Need advice for incoming college freshman

Ivyboy will be headed off to college in about three weeks ( :eek: ) and way back when I was in college we had none of this new-fangled internet-Wifi-cellphone stuff. We researched using books in the library and we* liked* it!

He will be living on campus and will have a laptop and a cell phone. I’ve given him the normal warnings about staying up too late, signing up for credit cards, etc, but any advice from 21st century college graduates will be helpful.

FWIW, he will be about two hours away, near enough that we can get there in an emergency but too far away for us to just “drop by,” so he will, for the most part, be on his own.

How about advice from 21st century soon-to-be college graduates? :smiley:

  1. Get to know the professors in your chosen course of study. Don’t suck up, but engage them in conversation. Visit office hours, or stick around after class if they’re up for that. Talk about your area, mention something new you’ve read about, ask their opinion on something. If you can stand out (in a good way) as more than just one of a sea of faces, they’re more likely to remember you and it could pay off later.

  2. Semi-related, don’t expect breaks. They’ll give you a syllabus in the first class which explains the work, may have a schedule, and also includes things like attendance policy and grading policy. This is your bible for the class. If something is in the syllabus and the professor doesn’t explicitly change it, do not assume it is negotiable. If there’s no extra credit mentioned, do not assume the professor will give extra credit work. If you can miss a class three times before your grade suffers, don’t expect a break. If you expect a break, you will earn the ire of your fellow students (the ones who are following the rules), as well as the professor (even if you follow tip #1).

  3. Conversely, explain your circumstances, in advance if possible. Most professors were students, nearly all can see through BS. However, many will also cut you breaks as long as A) you don’t expect them (see tip #2), B) they know you’re not slacking off (see tip #1), and C) you have a legit excuse.

e.g. I give tours for my department. Highschool students come with their parents and I show them around the building and talk about the program. There was a schedule change with one, and it was moved to a time when I had a class. The coordinator would have done it, but he had a meeting at the same time. So I asked the professor. Since I had been following tips #1 and #2 all semester, and asked about the absence beforehand (rather than just not showing up and trying to explain later), she allowed me to miss class with no penalty.

  1. No one is going to make you go to class, but you really should anyway. Even in classes where there is no attendance policy. ESPECIALLY in classes where there is no attendance policy.

  2. Don’t be afraid of trying new things, and then deciding you don’t like them. I spent three semesters (a year and a half) racking up debt and taking classes that later didn’t mean anything trying to be a music teacher, before I decided I wouldn’t make a very good one. I’m not sorry I did it, because if I hadn’t tried, I would have always wondered about it, and also because it was during that time I found what I really wanted to do. However, if I had been a little less worried what everyone was going to think when I told them I needed to change schools, I could have saved a semester’s worth of time and out-of-state tuition.

These are basics. I’ll pop back in if I think of any more, but I would also be happy to answer any questions.

Disclaimer: Yes, I am planning on going into Library Sciences…

Let him know what a great resource the library is. I use it all the time, but it is nice especially around midterm/final time. Many kids do most of their work in their rooms or wherever, but the library still is a great resource. (They even still have books, ya know.)

Make sure he knows that while college is serious, it is something to enjoy. Join a fraternity or club, get involved, and make a lot of friends. I know so many kids who started school when I did and not gotten involved with anything. I didn’t get involved my first year, transferred, and then did at my new school. The experience was 100 times better when I was in clubs and such.

I don’t know what he plans on going into, but majors are a funny thing. It’s very good to pick one, as if you know what you’re doing, you will spend less time taking classes you don’t need, but never should a kid stay in one he/she dislikes. Finishing a major that one has no passion for only leads to working a job that one has no passion for. That isn’t a good thing in almost any situation.

Brendon Small

Personally I wouldn’t give him any advice. If he’s smart enough to go to college, he’s smart enough to work these things out for himself. Assuming he doesn’t have some kind of disability.

O/T: Do people really start college so early in the US? Over here people go to university in October.

I don’t think the issue is being smart enough, there are a whole mess of issues that face someone, especially a young someone, when they are put in a college environment because they really don’t know what to expect. Advice is good, I’m not sure what the benefit of throwing him in there blind would be.

I believe in tough love.

But on reflection, there is one important piece of advice that I would give: comply with the requests made by thoughtless petty bureaucrats, particularly regarding matriculation. Otherwise you’ll be thrown out because a form was filled in incorrectly.

I wish somebody had told me that in the future, my GPA would virtually never come up, but I would be repeatedly asked for references from college professors. Once your lad is certain of a major and starts taking classes in it, tell him to strive to be remembered among all professors as friendly and diligent, but pick your 2 or 3 favorites and really butter their biscuits and keep in touch with them forever. I sure wish I did… I’m looking at going back to a masters/PhD 15 years after, and I’m kneecapped because I’ve got nobody to call upon.

