Summer is winding to an end which means a lot of you are probably about to move somewhere far, far away to get away from your parents and go to university or college or arts school if you’re cooler than the rest of us.
Which basically means, life is about to get SCARY!
Chances are, you’re trying to enjoy the last few days of the break. Maybe you’re packing, maybe not. Maybe you’ve already moved and are freaking out, or maybe you’ve already moved and you’re doing just fine. Whatever situation you’re in, it’s likely you’ll be feeling pretty overwhelmed pretty soon and you’re expecting this, because you’re smart and the internet exists so you know everything.
But let’s face facts: University life is scary as hell. At first, anyway (kidding, it never gets better [also kidding, it does get better]). NEVER FEAR!!! I have all the answers for you! I’m here to help YOU, a loser, survive freshman year.
See I was a terrible freshman… all three times.
1.) College when I was 18
2.) Art school when I was 21
3.) University when I was 23
Because I’m just (un)cool like that, I had to do this three times and fail miserably each time. Actually the second time I did really well, but I’m trying to make a point so shut up.
I’ve gained a lot of secret university advice, and secret advice is always good. So make sure nobody else is listening because this is just between you and me, okay?
Let’s get started…
THE DEFINITIVE LOSER’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING FRESHMAN YEAR
There’s a few things you need to know before you actually arrive. These are basic things that your parents will probably insist you do but will never explain why because parents are lame and stupid and irrelevant, especially if they can’t text, and even worse so if they can text but not appropriately and just send you constant messages at inappropriate times. Just say things like “yes, mom” or “that’s a good point, dad” or whatever and they’ll think you’re responsible and give you money for booze (they’ll say don’t spend it on booze). Wait, how old are you? I said they’ll give you money for food. Geez, get your mind straight.
Seriously, don’t spend your money on booze. But I know you’re probably going to try to anyway, so I’ll include a party section on that later. But for now, spend your money on things you actually have to spend your money on, okay? Cool? Cool.
Now, while you’re ignoring your parents but putting on a good show so they don’t notice, here’s what you need to do:
1.) Contact your roommate(s). This depends on if you have the option of contacting them beforehand, of course, but if you do, email them, facebook them, whatever, just so you already have some information/background on them when you arrive. This way things won’t be immediately awkward. You can save the awkwardness for later when there’s less to deal with. It just makes things easier. If you contact them first, they’ll probably think you’re super confident and grown up and that will give you an advantage that will pay off at least for a while. If you can trick people into thinking you’re not a loser, they’ll treat you like not one…
2.) PACK! But also don’t overpack. You need essentials and very little else. Don’t let your mother put together a massive box of kitchen equipment that you’ll never use. Instead, take stuff that reminds you of home, like your posters and artwork, maybe some of your trinkets, if you have a guitar take that (guitars are the perfect conversation starter), things like that. When you arrive you’re going to want to make your new room look like your old room. I’ll get more into this in the next section, but pack up the things that mean a lot to you, and don’t pack random stuff you never use.
3.) Get your schedule ready. Register for your classes online, check what textbooks you need. Take care of all your academic needs beforehand. Make appointments with an advisor, the head of the department, or some of your profs, whoever you deal with at your particular school. Do all that ahead of time so when you get there you can get everything you need for when classes start before they, well, start.
4.) Learn how to cook. You may or may not be cooking much (probably not) but this is a necessary skill. Ask your parents to teach you how to cook something (they’ll love that you’re spending time with them which will get them off your back, and later on, you’ll be popular because you can make people food) and look up some recipes online. I recommend learning how to make snack-type food. Homemade salsa is delicious and cheap as hell, learn how too cook fries, especially yam fries. Learn how to make soup and some interesting salad. Even get some good sandwich recipes. Actually you know what, here’s a few quick and easy food recipes:
One medium to large potato = one serving, so do the math for how much you want.
Wash the potato.
Slice the potato lengthwise, then slice the other length to make fries. (careful, it’s ridiculously easy to slip when cutting potatoes)
Sprinkle the fries with sugar and let the juice drip out (use a colander or a cookie sheet) and let sit for about 20 minutes.
Spray non-stick stuff whatever it’s called on a baking sheet or just a sheet of tin foil.
Add salt and pepper.
Bake at 450F until they start looking crispy. Flip them a few times because even with non-stick spray, they still stick and that’s annoying.
For Yam Fries, do the exact same thing, just peel the potatoes first.
YAM FRY DIP:
Mix mayo, paprika, and hot sauce to taste.
SALSA DIP THING WITH AVOCADO:
Mush 1 avocado in a bowl.
Dice (cut like a grid to get small pieces) 1 tomato into the bowl.
Dice 1-2 green onions into the bowl.
Dice 1/2 white onion into the bowl.
Dice 1/2-1 (to spicy level) jalapeño pepper into bowl.
Stir and stuff.
Buy corn chips and eat.
Fine, I’m a vegetarian, but seriously this is delicious and cheap and easy and healthy.
Using a blender or food processor, blend 1 cup cashews, 1/2 cup basil, 1 teaspoon of olive oil, and salt to taste. This makes a lot, so cut the recipe in half or quarters for how much you need.
Slice an eggplant lengthwise and peel. (1 slice will make one sandwich, refrigerate the rest)
Slice a red bell pepper to the same size as the eggplant. (try and get one slice of everything the same size so things don’t fall apart, but you can use however much you want)
Slice a tomato.
Slice a white onion.
Put all of the above onto a baking sheet, drizzle olive oil (or not), and broil for about 7 minutes.
Slice a french baguette to the size you want.
Spread pesto on bread. Add spinach to one side, stack the vegetables on the other, or however to make it all balance.
Broil sandwich to crisp the bread.
Okay, now you’ve learned how too cook four simple foods. You’re less of a loser already.
You’ve packed, you’ve made your parents think you’re ready to leave the house, you can cook, you’re ready to get ready for school to start. Look at you, a little cooler.
The preamble is over, let’s get down to the real business of arriving at university, shall we?
EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT YOU KNEW WAS WRONG:
Seriously, everything. High school prepares you for college the same way that reading a book prepares you for income taxes. As in, it doesn’t. You’re going to have to readjust everything about your life. That’s okay, it’s not quite the panic-inducing experience that the movies make it out to be.
Some of the things that will change:
You will have to work harder than you ever have.
You’ll feel like you don’t have any free time.
You’ll feel like you have too much free time.
You’ll notice that making friends is impossible.
You’ll notice that making friends is pretty easy.
People will treat you like an adult and expect you to be way more responsible than you’ve been before.
Juniors and Seniors will treat you like children.
Professors will expect you to magically learn things they never taught you.
Socializing will be completely different.
Everyone will be obsessed with sex.
Nobody will actually be having sex.
And so on.
So let’s talk adjustments…
When you first arrive, don’t try and adjust. Just take in the new experience like a new experience. It’s all new, so let it be new. Don’t try and force familiarity cause that never works. Just keep your head about you and focus on one thing at a time, even though you’ll be encountering a billion new things at once. Try and focus on individual aspects of things instead of getting overwhelmed by the big picture. You’ll get used to it soon enough and can broaden your experience. It only takes a couple days to be familiar enough to not get lost on the way to literally everything, so you can do this before school even starts and you’ll know enough to manage.
