EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a list of practical, tried-and-true tips for those crucial first weeks as a college freshman from The Freshman Survival Guide by Nora Bradbury-Haehl, youth minister at St. Patrick Parish in Victor.
* Be generous with your friendship but stingy with your trust. The friends you have back home didn’t get to be your friends overnight. Some of the people you meet at first may turn out to be the best friends of your life, but every class has its gems and its criminals (I’m not kidding, some of them are actually criminals). Which ones are which will come clear over the next few months. Wait until you get to know them before you loan them your car or share your deepest secrets.
* For the first few weeks … live like a monk. Monks take vows of, poverty, chastity, and obedience.
— Poverty: Don’t blow all your money your first weekend. Whether you earned it scooping ice cream the past four summers or it came in graduation cards, be a little tight-fisted with your cash at the start. BE CAREFUL about debt. With credit cards and extra student loans, it’s way too easy to get in over your head.
— Chastity: College may be the place where you meet the love of your life but you probably won’t know that in the first week of school, especially on Friday night after a couple of drinks. (P.S. don’t drink!) Take some time to get used to your new surroundings before adding a boyfriend/girlfriend to the mix or hooking up with someone who may turn out to be a jerk.
It’s never too early to think about the future
— Obedience: GO TO CLASS! Seems obvious, it IS why you’re at college, but you wouldn’t believe how many freshmen skip their way out of school. Do a little math and figure how much it costs for you to have your butt in that chair per hour. You’ll be less willing to blow one off. Save your absences for the end of the semester when you’ve got mono and three papers due in the same week. Dr. Amir Hussain of Loyola Marymount says, "Contact your professor when you first have a problem. If you wait until it is too late, then it is too late!"
* Help! I’m drowning! There are lots of helpful people on campus ready to throw you a life preserver — health services, counseling, academic advisors, campus ministry and your RA — to name just a few. The transition to college life can be a rocky one. If you find yourself behaving in ways that are contrary to your values or you feel like you’re in the bottom of an emotional pit and can’t get out — ask for help.
* Keeping the faith. Don’t forget who you are just because you’re in a new place. You’re still you, and that’s gotten you this far! Find a church buddy — they’re out there but maybe keeping a low profile like you — and hit up the Sunday night Mass. It’ll be different from home but familiar enough to offer you comfort and connection. If you’re on a Catholic campus, you’re looking for campus ministry. Newman Club is the name for the Catholic student organization on most other campuses. Father Charles L. Currie, SJ, suggests, "Once a week, step back and say to yourself, ‘What’s going on? What choices have I made? Have they been good ones or bad ones?’"
* Your mother was right. Wash your hands, eat real food, drink lots of water and most importantly — get some sleep! Dr. Richard Kadison from mental health services at Harvard says, "It’s a myth that the best students stay up all night studying. It has been proven that it’s the student who gets a good night’s sleep, not the one who studies through the night, who does better academically."
EDITOR’S NOTE: Bradbury-Haehl’s book is available online through Amazon and also at Barnes and Noble stores and website. More information is available at thefreshmansurvivalguide.com.