Advice for High School Graduates

My seniors graduate this week and I was compiling a list for them. After asking people on Twitter and Facebook for their ideas, here’s what I put together:

  1. Never buy textbooks. There are always places to find cheap (or free) versions.
  2. Don’t sign up for a credit card, no matter what “prize” they’re offering you. If you do get one, though, be sure to pay it off each month.
  3. If you can avoid it, try not to get a job during your first semester. Better yet, make plans for a summer internship early in the school year.
  4. Don’t do anything stupid. But if (when) you do something stupid, don’t post pictures about it on Facebook.
  5. Don’t get a tattoo unless you designed it and you’ve thought about it for at least two years.
  6. Back-of-the-envelope calculation: (15 credit hours a week) x (18 weeks in a semester) x (2 semesters) = 540 hours of class a year. If tuition is $20,000/year (it’s probably more), you’re paying about $37 (or more) per hour of class. Don’t skip class!
  7. Sit in on large lecture classes in subjects you aren’t actually taking. No grades, no one will notice, and you’ll learn a lot.
  8. There are scholarships available everywhere. Most people don’t apply for them. Go get the money they don’t want.
  9. Join clubs. Get to know your professors. Talk to people in your dorm. Besides getting to know really cool people, you’re setting yourself up to get a job in the future.
  10. Study abroad. Don’t want to leave the country? Then just spend time around people whose viewpoints you completely disagree with.
  11. Unless you’re playing with a huge group of people, put the video games away. Unless you’re creating the next Facebook, turn the Internet off every now and then. It’ll be there for you later.
  12. Cover your drinks. Cover yourself. Eat healthy. Do everything in moderation.
  13. Get your requirements out of the way early. You don’t want to be ready to graduate only to find out there’s one course you still need to take… and it’s not available that semester.
  14. The thing that made you socially successful in high school was conformity. But if you want to be successful in college and beyond, think differently and do your own thing.
  15. Call your parents.

What would you add to that list?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • jdm8

    I would highly suggest considering a community college for the first two years.  If you know what you want, find out what transfers easily and get a lot of your requirements out of the way at a much lower cost – meaning much lower debt.  Also, the cost of switching majors is a lot less if you find your first choice isn’t for you.

    • Thin-ice

      My son did that, applied for a scholarship that paid for 100% of the 2 years at CC which I’m sure saved him $30k or so, got his bachelors from a Canadian university (cheaper) and then got his masters from the U. of London (which didn’t require some irrelevant math course like all American universities did). He now makes 3 times more salary at 30, than I do at 64.

    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

       Be careful-  some colleges will not accept credit hours from community colleges at all, and many more will only accept them IF the student has gotten approval from the better college Before taking the community college course.

      My Daughter is taking community college courses this summer- not because she expects to get credit for them, but because they will help her to do better in her crucial math and science courses when she  enters her Soph year.   Her plan is subject matter mastery and a kick-ass portfolio to show an employer.

      • jdm8

         I wasn’t aware it was that bad, but I did say “find out what transfers easily”.  From what I understand, CCs in my area serve as feeder schools to state colleges, including U of Michigan and MSU, but clearly, checking first can avoid problems later.

        • The_L1985

          Another option is to get an AA/AS from the community college. That way, transfers are less of a problem, you have a good place to “start over” from if something happens to you after, and you have more of a sense of “making progress” from getting that degree in 2 years. And of course, you still save money.

          Note that this is in preparation for a BA/BS, not a substitute for it.

  • DG

    Good list.  Getting ready for college for my oldest (16 now).  I think I can paste this and pass it on.  I especially like the ‘call parents’ part.

  • Conspirator

    With regards to #13, I have to recommend that you map out the courses you need to take and make sure they’ll fit.  Some classes, and this is especially true in smaller departments, may be offered only in the fall or spring, or perhaps even every other year.  So you may have to plan ahead.  Also, I wouldn’t recommend taking care of all the general education requirements too early, as it’s nice to have some balance of major/non-major classes each semester.  

    One mistake I made, not really a big one but something to consider, was in my last semester I took four Computer Science classes.  As it was I only needed one to graduate, but the others were new to the department and I wanted to take them.  I ended up with a lot of projects to do throughout the semester, at the same time I was interviewing for jobs.  I would have had much more fun if I dropped one of those classes earlier on.  

    Also, internships are very important, take a semester off for an internship if you can, and make use of your school’s job placement program.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1270950221 Doug Johnson

    It’s easier to put the work in at the beginning of your semester/academic career then having to play catch up. I started really strong while some of my best friends started off by having a little too much fun at the start and they’ve had to play catch up on a lot of things the last 4 years.

    If you do end up drinking (you don’t have to drink to have a good time at college) you don’t have to get wasted.

    You never know where your best friends might come from or what you’ll find out you like. Try meeting lots of different people, be involved with clubs or student organizations to see what’s out there.

    These are all college related I guess, another thing to add is that college isn’t for everyone and that’s ok. Sometimes a tech school or community college are better fits for some people right out of high school. There are no rules, do what works for you. 

  • djg

    Get a credit card, and be responsible with it.

    If you’re interested in science, try to do research. Most university labs are more than willing to accept undergraduate volunteers.

    Accept that some of your views are most likely going to change, sometimes in dramatic and uncomfortable ways. In fact, if they don’t, you’re doing college wrong.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Ya, like I said on Twitter, you absolutely should get a credit card.  Make sure it’s a no-fee card, and be sure to pay it in full every month.  And until you know your spending habits in school, maybe put it away and don’t just use it as cash.

      I feel like telling college students to not get a credit card is like telling them they are unable to resist temptation, so never drink or even go to a party where there’s alcohol.  Credit cards are a part of life.   You’re an adult, you need to learn to use them at some point, might as well do it now.

      • http://www.facebook.com/LadyArwyn Jean Rice

        At age 42 I still have never had a credit card, and don’t want one! I have only come across a situation where I actually needed one once.

      • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

        I’m 30. Never had a credit card, and never planning to. So far, I haven’t had any problems…

        • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

          oh kay…

          I spent many years without a car.  Saved a lot of money.  On a few occasions I rented a car for a day.  I could not have done that without a credit card.  So, having a credit card facilitated my ability to be car free. 

          Obviously not everyone has to have a credit card.  Or a bank account.  Or a car.  Or a hammer.  But I stand by my advice that you should learn how to use them sooner (legally) rather than later.  If one really doesn’t want to ever have a credit card, fine.  Don’t.  But don’t decide it’s too dangerous for you because you’re only a college student.  Decide instead that you can live without a credit card and prefer not to support the credit card industry.

    • The_L1985

      That last one is quite possibly the most important thing for young people to know.

  • Toby

    Depending on your major, I’d say read your textbooks one class meeting ahead, so you know what to expect. Then you can answer questions in class and feel more confident during the lecture. I’m an engineering major and this habit has helped me a ton.

