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50 Moderately Wise Snippets of Wisdom for Incoming College Freshmen

June 13th, 2011

The campus at UC Berkeley

The campus at UC Berkeley

College isn’t like the movies…all the time. In fact, I think Hollywood tends to miss some of the best parts. Honestly, how often in your life are you surrounded in a bubble of potentially thousands of people your age tasting newfound freedoms? It’s seriously a silly environment when you really think about it.

I did a little dance across the stage at Berkeley’s graduation a few weeks ago. And thinking back, I had a phenomenal five-year stint where I nabbed a pretty sweet two-for-one deal on degrees and had my fair share of college-firsts. I led things, learned things, made things, and broke things.

While the taste of frat party basement grime and the euphoria of finishing Finals week is still fresh, I’d like to offer a little advice to the next batch of recruits and present 50 Moderately Wise Snippets of Wisdom for Incoming College Freshmen (Berkeley and beyond).

Bon appetit.

1. However you try to rationalize it, grades are important. (Just not the most important.)

2. Surround yourself with good people, the type that celebrate your victories, push you often, and laugh generously.

3. Find homework buddies. To be successful, you’ll need folks to have your back.

4. Yes, your body weight will fluctuate.

5. No matter how big your campus is it’ll become small incredibly fast. Your friends, major, involvements, etc. will create a bubble, and you’ll actually have to make an effort to break that cycle. Reach out and challenge yourself to find new environments every year.

6. Call home. It’ll mean more to your parents than you think.

7. Try many clubs and don’t trick yourself into thinking something’s awesome when it’s really not. There are gems out there, just gotta find’em.

8. Three hours of quality studying beats a draining, distracted all-nighter any day.

9. Drinking is cool, just not THAT cool. It has diminishing returns so spend it wisely.

10. Your freshmen dorm floor may or may not hold lifelong friends. I was lucky to find an amazing rag-tag group of buddies, but don’t sweat it if it doesn’t click.

People in your dorm will become more attractive over time due to extended proximity.

11. People in your dorm will become more attractive over time due to extended proximity. Use that knowledge however you like.

12. Play it cool in the coed bathroom. And guys, invest in socially acceptable underwear.

13. Wash your sheets.

14. Your RA is a college student too. They know all of the stupid things you and your floormates are going to do. Be easy on them.

15. Ask your parents for a small toolkit. Especially in the dorms, having the goods to fix things and assemble furniture is a great way to break the ice and makes you an immediately useful friend.

16. During the first few weeks, you’ll have free reign to meet new people anywhere. Hell, I still have good friends today that I met in the baked potato line during week one. But soon that changes and people seem to put their blinders on, especially in lectures. Contrary to popular belief, it’s still okay to meet people in classes any day of the week. Just sit down and say hello.

17. Pulling lots of all-nighters doesn’t make you look cool. Looking like you have infinite time to do all the things you do, now that’s cool.

18. Movies about college usually forget the 40+ hours a week you’ll spend in classes or studying. “Work hard, play hard” can definitely happen, just don’t forget that first part.

19. Don’t be alarmed. Random people will talk to you on midterm day because they’re nervous.

20. If you’re really lost in class, you should probably first try reading the book.

21. Some people don’t take notes while others transcribe at 100 wpm. Find what works for you.

22. Don’t move in with your boyfriend/girlfriend.

23. People have magically short memories. Some will avoid eye contact with you on campus even if you’ve met before. It’s an unexplainable phenomenon. Don’t let them get away with it. Say hello, and they’ll be grateful.

Apparently everyone is “bad with names.”

24. Apparently everyone is “bad with names.” Just try harder. Nicknames and Facebook stalking can help.

25. However, being Facebook friends doesn’t mean you’re actually friends.

26. Being study buddies is a two way street. Don’t be the guy that just always asks for notes.

27. If an opportunity scares you, do it.

28. If you can, study abroad. I’ve never heard of a bad experience.

29. Beware of sketchy landlords.

30. It’s possible to furnish an entire apartment for free. It’s a magical world called Craigslist.

31. Experiment and try all that college stuff, because why the hell not. Just remember to keep your head on straight.

32. Mischief brings people together.

33. Chase, date, hook up, etc. It’s exciting and worthwhile. Do remember, however, that love interests can take up a considerable amount of brain space. So if you really need to focus on something, consider trimming the fat.

34. Crazy opportunities will arise if you’re just willing to ask.

35. Classes are great at teaching you what’s been done and how to do things. They can be not so great at getting you to actually do things. Find your passion and be willing to start small on your own time because making ideas happen is a whole different ball game.

Keep the embarrassing shit off of Facebook.

36. Keep the embarrassing shit off of Facebook. Your tolerance for your public image will shift over time, but just trust me; you’ll be better off.

37. Help friends move. They’ll do the same for you.

38. Some people will change more than others. I say try to be on the changing side. (for the better, of course)

39. Don’t take yourself too seriously; people will respect that.

40. Experiment in the dining commons. The Panini machine is a tool of infinite possibilities.

41. Try to eat a couple vegetables.

42. Singing happy birthday to friends at midnight is a thing. So be prepared for lots of late night cake.

43. Your professors are probably brilliant and teaching courses comparable to you teaching fractions. Give them some credit.

44. If you lend someone a pen, don’t assume you’ll be getting it back.

45. You don’t need to buy your books right away. Avoid those ridiculously long lines, not to mention try to buy used, online or better yet borrow.

46. You’re naturally going do things that peg you as a freshman (e.g. wear your ID around your neck on a lanyard). Embrace them and don’t sweat it, there’s plenty of time to grow up.

47. Seek advice from upper classmen. People love feeling wise. (*cough cough*)

48. Take time to reflect but don’t think that sitting around will help you figure things out. Chances are you have to do something about it.

49. Don’t leave your laptop unattended. Yeah, someone might steal it, but even worse someone might mess with your Facebook status.

50. Finally, not everyone knows what they’re doing in life. People just get better at sounding like it.

So there you have it—50 snippets of advice for the college-bound derived from many years of intensive, in-depth research. Best of luck to you and make sure to hit the ground running.

It’ll be great.

Tagged: Berkeley, college advice, dorm, floor, incoming freshmen, midterms, RA, students, tips, university, words of wisdom