to on-campus sports, plays, and concerts. Sitting in your dorm room after your classes and studying are done for the day is just wasting the time you spend there. Get involved, meet new people, and take advantage of all the free opportunities on campus.
5. Leave the past behind
Your friends (and boyfriend or girlfriend) back home will often bring you down. My daughter learned this after the first month of college. They begged her to leave college and come home. Even though attending this college was her dream, she had not moved on. It took some very tough love to keep her in school. She thanks me every day that I stood firm.
6. Start planning for graduation the day you set foot on campus
Four years will pass quickly. Inquire about internships, make connections with alumni, and visit the career center. Most students don’t even start thinking about jobs after graduation until senior year. When graduation day arrives, you will be prepared for a career.
7. Handle roommate issues immediately
Passive/aggressive behavior will make your life miserable. When you recognize a problem, address it. Much of the angst my daughter experienced with roommates could have been avoided if she had simply had a conversation. For the worst problems, go to the RA for mediation.
8. Drink responsibly and always be aware of the consequences of your actions
Every college is a party school. From the day my daughter stepped foot on campus she was offered alcohol. Yes, it was illegal. Yes, the administration frowned on it. But the reality is there will always be drinking on campus. Excessive drinking can cause all sorts of regrettable behavior. Always be aware of the consequences of your actions.
9. Get to know your professors
Your professors are key players in your college success. Establish relationships with them and cultivate them. You might need them for tutoring help, and you will definitely need them for job connections after graduation.
10. Enjoy every moment; those memories are priceless
The memories my daughter made in college are some of her most treasured memories. Her sorority sisters, her study abroad experiences, her trips with friends, and some of her most admired professors and mentors live in those memories. She still, to this day, after almost 10 years, talks about her college experiences with the greatest joy.