    In regards to a job in your first semester, I totally agree. It can be overwhelming. But once you understand how much you can handle in college, get a job. Job and intern experience will give you a big edge over those who graduate with no job experience.
    And don’t be ashamed to work your way up! Your first job will probably suck, but you have to start somewhere.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=543924639 Matt Becker

    Just graduated from college 2 weeks ago and my (additional) tips are:

    Live on campus for at least one year. This is commonly a requirement for freshmen. Helps you get on your feet without having to worry about too much at once. This also helps give you the feel of typical college life.Life off campus for at least one year. This will teach how to run a household – paying utilities and internet, getting groceries, etc… It will also provide you an entirely different college experience. Also, if you crank out the costs of room and board and associated fees, living in an apartment is frequently much cheaper than dorms.

    Live with a room mate for at least one year. This usually happens with the dorms, but if it doesn’t, try to get an apartment with one at some point. It will teach you a lot about splitting responsibilities, dealing with conflicts, learning new viewpoints, etc… It also saves money (don’t underestimate the importance of this).

    Do the work yourself, and only when stuck, check with friends about how to do a problem.

    Figure out what study habits work for you. Not everyone studies the same way: some people prefer the quiet of a library, whereas I prefer the background noise of coffee shops.

    Don’t overbook your first or fifth semesters (Fifth is usually when intensive major-specific courses start.). Avoid getting a job if possible, or at least try to get one with flexible hours. Don’t schedule more than 5 classes (14-16 credits).

    This last one is sure to be controversial: make sure that in your first semester you do NOT get a 4.0. If you’re an A student, get at least one A-. This will prevent you from getting a perfect GPA, but maintaining that 4.0 throughout college will consume your life and you will feel like you missed out on the “college experience.” Employers don’t really care that you got a 3.9 instead of a 4.0.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=543924639 Matt Becker

      Also: 

      Don’t assume that because you were an A student in high school that you’ll be an A student in college. Classes will be harder.

      Professors give you the grade you deserve, not the grade you want. If you didn’t get the grade you want, you’re not working hard enough. Emailing them complaining about the grade won’t get you anywhere outside of frustrating/annoying them.

      If you have an extra credit opportunity, take it. If the professor offered it, you didn’t take it, and you didn’t get the final grade you wanted, they will have no sympathy for you.

      • MV

         In general, you earn grades.  However, I received plenty of grades that I didn’t “deserve”.  Those were always an “A”.  The classes I learned the most, and often the most useful, were ones in which I didn’t receive an “A”.  That’s because I actually had to more than complete the work.

        As an additional piece of advice, do more than is required in class.  You are paying a great deal of money (and time, opportunity cost) so get as much out of the class as you can.

      • The_L1985

        And don’t forget tutoring! Getting help with a course does NOT mean that you are stupid or that there is anything wrong with you.

        Being told this a few dozen times a year would have helped me a lot–and now that I’m a professor, I make sure to tell my students that there is NO shame in getting the amount of help that you need.

  • Marguerite

    “Call your parents”? Sounds like the eighties to me:-). My daughter is going off to college in the fall, and based on her current patterns, I expect her to text me and Skype me… but call? I’m not even sure she knows how to talk on a phone *laughs*.

    But yeah, with modern technology there’s no excuse for not touching base with your parents every now and again. Back when I was in college in the late eighties, there was only one phone on each dorm room floor, so I mostly kept up with my parents and my boyfriend via snail mail. It’s nice to have somewhat more immediate ways of keeping in touch!

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    If you can manage it, go to a public university. You’ll graduate with a lot less debt, the good public universities are better than many much-more-expensive private universities, and you can always go to an expensive college for grad school.

    • MV

      Actually, don’t assume that going to a public university will be cheaper.  My undergraduate education over a decade ago was cheaper at an expensive private school was cheaper than the public university due to grants.  In my state, the public universities are rapidly becoming very expensive due to funding cuts.

      However, do consider going to a community college.  This is relatively cheap and I encountered some of my best professors there.

      • Charon

        Community colleges can make a lot of sense financially. But keep in mind that they’re open enrollment. You will be nowhere near as challenged at a good community college as at a good 4-year college/university.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        That echos a friend of mine’s experience with his daughter just finishing at a UC.  Stanford would actually have been cheaper.  They have a lot of endowment money  to cover tuition.  I think he even said that if the family income was under 100K, tuition would be capped at ridiculous rate.  You still have other fees, and books and living of course.

  • http://twitter.com/fester60613 Fester60613

    I’ll add an item: Memorize this quote and repeat it to yourself at least once a day:

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard
    it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
    Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious
    books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers
    and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for
    many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that
    anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and
    all, then accept it and live up to it.” ~~ The Buudha

  • Michael

    If an exam question relates to a topic in a lecture you felt like death in, there’s a good chance you’ll remember enough to work out how to work out the answer. At least you’ll get some of the marks. If an exam question relates to a topic in a lecture you skipped because you felt like death, that’s too bad.

    – Paraphrased from an Indian lecturer’s instructions on how to be extremely drunk most nights and still graduate.

  • Onamission5

    I would add this, at least in the US–

    If you don’t get any significant grants or scholarships and your parents cannot pay for college, if it’s possible, take your first two years worth of required courses at a tech or commmunity college and then transfer to the 4-year university. This will save you anywhere from 10-30K in student loans and have the additional benefit of being in a work-first environment filled with non traditional students who actually want to be there, vs. being in a party first environment where as many as half the students drop out the first year. You will still get your degree from the university, but you’ll have a lot less debt when it’s done.

    Just do the research and make sure your credits really will transfer across the board before taking this route, because sometimes they don’t, and then you have to take the classes all over again. Ask me how I know. ;P

  • APJ

    Re #6: This calculation is even more impressive when you remember that college semesters are shorter than HS semesters. The University I teach at has 15-week semesters, and that’s the longest I’m aware of anywhere in the country. 13 or 14 weeks is the norm.

  • Ian Reide

    haha. Wish I had seen this list a few decades ago (my how time flies). You forgot to mention condoms haha. Umm, get a credit card, learn how to use it, build up your credit rating. Study overseas definitely, if you cannot at least a different state. Take a year off, visit India/south east Asia/Africa. And–maybe don’t go to uni, study online, intern, start a startup. Most important HAVE FUN–you only get one life.

  • sachiwilson

    I’d also talk about SEX and how to be safe and sane while learning about yourself and others.

  • http://twitter.com/WCLPeter Rob U

    Many of your fellow students aren’t there by choice, they’re only there because their parents are paying, or because they think it’ll be like High School and are hoping it’ll allow them to defer adulthood.  Either way you look at it, many of them won’t be there second year.

    When forming a study group be sure it doesn’t contain one of those people, their goal is for you to carry them to keep the gravy train running – they won’t do the required work and if they do it’ll be haphazard and faulty at best.  Find people who *want* to be there as much as you do, who worked *hard* to be there just as much as you did.

    Make sure one day a week is for “fun”.  If you don’t take downtime you *will* burn out (I’ve seen it, almost did it).

