*The following advice was collected from the managers and directors in Student Affairs at Eastern Washington University, as they reflected on advice they’d like to give themselves as entering freshmen.
Dear 18-year-old me,
I thought I’d write you a letter, having had the benefit of living through freshman year of college as myself. I hope the following advice is helpful to you, based on my experiences both good and bad:
1. It’s nice to be open-minded, but keep your standards. Hang around people better than you are, not the other way around.
2. Relationships are important. Find friends and partners who accept you for who you are right now.
3. Many of your friends from high school will move on and have lives of their own. Don’t worry about it. That’s how it works, it turns out.
4. You never know where your next best friend will come from.
5. Not all your professors will be witty, kind, world-class researchers, nor will they have teaching styles exactly matched to your learning style. The world is full of encounters like this. Just keep going. This too shall pass.
6. Choose courses based on the faculty, not the course descriptions. Talk with your peers and find out who the “amazing” faculty members are, and take a course from them even if it’s not something in your major or field of study. With this strategy, you’re certain to be engaged and to learn something valuable from the course—and you may even develop a new found interest!
7. Go talk to your professors if you have questions or concerns. They like to talk about their subjects, and they are truly interested in you and your ideas.
8. Procrastination doesn’t seem like much fun when it’s 5 a.m. and you’re still typing your research paper (or when your boyfriend is still typing your research paper—which is a bad idea, by the way). Break up tasks and assignments and allot them appropriate time.
9. Spend time with your younger brothers and sisters when you go back home from college to visit. When you’re all grown up, they’ll still be there for you.
10. Don’t complain to your parents about things and then get irritated when they respond by giving you advice or trying to help you “fix” it. They love you and want to help.
11. By the way, Mom was right: everyone is not doing “it,” whatever “it” happens to be. You’re going to live to be very old. You can always do “it” later.
12. Characters in Russian novels really are as depressing as you think they are. If you don’t absolutely love them, there’s nothing wrong with you.
13. You can be too tan and too thin.
14. Do your best, but don’t worry about being perfect. Think of mistakes as teachers: everyone needs them to grow. Nothing is so bad that it will not look better tomorrow.
15. Don’t worry about being “undecided” in your major. It’s okay to take a year to figure out what you really enjoy. Take lots of different classes your first year so you can discover your passions.
16. Don’t just commute to class and leave—get involved! You might decide on a major a lot sooner if you take advantage of the opportunities on your campus. In fact, just get out there and do things, anything. Your room will be a lonely, boring place if you do not develop outside interests. ENGAGE.
17. Be curious beyond the classroom. Try things out and step outside your comfort zone.
18. Make sure you are attentive in class so you are not asking dumb questions – and, yes, there are such things as dumb questions.
19. Avoid coffee stands at all costs—you’ll eventually blame college for your caffeine addiction.
20. Don’t let anyone set your limitations—not even yourself.
21. Everything is better in moderation. Eat well. Exercise. Sleep. Don’t let any substance control you.
22. Be good to your brain. It will thank you when you are older.
23. If you never clean out your toaster oven, you will get mice.
24. Your roommates are not mind readers. You need to tell them whether it is OK to borrow your stuff, or have friends over for dinner, and vice versa.
25. Do not take on unnecessary debt. Your credit score matters.
26. Being frozen in a state of indecision is worse than making a wrong decision. If you cannot decide on a course of action, just pick an option, move forward, and stay with it. Things will work out.
27. The number of mistakes you’re going to make in the next decade or so is pretty monumental. You may want to stop counting in that journal of yours. P.S. Take more pictures.
28. Don’t ever be the one who says, “But nobody told me the deadline was Friday.” Read all materials, articles and web pages people recommend. People don’t put this stuff together for their health.
29. Take care of yourself academically and emotionally so you don’t feel like you’re sinking.
30. Get a “writing buddy.” Build a partnership with someone whose writing skills are similar to, or better than, your own. All great writers have editors—and you’ll find your writing will significantly improve through his process!
31. Get a job on campus. You’ll have extra pocket money, and you’ll build an important network of friends and colleagues who can help with wide-ranging issues.
32. Find a way to study abroad at some point during your college career.
33. Use career services early and often. Don’t wait until the month before graduation.
34. Yes, things will be hard. Yes, you’ll have multiple deadlines in the same week. Yes, you’ll have people in college and work you won’t like, but you’ll have to work with them anyway. Even though there are tough times here and there, you will get through them and learn more about yourself than if you didn’t encounter trials and tribulations.
35. Don’t let people put you down or question you just because of how you look or what your age is. If you can get the job done, that’s all that matters.
36. It turns out that humans are pretty lousy at imagining what will make them happy in the future. (Science is going to prove this in about five years. Trust me. I read the research.) So instead of worrying so much about he future, just be happy now.
37. The greatest adventures are going to be the ones you haven’t even imagined. And the adventures you’re imagining? Those won’t be too bad, either, but they won’t be your favorites.
38. Be attentive when driving–do not text while driving or drive feeling fuzzy–slow down. . . nothing is so important that you cannot be a minute or two late.
39. When something/someone makes you mad, ask yourself “is this the hill you want to die on?” If you’re willing to potentially look like an idiot to defend your cause then it’s worth it to rock the boat, but if not…let it go LET IT GOOOO!
40. Even though you might think the dare is an easy one, do not put that ferret in your mouth.