Good advice,** girlfrog**.


You will revert to old, childhood things. Remember scarves and mittens? You’ll be wearing them for snow fights in the quad. Remember hating naptime? You’ll quickly realize that naptime is a sacred part of the day and naps are to be respected.

Books are frickin’ expensive.

Get to know your roomie and mingle. You’re there to learn, that’s very true, but you’re also there for networking purposes.

If it’s too loud in your room, go to the library. Work can always get done there.

I want to echo the importance of the syllabus. That’s the teacher’s word and bond. Some teachers follow different rules. Make sure you abide by them and know what’s possible. If you’re floundering and don’t get the material, talk to them. That’s an important point and I’d underline it, except I can’t quadruple underline it to give it that extra oomph, so you get to read about how I want to underline it. The syllabus also gives you freedom, in a way. If you know you have to read 6 chapters for all your classes (simplification), bust it out, get it done Monday or Tuesday. You’ll be done with your work for the week in that one day. It’s possible, and preferable to work ahead.

If you have a question or comment that “might” be helpful or “might” sound like you’re trying to be a know-it-all, ask it anyways. People have the same questions but they don’t ask them. You’re not there to show that you’re selectively ignorant, you’re there to pass.

Also, and your parents will delete this out, the main objective is to graduate. Let your first couple of semesters help you figure out what you like. Take diverse classes and listen to your advisor. Find something you enjoy, and start to pursue it. Just get through now, and get that paper. People don’t care if you graduated with a 2.2 GPA so long as you have a diploma. Do you know what they call the person that graduates at the bottom of med school? Doctor.

You may not dig it, but log onto the Dope every once in a while if you have any questions. We’ve all been through it, some of us much more recently than others. Email me if you need to (I’ll assume I’ll never hear from you, but if I do, that’s good).

Don’t take any classes earlier than 10 AM.

Do NOT rely on advice from volunteer student advisors about much of anything beyond where to find cheap beer and good pot. And if you get advice from the “professionals”, have them show you where the related policies or rules are published. If any school official tells you you don’t need to do something that you think you might actually have to do, have them put it in writing.

Then let us all be happy in our ignorance of your parental status.

Very good advice as well. Find a couple teachers that teach what you like and how you like it. Develop a rapport with them and take their classes. You should be able to get references from them, when you need them.

After school, you’ll need them.
It’s also not a bad idea to see if your school has some sort of a career center. Internships can be very fun and might get your ass employed afterwards.

I wouldn’t tell you, either :slight_smile:

Although perhaps I should have phrased it as laissez-faire love.

Free market love? What about supply side love?
I’d throw in “invisible hand love”, if it didn’t sound so…pleasant.

A lot of advice would depend on what Ivyboy’s like and whether he knows what he wants to study already. I was and am quite an introvert, and came into college with no idea what I wanted to do. Both those factors can be tricky to work with, but a lot of people don’t have such issues.

Garfield226 and brendon_small have given good general advice already, but unfortunately it’s the kind of advice people tend to ignore. Perhaps because they hear it so much. I heard it all and didn’t take it to heart enough, and I regret that now. The big ones that are easy not to do and are more important than you’d ever guess are talk to professors outside of class and join stuff. No excuses. Do it.

No matter how much I read about it, I went into college not really knowing what to expect, and that’s okay. The only places you can really get yourself into trouble are if you’re harboring any misconceptions. This next bit may not work for everyone, but here’s three things I wish someone had told me about college before I went:

College is like high school.
You’ve probably been hearing for years about how college will be a totally different ballgame. A lot of this is well-intentioned, but misguided. Academically and socially, don’t expect college to be radically different from high school. College is still school and is much more like HS than it is like the real world. College classes will cover more material than a high school course, but in structure I gather they resemble each other more than they used to. College classes usually have homework, often have participation grades, and sometimes take attendance.

A lot more people are going to college now, too. Expect the people at college to be more or less like the people at your high school, except there are more of them. Find the smart people, the dedicated people, and the ambitious people. It might be a little harder than you think, but who you associate with makes a huge difference.

College is not like high school.
There is one really important way in which college is not like high school. I’m sure you’ve heard that in college you have a lot more responsibility and have to take the initiative yourself. In most things not knowing this in advance wouldn’t make much of a difference, as it becomes obvious pretty quick that you’re on your own as far as stuff like laundry, shopping, and getting up for class. But there is one place you can be complacent and not notice you’re in trouble until it’s too late, and that is in assuming that your academics will take care of your future by themselves.