    No matter how badly your parents hover over you, the school will respect you enough to treat you like an adult; there will be no attendance taken and there will be no hounding to get the work done.  You, or your parents, are paying for the privilege of your attendance and you are responsible for your own actions, they will not hold your hand to ensure your success – you’ll have to work hard for it.

    Get a part time job in a restaurant not only can you often find flexible hours to fit your schedule, many places offer steep food discounts for staff allowing you to save on food costs and the atmosphere in the kitchen is often fun and relaxed.  At least that was my personal experience.

    Apply for summer jobs and internships the second they become available, most people wait until close to the deadlines before submitting their applications and then scramble.  Applications are assessed on a first come first served basis, you *want* your application to be near the top of the pile; working in HR for a year taught me HR managers can often find the candidate they’re looking for in the first ten resumes, even when hundreds are submitted.  Be first!

    Relax and take a deep breath.  Take breaks.  Make friends.  Fall in love.  Have your heart broken.  Go to parties.  Most of all, have fun.  The one to four plus years you spend at College / University will be amongst the best parts of your life, stop to enjoy it once in a while.

  • george.w

    Chicago Tribune had An Open Letter to High School Graduates last week. In summary, go to community college at least first two years, don’t borrow, and there’s no rule that says you have to finish in four years.

    • Katie

      That’s true, both ways; four years is not a must, longer can be okay and short can be okay. For me, I finished in 7 semesters and used the last semester to just work on my own thesis instead of taking classes (and recover from the death of my bestfriend). It was a great choice, planning my classes ahead, and not taking all 8 semesters.

  • Mary

    I would add…don’t take out school loans unless you understand how interest works and just how much money you will have to pay over the next few decades in order to pay the loans off. 
    I was lucky – my parents helped a lot with college costs and I earned scholarships. My friend took out $31,000 in loans for her undergrad. She has paid $15,000 on her loans so far, but because of interest, she still owes $30,000. Debt is not a joke. And that part where everyone assumes that they will make more over time is not necessarily true. If you change jobs a few times, you might be making the same thing in ten years that you make when you graduate college. Nobody is going to help you figure out your finances if you don’t care enough to do it for yourself. 

    And don’t think of college as a 4-year commitment. Think of it as a 12-year commitment. The first four years are at school, and the next 8 years are usually starting at the bottom and working your way up in jobs that you may not enjoy. College is not a free-pass to your dream job or to decent pay. If you aren’t into a major subject or career for the long-haul, consider how you could better use your time until you know what you want to do.
    My friend and I had a long conversation last night, and we both agree that our undergraduate degrees have been worth basically nothing for us. Mine was in business and hers in social sciences. Neither of us knew what we wanted to do back then.  I graduated magna and ended up taking secretary and temp jobs for years until I finally found my niche by volunteering for a non-profit. Now I’m doing something I love and getting paid for it, but my college degree did not help me get here. In fact, the most useful class I’ve ever taken was probably my typing class in high school. And English in high school helped me become a good writer, but I’m not sure that my college classes really got me much farther than my great high school teachers did. College is not for everyone. My plumber makes as much money as I do, if not more. He gets to choose his hours and which projects he will do. He is his own boss. There are a lot of people who would be happier in a situation like that than coming in from 8-5 everyday in a low-paying administrative job. Sadly, that is all that a lot of college graduates can get.

  • Lysistrata

    If the school you are going to has a flat rate for X credit hours and up,  take as many credit hours as you can and explore a bunch of classes that don’t necessary relate to your major.  I took English courses so that I could read and got the extra benefit of learning to write which I wouldn’t have gotten in my major courses.   It opens up new avenues you never experienced
    Only call, text, or  email your parents once a week -college is where you learn to be an adult so let yourself feel what that is like.
    Stand up for yourself,  if you are having roommate problems talk to them about it,  if you are having problems in a class talk to your instructor.  This will help you resolve problems that can make your life miserable and give you essential skills needed in the business world.   

  • http://twitter.com/eqdw Tim Herd

    I would amend point 2. *DO* sign up for a credit card. Use it. And FOR THE LOVE OF FSM PAY IT OFF EVERY MONTH. This gives you a bunch of benefits, including:

    a) Reward points, cash back, or whatever gimmick that card uses to differentiate itself

    b) Flexibility. It can be really hard to, say, pay for stuff online without a credit card.

    c) Discipline. If you have a $10,000 credit limit, but know you only have $1000 in the bank, practicing the self control of not spending those $10k you don’t have will benefit you in the future.

    d) Paper trail. With a credit card, you get a statement of all the things you spent money on. If you, say, withdraw from the bank and pay cash, you don’t get this. For example, I use the service mint.com to manage/budget my spending. I can tell you, for instance, that in June 2011 I spent $224 on electronics (mostly work related), $12 on convenience stores, $18 on coffee shops, $134 on gym membership, etc. When you need to manage money, having these breakdowns can be invaluable. (And don’t think I’m shilling for mint. Use a CC, go over your statement manually, plug it into a spreadsheet. I’ve three friends who do this and swear by it)

    e) Credit Rating. I know this sounds like a kind of bullshit thing that adults tell you to screw you over, but it’s true. Get a credit card. Use it. PAY IT OFF EVERY MONTH. And watch your credit rating soar. I was recently unemployed for 4 months. Due to a mix-up, my EI payments were frozen for almost three months. And, at the end of those 4 months of unemployment, I moved (Can -> USA) for a job, incurring significant debt. Walked into the bank, asked for a line of credit, walked out with $30k (well, $10k with the option to bump that up to $30k at any time). Why? Because I pay my CC bill on time. That is all. 

    Credit cards aren’t an evil to be avoided, they’re a tool to be used. And sure, if you’re not _very_ careful, a nailgun (that’s a tool, right) can send you to the hospital. But if you’re careful and don’t do anything dumb, you’ll put that wall up much much faster.

    • http://gloomcookie613.tumblr.com GloomCookie613

      As to D, just want to point out that some financial institutions offer a similar category analysis. I know my tiny credit union does. And that’s not for a credit card, it’s for my bank card. I could tell you all those figures by opening my account history. It is a handy tool for trimming the budget, you’re 100% correct on that!

      • http://twitter.com/eqdw Tim Herd

        If you’re not familiar with it, I really do like mint.com. You can wire it up with all your accounts across all your different financial institutions/etc, and it’ll automatically tack it. It’s great. 

    • Selfification

      +1  I was confused by the advice to “avoid credit cards”.  That’s the same as saying “pay 1% more on everything you buy ever”.  Don’t ever leave money on the table.  Beat those suckers at their own game.

      • http://twitter.com/eqdw Tim Herd

        My CC only gives me 0.5% cash back. :(

        I basically pay for everything (except rent) with my CC though, so it’s nice to get that chunk of change back. Sure, it was only like $50 last year, but that’s $50 more than I’d otherwise have

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Well, you’re not beating anyone.  You’re sinking a little more slowly.  The fees that the CC companies charge the merchant, which the merchant passes on to you are far higher than the ‘cash back’.  So, the CC companies are screwing all of us.

