Tag Archives: first year

How to Not Be THAT Freshman

Note: I originally posted this last September. After walking around campus today, I realized that it still applied. 2017, enjoy!

Everybody eventually looks back on their first year of college and says to themselves, “was I really that clueless/naive/dumb/etc ?!?!” I started asking myself that about halfway through freshman year. I’ve thought long and hard about what makes freshmen so…freshmen-y and have compiled a list of tips for you.

Look down.

Are you wearing a lanyard with your key/ID/meal card around it? Take it off. Right now. That’s how everybody knows you’re a freshman. At one institution where we used our IDs to enter our buildings, I carried mine in my back pocket. There were only a few instances of leaving it in yesterday’s pants. A lot of schools use some type of proximity sensor so you have to just wave something as you walk by. Figure out what works best for you, but seriously, take the lanyard off your neck. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wearing a lanyard.

Look to your left. Now to your right.

How many people are you walking around campus/your new city with? Is it more than four? Stop, stop right there. I know that they say “safety in numbers” but you’re going to the extreme. You know that awesome party you’re about to go to? Well, it just got busted because a neighbor saw twenty five freshmen walking up to the door. Walk in small groups so you stay safe but don’t anger the neighbors. Also, if you’re coming home from a party, it’s much easier to see if you’re missing a person out of a group of four than forty. You don’t want to be THAT freshman wandering campus in a herd.

Got Questions?

Contrary to what some professors and teachers say, there are dumb questions. There are certain people provided to you early in your freshman year to answer many of your dumb questions. These are your orientation leaders and RAs. But after a certain point, Google is your friend. Need to contact the Health Center? Search for “(your school’s name) Health Center”. Tada! In class, if you have a question that only relates to you (“Can I miss a quiz because my brother’s wedding is that weekend?”) ask the professor at the end of class or during office hours. You don’t want to be THAT freshman asking dumb questions in the last five minutes of class.

Know Your Limits

In college, you can have too much of a good thing. Just because your dining hall is all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean you need to eat it all. Put down the brownie. Grab a piece of fruit every so often. You don’t want to be THAT fat freshman. For alcohol, take it easy. Yes, you probably will have at least one night you regret, but you don’t want to be THAT freshman that throws up all over the communal bathroom during orientation. As for sex, wrap it before you tap it. No glove, no love. However you want to say it, USE PROTECTION. Susie Q might look at pure and innocent but you do not know what sort of Fifty Shades of Promiscuity she might be into. Likewise, Susie, make sure you’re on birth control. You don’t want to be THAT pregnant/STD-carrying freshman.

Don’t Panic

A lot of what I said probably just made college seem like the most terrifying (or most wonderful) place on earth. Everybody will be stressed out or nervous or scared at some point in their college career. You might go from being be THE valedictorian of your class into a freshman class where there are many other valedictorians. Congratulations, you are now average. You might get a bad grade. You might sleep through a class. You might be sitting here reading the above realizing you are THAT freshman. Stop. Take a deep breath. Don’t have a meltdown in the middle of the hallway. You will survive. You don’t want to be THAT crying freshman.

Congratulations, Class of 2017, for making it this far. Good luck with classes and don’t try too hard.

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Annndddd…Break!

This Thanksgiving I’m thankful for several things. I’m thankful that I have a job. I’m thankful my parents took my dog in when said job said I could not bring her with me. And I’m thankful it’s break time and my students are LEAVING. Finally…a few days where I don’t have to pace around the laundry room waiting for a dryer to become available.

But then I almost feel bad for the freshman who are making their first trip home from college. I remember mine. I missed home so bad. I couldn’t wait to be home for A WHOLE WEEK. And then once I got there, I could not wait to leave. I actually made up some lie about a project I had to do and said I could ONLY do it in the studio.

The whole week felt a little like this.

So just like there are stages of grief and stages in student development theories, I have decided that there are stages of vacation time at home. While this is geared more towards students, I think some if it (with a few tweaks here and there) still applies to twentysomethings/adults.

Stage One – Excitement

You probably haven’t even left for home yet. You are counting down the days until break. You’re excited to sleep in your room and eat some home cooked meals and hang out with your friends and sleep in and do nothing all week. This week is gonna be great. You love home. Home home home.

Stage Two – Suddenly Everything Has Changed

You get home and run up to your room to put your things down when suddenly…what are all those boxes doing in the corner? And is that dad’s bill paying desk? And why are there no pillows on your bed?! Whatever, it’s only 7 pm, you’ll deal with that later. You go back downstairs, excited to see what’s for dinner and your parents tell you that they’re going out to dinner. But but but…you wanted mom’s lasagna, not Olive Garden. You cave and decide it’s worth it for the bread sticks. While are dinner with your family (BO-RING!) you text your friends to see what they’re all doing tonight. “Can’t, busy with the fam!” seems to be the standard reply. Okay, okay, you’ll have a boring night in (maybe spend some time searching for pillows) and see your friends after you wake up at like 2 pm and have pancakes.

