Back to School
College? Yep, we ve been there and done that. But our undergraduate experiences span three decades, range from large state universities to boutique liberal arts colleges, run from quirky college towns to cosmopolitan urban areas. Still, we all managed to graduate and pick up some knowledge along the way, and now, here in our back-to-school issue, we pass along our accumulated wisdom to you. For incoming college freshmen, we hope this will serve as a prepatory course in the fundamentals of higher education. For our other readers, we hope it may serve as a touchstone to their college days ‘ or, at least, a reminder of why they never went in the first place.11 Things every college student should know:
by Keith T. Barber UNC-Chapel Hill, Class of 1989
Learn how to budget your money.
Mostcollege students are constantly broke. If you have some money in yourbank account, spend it wisely. If you are on student aid, take a job inthe library; that extra hundred bucks a week will go a long way on auniversity campus.
Learn the lay of the land.
Spend your first few days on campus making sure you know the quickest route to get from one class to the next.
Get involved but not too involved. Forincoming freshmen, time management is huge. You can’t fit everything onyour plate, but if you manage your time well, you can always make yourplate bigger.
Major in something you like to do.
Followyour bliss. If you choose a major that feels like work, change majors.What we have to do in life, we do with play. If you’re not having fun,you’re on the wrong track.
Get involved in the community. Yourcollege or university is part of a bigger community. As a collegestudent, you have opportunities to volunteer your time and energy tocauses you believe in. You never know what doors will open because ofyour good works.
Get to know the people in the administration. Collegestudents avoid the administration building at all costs, but it’s agood idea to build allies in school administration. These are thepeople who will write letters of recommendation to your future employer.
Build personal relationships with your professors. Evenif you attend a big school, professors are generally accessible andwelcome one-on-one interaction with students. If you’re struggling witha class, that’s the best time to schedule some office time. Then youcan ask about extra- credit opportunities.
Enjoy your social life, but not too much.
Joiningfraternities or sororities is part of the overall collegiateexperience, but always be cognizant of the time demands theseorganizations will place upon you. A social life helps balance you outbut never forget, you’re there to get your degree.
Flag football is a great way to blow off steam. Intramuralsports build friendships and offer a healthy outlet for all thatfreshman angst. This is the last time in your life you’ll be around somany people you have so much in common with. Never miss an opportunityto pursue new friendships.
Don t be in a rush.
Whenit comes to male-female relationships, remember you’ve got plenty oftime. Don’t get too serious too soon. If you are seriously involvedwith someone before you leave for college, time and distance will testthe relationship.
Take advantage of internships. Thereare certain internship opportunities that are only afforded to collegestudents, so act on those opportunities. A good piece of advice: Usethe university or college to your advantage — make it work for you. Youwant to build your r’sum’ without it being too lopsided. Employerswill look at the variety of extracurricular activities on your r’sum’.From the first day you walk on campus, remember that every day meanssomething. Carpe diem!