        • Selfification

          Well, that’s why you also invest in that CC disrupting startup like Square or something.  But that’s for after your graduate and have spare cash :)

  • Fsq

    Have a shit ton of casual sex, experiment with mind altering substances, don’t ever drive wheedling so, and break out of the mold and free of the herd.

    College is so much more than classes. Sex, drugs and drinking are part of the experience, but do not let them overtake the experience.

    Begin growing interests and hobbies outside of the class. Let they’re and learn from them.

    If at all possible, take a year off between classes and travel travel travel travel travel.

    Leant a foreign language, I mean really immerse yourself in it. Today, e best languages for job marketability are Chinese, Russian, pashtu and portugese.

    Again, have lots and lots of casual sex. You won’t get this kind of opportuni or variety again in your life.

    • Kodie

       I knew a few people who failed out, but I would not say this is a terrible idea. Time management is one of the most important skills, and you will need it forever. I’m not the casual sex & druggie type, but I would say I did miss out on the social experience because my time management sucks and I had to make the practical choice rather than fail out. You can have both!

    • Thin-ice

      Load of bullshit. You don’t have to have lots of casual sex, you don’t have to take mind-altering drugs. You decide what you want to do, and be your own person. Don’t feel pressured by others to do uncomfortable things, or doing things just so you can fit in. I’m not so sure having tons of casual sex is going to help you have deep and rewarding relationships, but that’s just me. As to why the suggestion that lots of drugs and drinking should enrich your college experience, well, it leaves me speechless . . .

      • Fsq

        Okay, but you haven’t given any reasons why casual sex and drugs won’t enhance the college experience.

        This is the time for it. Go nuts – double entendre intended – and live. Experiment. Grow. Expand the mind and body. Sex and drugs can and do expand and give new perspectives. Obviously, I am not advocating abuse or addiction, but this is e time to get this out of the system. The time to sew oats, so to speak.

        Be careful of course, use common sense, protection etc….but by all means, experiment.

        • Thin-ice

          Very tricky, sewing oats. You need really small needles. 

          Sowing your wild oats is a different matter . . .

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    There are pupils and there are students. Pupils want to pass the course. Students want to master the material. Pupils want to do what’s required. Students want to do what’s excellent. Pupils receive knowledge. Students hunt for it. Pupils know knowledge that was discovered. Students also know how that knowledge was discovered.

    In your first several semesters, the classrooms will be filled with pupils, and maybe there will be one student. As you reach the last semesters, many of the pupils will have dropped out of school, and there will be a higher ratio of  students.

    Be a student. Be rare.

    • Fsq

      Dick,

      Do you just go to sleep at night with a final cup of prevention, or is it just in your genes?

      Or do you wake up each morning, fumble around with your pas and then look for your own way to feel superior?

      Either way, the important thing is you find that way to feel superior.

      • Fsq

        Damn is iPad, I can’t even insult without spell check kicking in. That was supped to read PRETENSION not prevention.

        • RebeccaSparks

          What was pas supposed to be? pants?

          • Fsq

            Parts….it was a masturbation joke…..

    • RebeccaSparks

      While I admit later in school you’ll find more people engaged in schoolwork, this also in part because everyone’s done with their general ed and are studying the material that they care about.

      Also, dropping out of school doesn’t mean that you’re not a serious student, or that you’ve lost your one and only chance to go to college.  Life happens.  If you decide to go back it later it probably won’t be as convenient as right out of high school, but you’ll also have more life experience and wisdom to balance that out.

  • Greg Gaudreau

    CONDOMS CONDOMS CONDOMS

    • Godiva

      I really want this to be a Golden Girls reference. (“Calm down, lady! You just get out of prison?”)

    • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

       Darn, you beat me to it!

  • Jim [the other Jim]

    College isn’t the only option in life.  DON’T EVER look down on trades. Back in high school, when I was 16 [1978], the guidance councilor asked us if  we started thinking about careers. I stated that I wanted to be either an electrician or a mechanic but I hadn’t decided for sure. The councilor floored me when he said “You can do MUCH BETTER than THAT”. I was speechless. That attitude still burns me to this day.  Just look at popular culture in the media and observe how many movie and sitcom plots include an anguished parent lamenting their offspring’s choice of a trade over college.  Seems more common in the US than here in Canada. Mechanics, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, machinists, etc. are critical to modern society, which would grind to a complete halt if they didn’t do their jobs…jobs that can pay 6 figures AND have the potential for full independence.

    • http://twitter.com/eqdw Tim Herd

      I know a few people who went into construction, carpentry, and electrician-ship. They were, at age 18, making more than I was two years out of university. If you’re so inclined, trades are an excellent thing to look at

      • Jim [the other Jim]

         My grandfather was a blacksmith so I guess I come by it honestly. I am now a mechanic ["technician" sounds better, don't you think?] at an equipment rental company and I really like the work and my co-workers.  Could I make more money doing something else? No doubt! BUT, I would not be happy.  Demand for mechanics is so high that, in some places, the demand is only 25% filled.  Here in Alberta, every mechanic has 3 more jobs waiting for him if he want’s to make a change. In my current job, the interviewer asked me how much $$$ I wanted. After I told him, he said OK. No counter offer at all. [I should have asked for more, but I'm not greedy ;-)]
         

    • Aimee

      You know Jim you are right.  My husband went to college and even carried on to his Masters Degree to appease his parents.  His father is a college prof.  He has regretted ever since, he does not even work in his chosen field (he doesn’t like it) and he would have done better in a trade or business school.  

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ northierthanthou

    Good list.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    You might not be going to college.  College is (increasingly) not for everyone.  Don’t apologize for not going and don’t treat the first few years after school like wasted time that doesn’t matter if you didn’t go to college.  Work, learn and live your life.

  • http://www.spellwight.com spellwight

    You’re all assuming every kid will go to college. There’s always the option of the military. Investigate the training available in each service to find a career you might work well in and use the GI Bill to pay for your education during or after. I suggest you choose a non-combat (Air Force or Navy) unless you’re gung-ho and don’t believe everything your recruiter tells you. Get it in writing.

    You’ll learn how to take care of yourself, you’ll learn discipline and fitness and you won’t have to rely on your parents. Plus there’s the travel.

    • The Vicar

      Yes, and you can help carry out foreign policy you probably don’t support, you stand a good chance of getting shot at, and when you get back you’ll find out that the Republicans have gutted all the benefits you were supposed to receive. Such a deal!

      • Laurence A. Moran

         Let’s not forget that the American military seems to be very good at teaching Christianity. It’s a good place to get an education if you think you might be having atheist (gasp!) thoughts. 

  • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

    Just a few things, many learned the “hard way”: First, everything that has been said about credit cards, with this exception: Once you’ve built your credit score, stop using the credit card, except for emergencies, or car rental, or the like. Keep a zero balance on it as much as possible. You want an excellent credit score. You -don’t- want to be a debt slave. Secondly, learn what and how it means to plan and execute a monthly budget. Make sure a portion (a large portion) of that budget goes toward savings. Think of savings as a replacement for that credit card, but again, it is only for emergencies or special circumstances. Try to find an account with a good interest rate (they exist, but none are great anymore). Once you have that built up and “running”, start looking into investment vehicles with higher rates (IRAs, CDs, etc). If you have enough savings, and you -think- you can do it (and look at this like a chunk of money lost forever if you pursue it) – try the stock market (etrade, etc); but whatever you do, look at that money as “gone”, but not “lost” – and try to leave things alone and not look at it all the time day to day as it goes up and down in value (the stock market is ultimately a long-term thing, unless you are a excellent day-trader – and most people aren’t). Oh – one other thing: Be satisfied with what you have, and don’t “chase the dollar”. Most of you won’t be rich, won’t even become wealthy. But you can be happy, and that doesn’t take any money at all. Some of the happiest people I have met in my life have been homeless. Finally, figure out and pursue a hobby, something that makes you happy and that you find enjoyable to do. If you can, try to find your career in your hobby – that way, you go to work doing what you love, and not dreading getting up to go to work just to pay the bills. Lastly, never ever stop learning; read, learn, do. Try to amass a library’s worth of books. Always take the time to consider the “other” opinion; you may ultimately find it to be incorrect, but taking the time to consider it is better than dismissing it whole, for you may learn something along the way.

  • Kim

    Great advice

  • http://www.facebook.com/gmillar Gavin Millar

    If you’re paying $20,000 a year for tuition, move to Canada where it’s capped at about $5,000.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      It’s my impression that for people that don’t qualify as Canadian residents, the costs are often well North of $20,000 a year.

  • Ken

    You will have bad professors who are lazy, incompetent or just don’t like you for unknown reasons, and they will try to blame you for the problem.  My advice is to bail on them immediately, create an excuse to switch to a different class.  Same for majors, although you may need a semester or two to get a reading on an entire department.  

    Colleges are taught by professors who were students about a decade ago, or more.  Many have no real experience in what they teach, just lots of academic theories they were taught and never questioned, and some simply pursue their own agendas completely unrelated to the course (I did have a graphic design class that never mentioned design, but we had to attend recycling lectures and annoy building contractors with questions about what they do with their trash).  Complaining doesn’t help, so just suck it up or drop the class (if student loans allow).  You can vent on the anonymous semester evaluation surveys, but don’t complain verbally — petty professors do retaliate and protect each other.Keep in mind you are there for a diploma — an education can also be had, but schools are moneymaking operations, and you are a cash cow to them.  Get through the system as quickly and efficiently as possible.  By all means learn what you can, but know you will always have to do the work yourself — no professor can pour information into you. Suffer through the nonsense classes and get that piece of paper at all costs.  

    There are good professors that will listen to your plans and give useful advice and contacts.  Some cannot see past their own field.  You can become friends with the good ones and use them as sounding boards — they will also write great recommendation letters for you later.  Always say “Hi” to the bad professors when encountered, it annoys them that they didn’t break you, and some are truly determined to crush you “for your own good.”

    I say all this as one who went to college in his 50s because I needed a diploma to continue the profession I had been successful at for 25 years.

  • RebeccaSparks

    *The job market for college grads is more horrible than ever before-and this does apply to you, even if you go into science/math/engineering & tech, even if you do a bunch of internships, present papers and many other job/advancement strategies.  How much debt are you willing to take on, if you don’t get a job out of it?   Think if you can get the experience you want another way–joining the peacecore, volunteering at non-profit, go on a weekend retreat with writers/game designers, etc?   What’s the lowest level of education you need, could you do what you want with an AA?  This is not to say college is a waste of time, but go in with both eyes open, and be open to alternatives. 

    * Find out the resources on your campus–tutor center, writing lab, mental health center, fitness center, career center, etc.  These are here for you and your peers, and you can’t use what you don’t know.  Some interesting services I’ve seen: free cabs rides for freshman caught away from campus after the buses stop, police escorts for women on campus after dark, essay review drop-in clinic, free move-in & out video taping (to protect against slumlord landlords), one free massage a semester (coupon @ mental health clinic), assistance for victims of rape and abuse, including temporary housing
    *Once you decide on your major, find out what the “bottleneck” classes are and try to take them early.  Those are the classes that are required, but always crowded.  Professors will try to be accommodating for graduating seniors, but I’ve seen people have to take an extra semester because they couldn’t get a class, especially with budget cuts cutting down on classes and class sizes.  

    *Take the town the University is in into your account.  I know two people who had to change schools because they couldn’t take the small town politics, and I’m sure are also people who despise big cities.  

    *Have fun and be flexible, be spontaneous but be safe.

  • The Vicar

    “Pick some upper limit for how much money you are willing to lose. ($5? $20? $50?) If at any time you engage in a transaction which exceed this amount, even with friends (especially with friends), make sure there’s a record and everyone is clear about the terms.”

    “If you go to college, you will get free or cheap access to a lot of stuff for which, after college, you will have to pay separately. Take advantage of it — get flu shots, go to the gym, look at art exhibits, whatever. That way, you’ll know whether it’s worth paying for later.”

    “Don’t participate in any group activity if your only reason for doing it is to meet strangers. There’s always something else going on which would hold your interest as well, or where you know someone else well enough to enjoy their company.””If you are using a shared washer and dryer, make absolutely certain to check the washer and dryer really thoroughly before you put your clothes in them. It is unbelievable what kinds of horrible stuff can be in there. (Oh, and make sure to check the pockets of anything you’re putting in the wash. You will regret washing a cheap ballpoint pen, and not because you lose a pen.)””If there is more than one Internet provider available, either change Internet service providers occasionally or call your current one and threaten to do so. The deals they offer for ‘the first six months’ are still inflated pricing, and sometimes they’ll offer you more time at the reduced rate rather than let you go as a customer. (And if they don’t, then it makes sense to switch to a provider who costs less.””If it is hot enough for you to wear short sleeves, then you should consider sunscreen and a water bottle if you’re going to be outside for long.””You don’t have to like everything you eat, but if you can afford it, try lots of different restaurants, especially in a college town. You may discover that you love a cuisine (or just a dish) of which you never even heard before.””Pulling pranks on people, even on April Fools Day, makes you a tiresome asshole and makes you a target for revenge. It’s probably best not to start.”

    “Everyone — including you — is stupid now and again. Learn to forgive people’s stupid moments.”

    “Unless they’re at your house, chances are that nobody around you wants to listen to your music. Don’t force it on them.”

    • The Vicar

      I wonder what happened to all the paragraph breaks I put in that comment? Weird.

      • RebeccaSparks

        This happens to me all the time.  Type my post it in the comment box, something happens to the window and the comment is lost.  Copy and paste from notepad or word, all the paragraph formatting is lost, even though it looked fine before you posted.

  • Selfification

    Echoing some other commenters here, I have a Rule 0:

    Don’t do anything just because..

