Congratulations, Young Lady, You're Going to College

Orientation Navigators at Salem State 2000.  (Pff, Andi French, that shirt wasn't meant to be a midrift.)
Orientation Navigators at Salem State 2000. (Pff, Andi French, that shirt wasn't meant to be a midrift.) | Source

Nothing is better than college! Ok. There are a few things better than college, but only a few, and you won't even know them until later, just assume up till now, NOTHING IS BETTER THAN COLLEGE!!! You meet new and interesting people, you are in charge of your day for the first time, and... in charge of your night. It's intoxicating, and overwhelming, and wonderful. But it's hard. Sometimes it's so freakin' hard you won't know why you even applied, and I'm not even talking about the course work. You'll make it, though. And here's a few things to help you along.

Take care of business first.

I'm going to sound like your mom for a moment, bear with me, it'll be over in a second and then I promise to revert back to your cool older cousin. You are paying for your education, even if your parents are paying for your education, you're paying too, because they'll never let you forget for the rest of your life that they sent you to college. Never. So you're paying for this, don't treat this like it's not a big deal. It is. In 4 (or 5 or 6) years you don't want to look back and think you've wasted something. You don't want to be the schmoe on the stage without the 'With Honors' chord. It's true that out of the 20 something classes you'll take, you'll only really need to remember 4 to work in the field of your choosing (or none at all says the BFA who's now a dog trainer), but every class goes on your transcript, every grade, every withdraw. This document sums your intelligence up on paper. Make it look good. This is how you do that: Pick and register for your classes promptly, go to class and take notes, I'll say that again: go to class and take notes as in DRAG YOUR ASS TO EVERY CLASS AND WRITE THINGS DOWN, use your professor's office hours, go to the writing lab, turn in your papers on time, don't show up drunk or hungover for exams. If you have a question, ask. Don't study in the dorms, it's too distracting. Go to the library. Just go to class. It's so easy to not got to class. Don't not go to class.

Make no mistake, colleges are businesses.

They are going to try to trick you into taking more classes than you need. See your advisor and keep on track. Make sure you take your prerequisite on time. And, yeah, it is a business and the school is offering you a service. If you are unhappy with the service you are paying for, speak up. If you have a professor who is always late, is unorganized, and grades erratically go over their head to the Department Head. If the professor is the Department Head, go to the Dean. Also, if your roommate is wackadoo nutjob, or is disrespectful of you and your things, tell the R.D. and get moved somewhere better.

Make friends.

Make friends with the dining hall workers, the resource librarian, the R.D., Career Services, receptionists, and the tutors and/or T.A.'s. If you can only make one friend in administration, it's not the Dean of Students, not the President, not the Department Head, but the Registrar. Best friend I ever made. If I couldn't get into a full class, I'd smile and mention it to my friend, The Registrar, and I was as good as in. If you can work in the Registration office, even better. Be friendly with people that can help you along the way. Are you good at writing thank you notes? When someone, like a professor, was particularly helpful to you, always let them know they were appreciated. Then, when you need it, they will write letters of recommendation for you. While you're busy making friends that will help you along the way, get involved with an on-campus group. You'll like to see yourself on the school website, or written about in the paper. And such things will help you get the grants and awards you apply for. Stuff like that is what you'll fondly remember when it's time to move on.

Don't try to chase the M/W/F course week.

Or, gasp, the T/Th course week. It is possible to hit the classes just right. Possible, but not probable without a lot of hassle. You'll say to yourself, "I'm only going to register for classes the meet on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays." Having two days off will drive you nuts because everyone else will be at their classes. But you will be just walking around the dorms in your socks and pj's. Not to mention how much class time you'll miss when you screw off all day on Thursdays (Thirsty Thursdays) and not want to go to class on Friday. You'll end up missing 5 classes in 1 day. Even scheduling only M/W classes with one T/Th and no classes on Fridays is a recipe for disaster. You'll overload your Mondays and Wednesdays, adding classes at odd times, running between buildings to make it to class on time, and you'll never get to eat breakfast or lunch. You'll get lazy on Tuesdays and Thursdays and probably not go, and Fridays will be totally worthless. You'll be so unproductive on that off day you'll set yourself back. Once, maybe twice you'll have a semester where it's just a happy coincidence that you only have one class, or no classes. Don't pursue it, it's a fool's errand I tell you!!!

Your mom is not here.

