When my daughter left for college she had just barely turned 18. Not only was she young, but she was attending a college more than 2,000 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 life culture.
I wanted to prepare her with some words of advice.
Here’s what I told her:
1. Your friends can make or break you.
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. The wrong friends will pull you down a destructive path. The right friends will encourage you to achieve your goals.
2. Make academics a priority.
College is much more difficult than high school. If you don’t study in college you will fail. 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. When the opportunity arises to play instead of study, take a pass. Study first, then reward yourself with some fun.
3. Take advantage of academia.
It’s true when they say colleges are institutions of higher learning. But you must pay attention, be motivated to study, and do the work. College is more than a place to party, it’s a place to soak up knowledge. Being exposed to those who are focused on education and applying that wisdom can have a huge impact on your life.
4. Explore every opportunity.
College is a world of opportunity: from social activity to academic pursuits to Greek life to on-campus sports, plays, and concerts. Sitting in your dorm room is just wasting the time you spend there. Get involved, meet new people, and take advantage of all the opportunities on campus.
5. Say goodbye to your friends at home.
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. It may seem like the easy path, but in the long run it will be a decision you regret. The past is in the past. A new future is ahead. Pour yourself into the college experience.
6. The day you arrive on campus start planning for graduation.
Most students don’t even start thinking about jobs after graduation until senior year. It will be a grave error if you fall into that category. Four years will pass quickly. Inquire about internships, make connections with alumni, visit the career center. When graduation day arrives, you will be prepared for a career.
7. Deal with roommate issues immediately.
When you recognize a problem, address it. Passive-aggressive behavior will make your life miserable. Much of the angst my daughter experienced with roommates could have been avoided if she had simply had a conversation. These issues are an opportunity to learn how to resolve conflict. Ignoring them will only make the problems worse. If you’re unable to resolve the issue with your roommate, go to the dorm Resident Advisor for help.
8. Party responsibly.
Every college is a party school. From the day my daughter stepped foot on campus she was offered alcohol. Yes, alcohol and drugs are illegal. Yes, the administration frowned on it. But the reality is there will always be drinking on campus. Excessive partying can cause all sorts of regrettable behavior. Always be aware of the consequences of your actions.
9. Your professors are your mentors.
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. Embrace the moment and make memories.
The memories my daughter made in college are some of her most treasured ones. Her sorority sisters, her study abroad experiences, and some of her most admired professors and mentors live in those memories. Not only will college provide you with a treasured education, it will give you memories and lifelong relationships to draw from as you embrace your future.