    Don’t go to college just because.  Don’t get a job just because.  Don’t do research just because.  Don’t join the army just because.  Find out what you want to do, and do it because you care about it, not because it’s the latest fad.  If you can’t tell me what you plan to in college or why it’s useful for you, then you have no business going to college.  The reason could be “I want to explore a wide variety of fields to discover what I want to do in life”.  That’s fine.  But that should be your goal then – to gain a wide breadth of knowledge in the arts, humanities, sciences – both applied and theoretical.  You should ensure that you are getting your money’s worth.  Do you randomly walk into a restaurant when you’re not hungry and ask to sample 30 dishes when you can’t afford it?  No?  Don’t do that with college either.  Go with a goal in mind.

    Want to see the world? – buy a cheap ticket to Africa or Asia or Europe and back-pack.  It’s cheap.  Join a charity group and go to a random spot on the globe.  Don’t pay 20k for a semester of foreign exchange.  Want to see a different culture’s perspective on how to attack a problem you are already passionate about (i.e. your field of study)?  Now you get to sign up for a foreign exchange program.  See the subtle difference here?  Don’t use college as a crutch to do something else you want to do.

    Do interesting things that you always wanted to do.  Teach, join a political group, join a club, do sports, work at a few different jobs (for free if that’s what it takes).  But for pete’s sake don’t go to college just so you can do these exact same things with some other buddies of yours.  You can join a club just as well outside college as you can within it.

    And lastly, stop thinking of college as other people telling you what’s good for you.  This is not school.  Your teachers aren’t your “superiors”.  You are paying your professors to teach you.  You’re both in a unique relationship of mentor and student, but it is no longer a clearly authoritarian one.  If you don’t like a professor or a class, drop the class.  Do something else useful.  Make your profs work for your money.  Just as an entrepreneur can fire a client that isn’t helping their business, learn to fire your professors.  Give them clear feedback.  Tell them what you need and if they’re not willing to give it to you, fire them.  Don’t care too much about grades (unless you’re headed to med-school or something).  I have amazing grades.  Guess how many times a company has cared.  My project work is more important.  My recommendations are more important.  Make a mark.  Do your work diligently.  Forget about grovelling for that last A+.  Learn sincerely and honestly and don’t let the school, the profs, your friends, your TAs or your family get in the way of that.

  • The Vicar

    Oh, one more:

    “Banks are not your friends under any circumstances. Always assume that any service offered to you by a bank has a hidden downside, and opt out of anything you can opt out of unless you’re sure you want it.”

    • http://www.phoenixgarage.org/ cr0sh

       Certainly THIS. But they sure do get a lot friendly when you have north of 50k in your accounts (but don’t let -that- fool you, either).

  • Clint07

    I would amend #5 to say Don’t get a tattoo unless you have thought about it for 1-2 years and when you do, go to the best shop in town (not your friends basement, not the cheaper place, etc).

  • Kodie

    Consider very strongly what you think will be fulfilling every day for the rest of your life. Some majors are challenging just to see how serious you are and thin the herd. Some majors will welcome you with open arms and easy grades just for showing up. It doesn’t matter that you were “good in” some subject in high school. The latter category can be a loss, but they can be valuable subjects if you apply yourself to learn them and not just show up (disclosure: I ended up with one of these majors and just showed up). What I mean by fulfilling is, some people prioritize making the most money, and some prioritize saving the world, and so on and so on. You might enter college with one priority, but you might change your mind. That’s not a bad thing, it’s a product of being out of your element and discovering yourself without parental or community filters.

    If I had one thing I would not do over again, it would be not go to college, at least not where I went, and not right away. I was too bogged down with parameters and other people’s expectations, people who did not themselves go to college. I had high grades in high school without trying very hard, and college was a distinctly upsetting experience for me, inducing a lot of stress, and over the years, not proving itself to be worth it. Waiting is one way to make the most of your college experience. Going to some trade school you see on wee hours tv is probably a scam, so be careful about your “alternatives” to college. As it is, college made a cultural promise to me that it didn’t fulfill. It requires input and the ability to make decisions for yourself without asking your mom and dad if it’s ok. I was not ready for that and should have waited, despite how “smart” I rate on an IQ test. Part of college that is wrong is that high school and parents may be quite ignorant about what is right for you. Per se, math was always my best subject in school, but my mom thought I would make a good teacher. Neither of my parents can comprehend the outcome of taking a major – to them, math was as ambiguous as drama (both of which, to me, were interesting). Aiming for a career, and a major aligned with that career, like: education > teacher, made sense to them, and I didn’t know from shit when I went in. One semester of that, and I decided never to be a teacher. I think it takes a lot of self-reflection to comprehend what a lifetime as a teacher would be like. A lot of college students just take to the track they’ve decided on without reflecting on how that would play out for the rest of their lives! Make sure it’s what you want every semester. Don’t get to your 6th semester and then have a crisis about it. It’s like a wedding – no matter how expensive it was, and how many people came, shut it the fuck down. I had a lot of pressure to finish within 4 years; I also felt like when my mom said “quit” that she was pulling passive-aggressive shit. Oh my god, this is a lot for someone who’s not even a freshman yet.

    What other people said about internships – I think the whole time I was in college, until my senior year, I never heard anything about any damn internships. Even if you are fetching coffee and it has nothing to do with your major and you aren’t making as much money as you would selling sundresses at Old Navy all summer, get one. Get an internship if you can, because the virtue of being able to put that shit on your resume will mean more to any future employer than your work history at Auntie Anne’s. If you get an earlier internship, they may hire you next summer too with more relevant responsibilities and better pay. They might not. The real world says: internship in your field even if your duties were toadie and unpaid are more impressive than doing actual work for actual pay for somewhere else.

    Spend at least some of your college career learning how not to come off like a complete age-appropriate douchebag according to your elders. This cannot be emphasized enough.

  • Onamission5

    Jumping back in to add–

    Be Proactive! No one will rescue you from problems you don’t make known, so if you are struggling in a class, take to the prof *before* it gets out of hand! Office hours exist for a reason. Use them.

    Take one class every term that is just for fun, just for your own personal fulfillment. Yes, college is serious business and you should get your required courses out of the way asap, but it doesn’t have to be all serious. You will burn out if you never explore the enjoyable side of learning.

    Pass/no pass is your friend. Use it wisely, but for maude’s sake, use it.

    Wait until you’re a sophomore or junior to get a credit card. When you do get one, read the fine print. ALWAYS read the fine print!

    Taking a break from school doesn’t make you a failure. Neither does retaking a class, dropping a class, changing your major, or deciding you don’t want a 4 year degree after all.

    Lastly, sleep. Regularly. Please. Your emotional health and academic success depends upon it.

  • advancedatheist

    Don’t transfer from a good university to a lower quality one. (President Obama did a smart thing by trading up when he transferred from Occidental to Columbia.) I made that mistake by transferring from Washington University in St. Louis to a dump called the University of Tulsa (TU). TU’s president in the early 1980′s, the late J. Paschal Twyman, treated his school’s academic functions almost as a nuisance, and I wound up with a math degree which didn’t open any doors for me. By the time I turned 30, I wrote off my college education as a waste.

  • Laurence A. Moran

    Never buy textbooks. There are always places to find cheap (or free) versions.