Seriously, she's not. Try your hand at washing your own clothes. Don't just buy new socks and undies and leave that heap of dirty laundry in the bottom of your closet. That's gross. Also, get yourself to the supermarket and try to cook for yourself. There are so many recipes out there requiring only a microwave and a hot plate that aren't ramen noodles. Ramen noodles have as much sodium as a salt lick. This probably doesn't worry you right now... but it will! Cooking for yourself will keep you connected to yourself. Plus, eating all of your meals in the dining hall will make you poop 5 times a day. Who's got time for that? Ain't nobody got time for that. Also, wash your sheets so that you are not sleeping in stench. If you didn't know do this at least twice a month. Next, have you ever heard of the term self advocacy? It's about sticking up for yourself. No grown up entity is there to make sure everyone plays nice. So stick up for yourself. Speak up, in class, when you feel like you're being railroaded. Back up your arguments and don't back down because some one mean is arguing with you. When you are working on group projects, use your words to state how you feel. Be heard. Now, if you'll be living with more than one girl and share your own bathroom, you'll be amazed at how ridiculously filthy girls are, so set boundaries, do not tolerate a slob. Lastly...gurrrrrl, organize! If you lost it, it's your fault. Keep your stuff together. Your mom is not here.

Just because you can wear pajamas to class doesn't mean you should.

You do your best work when you're alert. Taking a shower (and eating breakfast) is the best way to wake up. Who takes a shower and then puts their pj's back on? It's ok if you're a girl who likes comfort, you want to wear sweats or yoga pants to class, that's ok; as long as they're clean. Rolling to class directly from your pillow says "I really don't give a shit" and that's an unfortunate message to broadcast to your peers, your professors, and yourself. Have a little more pride in yourself and care about the impression you make.

And now, the good stuff...

Make friends. With everyone, even if it's just briefly. I am very thankful for my network of alumni. When you are a full fledged adult, you'll be happy that you know an accountant, a BCBA, a nurse, an English Major. See how I said 'English Major' and not a job associated with English Majors? That's because there are no jobs associated with English Majors. But you'll be happy that you know one, though, the next time you have to write a formal letter. Make friends with people who you never thought you'd be friends with. People who are different from you will enrich you. Seek out interesting people. College is a time for stepping out of your comfort zone.

A little guide:

Freshmen Year is about exploring your campus, trying new things.

Sophomore Year is about exploring off campus.

Junior Year is about exploring you. Figure out what IT is that you want. The 'it' is many things.

Senior Year is about exploring your field and preparing to enter it.

Super Senior Year is... get your shit together and get out!!!

College is not high school.

Stop talking about high school.

Moderation, moderation, moderation

Use moderation with classes. You don't need to rush. Don't kill yourself. Use moderation in what you wear, especially when you go out at night, because you don't want your naked bits and pieces ending up on a meme. Use moderation on social media. You can get away with a lot in high school, because high school becomes irrelevant when you are no longer in it, not so for college, now is the time to stop saying dumb shit on facebook and twitter. That's not an instruction to be lame, but it's a plea for thoughtfulness. Potential employers will be watching. Nothing is unsearchable. Use moderation when you're partying. .

About drinking...

I hate all these 'don'ts' but I'm gonna lay some more on you right now. Ready? Don't drink too much!!! Seriously, don't drink yourself out of a degree. Don't drink to make friends, you won't remember them but they'll remember you. Plus, you don't need to drink to be cooler, you are cool just the way you are. You know what's not cool? Having to carry the new girl home. When I was a bartender I used to always think, "Hey, I like talking to this girl, she's interesting." She'd be interesting for the first 3 drinks, and from there on she became sloppy and lame. Don't expect someone will be there to police your booze intake. Your mom's not here, remember? Don't drink to the point of drunkenness because you like when other people take care of you, you'll become very tedious very quickly. Don't drink too much and climb onto... anything (chairs, tables, roofs, trees, other people). Safety first. Don't drink too much and leave with some one you've never left with before; if you like each other that much, you'll still like each other that much when you're sober. Don't drink and drive (obvs.). Don't get into a car with someone above the legal limit. Hearing things like, "Don't worry, I'm a better driver when I've had a few" is a sure sign of someone over the legal limit. And also that person is a fucking moron. Do. Not. Drink and write a paper. Don't drink with your ex. Don't drink with that mean girl you don't trust. Don't drink with your professors (believe me). Don't order drinks like Long Island Iced Teas or Grateful Deads. Why? Because those drinks have a lot of booze in them and they go down too easy. And that's exactly what people will think about you when you order them. You might as well be ordering a roofie on the rocks. Don't be the drunkest person in the room. Remember, vomit is gross. Cold vomit, hot vomit, all vomit is gross. Don't vomit on yourself, other people, on couches or cars, or in sinks or trashes. If you absolutely must, get into a bathroom, lock the door, tie your hair back, clean up after yourself, and rinse out your mouth. Don't drink and do anything that will make you say the next day, "I only did that because I was too drunk." That is no longer a viable excuse. You're probably definitely going to drink. It's college, drinking is a fun thing to do with friends. If you don't drink and you go to parties, the people playing their acoustic guitars will sound so, so bad, and like a Chekhov play, you won't know what to do with your hands. Just remember, the alcohol shouldn't be what fuels the party, your personalities provide that function, alcohol is the grease for the joints. Also, when you're not pounding beers, you can actually taste the beer. Good beers are tasty, and are a great topic of conversation. Or, be the girl who shows up with the bottle of Champaign and shares. Also, cheat at drinking games, no one will notice. Cheat your ass off. Just...Be responsible. Don't die.

