Last year around this time, I wrote an article entitled “Advice for Freshmen,” in which I tried to give those students going off to their first year of college some practical advice. Since that time, I have had several people contact me requesting copies of that article. Now, with a new group of high school seniors graduating and getting ready to go off to college, I wanted to re-publish an updated version:
Many students, now out on their own for the first time, feel they don’t have to do the things their parents may have insisted on; like eating healthy foods, exercising, getting enough sleep and avoiding drugs and alcohol. My advice is to have fun responsibly. Enjoy yourself, but keep yourself healthy.
Use the “Buddy System.” This is more than just avoiding going out alone, but having a “buddy” who is like-minded and can help keep you on track academically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Keep each other accountable. Study together. Work out together. Look out for each other. It is also a good idea to let your folks back home know your schedule and provide them with some local phone numbers.
While in college, you may live in a dorm or share an apartment. In either case, you could be living with others whom you may not have known previously. My advice is to be friendly, but keep your stuff locked up. Make sure that desirable items like laptops, iPads, cell-phones, etc. are engraved with some personal identifiable mark; and record the serial number of anything you own that has one.
Remember that college students are prime targets for identity theft. Take precautions to protect your financial and personal information. Protect your wallet, checkbook, and both incoming and outgoing mail. I know you will use your computer for everything, but during your college years, keep your financial information on your parent’s computer. If your computer gets stolen, that will be one less headache.
College students can be prime targets for other crimes as well. Many would-be bad guys use social networking sites like Facebook to target unsuspecting victims who may post too much information about their daily activities. I know you will use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family. Make sure to use your privacy settings.
Watch your spending, especially with credit cards. Remember that college is expensive enough without taking on extra debt. After college, you will need a good credit rating to get an apartment, utilities, your own cell phone account, etc. If you use a credit card for purchases, make sure not to buy more than you can afford to pay off each month.
Much of the college experience is about learning to be independent. This is the time to establish yourself. Determine your beliefs and values and stick to them. You will come in contact with many who believe differently and embrace different lifestyles. You should be respectful and understanding, and expect the same from them.
College years can be the best years of your life, but you are the one in charge of making them that way.