Once you actually arrive you need to…
Get unpacked right away. Make your new room look as much like your old room back home as you can. You want to keep something familiar that you can fall back on. Put up your artwork, set some pictures about, make your bed, set up your desk. This is priority number one. You’ll probably meet your roommate at this time. Say hi and be nice. If you contacted them before you’ll probably be surprised when they turn out to be completely different than you imagined, but at least it won’t be as awkward as you think.
Once you get your home set up, you now have a safe space. Remember to get your keys and stuff like that. Make a note of how to get back to your room from anywhere. Watch for landmarks. This is your lighthouse, basically.
GO TO ORIENTATION:
Sign up for orientation and go. Go to everything. Participate in every event that you can. Push yourself here, even if you don’t want to go or think you can’t handle it, just go. It will keep you busy and take your mind off of other things you don’t need to be worrying about.
When you’re at orientation, a few things will happen:
Your guide will be completely useless and take you on a “tour” that you won’t remember because you won’t actually have any classes in the buildings they’ll take you to, and they’ll get lost along the way anyways and make it up as they go along. Just enjoy the sights, like a tourist or something. Don’t try and remember where things are too much. That’s what maps are for, not tours. Tours are for sightseeing. Your guide will, however, have lots of random fun facts about things and those can be helpful. Make a note of where some places to eat are and that’s about it.
You’ll meet a butt ton of people, all of whom will have boyfriends or girlfriends and will pay absolutely zero attention to you. This is super lame. Why are they bringing their (not so very) significant other to university? They’ll break up pretty soon, so relax. There’s nothing really you can do about this. They won’t talk to you anyway, so just focus on the single people and strike up some conversation. I’ll give you conversational tips in a whole section so you’ll be a smooth talker before the day is over.
All the volunteers will be ridiculously over-enthusiastic and annoying as crap. Put up with them and get some free shit.
When you go to the activities fair, sign up for everything. I mean everything. You don’t have to actually follow through with any of the groups yet, but get your name out there. Here’s a tip: make a new email account just for this day, because all of those groups will constantly email you throughout the year even though nobody cares about these updates, but they’ll never stop. You don’t want to be wading through this never ending list of emails all the time in your main account. Anyways, ask basic questions like “what’s this group about?” and sign up. Smile a lot. They’ll give you free things that you may or may not ever use, but usually they just give out chocolates or something. Chocolates are tasty.
If there’s a barbecue, eat some food. Maybe you’ve found someone from your tour group to eat with. Awesome. But if not, just go up to anybody and sit down and start eating. Say your name, shake their hand. If they blow you off, act like all you care about in the world is eating your food and they won’t care. If they start talking, look at you, you’re making friends. If this doesn’t work, just sit down somewhere to eat and take a breather. Food is good, nothing else matters.
If there’s a movie, do the exact same thing.
Orientation is far less exciting than it’s made out to be, but it’s the perfect way to get free stuff, eat some food, and look around a little bit. You’ll get out what you put in, but you really only need to make slightly-above minimal effort to enjoy it.
BUY YOUR TEXTBOOKS AND OTHER STUFF:
Word of advice: you don’t always need the recommended textbooks for your class. If you want, you can go to the first day and find out what you actually need before you buy it. If you’re a book nerd (which we all know you are) you can just go ahead and buy books beforehand, but you don’t need to yet. Take it as it comes. Buy secondhand if you want to save money but try get a book that isn’t all highlighted already or you’ll just read the highlighted stuff and skip the random questions the professor will put on the quiz to mess with you because professors suck when it comes to this. You might get lucky and find the Half-Blood Prince of second hand textbooks and if you do so, BUY IT NOW.
Get your student ID card ASAFP if your school offers that. The lineup for ID’s is about a week long wait for the first two weeks of school, so get in there before anybody else. DO IT. The same applies for your bus pass.
Buy a day planner or a small blank notebook you can write deadlines in. Don’t overdo the scheduling since you’ll forget anyways, but just write down important dates and cross them out as you come to them. Simple planning like that goes a long way. It’s worth it.
If your school has a phone app, download that and log in, do all that sort of stuff.
Join your school’s facebook group, and if they have a student union page, join that. They’ll keep you updated on random stuff like events, but also important things like water breaks that cancel classes and that sort of thing. You’ll arrive at class only to find it cancelled and wonder why you even got out of bed in the first place, but with these updates you can stay in bed.
FIND YOUR CLASSROOMS:
Go on a walk by yourself or with someone you’ve met and visit all the rooms you’ll have classes in. This way you won’t be late for the first week or freak out about walking into a room full of strange people wondering if you’re in the right place or not (this is my nightmare). If you’re like me and completely ignorant you won’t figure out that the first number in a room number is what floor it’s on. It took me 21 years to learn this. Shut up. If you can meet your professors, maybe go for it, or don’t, you’ll meet them soon enough.
ON THE FIRST DAY OF CLASSES: Before you leave class go introduce yourself to your professor. If you have any disabilities or special needs let them know. Not only will they not really care enough to judge you, but the school will have a protocol that they have to follow to make life easier for you, so don’t be embarrassed. Just say hi, let them know what program you’re in, whatever. They’re good at conversations so they’ll handle all the questions and make it easier on you.
BUY COFFEE FOR YOUR ROOMMATE:
If you have a roommate, offer to buy them coffee. This will get you amazing brownie points unless they hate coffee and make it far too clear. Chances are, they won’t. It will kick off your relationship. If you don’t drink coffee, too bad, you’re going to start pretty soon.
Fine, drink tea instead. Whatever. The gesture is what’s important.
Or don’t, it’s up to you. But I recommend that after a long day of activities, you get some sleep. You’ll need the energy, and besides, you have to start getting used to waking up early again. Summer sleeping in doesn’t last forever.
Stay up just late enough to look cool, and then call it a night. You can stay up all night later.
Alright, you’re all set for University to begin. Orientation is over, you know where you are and all that jazz.
Now, let’s get into University life. These tips will also benefit you at Orientation so forget about the chronology of the above sentence.
ACTUAL UNIVERSITY LIFE: A HOW TO
University life is busier and less busy than you’ll have ever expected it to be. For one thing, you seem to have far less class time than you did in high school because you do. You’ll question how this possibly constitutes an actual education since you spend all your time not doing very much.
At least for the first few weeks. And then… homework.
Homework in university is completely different. Assignments are strange, most likely they’ll all be essays for a while. And essays?
You will fail your first few essays if you don’t learn the format.
Unfortunately, the formatting is always different for every prof and no matter how much you try to learn it properly, you’ll still lose marks on it. So ask your prof exactly what format he wants and then Google it, go to the student help desk and ask about it, do some background research, download a template, whatever you have to do to ensure you don’t lose marks for improperly formatting, do that.
Also, you’ll have to learn how to write better because however good you were in high school, you probably still suck. Ahhh university essays, the great equalizer.
So here’s what you do.
