So, I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging, but my last series of college tips (which you can see here along with links to all the previous advice-laden posts) was Freshly Pressed, meaning it was featured on the WordPress home page. That brought me a massive torrent of visitors, many of which left fantastic comments or support. It was a surreal day during which my phone notified me of new comments and “Like”s almost incessantly from the moment I woke up. (Actually, I already had 20 messages in my inbox when I opened my bleary eyes this morning.)
First of all, thanks for all the support! Secondly, it seemed like quite a few visitors had their own advice for incoming college students. I was so happy to see those, because that’s what I’ve been wanting to hear over these last few posts. I was originally planning to just add on a few more random suggestions that I’d come up with while putting up these original pieces of advice. But in light of the myriad folks who dropped by recently, I want to share with you some of the great insights offered by people who graced this blog. Their words are in quotation marks, and any additional comments I have are underneath as sub-bullets.
- Consider carpooling home for the holidays. (From Natasia at hotfemmeinthecity.wordpress.com) “I would also recommend, if you live close enough to home to drive back for the holidays, finding some buddies to either drive with you or drive you. It’s a great bonding experience.
- Since I went to college really far from home, I didn’t even think about the idea of driving home for anything. This is a really great idea. There’s a big difference in bonding experience between when you just hang out with someone and when you’re traveling in a car with them. Just make sure that everyone is planning to head back to school at around the same time.
- Don’t just hang out with other American students when studying abroad. (From broadsideblog at broadsidebroadsideblog.wordpress.com) “Once you’re overseas, be sure to break away from your American-friends ghetto and make as many friendships and professional contacts as possible with those in your new country and culture. It’s a little scary, but completely life-changing. I did it at 25 and am still friends, decades later, with some of the people I met. Most importantly, it showed me, literally, a world filled with unimagined possibilities — and gave me the confidence to get out into it.”
- SO TRUE. This is definitely a tip to remember for the future when you actually do go abroad–and if the comments on the last post have shown anything, it’s that studying abroad is a BIG DEAL and SHOULD NOT BE MISSED. People happily agreed with that point. Anyway, once you are in a foreign country (especially one where people don’t speak English), it’s natural to stay in your comfort zone and to just spend time with your fellow English-speaking students. However, that isn’t going to help you expand your mind as much as possible. You’d be doing a massive disservice to yourself. (While I was in Madrid, a handful of students did nothing but linger in one of their apartments during the whole semester. They became good friends, but they learned almost no Spanish and were totally unimpressed by Spain. Well, no duh. You didn’t experience any of Spain.) Stepping out of the comfort zone is, by definition, uncomfortable. But it pays off in spades.
- Study abroad during the summer. (From Aliyah at aliyaheneurope.wordpress.com) “Even if you can’t do an entire semester or year, some schools have summer programs or courses abroad that are only 2-6 weeks long. I took a two week course in France this summer and it was an amazing experience! Even though it was short, I still got to experience the culture and language in a way that I couldn’t in a classroom.”
- This is a great point. For some students, studying abroad during the regular school year simply isn’t possible. Classes you need to take for your major might not be available in other international sites, or you might apply so late that there just isn’t any space for you. None of those should be reason to lose hope, nor should they be excuses to walk out of college without some exposure to the outside world. Most universities offer shorter study abroad programs that take place during the summer or even during winter and/or spring break. You won’t spend as long of a time in whatever country you visit, but it is so much better than nothing. The only real inhibiting factor is cost. It’s not cheap to travel to another country, but if you have that money, really think about it.
- Don’t neglect your studies or your social life. (From tmastgrave at tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com) “I know too many college students who fall one way or the other, spending all their time partying or sequestered in the library. You need a good mix to make it through. A’s are great, but good contacts can sometimes take you further than good grades. Of course, if you get a job through a contact, and then can’t do it, you’ve just made yourself a reputation for life.”
- It’s all about balance. I want to underscore the importance of making connections; besides just making great friends, you’re also networking. It might sound cold, but you never know when or where those connections will get you ahead in life. Hopefully, you’ll also be in a place where you can offer a helping hand to others in the future, too. You’ll all support one another in times of need, but only if you strive to relate with people and not just your textbooks. I forgot about that my sophomore year. Although I did really well in my classes, my social life came to a halt that year. If I had a chance, I would go back and fix that.
- Choose the major that interests YOU. (From Steve at antimoneylaundry.wordpress.com) “Can’t agree enough about choosing a major and want to add to that statement that one shouldn’t let others [read Mom and Dad] pick one for you. Go in with an open mind and find what fits you, don’t try to chase after whatever they wish they had done 20+ years previously. In the end you’ll do better and enjoy your career more if you listen to what you do well and pursue it with the passion that you can only have for something that YOU care about.”
- I really feel sad for students that disagree with their parents on what to study. In a lot of these cases, the parents want their kids to become doctors or lawyers, meaning they do pre-med or pre-law tracks in school. When the kid suggests another path, the parents threaten to cut off all financial support. It’s a horrible situation that usually leads to really long and stressful nights or bouts of emotional outbursts. And it happens with relative frequency. If you’re one of those individuals, rest assured that it’s not the end of the road. Your school will offer you emotional support (if you look for it), and most everyone I know who was in that situation either took some pre-med classes and found out that they liked them or eventually had a heart-to-heart with their parents and eventually helped Mom and/or Dad understand their point of view. No parent really wants to abandon their child’s education. They all mean well, but express it in different ways. Listen to yourself and be strong enough to embrace what you feel is right for you.
- Savor your time in college. (From Eva at icouldntmakethisup.wordpress.com) “a final suggestion…don’t get in a rush to graduate i loved college but graduated in 4 years. i miss it…the learning. ok…and the partying”
- Seriously. Unless you need to graduate quickly for financial reasons, there really isn’t much reason to graduate early. Talk to any adult and they will say that college was one of the best times in their lives. Why would you want to end that prematurely? And if you graduate a semester early, your graduation ceremony in December or January will pale in comparison to the actual graduation ceremony in so many ways. It’ll just make you want to go back to school and hang out with your friends for another semester while you wait for the real party to begin.
- Give yourself a buffer when you make travel arrangements. (From Emilia at emilialiveslife.wordpress.com) “I totally agree with the book flights early point, not only to book them early, but also to leave yourself plenty of buffer space around holidays in case your flight gets cancelled!”
- Like I’ve said before, holiday seasons at airports might as well be nine-ring circuses where the elephants have escaped their cages. It can’t hurt to take extra precautions.
- Pace yourself with the parties. (From For Better GENiUS at forbettergenius.wordpress.com) “you will have many weekends in your years away at school, therefore you do not need to attempt to cram the next 4 freedom years of partying into the first few weekends when there isn’t much homework (you will do it anyway, but at least consider this).”
- Good to remember. My senior year as an RA of a freshman residence hall, I saw and heard so many parties during the first six weeks of school. I can understand how excited you might be from feeling free and trying to make new friends in a different environment, but you don’t have to destroy yourself (namely your liver or lungs) in the first semester. Have some sense of restraint and awareness–the parties during the first few weeks tend to be some of the most disorganized or stupidly unrestrained. (We talked about parties a bit in Round 7.) If you don’t watch out, you’re liable to be scarred on both the physical and emotional levels.
The next post will be Round 10. 10 is a nice, round number and a perfect place to end this stunningly protracted series. (Update: It’s right here!)