Stage Three – You Want to Kill EVERYTHING

WHAT IS THAT BLINDING LIGHT? Oh, just your mom flipping on the lights because she needs something in one of those boxes RIGHT NOW. What time is it? Oh, you know, 8 am. And what’s that noise outside? Is that the leaf blower? Come on dad, couldn’t that wait until a reasonable hour? Your mom promises that you can go back to sleep as she tiptoes out of your room but then the next thing you hear is the vacuum. So much for sleep.

Stage Four – One is the Loneliest Number

Your friends are nowhere to be found. Foursquare informs you that they all are over town…at the movies, the mall, grocery shopping…with their boyfriends, girlfriends, siblings, and parents. By the way, where is your family? Your parents went to the grocery store without you. I know, how could they, that could have been a social outing! Your siblings still have friends and live in your hometown since you know they still go to school here. Looks like it’s just you and the internet.

Stage Five – Family Time!

Remember that family that you missed in stage four? Well you don’t need to worry about that anymore because now they’re all home and guess what? So are twenty of their relatives! That’s right, it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner. Now you have to spend the next six hours pretending that you love every single minute of college and are really working hard for that education your Citibank loans are paying for.

Stage Six – Now They Want Things

Ahhh…the relatives are gone and you have two days left of break. NOW you’ll be able to see your friends and relax. No, no, that’s not happening. You need to clean up after Thanksgiving and while you’re at it, take some of that crap from your room to the basement, your parents need more room for storage. And what do you mean you want to hang out with your friends? There’s only two days left of break, you need to spend more time for your family. Right now you’re probably about to scream…

Stage Seven – GET ME OUT OF HERE!!

You can’t stand it anymore. You wonder if it’s possible to sneak out and hitch a ride back to school. Are any of your friends leaving tonight? You can’t possibly wait until morning. You better pack your bags in case it gets to be too much to handle and you need to leave in the middle of the night.

Stage Eight – Homecoming

You finally get back to college and you’re thisclose to dropping to your knees and kissing your uncarpeted dorm floor. As you unpack, your roommate gets back and starts raving about how terrible her Thanksgiving was. You are not alone.

It almost feels a little something like this.

So fear not college students, you have a few more weeks of college living until…Winter Break.

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I Am Charlotte Simmons

“I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe is the story of Charlotte Simmon’s freshman year at an elite college. Charlotte was the top of her class and chose to attend the fictional Dupont College because of its academic reputation and the scholarship she was awarded. Charlotte came from a very poor town and was not fully prepared for what college was going to be like. Charlotte’s time at school puts her in contact with many “types” of people – her spoiled princess roommate, a star athlete, a writer for the newspaper, and a fraternity man (although this might be a case where I accept the use of “frat boy”).  From the beginning of her time at Dupont, Charlotte’s values are constantly mismatched with those around her. Charlotte has a rocky start in college but eventually finds her footing.

I first read “I Am Charlotte Simmons” when I was a senior in high school. I was so excited for college and was reading everything I could get my hands on that related to “college life”. I remember thinking how unlucky Charlotte was and how unfortunate it was that she did not like college and had a terrible year. But I also remember thinking that the book was merely a work of fiction. I enjoyed reading it, and quickly set aside to devour another story about college and to dream of my future college life.

The second time I read “I am Charlotte Simmons” was the summer after my first year of grad school. I had completely forgotten about it, but when I saw it on a shelf at a secondhand bookstore, I remembered it from many years ago. As I read it again, I wanted to cry. This story was practically a combination of mine and my best friend’s freshman years. I hadn’t known it at the time, but high-school-me was very much like Charlotte. I avoided many social activities in high school because I didn’t want to be around people drinking. I was the first in my family to go to college and while I was not from a rural area like Charlotte, there were ways in which I was unprepared for “the college experience”. All my reading in high school did not make me ready to go off to school and be surrounded by people with much different values than me. My best friend’s experience was not much better. While I debated whether or not to try a sip of alcohol at a party that I had basically been dragged to, my friend was dealing with issues very similar to Charlotte’s romantic encounters, including dating a star athlete at her small elite college (but with an ending more similar to Charlotte’s trip to DC).

After getting over the fact that the book could have been very well named “I Am The Author” or “I Am The Author’s BFF”, I started thinking about the story in terms of the classes I had just taken and the training I had been through as a Hall Director. A lot of my classes forced me to reflect on my time as an undergrad. One of my professors even asked us to write about our first year at college and apply student development theories to ourselves. While I didn’t go as far as applying student development theories to the book, I thought about how important fit is when entering college. I had seen so many students at my graduate school that did not fit in with the school’s dominant culture and would have thrived at one of the other institutions I went to or was familiar with.

Now I am reading “I Am Charlotte Simmons” for a third time and thinking about the upcoming school year as a new professional. One of the things I was told very early on at my new job is that we have a lot of first generation students coming from impoverished homes that might not be prepared for college. Charlotte was definitely ready academically but not emotionally. In the novel, her best friend goes to an in-state school and “goes with the flow”. While I’m sure the culture was different at that school, I don’t think it was THAT drastic a change that Charlotte experienced.

The students that I am dealing with are from a very different background than Charlotte. I might almost be more prepared to deal with a Charlotte than some of the students I am told I will encounter – students who have lived in inner cities, seen their friends shot, and possibly have children of their own at home. Not too sure what to say to that…

Have any of you read this book either for fun or as part of your job? What did you think?

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