It’s almost time for the kids to go off to college, many for the first time. 25 long years ago I headed off to college for the first time myself. My first semester was a bit of a train wreck due to my complete and utter lack of preparedness. So,here are the 5 things I wish someone had told me before I moved into those dorms for the first time.
FYI- I am well aware that my readers skew way older than 18. Please share with your children, nieces, nephews and grandkids. Remind them that they too will be in their 40’s before they know it.
#1 Be careful with your personal person. I’m not going to tell you “don’t drink” or “don’t have sex”. If you choose not to do either of those things that is great and kudos for you. However, I’m a realist and I know full well most college kids are going to do both just as I did (sorry mom and dad!).
So, please engage in these activities safely. Use moderation, common sense and condoms. Don’t let one bad decision define the rest of your life. And for God’s sake stay away from anything stronger than booze. College IS about experimentation, but hard drugs should never be a part of that process.
#2 Stay far, far away from credit cards. It is stupidly easy to get a wallet full of credit cards when you are in college. Do not fall victim to the “it’s only for emergencies” logic. An “emergency” will become a lack of pizza on a Tuesday night faster than you can say “double cheese”. And if a parent gives you a card to use keep in mind that they can very easily see where you are making purchases and can cancel that privilege in an instant if you abuse it. As well they should. No, it’s not “unfair”. It’s called living on a budget. Learning this in college will be extremely handy when you get out and have to start paying off those student loans with your less than enormous paychecks.
#3 Make as many new friends as possible. Yes, it’s possible that your best friend from seventh grade will be your bestie for life, but it’s much more likely that you will meet your life long friends in college. In high school your choice in friends is based almost entirely on geography. In college your choices are wide open. Don’t limit yourself to the people who look the most like you, came from your hometown or, worst yet, only hang out with your friends from high school. Get out there. And, make sure to talk to the quiet kids. Most likely they are just shy and need a little help making new friends.
Talk to the math nerds. Talk to the marching band geeks. Not only may those kids be able to help you with your homework, but they may just wind up being your best friend or the beginning of your professional network you’ll need once you leave school. Or, they might just be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. You never know!
#4 The chances of your marrying your high school sweetheart are abysmal. Sorry, but that’s the cold hard truth. And that’s OK. Yes it will really suck when you two break up, but 10 or even 5 years down the road you will realize it was just an essential part of growing up.
Don’t even THINK about getting married until you are at least 25. I don’t care how many of your friends get engaged at 20 and 21. Statistically, marrying under the age of 25 is a perfect recipe for being divorcing before you turn 30. I assure you that is zero fun.
Yes, many of our parents married young but it truly was a different world then. And, when they are completely honest, many of them admit that even thought they love the life they have, if they could do it over they wouldn’t tie the knot so soon.
#5 The most important of all- be yourself. High school is all about looking and behaving in a certain way to fit in. College is about figuring out who you really are. Don’t stunt that process. If you’ve never liked the taste of booze, stop drinking it. If you’d secretly hated wearing makeup every day stop wearing it. If you always wanted to wear make up, start!
Yes, this may lead to a few lonely days and nights at first, but you will find kindred spirits and making life-long friendships this way. You will find those people who just “get” you. You may very well find your life partner. But best of all you will find you. There is no finer or more valuable lesson than that.