Writing An Essay:
If the prof assigns a topic, easy. If not, then you get to pick something. Don’t go crazy, but don’t settle. Picking your own topic is fun because you can write about something that interests you. Do not pick something you’re not sure about as that will definitely make it more frustrating. But don’t pick something you already know everything about or you’ll be bored, slack off, and get a bad mark, which will make you question whether you were ever really interested in it in the first place and you’ll start losing your sense of curiosity. Once you have a topic ready, get started on research.
Get all your research done first. Remember to save all your sources because you will be required to make a works cited page. Again, there are different formats for this so be sure to ask your prof what they want.
Obviously the easiest way to gather research is via the internet. Duuuuuuhhhhhhh. Seriously though, learning how to use Google is a skill you will benefit from having your entire life. Learn how to use keywords, filter results, develop a discerning eye, be selective, skim articles, and so on.
However, chances are you will have to use non-internet sources. There’s a few ways to do this. Number one is to drag your ass to the library and find non-internet sources. Ugh. No fun. Unless you love libraries in which case huzzah! Seriously though, I’m useless with libraries, I practically hate having to go to them for any other reason than to just get lost in books, but it’s more fun to do that at a bookstore because you don’t have to be quiet all the time.
This is still pretty easy though because of something called librarians. So just ask them for help. Explain what you’re doing, what you need, and they’ll probably tell you where to find it. When you still can’t find it act super awkward or insecure (which you already are so no problem) and they’ll sigh really loud (resist the urge to shush them, this never goes well) and they’ll help you find it.
The other option though, is to be a bit more clever. When you’re researching online, find online versions of actual books and note the page numbers, things like that. Then you can do all your research, and for the works cited list, just go find the actual book and get all the information on it (or, sometimes, you don’t even need to do this as the website will list all the publication data anyway). Just cite it as a book or article or whatever it is, instead of a webpage. Done.
WRITE AN OUTLINE
Writing an outline will save your ass if you do it properly, or destroy your ass if you do it improperly.
How to do a proper outline?
In your first year, you’re probably going to be writing 3-5 page double-spaced essays. That’s about 3 paragraphs plus an introduction and a conclusion. Give or take, depending on how much information you’re supposed to cover. Don’t worry too much about that. Pick 3 main topics to discuss. Each one will comprise one paragraph.
Write your outline by summarizing the main data of what you’ve researched in a brief sentence or two. Then list 3 sub-points.
“Most students approach essay writing in an ineffective manner, but the truth is that essay writing is a much simpler task than it appears to be.
– Research is the hardest part so get it out of the way first.
– Planning an outline will save you time.
– All you need to do to write the essay is to expand on your outline.”
Something like that. Include quotes you’re planning on using as well (and cite them in the outline so you have that ready) and you’re good to go.
Do this for all your body paragraphs until you’re done.
WRITE THE FIRST DRAFT
When you’re done your outline, all you’re really going to do is expand on it. Take that summary and use it as your first sentence. Then spend a few sentences on each point elaborating what you mean, include your quotes (introduce them properly according to your format) and cite them, use some fancy words to make yourself look smart, and write a transitional ending sentence: something that wraps up your paragraph but also propels it forward into your next point.
If your first paragraph is on researching, and your second is on planning, then write something like, “Good research is the backbone of writing a good essay, but the research needs to be implemented into the essay in a carefully thought out way, which can be accomplished through the use of a good outline.”
You may want to reorder your paragraphs if this is too difficult to give your essay a good flow. Don’t worry too much about it though. Sometimes you have to just jump from one topic to another, and as long as you’re writing is decent, it will still work.
Once you’re done your body paragraphs, write the conclusion. This is stupidly easy, and really, conclusion paragraphs are kind of the dumbest requirement of essays as nobody ever reads them. But they are “proper” or whatever so you have to do it. Use one sentence to summarize each body paragraph quickly, and then use a last sentence to summarize the thesis of your essay at large.
Then, and only then, write your introduction. See you can’t introduce something that doesn’t exist yet, but now you’ve already written your whole essay, so you can introduce it with ease.
The introduction is just the conclusion backwards.
Start with a good introduction sentence, something that proposes a problem that your essay has the solution to. Write a few sentences to elaborate on what the essay will be about – basically the same as the conclusion, one sentence per body paragraph, that kind of thing. Then write your thesis statement. People worry about thesis statements way too much. They’re actually pretty easy.
A thesis statement is just the crutch of your essay in one sentence. It’s what “this essay is about.” You can even literally say, “In this essay I will argue that…” and say exactly what you will argue. Yeah, it’s that easy. Be sure to include all your main points in this sentence. If your dog eats your homework and this sentence is all that remains, people should be able to read it and know what your essay was about.
If you’re still confused, there’s countless resources out there on how to write good thesis statements. I have to spend time on other things for now, so we’re going to move on, but don’t worry about it too much. Also, your profs will go over this in class because they think people are stupid or whatever.
(Later on, you may have to write proposals for essays before you actually write the essay. These are stupid but you can’t get around them. My recommendation is to some extra work and write your outline first on your own, and then write the proposal. This way you’ll have a step up on everyone else in the room who doesn’t do this, and once the work actually begins, you’ll already be half done.)
Studying For Exams:
Ahhhh, the stereotypical university student, partying all day and rock n rolling all night. Until exams… and then….
Yeah, we’ve all been there. A lot.
Never fear! I am here!
Okay, studying is easy enough. First, pay attention in class, dingo.
Second, review, review, review. Stop putting everything off all the time and just review your notes briefly on a regular basis. You’ll remember it more.
Third, make practice tests. Instead of just reading your textbook (you are reading your textbook right? You do know that the prof will put questions on the test that weren’t discussed in class, right? And you do know they’ll also put questions on the quiz that were discussed in class but aren’t in the textbook, right? You didn’t know that? That’s why you go to class and do the assigned reading.) and highlighting it, make some practice quizzes. Get together with a friend or a study group and quiz each other. You’ll remember things way easier this way.
Fourth, play to your advantages. How do you best learn? By reading? Then look up things you don’t understand, do extra reading. Make it both challenging and fun. If you learn by listening? Ask questions in class, talk to people after class, go look it up on YouTube. By doing? Make some artwork that contains information you need, write a song about it, find a way of implementing the information into your daily routine.
Never stay up late the night before, cramming. It doesn’t work very well. Study the night before, drink lots of fluids, and go to bed.
When you wake up, drink lemonade or iced tea. Sugar helps your brain process information (as long as you don’t eat too much) and eat some fruit for breakfast. Put the exam out of your mind. Get some exercise if you have time for it. Make some coffee but don’t take it to the exam, instead take a water bottle.
The natural sugar from the fruits and the sugar in your drink will help your brain make connections, the coffee will heighten the connections, and the fluid will keep you hydrated and functioning efficiently.
Relax, and don’t think about the test until you begin. You’ll feel much better about it, even if you don’t do amazing, at least you can say you tried.
Okay, enough of this boring stuff, let’s get down to the really exciting parts of university life.
SOCIALIZING AT UNIVERSITY!!!!
Put on some KISS or Grateful Dead, embrace the cliche, and let the good times roll. Oh, wait, you’re trying not to be a loser. Right. Okay, go for Kanye West or Grimes, then. Check out Ryn Weaver, this year’s new breakout artist who’s still obscure enough to make you look like the hipster you always thought you could pretend to be. (Seriously, Ryn Weaver is really good though). Let’s talk about social life in university!