Just taking your classes is only part of what you can do in college to prepare for the real world afterward. Get involved in research, get internships. Learn skills that will be useful, even if they aren’t required or even related to your course of study. Learn writing and communication, they’re universally important in real jobs. Start preparing early to make yourself a great prospective employee. This stuff is most important for people majoring in squishier stuff than math, science, engineering, or premed, but even they benefit immensely. Class isn’t everything. Take some responsibility for your education.

Paul Graham is smart. Reading this essay of his halfway through college totally changed my outlook. I had been having a lot of trouble staying motivated, and though he addresses it to high school students it applied equally well to me.

And finally, one thing that I think has also changed is how often people take time off or transfer. Perhaps I’m in the midst of a statistical anomaly, but around a third of the people I know at college have taken some time off and almost half my friends from high school have transferred at least once. Keep these options in mind if you’re ever in a bad spot.

If Ivyboy is now 2 hours from Orlando-ish, he may be at my alma mater (University of Florida), or perhaps FSU. Either way, make sure he gets season tickets to football. Even if not a fan, it’s a huge on-campus experience that is definitely worth enjoying (and, you can always sell off a ticket to a big game and make a decent profit off of the cheap student rate for season tickets).

Also, I’d suggest living in the dorms for at least 1 year. He’ll make tons of friends, and be in a better position to decide on a roommate when the time comes to get an apartment (while in the dorm, though, he’ll need sandals for the shower; vitally important!)

Thirdly, college profs want you to do well. If you are confused, or struggling, go to their office during office hours. They rarely get student visitors, so you can be sure they’ll give you some time and assistance. This is especially true if the class is very big (possibly even shown on TV), where it’s hard to develop a rapor with the prof during class.

In Florida, your first two years are for mainly doing basic general education classes. Fortunately, there are lots of interesting classes that fulfill these requirements. Encourage him to enjoy the selections, and consider taking gen ed classes that sound interesting, even if he’s not sure they fit with ultimate goals he might have. Who knows? Perhaps an intro astronomy class will spark a passion he never realized he had.

Finally (and this might not be something you are comfortable with), I would have a talk with him about drugs and alcohol. Perhaps you’ve already done this. Regardless, he should be aware that college is a time when most (although not all) students get exposed to some serious partying. The vast majority of these kids do it responsibly (coming away with crazy college stories about the time “I got so wasted that…”) and will be out of this phase of their life by their early twenties. Some, however, are budding addicts that will begin a long downfall they may never overcome. As delicately as possible, I would send Ivyboy to college armed with the knowledge of what addiction is, how to recognize problems if they start (i.e. skipping classes due to being wasted or wanting to get wasted), and how it will consume some of the people who go to college with the highest of aspirations.

I hope this last part doesn’t bum you out, but it is a reality of college that I feel compelled to share. College really is the greatest time of life, and I envy him for having that awesome experience in his future!

Learn to say no. One of the biggest problems with college is learning that there will always be another party, another show, another whatever. If you had a socially impoverished high school experience, the simple fact that there is so much to do can be overpowering. Everything seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and of course it’s ok to blow off a class for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Except they start to add up.

Beware this pattern: Student starts off freshman year very studious and careful. The do well up until midterms. By midterms they have met more people, developed some bad habits. They begin to get really worried about their grades. They are shocked and delighted when they get all Bs on their exams and all As and Bs for the semester. They continue their patterns of behavior because hey, it worked out. Except they don’t realize that those decent grades and ok exam scores were the product of those early good habits–all they remember about their behavior/habits is that midterm-Christmas pattern. And so they are shocked when the same pattern results in Cs and Fs in the spring.

Get him one of those electric tea kettles. Hot water for tea right there in your room without violating the no-hot-plate rule that I’m sure is in effect? Saved my life on a couple papers last year. Or some kind of coffee maker if that’s more his line. Also, get him some speakers for that laptop- it’s a little thing that will make watching movies and listening to music much better. Especially if he’s got a Mac laptop, because as nice as they are, the speakers are lousy, even on the expensive ones.

Is he living in the dorms? Make sure he takes advantage of the first couple weeks to make friends; it’s by far the easiest when it’s perfectly normal to not know anyone, and so everyone is more accepting. Also, everyone else had a mini-fridge, but I never did and didn’t find that I missed it. Then again, I wasn’t trying to keep beer cold, so he may have other priorities.

Bolding mine.

University of Florida’s not a big liberal arts school, eh?
I kid, I kid. (good athletics, though)

Well, the admission standards were raised considerably after they realized I got in.

ETA: I blame the spelling error on post-Simpsons movie delerium

Ooh. How was it?