    That’s a remarkably stupid bit of advice and I’m not just saying that because I’m a textbook author. There aren’t always places to buy cheap copies of a textbook and if there are places where you can get free ones, they are probably illegal.

    Some students are actually passionately interested in their course and they want to have the latest, new, pristine, version of the textbook. I was like that as an undergraduate and I still have all my textbooks. I still use them from time to time.

  • Charon

    Don’t sign up for a credit card.

    Actually, this is bad advice, at least for anyone with self control. You need a credit history in life – this is checked when renting apartments, applying for car or housing loans, even jobs. The easiest way to get a credit history is to get a credit card. Of course you need to use it responsibly, which includes paying it off in full every month. Starting with a low-limit secured credit card is not a bad idea.

    When I was in college I too thought the responsible thing would be to not have a credit card, but was fortunate enough to have a friend who worked in the loan industry, and she set me straight.

    • Kodie

       I think the overall advice on credit cards is not to not get one, but to be more conscientious about them. You can buy a sledge hammer at the hardware store, but it would be a bad idea to use it to smash down your dorm walls and make a big party space. Think of a credit card like a sledge hammer; every time you want to use it to accomplish a foolish great idea like smashing down your dorm walls to make a bigger party space, refrain.

      I don’t think the problem is with credit cards, I think the risk at that age is that everything terrible seems like a great idea at the time and they haven’t been taught to think it through. I would tell people who are looking for college tips: if your parents avoided giving you responsibility and you are kind of a spontaneous and rash individual, don’t get a credit card until you grow out of this phase. No amount of “good credit score” is worth the crappy weird crap you will justify putting on your credit card because this is your first experience with any self-discipline or you think you’re invincible. Objectively, however, college seems like the good time to get into a rigid discipline of being a good-credit haver. If you want to know what being irresponsible with those freebie credit cards in college can get you; if you’re flaky, they can summons you and if you don’t respond to the summons, they can seize your bank account. 15 years after you’ve graduated. It’s not the same as painting a slightly different truth to your parents about your monthly accounting; credit cards will hound the fuck out of you for decades.

      • Charon

        Well sure, hence the “low-limit secured credit card”, which doesn’t have this sort of danger. If the person secures it with their own money, so much the better.

        A secured credit card may be all you can get at that age. I know there are all these tales of credit card companies handing out cards to college students with wild abandon, but I found it very hard to find one that I could get. But you can always get a secured card.

  • Lisa Currie

    Take this from a college health educator — Learn how to navigate your own health care, learn how to use insurance, and learn how to take care of yourself. If you’re going to college, the campus will very likely offer free-to-visit-with-no-copay health services; the only fees will be for lab tests, birth control, etc. Establish a relationship with them early and cut the cord with your pediatrician at home. You’re an adult now. 

    It pays off in the short and the long run to remain healthy. Make the time to sleep. Consume alcohol in moderation (no, pre-gaming a dozen vodka shots and doing keg stands aren’t included in the definition of moderate). Eat a variety of foods — the campus dining service will be better than you expect. Work in exercise by walking or biking everywhere, joining an intramural sports team and/or avoiding every elevator on campus. 

  • Aimee

    Good list Hemant;  too bad you weren’t my high school counselor.  

  • James

    Two things:

    1. If you have the opportunity to study abroad, DO IT! You will not regret it! You will meet some of the most fascinating people and learn about the coolest stuff while abroad!

    2. Make friends with professors outside your department/field of study. Many of them are just looking for an excuse to get out of the class/office for coffee or lunch to have meaningful conversations with young people. They will only enhance your education and can be great friends beyond college. 

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    “Cover yourself.”

    Um – do what? ‘Coving your drink’ might stop someone putting something in it, but covering yourself is supposed to do what, exactly?

    • amycas

       I was wondering the same thing.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        Maybe to prevent skin damage due to over exposure to the sun?  It is a good idea to wear sun screen, but even better to wear a hat and cool but covering clothing in the middle of the day during summer (or winter in the southern hemisphere).  This advice also applies to people with more melanin.  They do have more natural protection, but can still burn.

        And I understand people with more melanin need to be more careful about getting enough vitamin D from other sources, which if you drink ‘fortified’ milk should not be an issue.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

        Condoms.

        • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

           OK; good answer :-)

          • amycas

            ^^^that’s exactly why I was confused lol. 

        • amycas

          Ah, ok, now I get what you meant.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Claire-Stout/1241820429 Claire Stout

    To the high schoolers, this is a great list! Pay attention to it.  My favorite item on the list is the one about going to large lectures you aren’t  registered in.  I switched my major because of this and I have never loved a subject so much! You never know what you’re going to learn about the world or yourself.

  • Cortex_Returns

    My advice is not to worry too much about following all the advice you’ll be getting at this time in your life. Just for the love of spaghetti, wear a rubber and don’t drive under the influence.

  • P. J. Reed

    There are a lot of people who are commenting with similar opinions as mine, but I’ll throw these in anyway…

    Never buy textbooks. There are always places to find cheap (or free) versions.

    I would amend this to say, “Don’t buy textbooks from your campus bookstore or new.”  You can find them used online for relatively cheap (unless they’re first printings, in which case you don’t have a choice).  If you find them for free, it’s probably illegal.  And it is worth keeping the textbooks for the classes in your field of study.

    Don’t sign up for a credit card, no matter what “prize” they’re offering you. If you do get one, though, be sure to pay it off each month.

    No, do get a credit card.  Read all of the terms of service — I’m serious, read them — and understand that the bank is not your friend, and they are the ones making money off of this, not you.  Nonetheless, you should use it for at least a few things regularly and pay it off every month.  Don’t buy anything that you can’t actually afford right then.  Still, when you eventually want a loan to buy a car or house, you will need to have a credit history, and this is how you get one.

    Cover your drinks. Cover yourself. Eat healthy. Do everything in moderation.

    Here’s the part that’s going to make me unpopular.  Let me rephrase this as: don’t drink.  Alcohol, that is.  As a college student, you will have a very limited amount of disposable income.  Going bar hopping with friends is very expensive and bad for your health in the long run.  There are plenty of social activities you can do that won’t wreck your liver or empty your wallet.

    I had friends in college who didn’t understand how I could afford to buy fancy electronics, video games, and occasionally eat out at nice restaurants.  It was because I wasn’t wasting money getting drunk and partying.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Another great way to save a lot of money is to not buy a car.  Seriously on many campuses it’s not hard to live car free, and you’ll save a lot of money.  But DO check out local cycling organizations and take an effective cycling course.

      It’s been said over and over again by every financial adviser out there there- the power of compound interest.  A dollar that you save or don’t go into debt early in life is many dollars later in life.  Shameless plug for an old friend of mine, school teacher Andrew Hallam http://andrewhallam.com/ who is worth a million by age 40, on his teacher’s salary.  Great book for young AND older.

  • ConureDelSol

    #1 should be changed to “almost always”.  I have looked everywhere on the internet and have had to end up paying for most of my textbooks anyway.  