You’re probably already quite aware that there will be a metric butt ton of new people here, and you’ve prepared yourself for that, but holy crap, you had no idea. It’s cool. You’re not going to meet most of them, so don’t feel overwhelmed. Just think about it statistically, if you talk to one new person a day, you’ll meet over 200 people over the school year. That’s a pretty good size for a new social network but it doesn’t feel too overwhelming to handle, because it’s only one person a day. See? Math.
You might have been a bit of a loser in high school. If that’s not the case, then you might be up for some karmic payback. That sucks, but you can get around it. If you were unpopular, then now is your time to shine, but you have to take advantage of it. Either way, here’s some gold nuggets on making new friends, going out, and maybe even meeting some special ooh-la-la people. Wink wink. You know what I’m talking about, right?
Okay, we’ve got lots of work to do.
First things first, where to sit on your first day/week.
IN CLASS CONVERSATION
Always sit near the front of the class. Don’t sit in the front seat if you don’t want to, if that makes you uncomfortable, but sit in the first three rows. I usually try pick the side with the windows on it in a row that doesn’t have a window right beside me. I get really unfocused if I can stare out a window, so this minimizes my view of the outside world. Then I can actually focus on the class, which I usually don’t really do anyways because I have a terrible attention span, but that’s my problem, not necessarily yours. The point is, pick the side that makes you feel the most comfortable. Another example, when I eat in restaurants, I prefer having my right side to the wall, instead of my left. I don’t know, for some reason it makes me feel less agitated. See what I mean?
But when you sit near the front it’s easier to pay attention to the class and that will do a few things: A) you’ll actually be able to learn better, which will make class less stressful and leave you more time for socializing, and B) if at any time you feel awkward in conversation, you can just focus on the professor. Clever, right?
The second reason you should sit near the front is because the people who will sit at the front of the class are generally the kind of people who will provide more discussion. Nothing against people who sit in the back, I’ve met many lovely people who always sit in the back, who are great conversationalists in their own right. But when you’re in your first year, you will probably benefit more from sitting close up, instead of far back. You can “graduate” to the back, so to speak, if you wish.
Arrive early rather than late. With the exception of having to run across campus to get to class, always try to arrive earlier so you have more seats available to chose from. It can be super awkward having to pick a seat in between two other people, at first. Eventually people will sit in the same place every day, so you can stick with your favorite spot if you want.
Things are often less awkward if you’re the first person sitting down, rather than the person who has to sit next to someone else. It just makes it easier.
On the other hand, if you do end up being that person who has to sit down next to someone, don’t think anything of it. Just sit down wherever you want. If it feels like you’re intruding, then don’t worry about it because it’s school and everyone has to sit somewhere and nobody cares. Just be cordial about it.
However you do it, it’s easy to strike up a quick conversation with the people next to you.
Say hi. Say what your name is and offer your hand. Nobody will reject you at this point. If they do, they’re assholes and not worth your time and they’ll pay for it later in life when they can’t get along with anyone. It’s not you, it’s them. Anyways, shake their hand, repeat their name as if to confirm it. It’ll make them feel more comfortable with you because people love hearing their names apparently (I’m not crazy about it until I really know you, but whatever, I’m weird, and even still, I won’t get angry at you if you do it), and then ask them questions like:
“What program are you studying?”
“Are you from here?”
“Do you live in the dorm? / With roommates? / At home? / With your parents or siblings? etc.” (adjust these questions to the answers they give)
“Did you go to (school event) yesterday/over the weekend/whenever?”
“What do you think about this class?” (after a couple days)
These are your basic questions that anyone can ask. They’re for small talk to loosen you up for better talk. Nobody really likes small talk but you have to make it, so stick to simple stuff at first until you feel comfortable.
REMEMBER, don’t just ask questions, give them some time to ask their own questions back, and give thoughtful responses. If you can answer with one word, don’t. Answer with at least a full sentence, maybe even another comment, but always follow it up with another question to keep the conversation going. You don’t want to be off-putting, you want to appear cool even if you aren’t.
The second stage of small talk is to start commenting on things.
If you were a loser in high school, you likely have a pretty decent sense of humor. Now you get to try out some of your jokes.
Note: don’t tell constructed jokes until you’re confident that the other person will like it. Gauge their taste in comedy first. Just stick with witty comments and sly remarks for now.
Notice things like any cool jewelry/accessories they’re wearing either on their wrists or in their hair. Don’t comment on necklaces or it looks like you’re staring at cleavage. Seriously, wrists and hair accessories. Comments on personal appearance, be it their clothes, or their hairstyle, are off-bounds (the exception being if they’re wearing a band or movie t-shirt that you also like), so stick to objects that they have. Talk about their backpack if you like it or something like that, you get the idea?
Move on to situational comments. Is it freezing in the room? Is the prof wearing something awesome/stupid? Does the prof look like a celebrity? That kind of stuff.
After a few weeks you’ll be able to discuss the class itself. If you want. Or school events, social events, things like that. Be fun. Don’t talk about the latest political scandal. You know what I mean? Good.
Once you’re familiar with each other enough to sit together without it being awkward…
Smile when you walk in. Make eye contact, wave, and smile at the person you sit next to. Be friendly. Also don’t just ignore everyone else. If you look around and make eye contact with someone else completely accidentally, smile at them too. Remember to sit next to different people too. Don’t feel like you HAVE to sit in the same place every time just because everyone else appears to.
And don’t neglect your professor. Say hi when you walk in.
Ask lots of questions in class. Chances are, if you have a question, someone else has the same question, so you might as well be the person to ask it. You’ll establish yourself as a talkative person, as well as someone with opinions and knowledge, and people will start approaching you.
Don’t keep your opinions to yourself in class. Stay relevant, of course, but if you think something, talk about it, discuss it. Be willing to be wrong. It’s not as embarrassing as it seems. Just go for it, you’re here to learn anyways. If it happens that you get completely shut down and it’s horrible and awful, trust me, no one else will remember it (if they do, you’ll never know about it anyway so relax) and you can forget about it as soon as class ends and move on. Don’t hold the past over yourself. Make the same mistakes a few times if you have to. They say the definition of insanity is someone who does the same thing over and over again expecting different results. Well that’s only true after a while, you have some leeway to make the same mistake a few times without being insane. Sometimes it takes a while to learn.
So that covers talking to people in class. Let’s move outside of the classroom now.
Hallway conversation can be awkward if you’re rushing from place to place, so keep it lighthearted. Ask people what they did over the weekend, or what their plans are. If you did/are doing something cool, mention it, suggest that they come along if you want. Keep it simple and non-committal. People are busy.
Come across as someone who just knows of fun things to do and gives ideas to others, rather than someone who wants people to come with them to these fun things. Like you’re a social media site or something. I know that sounds lame (really lame) but it’ll work.
But let’s say you have a break between classes. If you’re trying to meet strangers, just approach them and say hi. Sit down and casually start doing something like homework, even if you’re just flipping through a book pretending to read it, and then strike up a conversation the same way you do in class. It helps to have a drink on hand so you look important or whatever. Why does coffee make people look sophisticated? I don’t know.