Some advice you probably won`t take
by Jordan Green Antioch College, Class of 1998
Youdon’t need my advice about college. I know this because you’re 18 or 19years old, and you’ve got everything figured out. I know this because Ihaven’t been in an institution of undergraduate higher learning in morethan 10 years, and the world is different today. I know you don’t needto hear all the trite stuff about learning to drink responsibly,exploring your sexuality without becoming a slut and avoiding the“freshman 15” waistline expansion. You don’t need to hear meextol the virtues of the humanities as a means of becoming a morecomplete person — that is, a citizen and a person who lives afulfilling and worthwhile life. You won’t get it when I tell you thatlearning should be mostly about the joy of obtaining new knowledge, andonly a little bit about landing a plum internship and securingemployment. Your plan is much more practical than mine was,and you’ve got firm ideas about marriage that neatly align with yourcareer trajectory. Like I said, I already know that you’ve got itfigured out. My collegiate career in studied rebellion won’t make senseor appeal to you — at least most of you. I went to college onlygrudgingly, dragged kicking and screaming to a small campus insouthwest Ohio by my recently widowed mother. As a compromise, I wenton a deferred enrollment plan only after taking a year off to pretendat being homeless, work as a telephone research associate in SanFrancisco, live at home with my mom in Kentucky, learn some thingsabout landscaping and auto mechanics and write a novella. Iagreed to attend Antioch College only because the students and facultyseemed like a reasonably fun group of people to hang around, and someof them were simpatico with my aims to overthrow the government. Theyears since have been a long, steady march of cooptation andcompromise. Since then, I’ve obtained a master’s degree from an IvyLeague university and landed a semi-respectable position in the newsmedia. I don’t know if these count as successes or failures, especiallyin the context of my original aim. I experimented with hallucinogenicdrugs, indulged in binge drinking and engaged in sexual promiscuityduring those four years from the fall of 1994 through the spring of1998. In the context of my current commitment to a wonderful and goodwoman and in the context of my concerted interest in virtuouscitizenship, these pursuits seem like somewhat embarrassing diversions.The only advice I can give is to enjoy them, but not for too long.You’ll be relieved to have gotten over them, and when you do you’llfind they have very little instructive significance on your currentlife. What turned out to be the central and most vital piece of myeducation was the rebellion that overtook our tiny campus in my secondsemester. The Republican takeover of Congress in 1994 led by NewtGingrich threatened massive budget cuts, including reduction in studentaid. Some fellow students more brash than I rampaged through thecafeteria spray-painting slogans and exhorting us to rouse fromcomplacency to defend our own interests. The vandals were dulysuspended, but the president canceled classes within days and invitedfaculty to lead teach-ins instead, on topics such as coalitionbuilding, media outreach and other tools of social change. We spreadout across the prairie like 19th century evangelists organizing othercampuses, and led rallies with hundreds of students in nearbySpringfield and the state capital of Columbus. In short order,we won that battle. Later, we fed the hungry in Dayton, screamedobscenities at the Ku Klux Klan in small Ohio towns, studied urbanfarming in abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit and visited a coal-firedpower plant in West Virginia. Any of the multiple jobs I’veheld after I received my diploma in May 1998 would probably seemincidental to the education I obtained at Antioch College, and don’tmerit mentioning. But I studied the Southern Civil Rights Movement, theBeats and the Black Arts Movement poets and the history of countrymusic. Sometimes I was lucky enough to have good professors, and othertimes I took advantage of the freedom to research independently. Inany case, they shaped who I am: my values and my abiding passions.Lastly, I will confess to feeling alienated from college students andthe programmed activities of college life. What I hear about thecollege scene sounds sterile, joyless and devoid of curiosity. I hopeI’m wrong about that. I think about the “baby college” concept,described skillfully on a National Public Radio program on a recentSaturday afternoon. Low-income parents attend classes to learn somebasics about singing, talking and reading to infants in the womb,toddlers and small children. Inundating them with language. About usingwords instead of corporal punishment to set examples of patience,discipline and listening. About allowing children to explore, learn andact up instead of beating and berating them into passive submission. Those are the only lessons that really matter, when it comes right down to it.
Things every college student should know
by Lindsay Craven Appalachian State University, Class of 2008
If your roommate stops taking their medication it s probably time to move out.
Sure they said it’s no big deal, they do it all the time but trust us, they’re going to get crazy and you’re going to suffer.
Washing towels and sheets should be done more than once a semester. Crunchysheets and towels are just wrong. Sure it may be hard to scrape up $2or $3 in change to wash the big loads but it is a necessity. At leastmake an effort to take them home on the weekends and let mom do thedirty work.
Utilize the health clinic on campus. It’sinevitable that you will get sick at some point of your college career.Every campus has a health clinic where you can see the doc for “free”(even if you paid for it in your tuition) and that doc will get youfixed up and medicated for next to nothing compared to the local familydoctor or emergency room.
