By Melanie Sue
1. Don’t be afraid to change your mind, your major, your school, your style, your significant other, or your life course. You’re young. No one should be expecting you to have all the answers.
2. Have a bunch of cool personal facts prepared in your mind, because you will be asked to say something interesting about yourself on the first day of every class ever. If you don’t think ahead on this, if you’re anything like me you’ll end up saying things like “I knew every line from Mrs. Doubtfire” or “One time I threw up on a bus in Jamaica.” One time I even told an embarrassing story because I couldn’t think of anything interesting. So do yourself a favor and arrive well-equipped with random trivia.
3. Don’t be too embarrassed to visit your university counseling services. Mental health is just as important as physical health, friends. And when you get anxious and depressed, your immune system weakens and then your physical health spirals downward. Take care of your brain. You’ll need it.
4. If there’s an awkward or serious conversation you need to have with someone, don’t wait until you’re 4 drinks in to have it. If it’s important, it should probably be dealt with sober.
5. There will be times when you literally hate everything. Find a safe space where you can decompress, whether it’s someone’s apartment, a coffeeshop, the library, the woods, the bus, the grocery store, whatever. And know that it’s okay to want to be alone sometimes.
6. Having a chosen family is seriously invaluable. But if you can, keep in touch with your fam from home, too. They can be great, especially when you’re riding the struggle bus and need some support. My parents got their fair share of angsty “I suck at college” emails.
7. Make sure there’s at least one 24-hour burrito place near you. This is glue that will hold your college (and probably professional) career together. I’m serious.
8. Let go of your old grudges, and please minimize your social media fights/passive aggression. You don’t need to add more questionable choices to your Facebook/Digital Scrapbook of Shame.
9. Let’s be real: if you choose to drink, there’s a decent chance you might mix the wrong liquors, or just flat out overdo it. Make sure you have good friends who won’t ditch you when you go out, or who will tuck you in with a water bottle and trash can.
10. It’s okay to be a little selfish. You’re creating YOUR life, and it’s your prerogative to just look out for #1 sometimes. Don’t pass up amazing opportunities because you’re worried what your friends, relatives, or partners will think.
11. If you want to see how quickly 7pm can fade into 3am, just install StumbleUpon onto your toolbar.
12. No matter how weird high school was for you, college will almost certainly be weirder. At least, if you’re doing it right.
13. College will not be a magic solution for all your problems. You can move far, far away from your hometown, your family, or your high school, but if something is unresolved in you, you’re going to have to confront it at some point.
14. If you’re talking to someone you just met at a party, bar, or any other social gathering and you start getting a creepy/unsafe vibe, follow your instincts.
15. Look, you’re going to meet all sorts of people in college who seem way cooler and way more worldly than you, and you might want to impress them. Maybe they’ll actually be boring or obnoxious, but you’ll still want to impress them so you can stop watching Rock of Love on your computer on Friday nights. Either way, don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not–someone who you think is cooler. Unfortunate personal example:
On my first day of college, I got dressed in the dark because I didn’t want to wake up my roommate. I arrived at my class and was talking to the other students, trying to be charming and outgoing, when one girl says, “You do know you’re wearing two different shoes, right?” I looked down and saw that I was, in fact, wearing two different colored and styled ballet flats. And because I was so nervous, instead of just laughing and telling the completely understandable truth, I took the logical route and totally lied. “Oh, yeah, sometimes I just like to mix and match my accessories,” I said, trying to sound breezy and eccentric, like “I’m just bein’ Miley!”—but most definitely failing. I even wore mismatched jewelry a few times after to preserve the illusion. But I’m sure everyone saw through it and that made it weirder.
It’s a silly example, but the idea holds water. Don’t ever feel like you need to be someone else to gain acceptance. Why would you pretend to be someone you’re not when you’re not even done learning who you are? Don’t sell yourself short—you’ll learn just as much outside of class as in it. You’re going to mess up, you’re going to succeed, you’re going to fail, you’re going to figure it out.
Probably not overnight, but you will. I promise.
Melanie Sue graduated from DePaul University with a degree in communication and media with minors in sociology and gender studies. Her biggest celebrity crushes are Edward Norton, Amanda Palmer, and the country of Iceland. In her spare time she likes taking photos, spending time with lovely people, playing with cats, collecting recipes, wearing dresses/neckties, and wishing she could play the banjo.