Anyways, if you have a break at the same time as someone you have class with and you’re trying to get to know them, the best thing to start with is, again, observational topics. Talk about things that are happening around you. Look, there goes someone dressed as a clown (why? I don’t know, it’s college, just go with it). Got a good joke? Cool. Want to talk about something more personal? Ask questions about music, movies, books, hobbies, light hearted family discussion, topics that have to do with class, topics that are slightly related to class, other classes, events, ideas. You might not be a good ranter, so start developing that skill. Everyone knows someone who can just talk incessantly about anything at all. Think they got that way just naturally? Nope, they learned how to do that over time.
The trick is to be opinionated. You don’t have to know a lot about everything, just enough to talk about it. Share your opinions about whatever you want, as long as it’s not confrontational. Everyone knows to stay away from religion and politics but in college sometimes this works if there’s some relevancy to it. Find a news site and read it regularly. Make sure it’s something you care about first. Keep updated on what interests you. Talk about your feelings on things.
Use “I” sentences instead of “you” sentences.
Here’s a tip. I get into a lot of debates because I discuss philosophy a lot and I’ve figured something out: Never put yourself on the opposite side as the person you’re talking to unless you’re in a formal debate situation, which you aren’t.
Say “we” and “us” more than “me” or “I.” Talk as though you and your conversational partner agree, even if you don’t.
It promotes camaraderie and comes across as friendlier and more accepting.
When referring to the side you disagree with, still put yourself in their shoes. Talk as though you understand the opposite viewpoint. “I feel as though there’s a lot of people who think… blah blah blah… and they have a point about… blah blah blah… but I feel that we can find mutual ground about… blah blah blah.”
Don’t just do this in philosophical conversations, do this with everything. Make yourself part of a group and include the people you’re talking to. It’s a subtle difference but it has a big effect on the people you’re talking to, even though they won’t notice it.
ONE ON ONE CONVERSATION / PERSONAL CONVERSATION
Okay, you’ve gotten to know someone a little past the acquaintance stage. You might not be friends yet but you’re familiar with each other a little bit. Now you’re discussing more personal matters. Talk about favorites, talk about dreams you have, talk about places you want to visit, and so on. Remember what they say and ask follow up questions.
Here’s some random fun questions. You can also ask these with relative strangers, but they work best with familiars:
“What’s your dream city to live in?”
“What did you want to be growing up?”
“What’s your favorite memory?”
“Do you believe in aliens or ghosts?” (keep this lighthearted, like ooooooh aliens, not DO YOU BELIEVE THAT ALIENS ARE GOING TO ABDUCT US?)
“What’s your biggest pet peeve?”
“Do you have/want any tattoos or piercings?”
“What’s the best concert you’ve been to and why?”
“Describe your dream job.”
“What kind of clothing would you never dream of wearing in public?”
That’ll start you off. Google fun things to ask people if you need more. Keep the conversation fun. You’ll learn something about the other person, and you’ll get to laugh together and laughing is always good. Again, remember to answer their questions too, and give details. Don’t carry the whole conversation, but don’t just interview them either. Go back and forth.
Body language is really important, not just because it sends signals to the other person, but it affects the way you feel as well.
Make sure that you’re facing the other person, but that you’re also slightly turned. You know how people sit at right angles in restaurants? There’s a reason for that. The best way to sit is so that it looks like your attention could be turned toward watching people or whatever is happening, but that you’ve chosen to pay attention to the person beside you. Kind of half-faced them. Switch this up. When you need to drive home a point, or show that you’re extra interested, turn more toward them. When you’re done, sit back again and relax, but still pay attention to them. Always adjust your position when you’re talking so it isn’t obvious.
Sit up and don’t slouch. I like sitting cross-legged when I’m on the ground or on a couch, but this doesn’t always work. That’s just me.
You have to find balance.
Keep your hands to yourself 99% of the time. Just don’t touch.
But that leaves 1% of the time for you to make physical contact, because humans need physical contact. (Sidebar: this could change depending on the culture you’re in, but if you’re from a different culture, you probably already know how much contact is appropriate and can judge for yourself)
You can shake their hand when you meet or when you leave, or both. That always seems professional and adds a nice little touch, just don’t make it so formal they feel like they’re in a political meeting.
If they say something really funny, you can gently touch their shoulder or their forearm. But that’s it, okay? Once you get into the flirting stage, then you can touch a little bit more, but otherwise, it’s inappropriate. Got it? Cool.
Speaking of which…
So you want to flirt eh? (Can you tell I’m Canadian?) Okay, good for you.
Flirting is actually really easy, but it’s even easier to mess up. Oh the complications of love. Bah. Humbug.
Seriously though, this is a really big part of university life, and you’re probably itching to get down to it, so here’s a quick and yet detailed guide on flirting.
KEEP IT APPROPRIATE
No matter who you’re flirting with, whether you think they like you and you want to go out with them, or you just want to be a little flirty with nice people, ALWAYS, keep it appropriate. This means *NO* touching in places that are even near private places. This means *NO* sex jokes. This means *NO* misogyny. This means *YES* friendliness.
Friends can flirt with each other, by the way. Flirting isn’t necessarily sexual. That’s how you can approach it. Even if you want to be more than friends, treat them like you would a good friend anyway.
THE FRIEND ZONE IS NOT A THING
The friend zone doesn’t exist. The concept of the friend zone does exist, in two ways, that aren’t actually real.
1.) The “friend zone” means she thinks you’re a friend and has never thought of you as more than so because she actually thinks you’re her friend.
2.) The “friend zone” means he just hangs around with her in hopes that she has sex with him.
Both of these are capital BS BullShit.
In the first case, there’s NOTHING wrong with having girls as friends. Girls make amazing friends, okay guys? Girls, guys make amazing friends. You don’t in any way whatsoever have to be more than friends. In fact, there’s no such thing as “just friends.” You are friends. Period. Friends are good.
In the second case, no woman in the history of the world has ever owed sex to someone else. Ever. Sex is not something you can owe.
Look, if you like someone and they don’t feel the same way about you, that’s tough, but you’ll just have to deal with that. Accept it and move on.
There’s lots of people out there you can develop feelings for. It’s not the end of the world.
FLIRTING SHOULD BE FUN FOR BOTH PARTIES
Flirting is supposed to be fun, for both of you. This means unrequited flirting is a waste. It also means too much flirting is bad. For that matter, it can at times mean that too little flirting is pointless, in which case you can polish up your abilities and solve that problem.
Keep it light. Say cute little things. Compliment each other. If they look good, tell them in a clever way. Especially, compliment them on something other than their appearance. Everyone wants to look good, but even more so, everyone wants to be appreciated for their skills, intelligence, insights, abilities, personalities, sense of humor, and so on.
Make eye contact when you flirt. Go back and forth from one eye to the other, and then if you’re good, do that cute thing where you quickly glance at their lips (no lower than that), back up, and then away. Smoooooooth.
Look at you, already gaining flirting points.
Alternate being the first and second one to break eye contact.
NEVER stare at a woman’s breasts. Ever ever ever ever ever. Ever. Or their bum for that matter, even though you’re sure you can get away with it. You can’t, first of all, because people are smarter and more aware than you think they are, and second, because this breaks the above rule: it needs to be fun for both parties.
