Five Essential Tips for New College Freshmen

How to survive your first post high school year

Greetings, new high school graduate!

You're about to enter what's considered by many to be the most memorable four - or five - years of your life: college.

Post-secondary education.

Life with midnight pizza deliveries and all-night study cram sessions.

For these next several years, your life is going to change. You will not be the same person when you leave the (sometimes) ivy-colored halls as you were when you entered them.

Having been a collegian with an honors associate's degree, a bachelor's degree from one of the country's elite institutions, UCLA, and graduate school experience, I feel that I'm quite qualified to give you a few suggestions on how to best get through your first year of undergraduate life, whether you're planning to living in a dorm, sharing an off-campus apartment, or commuting from home...

1. To quote the Greek philosopher Socrates: All I know is that I know nothing".

A couple of months ago, you were probably the superstar of your high school community - or at least one of them. You were likely the all-state jock or the homecoming queen, or the ultra-popular queen bee, never missing a party or having to fret about your Friday or Saturday night plans.

Or maybe you were among the top students in your class, if not the top. Perhaps you were the valedictorian, giving the big speech at your ceremony, decorated with sashes, medals, and a full-ride scholarship with all the trimmings. All with people patting you on the back, hugging you and telling you how terrific you are and how you're going to go real far, with your parents crying tears of joy and pride.

All of those high school laurels mean one thing at the collegiate level:

ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WHATSOEVER.

When you set foot on campus, you are going to literally start from zero, the tiniest of sardines in one of the biggest of ponds.

Do not, under any circumstances, think or act like you are all that, or you will be humbled.

Royally humbled.

A good friend of mine from my UCLA years told me about how during our days there, freshman girls would arrive on campus convinced that they were "Miss It", go to their first party in their cutest, sexiest outfits trying to get noticed, and get snubbed. Big time.

The moral to that story is: When you're a freshman, humility is good.

Remember that.

2. Many people will tell you that you should get involved in some extracurricular activity right away once you arrive at school, so you can get a real feeling of belonging and enhance your campus experience.

If you're bent on joining the Save The Whales group, the pep committee, the Greek system, or the school newspaper, by all means do so. I am sure that you'll have a lot of fun.

However, you may want to consider putting off joining anything during that first year, because the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming, particularly as far as academics is concerned.

I knew a lot of students who waited until their sophomore year before committing to a club or an organization, due to the fact that they wanted to make sure that they had their bearings in the classroom first.

Which is a smart thing to do.

3. Speaking of academics, make sure you take care of business there; Go to class. Do the assignments. Study. Make yourself known to your professors. Form study groups with your classmates. Use tutors if necessary. Take your class load seriously.

Nothing is more important than doing your best in the classroom. To do otherwise is to invite the ultimate disaster - academic probation, or worse, dismissal from school.

I know this because a close friend of mine flunked out of school during our college years. By his admission, it was his fault - he spent most of the time playing video games in our campus arcade.

My friend did not handle his business, and he profoundly regrets it to this day; he told me so himself.

Please don't let what happened to my buddy happen to you.

4. As much as you will be pressured to, try your best to not go overly buck-wild and hit every kegger in sight.

Don't misunderstand me - I am not a prude. I'm not against blowing off a bit of steam once in a while. I did my share of drinking during my undergraduate days.

An occasional blowout is perfectly well and good. BUT...

The operative word should be just that - occasional.

I've seen far too many kids come to college and go stark raving mad, boozing and drugging themselves into a complete stupor, oftentimes having to leave school as a result because their grades took a dive from way too much partying and not nearly enough studying.

Or worse, tragically dying because they got behind the wheel while wasted or got into a car with someone who was, or because they took one ecstasy pill too many or some other illegal substance. That has happened far more than you think on college campuses.

The bottom line here: Try you best to keep your wildness fairly reasonable. And be responsible about it...

Get in a taxi cab if you get drunk, wasted or high. Don't leave your drink unattended. And girls, please stick with your friends and do not sneak away to a bedroom with some dude that you just met - that's just asking for it there..

5. Don't be a wallflower in college. Try and meet different types of people.

That's a big part of what college is all about - experiencing things that you wouldn't have experienced otherwise. And you just might make a lifelong friend or two along the way.

During my college years, I remember seeing students who did nothing but study in the library and hang out all by their lonesome, never talking to anyone. I also saw plenty of kids who only hung out with people who looked and acted like them.

Quite sad, indeed. Those people were missing out on so much.

I can sum up everything by making this pronouncement:

College is what you make of it. You will take from your collegiate experience exactly what you put into your collegiate experience.

As a new freshman, if you remember that above statement if nothing else, then the chances will be good that your first year as an undergraduate, and your transition to college life, will go smoothly.

And that you will change for the better, rather than for the worse.

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