With the start of a new Fall semester, I’ve seen many lists of advice pop up on my newsfeed and circle through media as though they were hot advertisements.
I agree with many things, but have compiled my own list for incoming and returning undergrads. Having finally completed my BFA at 23, I feel like I’ve learned a thing or two…or at least hope I have after transferring schools, switching majors, and spending enough money to put a down payment on a house, a big house.
But before I begin, I want to hearken back to a ditty I heard in high school, something I carry with me still.
It began as an email and became so viral that we now know it as "Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" by Baz Luhrmann.
There are so many nuggets from that speech that I adore, but there are two that I have continually reminded myself of: to appreciate my beauty NOW and to save all of the love letters, throw away the hate mail. Even through break ups, I have held on to the sweet pieces, because after all, isn’t this how we all want to be remembered?
Also, did you catch what Baz said about advice? Good. Then let’s begin:
1. Your Advisor Should Know You - If you want to graduate on time, this is crucial. You begin college as a number and a bank account. Get to know your advisor well. Ask him or her everything. He is there to help you, and will respond to emails faster than you expect.
2. Enjoy Your Gen. Eds. - The first two semesters will most likely consist of courses that you have no interest in, that feel like a money drain, and that you will skip. But enjoy these courses! * Allow your mind to wander into areas that are beyond your thinking. * The world does not turn on one study, but is revolving around many forms of thought. Not to mention that the workforce is sprinting towards an interdisciplinary finish line. Don’t be left at the first hurdle.
3. Keep Copies of Everything - Remember what I said about being a number? Own it. Anything that has your student ID or name on it should be printed and stored in a file. So often in college you will have some hiccups, whether it be with the registrar’s office, financial aid, or simply in class. Be prepared and have all of your bases covered.
4. Do Something Every Month that Pushes YOUR Boundaries - Don’t want to join a sorority or fraternity? Fine. I didn’t either. But I did attend some parties. I quickly learned it wasn’t my scene, and even still, I met people I wouldn’t have and actually had a good time (once I got off the wall - wallflowers unite!). Stepping outside of the box you have created for yourself is utterly important to your overall bravery and creativity. How can you know the world, how can you know people, if you refuse to leave the study corral or your dorm? This is the quickest way to gain confidence. But heed these words: In all things, be safe.
5. People Are Beautiful - And that includes you! While you’re busy comparing yourself to everyone else, pause to reflect upon your own beauty. Sure you’re nervous, and pulling your shirt down ten more times may make you feel more comfortable, but listen - You’re not the only nervous one! People bluff in all sorts of ways. But like Baz says, "enjoy the power and beauty of your youth." You won’t always be young and when you’re older, you’ll look back at your youth in envy. So pull back those shoulders and embrace the You that is Now.
6. Date Outside the Box - Remember hearing about fish in the sea? Welcome to college. I’m not suggesting that you should Sleep Outside the Box, because you can’t learn much from that besides some new positions. But if you Date Outside the Box, you’ll learn so much more about humanity and yourself. People are beautiful, there’s no doubt about it, so be adventurous, listen to other people’s lives, and love with sincerity. You want to know what works for you before you entangle yourself for good.
7. Sleep, Or at Least Obey Your Body - I function better at night. And it’s been proven that some people are better workers at night, while others function well in the mornings. That said, sleep is vital to your health. It affects so much more than you think - attitude, cognitive abilities, grades, memory, etc. There will be times (midterms!) when sleep is not an option, so take advantage of a healthy schedule while you can. But overall, obey your body. Sleep when you’re tired. Respect yourself.
8. Follow Through With Your Word - I met quite a few rugby guys at my first university. Many of them were not from America, thus carrying different customs and morals. When they had bro talk and said, "Let’s meet up at blah-blah-blah in la-di-da", they meant it! This shouldn’t be so surprising you say, but they’re the ones who pointed out how often Americans say something, only to not follow through with their words. It’s as if we can’t say goodbye, so we promise a future meeting,
never to meet. How strange in retrospect. Make promises and set dates you know you will keep. People will appreciate honesty much more than somebody who they can never fully rely on. Don’t be that person.