Pajamas are not acceptable forms of classroom attire. Itdoesn’t matter how many people are doing it, PJ pants, a wrinklyT-shirt and Ugg boots or Sperrys are not acceptable things to wear toclass. You look like a jackass and you’re stating to the world, “I hopenothing important happens in my life today because I am totallyunprepared.” Make an attempt at looking presentable.
You should show up for class even if there is no attendance policy. Youand/or your parents are paying for that education so you might as welltake some of it in. It sounds crazy but the whole college experiencereally is supposed to be about your education so it would serve youwell to leave with a little more knowledge than you arrived with.
If there`s a free bus available, ride it. Gasisn’t cheap and if there is a free mode of transportation to get youaround, take it. These can also be great tools for those long nightsout when you can’t drive yourself home. There’s nothing like a DD youdon’t owe a favor to.
Shop for books online. Despitethe book buyback most campuses offer, you are going to get screwed onyour textbook purchases. They are highly overpriced and you won’t usethem enough to warrant spending hundreds of dollars. Shop onAmazon and eBay to find those same books at a reasonable price and thenyou can likely sell it back on the website for the same price youbought it.
Take your time. Witha failing economy there’s no need to rush out of college with a degree.You will probably still be jobless and living at home when you graduateso take your time and enjoy the ride. Take all those BS classes thatdon’t fall into your major.
Don` t sign up for 20 credit cards. Itcan be tempting to sign up for the credit card to get the T-shirt with“college” stamped across it or the free Frisbee or the awesome glowingbeer mug, however every time you sign up for a credit card you take ablow to your credit score, even if you don’t use the card.
Start networking now.
Thejob market is rough out there now so start talking to your professorsand chat up the alumni at football games and see if you can make aconnection that could lead to a job in the future. Some schools evenoffer to help students find internships so make a stop in your careercenter and see what tools you have at your disposal.
Shoes aren` t just for the shower. Itis an absolute necessity that you have those handy shower shoes whenyou move in to the dorm but you should also remember that you’ll needto wear those on every trip around the dorm, not just when you’reshowering.
Encourage care packages. Sure,they may be embarrassing to pick up from the post office but parentsand grandparents will load you up with food, candy and cash if you letthem.
Get a plant first.
It’stempting to rush into buying a pet of some sort when you first moveaway from home to help dull the sting of being homesick. Beforeyou rush out to the pet store you should get a plant first and makesure you have the nurturing skills to keep an animal alive. This alsoapplies to those of you moving into dorms and planning to get fish oranother aquarium-dwelling animal; those need food too.
Clean out the fridge occasionally. Reminder:food spoils and molds. You may have never witnessed this while livingat home because mom took care of it for you. At college it’s yourresponsibility to make sure that the bread with green mold on it makesit to the trash.
A tramp stamp is not a requirement for graduation. Thinkabout your tattoos and where you put them before getting them. You maybe cute and skinny now but think forward to the years after you havechildren or when you make it to the retirement home and decide whetherthose cherries surrounded by a tribal design will look as cute as theydo now.
Shop at the grocery store, not your school market. Eventhough the school market is convenient it is grossly overpriced. It maybe a pain in the ass but head out to the nearest grocery store and loadup there instead. You could also start clipping coupons and save moneyyou couldn’t save on campus.
Get involved in something. Joinan intramural sport if you didn’t make a team or join a club thatpertains to your hobbies or major. This is how you meet people you’llknow for the rest of your life and it gets you out of that crampedlittle dorm or apartment.
Take advantage of your advisor. There’sa reason you are assigned an advisor, so use them. Some schools requirethat you see your advisor in order to sign up for classes but many makeit optional after freshman year. Once you’ve decided on your major youneed the help of your advisor to guide you through what classes youshould be taking and when so you can graduate without any last minutesurprises.
