Welcome to college, young people! It’s an amazing time in your lives. These years will impact your life dramatically if you use them well.
- First and foremost, get some wisdom. You are bright and capable, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be in college in the first place. But for all that, you still have a lot to learn; not only about your major, but about life in general. It isn’t your fault. Wisdom takes time, experience and a willingness to reflect and learn from others. You’re young, inexperienced and often think you know everything. (Part of that is just biology; the decision making part of your brain isn’t mature until about 25, so you’ve got that excuse for a while yet.) Read, reflect, think and be open to the guidance of those wiser than you.
- Before you look at the “corrupt” world of businesses, corporations, governments, social conventions, religions and all the rest and roll your enlightened eyes, remember that other people, often wiser and more seasoned, are all around. And once, they were as idealistic and ironic as you are. They just had to get jobs, raise families, endure sickness, fight wars, pay tuition bills and mortgages and all the rest. They know things. Avail yourself of their insight.
- You’re going to have some wonderful experiences! You’ll meet interesting people and bizarre people (quite a few of those); people smarter than you and not so smart. You will take trips, have unusual jobs, display an odd fashion sense and engage in deep conversations over dinners in the dorms or apartments where you make your home. Just remember that lots of other people your age who either can’t afford college, or aren’t interested in college, are also having experiences. Some of them involve working in industry, working in trades, doing physical labor or engaging in public service. Others are in combat. Still others are starting families. Their experiences, dear ones, are not the in slightest inferior to your own. They are only different. No small number of them will make a lot more money than you, a lot sooner. Be gracious and kind; they might hire you someday.
- It seems obvious, but learn everything you can. Versatility and marketability are critical today. The degree you seek is nice, but it will be a very expensive wall hanging (much less interesting than that poster of your favorite alt band), if not backed up with actual useful information or skills.
- Now, about your professors and instructors. Show them respect. They’ve earned it and they work hard at learning and teaching. Come to class, do the work, ignore your smartphone. Do not, however, offer your teachers worship. They are human beings who can be wrong, and outside their own particular expertise they frequently are. It is appropriate for them to challenge you to think and teach you to reason. It is unprofessional and immature if they try to crush you and the beliefs that have long sustained you and your family.
- Which reminds me, you still have a family. They love you, they miss you and they are spending remarkable amounts of money and effort so that you can learn and have experiences. Love them back, in word and action. Answer their texts. Give them the time of day and listen to their wisdom and opinions. You might be surprised at how much they care about you and desire to help.
- Don’t be stupid. Youth and intelligence do not confer invulnerability. Part of wisdom is knowing that death is no respecter of age, education or social class. Alcohol, drugs, fights and illicit sex are dangerous and can lead to life altering or life ending tragedies. And terrible, terrible YouTube videos. (Remember, also, that future employers can find you online. I think that’s all I need to say there.)
Finally, treat one another with love. In your youthful passion, please do not misuse another human being or trample their heart. Remember, too, that this is one of the best times to find a future spouse, so be careful to use your time wisely as you meet others and date. I met my lovely wife in college and I know that will never have more time to lavish on young love than now, so don’t waste it. Odds are, your future marriage will impact your happiness as much as, or more, than your education.
Jot these down. Life will quiz you as you go.