Note: trust me, people know when you’re looking at them.
Let’s take a quick break to talk about sexual objectification: the world women have to live in is close to hell because of sexism. It S-U-C-K-S and most of us guys have no real idea. Women don’t exist for your pleasure. They are people. I don’t give even half a shit what excuse you think you have why you should be allowed to “appreciate” the way a woman looks, you need to readjust your priorities. There’s a lot of stuff in the world to look at, don’t be so stupid as to limit it only to the female species. That’s just stupid.
There’s a lot more to discuss about this topic, but I don’t want to get into it here and change the mood of this post. Just always be respectful. ALWAYS.
More on touching. Now that you’re flirting and not simply being friendly, you can touch a little bit more. Like maybe 5%. The same rules apply: no touching anywhere even close to private parts.
But you can add hands to the list. If they say something cute or funny, or if you’re both laughing, you can gently touch the other person’s hand for up to 3 seconds. Yes, I’m timing you. Keep it semi-formal, just like a handshake, but include the context of the flirtation. Easy. If at any point the other person cringes, pulls away, or looks uncomfortable, stop. Don’t draw attention to it, and don’t do it again. Carry on with the conversation. If they reciprocate in the future, then you can try again, but otherwise leave it.
Shoulders, forearms, are still in play in friendly ways.
The touching itself doesn’t really change from the way you’d touch friends. It’s just the context that has changed. That’s all you need. Remember when I said flirting is really easy to screw up? Yep. People usually overdo the touching because they treat it like it’s a separate form of flirting, but it really isn’t. It’s part of a whole.
Other cute things you can do are exchange silly flirty notes, lightly tease each other. A fun one is if one of you bumps the other’s foot, if say, I don’t know, if they cross their legs and their foot touches yours in the process, you can lightly kick them back.
Always make it fun for both of you.
The sexy times. No point in beating around the bush. I know your parents probably told you not to have sex, but I also know that probably won’t be enough to stop you.
If your religion or culture prohibits you from having sex and you want to honor that, all the power to you. If you don’t, it’s still YOUR decision. It’s YOUR body. You deserve respect to make any decision you want. People make fun of virgins and this is stupid. Who cares?
We all know people have sex at college (this isn’t actually true of everyone, but we’re familiar with the stereotype), and it’s better that you go in prepared than blind. Don’t make mistakes you didn’t need to make just because nobody told you. Well I’m here to tell you, so there.
CONSENT = SEXY
NON-CONSENT = ABUSE
This is as clear a line in the sand as can exist. If you don’t have consent from both parties, you’re doing it wrong. Go home.
And yet people still find a way to mess this up, so let me clarify a few things:
“No” means NO. Not “try harder.”
Playing hard-to-get only applies to the initial stages of flirting, pretty much before you’ve even kissed. After that, she’s not playing hard-to-get, she doesn’t want you. Deal with it. Guys can do this too.
Silence is not consent.
The absence of a lack of consent is not consent. You don’t walk into a store and rob it just because there’s no alarm.
Communication is sexy. Stop being afraid to talk. Sex doesn’t have to be silent.
One-time consent is not perpetual consent.
Got it? GET CONSENT. ALWAYS. EACH AND EVERY TIME. GET CONSENT.
Okay, so you’ve got consent. Now what?
Condoms. Always use a condom. They protect from pregnancy and STI’s. They’re cheap, and school’s usually hand them out at safe sex fairs and that kind of stuff, although free condoms aren’t always the best fitting and so on.
Find one that fits. Buy a variety pack and try out a few. Do it on your own if you want. There’s nothing creepy about being prepared. Creepy is throwing condoms around in public. Learning about them isn’t creepy. Don’t fall for the magnum crap. If you’re that size, fine, but you probably aren’t, and who cares? Just stop worrying about size down there altogether. Find a condom that fits well.
Maybe you already know this, but maybe you don’t, and it’s always worth going over again to be safe. Safeness is good.
Buying condoms always feels like a forbidden activity the first times, doesn’t it? Don’t feel that way. The person behind the counter could care less. They probably hate their job anyway so what are you worried about? Don’t let nervousness be an excuse to forgo condoms.
You should also use condoms during other kinds of sex besides penetrative sex. Don’t take that risk.
Once you’re in an established relationship where you both trust each other and you both know what you want, if you want to rely on birth control and stop using condoms, I can’t tell you not to, but be informed. Know what’s going on at all times. Communicate, be honest and open with each other, be prepared.
Ladies, this is for you. Talk to your doctor and find the type of birth control that works for you. There’s a few different kinds so you might have to make some adjustments, but doctors know their shit.
Also, keep in mind that birth control has other uses beyond simply preventing pregnancy. They can relieve menstrual stress, headaches, and other related problems. Women who have been on birth control for more than 5 years actually have a higher chance of getting pregnant when they stop so don’t think that birth control will “ruin” you or anything like that.
Plan B is NOT a contraceptive. It’s an emergency and should only be used in emergency cases. The morning after pill does a lot of things to you hormonally, and while it won’t have long-term effects if you use it properly, if you start using it often, it can. Don’t fall for the idea that you can just take a morning after pill instead of birth control. That’s a lie.
Guyfriends, your girlfriend is already paying for an awful lot of feminine products. Help out. Buy the condoms. If you want to and you’re both comfortable with having this discussion, help her out with her birth control costs. That goes a long way. Be nice.
Also, know that birth control does NOT prevent against STI’s. It is only used to prevent pregnancy. If you’re having sex with a new partner, always use a condom. This is just the rule okay? I’m inventing this rule. First time sex is always condom sex. Even if they say they’re clean, put both of your minds at ease and use a condom.
To religious folks out there, or Pro-Lifers, listen up: contraceptives have nothing to do with abortion, okay? This does not concern you. I know what you think, I know why you think it, but it’s not your decision to make for someone else. It’s only your decision to make for yourself, and if you’re well informed, you should be able to make a good decision.
Also, don’t take offence at this next topic, again, it doesn’t concern you. It’s not your decision to make for someone else.
Okay, you messed up, had an accident, now what?
Assuming you don’t want to have a kid (because if you do, you probably don’t need my advice on it), there’s some things you need to know.
Let’s avoid the philosophical/moral discussion here, and just talk practically.
When an egg becomes fertilized, chances are, it will not implant in the uterine wall and you’ll have your period just like you usually do. This happens far more often than people realize. What happens with contraceptive, is the chances of implementation happening are lowered even more. It’s the same thing.
But when you do get pregnant, and you have to deal with it, it’s not some dramatically horrific experience. Abortions suck, sure. Nobody wants an abortion. And a quick note, abortion is NOT birth control. Use your contraception.
This is your decision, ladies. You can tell your man if you want to, and I think respectfully that you should, but if he wants to make you have the baby and you don’t want to, you are free to tell him to butt out. It’s your body and your decision.
Don’t be afraid.
The idea is to avoid needing an abortion altogether. But if you do need it, you needn’t be afraid. It’s like life insurance, or something like that, I don’t know.
There will be information available to you on campus regarding what to do, where to go, etc. Be informed, don’t worry.
