My nephew will be starting college in two short weeks. Thinking about my own experience on campus, I want him to know a few things. Here is my advice to the 18-year-olds heading off to school, near and far:
1. It is OK to be nervous. Remember that every single freshman on campus had to wave goodbye to someone as they turned around and walked back into the dorm. I promise you, the majority of them had to fight back tears and take a deep breath to calm the butterflies in their stomach as they watched the car, empty of all of their belongings, pull away and head toward home.
2. Your best friend is waiting for you. Find him or her. It may not happen overnight, but you will find each other.
3. It is OK to be intimidated by your courses. Some classes will be tough. You may have a professor whose English you can barely understand. You may realize that you will never grasp physics. Talk to the kids around you. Someone has the same questions that you do, and someone gets it. You will find that some classes are easier than your high school classes. Don’t skip these; you’ll want that easy A to boost your GPA (and your confidence).
4. You will fall asleep in public. It might be in the middle of class or between classes every Monday morning in the library.
5. On the subject of napping, you will learn to power nap like a champ. You will have 45 minutes between classes, and you’ll walk 10 minutes back to your dorm. It will take you 10 minutes to fall asleep. You will then sleep for 10 minutes, get up and walk across campus to your next class.
6. Get your roommates to agree on a code word or phrase to alert you when a roommate has “company.” Do college kids still hang dry erase boards on their doors? Never mind, they’re probably obsolete. Just text each other.
7. If you need to go home for the weekend, go home, but don’t go home every weekend. You will miss out on so many memory-making opportunities.
8. Go to parties.
9. Don’t go to too many parties, and be smart about where you are going, what you do there and whom you go there with.
10. Respect yourself. Respect the people you meet.
11. Dorm living makes you a tidier person usually. You have little living space to share. Respect your roommates’ space by not being a complete slob. Change your sheets from time to time. Seriously.
12. You will start the year caring about what you are wearing, but by fall break, you will be wearing warm-up pants and a sweatshirt every day. You may or may not have taken a shower in the past 48 hours.
13. In the middle of winter, don’t worry about looking like a fool in a giant coat, gloves and hat. You have a long way to walk to class. You will be warm, and you can laugh at the idiots without coats.
14. Dining hall food really isn’t that terrible.
15. If the dorm fridges are still the same, a pint of ice cream just barely fits in the freezer part.
16. Savor this time. Soak it up. These are the last few years before you enter the really real world. Make memories. That campus is a clean slate. Be who you want to be. Learn. Join clubs. Play sports. Have a snowball fight in the quad. Take a few random classes just because they sound interesting. Go to class. Skip class. Fail a test, and study like crazy for the next one. Make yourself proud. Hang up that first A that you really worked for on your tiny dorm fridge.
I am so excited for my nephew and also a little nervous, but mostly excited. Freshman year is momentous. He may find out dorm life is not for him. He may pledge a fraternity. He may have that one charismatic professor who opens his eyes to a new world. He might fall in love. There are so many moments just waiting to happen against the backdrop of that college campus.
I cannot wait to find out how his story unfolds.