There are creepy guys, guys, and nice guys.

Newsflash: nice guys are just creepy guys in disguise. This goes for girls too, whatever you're into. Creeps are easier to deal with because they can either live up to their reputation or they don't, and you'll know right away that they're creeps because they make no elaborate sham to hide behind. They are transparent. You can see them coming from a mile away. Nice guys... oh boy. They want the same thing they all want, but they try to make you believe they don't. That they're different. That they care. Bull. Shit. When I was in college, I was already off the market, red-lighted, permanent friend territory, and I knew lots of "nice guys." I've seen what they do because there was no reason to put up a front for me. Plus they would whine to me "Meh... Andi French... it's not fair...I'm just too nice." More like too lazy or not confident. They worm their way in, put you at ease with their passivity, build you up with compliments, then try to trick you into making the first move. Especially when you're sad and drunk. And if you don't make the first move or you reject their awkward attempt, they get Class A Butthurt at you. This makes you both sad and confused. And now you've got no one to tell you how that top brings out the color of your eyes. Well, you don't need it, you never did, you're great whether or not you have a fan club of one. Beware of the guy who you can ALWAYS depend on, ALWAYS has something wonderful stay, ALWAYS is your shoulder to cry on, ALWAYS has your best interest in mind and never asks you for any of those things in return. That is a "nice guy" who is trying to Stockholm Syndrome you into sleeping with him. Relationships should be reciprocal. Are you just as eager to help him with all of his problems? Probably not. He's in the 'Friend Zone' cut him loose before he cries all over you. Now, I can't really tell you who to steer clear of, because it depends what you're into. I'll tell you, creepers know some neat tricks and but nice guys are super eager to please in the sack. However... you could pick up something nasty from the creep, or wind up locked in a basement by a nice guy. Your call. Then there's just 'the guys'. Neither nice nor creepy. Be careful with them the most, they'll steal your heart when you're not looking.

About sex...

Good God in Heaven, be safe. And then own it. It's your experience, not something that happens to you. Don't come to this conclusion based on what you don't want (I don't want them to think I'm lame, I don't want to be bored right now, I don't want to be the only person not doing it right now, I don't want other people to think I'm some inexperienced weirdo). You do it or you don't. Be a big girl. No regretting, resenting, or repenting. Don't settle for something less than awesome. If it's not going to be awesome, it's a waste of time. And if you're both very drunk there is little prospect that it will be awesome. Do. Not. Do it in a public place (or private place) where it can be filmed. Make no mistake, sex tapes end up on porn sites. Naked texts will find their way to everyone. And if you happened to be especially audibly enthusiastic, you will be recorded and replayed for everyone in the quad. Sex is just for you and the person(s) you choose, keep it that way. Remember your roommate. Your roommate is politely pretending to be asleep. Actually let her sleep once in a while. Get regular check ups from your Lady Doctor.

Wear flip flops in the shower.

For real.


Good luck young lady.

You are about to embark on a marvelous journey. Do what you can to preserve those memories. Be present. Leave your mark. Remember college is for enriching yourself and building your career. The most successful students understand that. Make fabulous connections. Be at peace with all of your choices and remember that it's taken a lot of hard work to get where you are you should already be proud of yourself. So now, you get a fresh a fresh start. Tabula Rosa. It's such a liberating power to be able to say "this is day one." So do good things with your powers. Have a great time, and then when it's over, you'll start on your next new adventure: adulthood. Which means, don't grow up too quickly, you have plenty of time.

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