9. Go To Class - This is the easiest advice to administer and the hardest to take. But much of your grade (more so as a younger college student) is reflective of your attendance. How much easier of a grade could you ask for?! And not only that, but the teacher gives you exam information! They’re there to educate you, so what else did you expect to see on the exams? Questions on Workaholics (which I love) or boysenberries? No, it’s going to be what Professor Higginbottom has to say about Shakespeare’s 541,689,243 plays. Duh.
10. Read Your Textbooks - This is a drag, and I didn’t do this consistently until in my final years when I realized that what was on the syllabus was exactly what was covered in class and on the exams. Go figure! When I stayed caught up on the readings, I could actually raise my hand and offer something of intelligence. I was able to connect with fellow students in intellectual conversations and I found mentors in my teachers. (Not to mention my grades were solid and I no longer feared midterms or finals.)
11. Aim for Artwork - From Gen. Eds. to your senior year, everything you turn in has your name on it. (Don’t forget to keep copies!) But did you hear me, YoUr NaMe - (I’m running out of ways to highlight here!) -The same name you’ve carried through every memory you own, the name your loved ones call you, the only name you have. So don’t abuse it. If you turn something in, you should be proud to put your name on it. However, at the end of the day, you have to turn something in. So perfectionists beware (experience talking here), when I say "artwork", I’m not saying "masterpiece". As long as your parents would hang it on the fridge, you’ll get a grade - and grades are what helps you pass the course, not the 27 feverish hours you poured into that haiku.
12. Pick Your Mentor(s) - When it comes to mentors, most people sit around waiting for guidance, but that’s not how the mentor-game works. We have the power of picking our mentors. More than likely, your mentor will be a professor you’ve taken a course with. It could be an older student or a classmate who shares similar interests. The logic here is that you know what inspires you and who inspires you, so pick your mentor and invest time with them. Read the things he or she recommends, come back with conversation and insight, and be proactive in maintaining contact. * These people will more than likely be the same who aid you in furthering yourself - whether it be in inspiration, for a job or continued education. * What’s also lovely is being inspired by those younger than you. Their hunger is contagious.
Don’t discredit the youth.
13. Hold On To Connections - One list I read today said this beautifully. She said that time will try to warp connections that you made, but don’t let it. The people you meet and the mentors you find are
priceless. It’s not like high school where you were forced into friendships because, hey, you’ve gotta eat lunch with these people for the next 4 years. No. You made these friends, and given that your picking device is spot on, you will have found genuine people. I absolutely treasure the friends I have made in college and when it comes to my mentors, I am indebted to them.
14. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind - In some countries, students have to know what they want to study as soon as they enter the university. Luckily, that’s not so much the case with us. And not only that, but I and some of my best friends have changed their majors at least once - if not three times. You’re paying for school. This is your future we’re talking about. So if you’re not 104% sure, then talk with your advisor and figure out what you can do to make an educated change. Just be concrete about your decisions. You need to know yourself well enough to trust that change is for the better,
not an escape route.
15. Drugs and Alcohol are More than One-Night Stands - You can listen to me on this one if you want, but I’m not stupid, I know that this (and most every piece of advice I’ve typed) will have to be tested in your own time. However, wisdom is not always learned from experience. The truly wise can learn from others before making mistakes. I made my own mistakes and won’t list everything I’ve tested, but if you made it to #15, then trust me, I know what I’m talking about. That said, the drugs you do now will linger. They will seep through your skin and bloodstream. They will fester in your brain. Alcohol, in your gut and other organs that didn’t ask for the abuse. All in all, drugs are fun but they’re not what make people successful. (hard truth)
Thanks for reading and allowing me to “paint over the ugly parts and recycle it for more than it’s worth”.