Monday, June 2, 2008

How to... Survive College

I dedicate this to my seniors graduating this week.

1. Make new friends.
You will always love your childhood/high school friends, but there's always room for more. Don't just stop with the first people you meet, but keep meeting friends everywhere you go. At your dorm, in your classes, at your job, your friends' friends, at bible study, at meetings, during intramurals. You cannot have too many friends, and you need to explore all the different types of personalities that are available to you at this unique stage of life.

2. But keep the old.
Keep in touch (more than just random facebook messages) with your old friends. They will hold you accountable to who you used to be, who you used to want to be, and who you can be. At this stage in your life, nobody knows you better. Whether you like everything about your past or not, you cannot complete divorce your present from your past because you will lose a part of yourself. See them when you come in town, write them letters, call them and talk for hours.

3. Explore your options.
Never again will experimentation with your life be so cheap. Take any class you can, join any club you want to. Don't be afraid to try new things. You will absolutely regret it later if you play it safe. Try out for the play. Take Philosophy of TV. Write an article for the newspaper. Volunteer to build a house. Sign up for the mission trip. Your life calling can be hidden and you can miss it sticking to what you know.

4. Start saving.
It is ridiculously easy to blow off money. I went through thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it except the pounds I gained from the midnight runs to McDonald's. You can build yourself a future by putting aside even a little of whatever money you get. While hundreds of trips to Walmart may seem like the only way to survive college (especially in a small town), remember everything will be there later when you actually need it.

5. Carpool
Besides the obvious advantage of saving gas money, you will bond like crazy in a car. Whether it's just to class, around town, to a neighboring town, or home for the holidays - sharing rides is the selfless, socially acceptable thing to do. Make sure you are not always the driver (or never for that matter). If you don't know of anybody going where you're going, just ask. This is one of the best ways to make new friends, and forever memories.

6. Share
I mean this in every way possible. Share food, shoes, videos, ideas, thoughts, opinions, friends, rides, resources, duties, emotions, laughs, memories, pictures, jeans, phone numbers, recipes, classes, books, life stories, etc. Besides the economic advantage of participating in a communal relationship with those around you, and the opportunities to try new things, it puts you in great social standing. Open up to those around you, so they can get to know you. You will never be able to communicate effectively if you do not have a basic understanding of who the other person is. But please keep in mind, there is such a thing as over-share. Don't be one of those people.

7. Take pictures
In this digital world, this really goes unsaid, but let this serve as a reminder of the importance of capturing memories. Don't depend on others to take the pictures; that doesn't always work. Get a small camera and take it wherever you go. Don't forget that you have it. Take pictures of random things, exciting things, boring things, everyday things, ugly things, beautiful things. Stick your head out your dorm window with your roommate and take that picture (still one of my favorites).

8. Play
Ride bikes, swing, play tag, night tag, capture the flag, intramural volleyball, kickball, etc. Not only does the physical activity release endorphins, which I describe to my sixth graders as "happy bubbles of fun", that fight off depression, anger and stress, but feeling like a kid again is absolutely imperative at the stage of your life when you are most resistant to adulthood. Let's not forget the social benefits of acting foolish with a group of people.

9. Find deals
Locate the dollar movie theatre and never go anywhere else (and bring in your own candy). Figure out if there's a Mocha Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Where can you use your student discount (ask EVERYwhere)? Split meals, drink water at restaurants, just go out for dessert instead of a whole meal. Clip coupons. Find the used book store, the goodwill store, the closest outlet. Be thrifty, be cheap, be resourceful.

10. Go to class
Let me state the overstated and obvious: you paid for it. The professor's most important lesson can be the one that you miss. You can guarantee he won't repeat it. There is no make-up policy, no alternative assignments, or "absence" folders. Just go. It's why you are at college - to learn. This is the greatest opportunity you are given - the opportunity to be educated. Take it all in, even the gen ed crap, because you will be a better human being. Take my word for it.

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