You are not a broken toy if you have an abortion. You are still you, 100%, whole. Okay? Okay.
If you need someone to talk to, again, the campus will have people available, and there’s lots of support groups you can find online or around town. Never feel like you’re alone, because you’re not.
In instances of sexual abuse, GET HELP. The same applies here as I just mentioned regarding abortion. There ARE people available who understand what you’re going through. There ARE people willing to help. Don’t go through this alone. Take action.
Report instances of abuse you witness or are involved in.
Support those who have gone through abuse.
You can always contact me if you feel like you can’t talk to anyone else and I’ll help you out in any way I can.
The world is becoming increasingly tolerant of sexual orientation. YAY!!!!!
Prejudices and discrimination still exist and that sucks. But of all places, college and university campuses are probably the safest. If you’re struggling with your sexual orientation, talk to someone. Either someone you trust, or someone whose job it is to make you feel safe. Nobody can judge you for being you. If you encounter abuse, report it. Stand up for yourself. Join support groups. Do what you need to.
Remember, sex, any kind of sex, is YOUR business. This is the time to learn what you want, what you like, who you like, or to wait if that’s what you want. It’s up to you.
If you want to hook up with people, go for it, as long as you have consent and you both communicate. If you want to be exclusive, go for it. If you don’t want to have sex, go for that.
Alright, that’s enough sexy talk.
Ahhhh yes, what would university be without parties? Answer: exactly the same. You’re here to learn aren’t you?
Okay, okay, you’re probably going to go to parties anyway. Fine, we’ll do a section on this.
The first rule is, if you’re underage, you’re underage. I’m sorry, but you can’t mess with the law. No alcohol for you.
Buuuuuut…. that probably won’t stop you, and I’d rather you have some knowledge going in than just telling you not to go and watch you go anyway.
So don’t put yourself in situations where you could get busted. Don’t try and get a fake ID and go into a bar. You have plenty of time to actually go to bars with a real ID when you’re old enough. Just be smart.
Parties on the other hand…
You’ll be invited to parties where there will be alcohol. Here’s what to do:
KNOW YOUR LIMIT:
This takes practice to figure out, so the first few times, only have one or two drinks. *if you’re of legal age and you know this stuff, feel free to skip ahead*
After a while, know your limit and stick to that. Don’t overdo it. You’re only in college.
Beer is extremely overrated at college parties. It’s cheap I guess, but it’s only purpose is to get drunk on. Lame. Don’t be that guy/girl. Sip a can or bottle of beer at a nice pace so you can be social without losing your head.
Or, mix up some rum or whiskey with a coke. You can drink more beverage with less alcohol saturation so it lasts longer.
There won’t be a lot of variety I’m guessing until people are old enough to know how to make actual drinks, so just keep it simple. You’re here to socialize, not to get wasted. Getting wasted is pointless.
ALWAYS KEEP YOUR EYE ON YOUR DRINK:
This is one of the stupidest things that exists in the world, but unfortunately, it does exist, and you need to be aware of it. Never leave your drink unattended. If you do, get a new drink. I’m so, so sorry that this is a real concern, and I wish it wasn’t, but it is.
Guys, don’t fucking rape people. Don’t fucking put things in people’s drinks. Get over your shit and grow up.
TAKE A FRIEND:
Yeah… never go to a party alone. Just don’t do it. It’s kind of lame. You’re trying not to be lame, right? You don’t really have to stay together for the whole party and you don’t even have to leave together (although you should) but always show up together.
ARRIVE LATE, LEAVE EARLY:
This actually has nothing to do with not getting too drunk or anything like that. This is a pro-tip on how to be good at going to parties. Parties always take a little while to get going, and they end a long time before everyone actually goes home.
Show up about 30-45 minutes after the party is scheduled to start, when everyone is already starting to have a good time. Nobody’s going to judge you because by now they don’t care. Besides, you’ll have kept them waiting so they’ll be happier to see you. Plus, it gives you more time to get ready and all that stuff.
When you arrive, be sure to greet the host, get yourself a cup of something (if you don’t want to drink, just put water in it or pop or something) so you have something to hold on to, and then make your way around the room saying hi to people. Follow the tips I gave you on introducing yourself and relax. You can make this as long or as brief as you want, if you find or don’t find interesting conversations to join. Get into the mood a bit, listen to the music.
Keep moving. The people everyone wants to talk to at a party are the people who are talking to everyone. The brooding loner type works in other situations, but not in parties. It’s the psychology of a good time. Even if you don’t really talk much, just move around the room. When people look over at you they should have to figure out where you are now. It makes you look popular. Wheee!
There comes a time during every party where the mood just shifts. Some people are better at this than others, and maybe it takes some practice to figure it out, but this is likely due to the effect of alcohol. Alcohol is a downer and eventually puts you to sleep, but first it stops your inhibitions – the fun part of being drunk. Then, after a certain amount of time, it stops… well, everything else. At some point, people will slow down. The buzz in the room quietens just a little bit. It’s almost imperceptible. This is your cue to start saying goodbye.
Say goodbye to everyone you said hi to, even if you don’t really know them. Chances are a lot of them will be drunk enough to not care if they don’t even know who you are. Some people become huggers at parties and you might not be able to avoid this, just pat them on the back like a mother hen or something and move on.
Say goodbye to the host and thank them.
And that is how you go to parties.
Again, I have to reiterate, alcohol offence is serious. Follow the rules. Be careful. Be safe.
Guys, be aware. Don’t make girls uncomfortable. Being drunk is not an excuse for you to do things. Her being drunk is not permission.
And girls can be the perpetrators too. It’s time for everyone to cut this shit out.
In instances of sexual harassment, REPORT THEM TO THE AUTHORITIES. If you don’t think it’s serious enough to call the police (which it probably is) then at least tell someone in charge on campus. Do not take this lightly.
Okay, that’s pretty heavy stuff. Let’s go back to a few more fun things about freshman year and then call it a day.
SURVIVING THE REST OF THE YEAR:
Congratulations! You’ve made it through your big move, you’ve finished orientation, and you’ve managed to get through the first few weeks of classes. Maybe you’ve met some people, joined some clubs, gone to some parties, maybe you haven’t and that’s also okay. But now midterms are coming around, maybe some homesickness is setting in. You’re not really sure what you’re doing right now and questioning your sanity. Or maybe you’re doing just fine.
A few more tips of advice and then you’ll be on your way to surviving freshman year. I promise it gets easier from here. Freshman year is pretty much designed to make you give up on life but after that, it gets fun. So keep going.
Also, if you feel that university isn’t for you, or at least not right now, that’s okay too. There’s no shame in quitting college. I did. Once I knew what I wanted I went back, but that took me a long time. The best thing you could do is stay until you finish your semester so you get some credits for the classes you paid for, but don’t put more pressure on yourself than you can handle. You know you more than anyone else.
CHOOSING A MAJOR
Some schools require you to choose your major earlier than others. Depending on the situation you may have to decide pretty soon.
Choosing a major can feel very scary but with a little bit of preparation it can actually be quite easy.
By now you’ve taken a few classes and got a small taste of what you like and what you don’t. I wish universities would let you take more general classes before they required you to commit, but most of the time that’s not the reality.
