Graduating high school and entering college was the most exciting time of my life, as it should be for most 18-year-olds. To me, it meant no 11 p.m. curfew, a break from my old friends with a chance to make new ones, and (perhaps most anticipated) college parties. The list goes on and on. And on and on and on… the possibilities were endless. Want to order a sandwich at 2 a.m.? Do it. Want to sleep in until dinnertime? Do it. No one is stopping you. No one is telling you no.
I don’t want to interrupt your growing excitement, or mine either for that matter, but isn’t that the problem? There is no one there to tell you when to quit or when to get serious. When I started my freshman year at the University of Arizona three years ago, I couldn’t wait to never hear that word again. “No.” What I didn’t know was that by the end of the year, I had heard myself say that word so much that my head was swimming in it. And boy was I glad my mom taught me how to use it. This is a small guide about how to have fun in college and know your limits, when to say no and when to get serious.
First, whether you decide to live in a dorm or not, try to be social with your classmates or hallmates. I realize the term ‘social’ is broad, so by that I mean talk to people, invite them to your room, ask them to lunch, study with them. The key to having fun in college is to first make friends, and if there is anything I learned that you need to know, it’s that you will not make friends unless you are the one making the effort. Once you accomplish that, you can move on to step two.
Step two is very easy and very fun, and no, I’m not talking about watching the frat guys work out in the gym. Join a club. Church groups on campus are always having fun and engaging gatherings. Go to the events held monthly at your dorm. If you choose to attend a college party, be mindful that its not about drinking root beer floats, playing spin the bottle and leaving promptly at midnight clutching a small bag of Tootsie Rolls. So read carefully as I explain step three.
Remember that word we were talking about earlier? Two letters, one syllable, usually ends in disappointment? This is the perfect time to add it to your arsenal of commonly used adverbs because you’re going to need it. The world outside of mom and dad’s house can be a mean, illegal mess; so don’t get stuck in the middle of it. Just because you’re not 21 does not mean you can’t go to parties, it just means you need to be careful and exercise your right to say no. That’s all! Don’t forget, you’re in college to get an education, not a record.
Lastly, don’t forget that school is your number one priority. If you are out late one night, get serious about school the next day. Knock out some homework or go to that key club meeting you wrote on your calendar. I may be going out on a limb here but you could even think about studying for that midterm you have next week. Mom and Dad want to see you succeed and if you really think about it, you know you want to see yourself succeed, too.
I think we covered all our bases for the first week of college. After that, you will know what you like and what makes you uncomfortable. You will know the professors who genuinely care and those who still won’t remember your name in 16 weeks. Maybe you will even realize that coffee is the nectar of the gods and you’ll wonder why you never thought to try it before. And with that, my parting words - Don’t forget to study hard, be careful, and oh yeah, have fun.