    Also, if you buy a textbook online be sure to consider how long it will take to ship.  If you are like me, where you tend to do everything at the last minute, you will always pay more for your textbook because you need it sooner.

  • http://twitter.com/MacXVX McDaniel

    The suggestion about not getting a tattoo has got to be the dumbest thing ever posted on this blog. Obviously coming from someone who knows nothing about tattoos.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Tattoos make you look like a thug, male or female. Here endeth the lesson.

      • The Other Weirdo

         I should add an exception: unless you’ve been in the military and have military-related tattoos.

      • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

        I think of religion as an extra and artificial way to discriminate.  You’re in ‘our’ group or you’re not.
        Seems to me judging someone based on their choice as to how they want to look isn’t any different.

        I think a year is a bit much.  I gave myself a one month waiting period, and have never regretted my tattoo.  Anyone who doesn’t like it is free to keep their own bigoted ass ink free.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ThomasWobby Thomas Wobby

    -Keep your door open as much as possible. This is the easiest way to make friends.

    -Try not to dine alone (especially in the beginning). If you don’t know anyone in the dining hall, meet someone to sit with.

    -Do your homework.

    - Find something you are passionate about.

    -Nap.

    -Go on dates.

    -All-nighters are overrated. There comes a point in time where getting a little bit of sleep will help you more on the exam than continuing to study through the night.

    -Long-distance relationships suck.

    -Don’t bring a T.V.

    -Keep a list of pleasure reading books to pick up over the summer because you won’t have time to read them when school is in session.

    Also, I really liked reading this when I graduated. http://mitadmissions.org/blogs/entry/50_things

    “7. At least a few times in your college career, do something fun and
    irresponsible when you should be studying. The night before my freshman
    year psych final, my roommate somehow scored front row seats to the
    Indigo Girls at a venue 2 hours away. I didn’t do so well on the final,
    but I haven’t thought about psych since 1993. I’ve thought about the
    experience of going to that show (with the guy who is now my son’s
    godfather) at least once a month ever since.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I’d take out the part about putting your video games away.

    Video games are an art form, playing them isn’t just some waste of time. You can learn things.

    • The Other Weirdo

       Creating video games is an art form. Many art forms, in fact. Playing video games is a waste of time and you rarely, if ever, learn anything you couldn’t have learnt elsewhere.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

         that’s just a load of slanderous garbage right there. There are websites and blogs and podcasts dedicated to discussing every aspect of video games. The industry, the mechanics, the stories, the controversies. There is a lot to learn from gaming. You sir, are just ignorant.

  • Matt

    I don’t know if the parents would be keen on you telling your students to read Cracked.com, but they do have some worthwhile articles for the college-bound:
    http://www.cracked.com/article_18611_the-10-most-important-things-they-didnt-teach-you-in-school.html http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-things-they-never-told-us/ http://www.cracked.com/blog/author/John+Cheese/ This naturally should come with a “Caveat emptor” since it’s advice coming from an internet comedy website that is full of dick jokes.

  • kullervo

    I woud disagree with #2. It is too easy to establish credit in college with all those card offers, and too easy to get into trouble, of course. But it can be very, very difficult to establish credit after you graduate. Get one card, pay it off every month, develop good habits along with your credit. Flat out saying “don’t!” is assuming the young person will be irresponsible. If they’re reading this blog and this blog entry, I think they can handle it.

  • MarnieMacLean

    Hmm, there are some assumptions about people’s financial situations and home life that I think could be really alienating to people. I would leave out the stuff about calling parents and not getting a job, if you can. 

    If I were going to add something, I would say:”Criticism of your work is not a criticism of you, it’s a professor/employer’s attempt to bring out the potential they see in you.” 

  • Tom

    Start seriously looking at the job market and have your CV in an immediately mailable state at least six to twelve months *before* you leave college.  Go to careers and recruitment fairs and make as many contacts as you possibly can in the field you want to enter.

    Decide what you want out of life early, in as much detail as possible; ideally before you even choose which college to apply to.  Going through university without a clear, precise sense of direction is only ever viable when the economy is booming (or if you are lucky enough to have and be on good terms with really, really rich parents) and graduates in any field can always be reasonably sure of bagging a job; in the current situation, with college fees rising and the job market already glutted with graduates, it’s a gamble at best.  “I just know I want to work in science/engineering/law/finance/etc” is, for example, a
    completely inadequate statement of purpose these days; you need pinpoint focus.

    I write this with much bitterness.  I started higher education towards the end of the optimistic period between this recession and the last, when our glorious leaders (you know the ones – they invaded two countries, one of which on entirely false pretences, and have openly stated that they think they know what god wants) told us that everyone could go to college and follow their dreams; by the time I left, dreams had become an unaffordable luxury and I found myself in a bleak, uncooperative world that had turned in on itself and had no use for newcomers of any sort, let alone dreamers.  Desperately casting about for somewhere to go with your degree after you’ve got it (and the associated debt) is something you want to avoid at all costs, now more than ever.  Do bear in mind that getting a degree will also effectively bar you from certain jobs; the dreaded “over-qualification.”

    In short: GET A PLAN.

    Also, as has been mentioned already, DO NOT BE DISDAINFUL OF TRADES.

  • Skjaere

    Get your homework done before it’s due, rather than pulling an all-nighter at the last minute. Things that sound like flashes of brilliance when you’re in a panic at 4:00AM rarely seem so great by the harsh light of day.

  • Emma

    You are there to learn, not just to pass exams. Understand the difference and don’t hound your lecturers/tutors with, “but will this be on the exam??”

  • http://yiab.pip.verisignlabs.com/ Yiab

    Learn how to take tests. Don’t just learn how to answer questions, but how to determine what sort of answer the instructor is looking for.
    Try to clearly express your thoughts, unless your thoughts aren’t clear.
    Use complete sentences on all assignments and tests with correct grammar and spelling, including in science and engineering courses. This goes double if your first language is the same as the language of the assignment/test.
    If you space on a question during a test, write something funny. The better the TA feels during a painstaking marking session, the more likely they are to be forgiving of other errors (just don’t expect bonus marks for making the joke).
    If you are asked whether you did the reading, just answer honestly.
    Profs and TAs are not out to get you. Really. Seriously. Most of the time.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine

    I cannot STRESS the importance of point 3 above. Get an internship. It will give you a good shot at a job when you leave college – likely in the same place you’re getting your internship. I did not try for an internship, I spent two years after college doing nothing but looking for jobs and getting turned down because I didn’t have enough experience, and I graduated with a 3.5 GPA.

  • Kaoru Negisa

    Pay attention to what you’re thinking, especially if it seems strange. You’re getting new ideas all the time, and you may hit on something without really considering it.

    I say this because the other day I remember thinking back to my freshman year philosophy class and getting into a very passionate argument about why religion is unnecessary for morality and we could decide what was right and wrong based on empathy and concern for community cohesion. No, I wasn’t an atheist at the time. Turns out I had a really good idea and didn’t realize its significance at the time.

  • http://www.travismamone.net/ Travis Mamone

    Don’t smoke too much weed.


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