You don’t need a laptop in class. Thereis a big misconception that all college kids come to class with theirlaptops. This isn’t true. Toting around your laptop can wreak havoc onyour shoulders and back, and it’s just not necessary. Most professorspost class notes on their website or school website so that studentscan print them off and lighten their load.
Avoid planning a wedding or having a kid while in college. Whilethis may seem like common knowledge it seems as though tons of collegestudents forget it by their junior or senior year. You are going to bebusy trying to prepare yourself to have a future; you don’t have timeto place other things ahead of that. For those who do and succeed,however, we applaud you.
Notes from an unspectacular college career
by Brian Clarey Loyola University New Orleans, Class of 1993
Iwent to college a long time ago — before the internet and e-mail,before computerized registration, before cell phones and before theystarted giving college kids free laptops. Believe it or not, we used doour research in the library, poring through microfiche and boundvolumes of periodicals. And if we wanted to call somebody, we had tofind a phone to do it with and hope the other person was in. If not, weleft messages on answering machines. It was a different timesocially as well. When I began at Loyola in fall 1988, Ronald Reaganwas still president and was preparing to pass the baton to George HWBush, who coincidentally was in New Orleans the day I arrived,addressing the Republican National Convention. We were stillafraid of nuclear war with Russia back then, still reeling from thestock market crash of 1987, still convinced we would likely come downwith AIDS. During the course of my college career, the Cold War ended,the DJIA regained its losses and crept back up to its previous high ofjust under 3,000 points and we staunched the spread of AIDS by availingourselves of the free condoms that, it seems, were everywhere in thosedays, even at my Jesuit university. Things have changed even more in the 16 years or so since my matriculation, but I believe there are still some a priori truthsto the college experience that just may help some of you entering thehalls of higher education this year. First and foremost, college is alot like everything else in life: You get what you give. To that end,you should meet as many people as possible, expose yourself to as manynew things as you can handle, push your limits in terms ofrelationships, study, alcohol comsumption, travel, sleep deprivationand music appreciation. It’s a good time to feel out the territorybeyond your comfort zone — and, if like me college is your first timeaway from your parents’ house, almost everything is outside yourcomfort zone. The point of all this new experience is, of course, selfdiscovery. College shattered many of my previously held beliefs,beliefs I came to realize were based on nothing more than anamalgamation of the books I had read and things I heard my parents say.I formed real opinions in college and spent many late dorm-room nightsdefending those opinions. College gave me the courage to admit when Iwas wrong, the security to change my mind without feeling like a flake.It gave me a foundation of knowledge from which I still draw tothis day, but also gave me the opportunity to distinguish betweentheory and practice. I was fortunate enough to realize what Iwanted to do with my life early on in my college career, but most of myfriends were there to figure all that stuff out and many of them workin fields that have nothing to do with their majors. So if you’re notsure what it is you want to do after graduation, pick a major that isinteresting to you. A degree in history of philosophy will always comein handy, even if you end up running a restaurant or working in anoffice. And it would be wise to remember that college is not tradeschool. If you want to be guaranteed a job upon graduation, go torefrigeration school or learn to fix cars. Also remember that collegeis about more than formal education. In college I learned to wash myclothes, pay my bills, juggle a busy schedule, convince women to sleepwith me, use public transportation, navigate a bureaucracy, survive amugging, tend bar, cook a meal, wash dishes, plunge a toilet and pick alock. These skills have served me at least as well as knowing who CarrVan Anda was.
One more thing:College, like life, is about relationships. Make lots of friends,hopefully ones who are fundamentally different from you, and log lotsof good times together in the form of nights out, road trips, sportingevents and all sorts of other ridiculous adventures, and make suresomeone takes pictures. Bank all these memories, and then be sure tostay in touch with your college friends — I talk to some of mine almostevery day and now, more than two decades after my freshman year, we arestill grilling each other about the stupid things we did.