(Me and Jamie, sophomore year).
Today was the first day of the new school year for undergrads. I kept thinking about the new freshmen and all the seniors who are starting their last year and of course all the students in between. So, yeah, I thought about all the students.
Here are my Top Ten pieces of advice about surviving (and maybe even enjoying) the undergrad experience:
1. Live on campus your freshman year. Move off campus your senior year. You’ll learn a lot of great lessons about living with other people and about yourself when you’re out of your comfort zone. You’ll learn to appreciate privacy and alone time. Senior year, you’ll learn what it feel like to support yourself and live independently before you are officially forced out into the world. You will also love the space away from school.
2. Work. On campus, off campus, doesn’t matter, but getting a paycheck and learning to balance life, school, and work will teach you about prioritization and enable you to go out on the weekends. It’s a win win.
3. Let your family make your bed the day you move in freshman year. My mom was all about making sure my bed was cozy and comfy. My Dad was all about making sure I liked which corner the bed was in. I’ve heard that others parents care about this bed thing too. And let me tell you, climbing into a bed your parents cared about somehow makes you feel closer to your family on rough nights.
4. When you want to transfer to another school, think of the one person you would miss who you’d never have met and maybe will never see again, and stay because of that person. My person was Jamie. She was my best friend through college, and although we have let life get in the way these days, I wouldn’t have stayed at APU if she hadn’t been there. James was the person I looked forward to seeing at the end of every vacation. She was the one I talked to late at night and sat with in chapel and cried with when I was homesick. We dreamed about our futures together and complained about professors and experienced a lot of college together. She was the biggest blessing.
5. Get involved. It can be intimidating or scary or annoying, but that is how you will meet people. Ninety percent of friends I made in college were from activities I was involved in. The other ten percent were people I met in classes.
6. Choose the major you enjoy, not the one your parents told you to do or the one that will make you the most money. I originally chose English because my Mom told me to pick a subject I would most enjoy doing the homework for (very wise advice, Mom). It was the best decision I made as an undergrad. I loved going to class and school was fun because of that. At the end of the day, you have to want to go to class or else you won’t graduate.
7. Take a class in your major during your first year. It will really teach you if that is the major you want, and if it is, you’ll be glad you didn’t waste a whole year without a class you love.
8. Learn to use a toilet plunger, a screw driver, and your AAA card. Chances are you will need all three of these things at some point during college. It will feel so much better figuring it out on your own.
9. Go home when needed. You learn a lot about yourself and your childhood when you move away from home, but you learn even more when you visit on weekends. You also learn that for better or for worse, there are some things parents do best.
10. Remember that college is a short time in your life; make the most of it. I didn’t always do this and I think I wish I had. College is short, which is a good thing when you hate it, but it also means you only have a certain set of years where driving to get food at 3am is normal and sitting outside with a group of friends at 4 in the afternoon is just part of life and going to meetings at 10pm and not feeling like that is too late for a meeting will not happen again. These are the years that rules matter less and people matter more, four hours of sleep is the usual, seeing a person in a gorilla suit at chapel is funny and not unusual, and a fire alarm is a prank and not an actual emergency.
College may not always be the best time of your life, but it will be a defining part of your life. The hidden lesson of it all is what about you will you let it define?