Advice for New College Students from Experienced Graduates

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Are you a current college freshman or recent high school graduate wondering what it takes to survive in college? Former college students are often filled with words of wisdom that can help you avoid many of the mistakes they made and put you on the road to success after graduation.

A while back it dawned on me that my girlfriend's daughter would be graduating from high school and starting her newest journey as a college freshman. This set my mind on a whirlwind of old memories and experiences that I had during my college years, some positive and others negative. Luckily, I had an older sister that was able to give me advice before I even started college, and I was still able to call on her for help once I started school. It made me wonder how many people head off to college for the first time and have nobody to lean on for important answers and guidance.

As a result of this, I had planned to write a book for my girlfriend's daughter before she headed off to school. I was going to include little lessons and things to consider for when she got on campus. Then I figured it would be fun to get advice from a wide variety of my friends and family who had also been in college at some point in their lives. The wide array of pointers would cover areas that I may not have had to experience myself, and provide a bigger selection of life lessons than I could do on my own.

This article is a compilation of a few of those tips that I received from my friends and family. I hope that they are as helpful to other students as they were to me when I was in your shoes.

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Academic Advice

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Go to class

Ultimately, you are in school to learn and get your degree. As hard as it may be to wake up on your own without your parents pushing you out of bed, find a way to go to as many of your classes as possible. Take good notes because you tend to remember more information when you have already written it down once. Don't miss out on a great experience by failing to handle your business in the classroom.

Cut class at least once a semester

I know it sounds stupid coming right after the tip advising you to go to class, but life is all about having a little bit of balance. I only advise you to do this once because excessive absences are the kiss of death in college. And if you do skip, make sure that one of your friends is in class to take notes for you. Skip days only get harder when you hit the real world, so you better take advantage of a few now.

Take your easiest classes during your first two years

This may be debated depending on who you ask. I usually think this is easier because most people are not prepared for difficult college courses right after graduating from high school. It takes a moment to learn how to study and to perfect a good college writing style. It may be easier to ease your way into these things in order to prevent yourself from getting discouraged. Not to mention, it can also help to pad your GPA early on and give you opportunities at scholarships that may be available on campus.

Wait as long as possible to choose a major

Do this if you can because chances are that you are going to change your mind quite a few times. Not many of us went to college knowing exactly what we wanted to be, and those of us that did usually switched to something else before they graduated. Of course there are certain programs that you have to start right away (engineering, pre-med, etc), and if that is you then I just wish you the best from the start.

Social Life Advice

Drink in moderation

It's going to be real easy to get caught up in drinking and partying. By all means have a good time, but know what your limits are. You do not want to be the person that ends up getting wasted and ruining a good time for your friends. You also do not want to be the person to develop a drinking or drug problem that has to go to rehab instead of graduation. Just be careful and know how much liquor you can handle. And trust me, it's never cool to drink so much that you end up throwing up or blacking out.

Know your surroundings and have a good reliable group of friends to hang out with: In the cases where you do end up drinking until you are puking or you do black out at the club, you are going to want to have good friends to watch your back and take care of you. Always let them know if you are planning on leaving a party or bar early or with someone else, and just keep an eye on each other while drinking. There are just too many bad people out there to try doing this stuff on your own nowadays.

Date freely

College is the best time to find out what you like about yourself and what you like in other people. There is no other time in your life when the dating pool will be so large. You don't have to commit yourself to anyone right away. Just have a good time and who knows what may come of it. And of course if dating freely leads into doing other things freely, be safe.

Overall Advice

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Remember why you are in college

During the first couple of semesters, it is going to be so easy to get caught up in the amount of freedom that you suddenly have. While this is a great life lesson in itself, it can also be the recipe for disaster if you fail to maintain your studies. Do not lose sight of your goals, and definitely do not let others pull you away from your dreams and aspirations just because they may not be on the same path.

Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to you

This could range from internships to teaching assistantships to community service projects. The best way to grow as a person and meet new people is to get involved in new things. You will find that most of the people that truly enjoy college are the ones that have made connections within their campus community. Once you graduate depending on where you live, it may not be as easy to find a group of people with similar interests as you have.

Study abroad if you have the chance

In the real world, people would kill for a chance to spend a week in another country. When you are in college, you may have the chance to spend a semester or even a full year in another country. Find out what the requirements are, and if you are interested then go for it. Yet another example of what could be a once in a lifetime experience that you will not want to miss out on.

Try something new

This pertains to activities, food, and meeting new people. If you wanted to be the same person and talk to the same people, you would just stay at home after high school. College is a place where you can expand your comfort zones and be exposed to people that may have grown up in different cultures than you are used to. Embrace this opportunity to grow as a person, and you won't regret it. By the time you graduate, people will notice the difference in you and you'll be happy that you opened up your mind to new things.

The best years of your life

Finally, the ultimate piece of advice that I can give is to enjoy each year to the fullest. You will find that each year goes by faster than the one before it, and before you know it the real world will be knocking at your door. Don't just be in such a hurry to graduate that you lose sight of all the fun experiences around you. You don't want to have regret for anything when it is all over.

My sister wanted me to leave you with one final piece of wisdom. Don't go to law school. I'll just save that article for another day. Good luck in school...

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