When choosing a major, pick what you’re passionate about. Don’t let your parents pressure you into studying something you don’t care about. See, it doesn’t matter how much money you end up making as long as you’re happy. You can’t take money with you when you die, but your experiences and happiness affect your life and the lives of those around you. So pick what you care about.
On the other hand, be smart. If you love acting but you’re not 100% committed to spending your life earning your living as an actor, then maybe don’t major in acting. Minor in it instead, or take a few classes.
And yet, you could major in it, and then get a job in whatever are it is applicable to. The situation depends on you.
I was going to major in English, but after a few classes I realized that I love English, but I love writing it and reading it, I’m not crazy about studying it.
I am however, very passionate about Psychology and Philosophy, and I apply both of those topics to my writing, so I chose to major in psych and minor in phil. See? Both passionate, and practical. It’s something I can realistically see myself working in AND something I get excited about.
It’s up to you, but don’t make yourself miserable. Do yourself that courtesy. In 20 years, you’ll thank yourself. You’ll probably thank yourself a long time before that too.
GETTING GOOD GRADES
Keep your grades up by doing your homework and studying properly. You’ll need those high marks later on down the road, so don’t slack off. But for the first year, don’t fret too much when you fail a few exams, or even a few classes. It happens to all of us. You can retake some classes, or take something else to replace that credit. You’ll always learn something from it.
Besides, failure is how you learn.
Nobody ever learned from being right. They learned from being wrong and moving forward.
It happens that relationships fall apart. Not just romantic ones either. If you find that you no longer like hanging out with the people you spend time with, you’re under no obligation to continue hanging out with them.
Let it go. Don’t surround yourself with people who make you miserable. It might be hard. They might question you, bother you, make fun of you.
Ease yourself out of the relationships gradually if you can, but if you have to just cut off contact, don’t be afraid to do so. Let those people go. Be busy at the times they usually expect you to hang out. Get involved elsewhere. Make new friends.
This is a tough time, but sometimes it’s necessary.
DEALING WITH HARD TIMES AND MENTAL HEALTH
Life gets hard. Sometimes it’s just due to stress or a distressing situation. Take some time off. Drink tea (green tea is very relaxing, not to mention healthy). Take breaks. Watch TV. Get yourself outside. Visit a new part of the city. If you need a break, you need a break. You may not feel like you have time for a break, but if you’re feeling that stressed, then you do.
When things get worse though, and questions about mental health arise, get help. It took me years to get help and now I feel so much better. If you’re really struggling with depression, especially suicide, don’t wait. You can’t wait.
Here’s the thing about depression: you don’t want to get help. I’ve been there. You want someone to notice, to save you. You don’t want to feel better, you just want to be recognized. You lose interest in everything and you don’t care. You become numb, so it’s not a matter of feeling better, it’s a matter of feeling anything. But the feelings are too much, so you’d rather wallow in the numbness, letting it swallow you whole. I know, it’s a no-win situation. But you can get out of it.
Don’t wait. The problem is when you don’t feel depressed, you don’t think you have a problem, and when you do, you feel too helpless to actually take control. You feel too powerless to get yourself to see someone.
So don’t wait. Go see someone. Get help. Go to the doctor. Tell them. They can’t judge you. They will help.
There’s hope out there.
And there’s a whole variety of other mental problems other than depression. If you think you or someone you know is struggling with anything that you’re familiar with, get yourself help, and help others get help too.
If you’re not sure what’s going on, if you don’t recognize a specific diagnosis, but you can tell that something is wrong, be supportive. Get information. Go ask the doctor questions, they’ll be able to figure out what’s going on.
And always remember, there’s NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU. Mental disorders are so common we should stop calling them disorders. The only reason we do is so that people recognize that they can change.
Modern medicine has done so many wonders for us, it’s amazing.
And don’t be that person who thinks that mental illness goes hand in hand with artistry. I used to think that. It’s a lie. You won’t lose your creativity because you’re on medication.
You also won’t lose your personality. It’s just a misconception that prevents people from getting the help they need.
As always, you can contact me if you feel you have nobody else to talk to. My email/twitter/etc. is in the About page.
GOING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS
You made it to the holidays. Now it’s time to go visit your family and tell them all about how you’re doing.
Ugh. / Yay!
You’ve probably changed a lot in the last while, but your family will treat you as though you’re exactly the same. To them, you are. You’re just going to have to deal with that for the most part. Let them miss you and hug you and annoy the crap out of you. You’ll miss them too, if you don’t already.
But this can also be very stressful. Maybe you’ve encountered different cultures or religions while you’ve been gone, and you think, feel, or believe differently than you used to, putting you at odds with your family.
Don’t worry about this too much. You don’t have to discuss anything you don’t want to. There’s always internet groups out there to help you with any difficulties you’re having.
Maybe you’ve gone vegan. Maybe you’re Buddhist now. Maybe you’ve come out about your sexuality, but not to your family. Maybe you think we’re all just living in the matrix. Whatever it is, don’t stress out about it. There will be lots of time for you to talk about whatever you need to.
If you feel that you have to come clean about things like this, always do so in a respectful, pleasant manner. Keep in mind that your parents are individuals with the same rights as you are. If you feel you could be in danger of being turned away, you might have to suck it up, I’m sorry to say. It’s only temporary. You might have to tell them over the phone after you go back. I know it’s terrible, but do not put yourself in a situation that could be dangerous. Remember, there’s lots of resources out there on this topic.
Or maybe not, maybe you just want to go home, spend some time with your family, and enjoy it. Good. Take some time off, you deserve it.
When you come back, you’ll know far more than you used to. You’ll be ready to face school again. You’ll miss your friends, the community, the smell of campus.
One final word of advice before I wrap this up:
WHAT IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE ANY FRIENDS?
I’m sorry that this happened. Maybe you tried your best, but people just didn’t accept you for whatever reason. You got rejected by everyone you approached. You didn’t fit in with any group, you didn’t connect with anybody, you didn’t get invited anywhere. This sucks. A lot.
But it’s not your fault. Don’t go beating yourself up.
This is a learning opportunity. Invest in yourself. Be your own best friend. Take time to do what you love to do. Get to know yourself better. It gets easier, it always gets easier. Don’t give up. Keep talking to people.
Every year you’ll meet more people with common interests as you take more specific classes. First year classes are so general and vague that you could meet literally anybody with any opposing view and interest, but as you go on you’ll find you have more in common with your classmates.
Be an internet nerd if you want. Who cares? You can do whatever you want to do.
Believe in yourself.
Well, that’s it. My DEFINITIVE LOSER’S GUIDE TO SURVIVING FRESHMAN YEAR.
It’s almost 1300 words long so if you made it here, pat yourself on the back and go buy yourself something delicious to eat because you definitely deserve it. You’re quite a reader, aren’t you? I thought so.
If this post goes over well, I may write more on topics I didn’t cover, as well as go over extra details on the topics I did. Maybe someday this will even be a book you can give your children when they go to college. Who knows what the future holds?
So above all else, I wish you luck, I wish you happiness, I wish you adventure, I wish you experience.
I wish I had a clever catchphrase to end this on…