Herald Journal Columns
May 8, 2006, Herald Journal

Preparing for college 102

By LIZ HELLMANN
Alright high school graduates-to-be, let’s recap what we learned last week.

College is a menacing beast that will devour you whole if you do not learn how to tame it.

So far, we’ve covered being nice to your roommates, not eating like it’s Thanksgiving every day, showering, and not throwing your money away on new clothes and eating out.

Now, back to this funny little thing called “learning” that you are supposed to be doing between parties, friends, sports, and part-time jobs.

1) Go to the library.

An hour in the library equals three hours of study time anywhere else.

You aren’t going to learn how to find derivatives in calculus sitting in your dorm room.

The workspace surface on your desk is one square foot. Once you get comfortable in your plastic chair, that wobbles because one of the legs is shorter than the other, your roommate walks in.

She’s talking to her boyfriend on the phone, deciding who loves the other one more. “No, I love you more,” she giggles.

In the other corner of the room, your other roommate is mastering the mating call of a seagull, or practicing for her flute recital, you aren’t sure which.

Go to the library. It is quiet, there are no interruptions, and no mating calls, unless you check out a National Geographic tape.

It’s also helpful to set a certain time to study, like a couple hours after supper.

Your homework will get done faster, better, and you will have more time to do whatever you want.

2) Staying clean when packed like a sardine.

We already went over the importance of showering regularly, but if you thought sharing a bathroom with a sibling was bad, wait until you share it with 50 other people.

There are essentials you must have in order to survive a community shower atmosphere.

Unless you want your feet covered in itchy green fungus (OK, I don’t know if the fungus would actually be green), wear flip-flops.

NEVER go barefoot in the bathroom.

This is how athlete’s foot is spread, and a host of other uncomfortable fungal infections.

Don’t shower alone – bring a shower caddy. This is a little plastic basket that can hold your soap, shampoo, razors, toothbrush, etc.

It is much easier than trying to carry all of those things in hand, while trying to keep your towel closed (when in doubt, drop the soap).

You also won’t forget something, either in the shower, or your room.

3) Don’t be yourself.

We all fall into certain habits, or comfort zones when we are familiar with our surroundings.

When you were in high school, you were quite content with your usual friends and hobbies.

Now you are in a completely different situation, and you are free to try anything you want, without feeling like you are breaking the mold.

The first month of school is the best time to do this.

Resist the urge to go home during the weekends, or to hang out with a few people you already know.

The first month is a time in which everyone is friendlier and excited to meet more people.

I found a great way to meet new people is to go to meals alone. Then sit with people you don’t know.

The usual awkwardness that might accompany this is gone, because everyone else is looking to make new friends, too.

Other great things to do is to try out for a sport (if you played in high school), or play intramural, or play in pickup games.

I started playing pickup basketball games my first semester. Although, it was usually all guys playing, I’m glad I did it – I met several friends that way.

Don’t be worried about skill level, people who play pickup games usually don’t have Garnett-like skills (present company excluded, of course).

It’s also a perfect time to try new things, such as working with theatre or running for student council.

4) Be safe.

You’ve heard the stories, you’ve seen the news coverage.

Thousands of college students have tragically lost their lives to alcohol, drugs, or foul play.

If you are going to college, I’m going to assume you aren’t stupid, so act smart.

Don’t drink and drive. Don’t walk home alone. Don’t do drugs.

There are people who literally stalk college towns. They drive around at night, waiting to find a lone girl or guy walking by themselves.

Go out in groups, and never leave with someone you don’t know. (Talking to someone for an hour at a friend’s house doesn’t mean you know them.)

5) Credit cards are evil.

Chances are you are going to rack up quite the student loan debt, so don’t add to it with credit card debt.

Buy only what you can afford. Get a part-time job, preferably an on-campus one.

Always pay your rent and utilities on time. One late payment can drop your credit card score.

What is a credit card score? Think of it this way: unless you want to live in your parents’ basement the rest of your life, you care about your credit card score.

Live off of what you make, don’t borrow (except for tuition).

I worked three part-time jobs at one point, while going to school full-time. I made about $400/month, and rent cost me $325/month.

I don’t want to hear excuses. It can be done.

6) Have fun.

College was the best time of my life. Of course, I’m young and don’t have much to compare it to, but it’s still true.

These tips, a little bit of responsibility, and a lot of common sense should be able to get you through the next four or five years.

Like most things in life, you won’t ever get a second chance to do it again, so make the most of it.


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