The REAL Top Ten List Every College Freshman Needs

The REAL Top Ten List Every College Freshman Needs

Well, it’s here. As you are reading this, I’m leading the first class meeting of my new semester students. Yes, it’s a little early, but I teach in our leadership “bridge” program, which brings in select, first generation college students three weeks before the regular fall semester begins. They go through leadership training, workshops to develop skills for fully immersing in college life, and—for my part—three weeks of an intensive “college writing” workshop. The theory is that boosting writing skills improves performance in almost all classes.

Another…let’s say advantage to this program is the students having me as their first college professor. See, I won’t lie to them, and they’ve been lied to—a lot. Every year, essays appear in a wide variety of formats and publications containing lists, tips, hints, and suggestions to prepare rising college freshmen for the experience. In general, they’re decent suggestions, but at their core, they avoid telling these students what they really need to hear. Ergo, lies of omission.

This year, I’m feeling benevolent (must be my advancing age). Those thirty-two students in the early program with me should not be the only ones to benefit from my accumulated wisdom and “truth-y-ness.” Just in time for the new semester, I’m going to share my ten essential things—rules, if you will—every rising college freshman really needs to know about the higher learning experience.

  1. Most importantly, understand that—unlike public high school teachers—your college professor is not judged or rewarded based on how many of his or her students pass at a standardized level of competency. In fact, it’s the opposite. Our bosses expect us to fail a certain numbers of students to insure our classes maintain rigorous standards. However, we are only scorekeepers when it comes to grades, you get what you earn. We already have our degrees, which means we know this crap already, it’s up to you to show us that you now know it, too.

  2. That big building with all the books? It’s a library. You should find it relatively early in the semester. Yes, it’s a great place for an afternoon nap, but if you wander around a bit, you’ll find other useful things. You may think librarians a bit meek, but college librarians are better prepared for the zombie apocalypse than anyone else on campus. If you walk up to one and say something like, “Y’all ain’t got no books about this Shakespeare dude, and my research paper is due in an hour,” you will wish—no, beg for actual zombies to rip you apart but they won’t because, as the nice librarian has subtly insinuated, zombies want brains and you obviously have none. Be kind to the librarians and they will be kind to you. They know things you need to know.

  3. Go to class. If you miss one, do not ask the professor later “if she covered anything important while you were out.” Contrary to what you might believe, she is not being entirely serious when she answers, “why no, Brittany, since you weren’t there, we cancelled class.”

  4. Thursday night is “college night” at every bar in every college town in this country. Professors know this; we were college students once. Professors also drink, mainly because students miss class and then ask us if we covered anything important. Point being, college professors are professionals, we have no problem teaching with a hang-over, so we expect your rapt attention when you’re hung-over, as well.

  5. Continuing the hung-over in class motif, if you’re gonna sleep in class, just stay in bed (see #3). Sitting in class with ear buds will only piss off the professor (see #1, especially the sentence about failing students). Don’t text—yes, we know what you’re doing, only perverts and porn stars look at their crotch and smile and if you do so, don’t be surprised when your professor asks which of those two is your preferred lifestyle.

  6. That syllabus thing all the professors hand out the first day, the one with all the dates and assignments on it? Read it, it’s a contract. Think of it the same as that little “How To Care for Your New Tattoo” card they’ll hand you after that first ink you’ll invariably get during welcome weekend. Likewise, if you don’t heed the advice therein, things could get messy later.

  7. Due dates and start dates are not the same thing. In most instances, due dates and start dates should be more than one day apart. If you’re capable of spending all week planning the week’s beer pong event; you’re capable of starting that paper a few days in advance.

  8. There is a direct correlation between the “freshmen fifteen” and beer pong or related “adult beverage” activities. Also, joining the universal Pi Tappa Keg or Pi Coppa Buzz fraternity / sorority rarely leads to the Dean’s List. Or to graduation. This is not to suggest puritanically abstaining from partying. Not at all, but college is about learning—and learning how to party effectively is the goal (Hint—look up the word “moderation” Or ask a librarian).

  9. Wearing your pajamas to that a.m. class is the equivalent of two duck- billed platypuses mating. Nobody wants to see that.

  10. Do not—DO NOT—whine to your professor, librarian, college administrator, lab instructor, or anyone in housekeeping that “it’s just not fair, I’m so stressed, I have too much to do, everything’s due at the same time, how do they expect us to get everything finished.” You’re in college, and you’re an undergrad. When you’re in grad school, taking graduate level classes, teaching 120 students as a TA for practically no money, working a part time job for even less money, and trying to organize the weekly grad student beer pong tournament…when you have a real job, with a real boss, and a husband, and two whiny kids, a dog with worms, a car payment, a mortgage, a mysterious and increasing ache deep in your abdomen and no health insurance… Then you can talk about being too busy, about having too much to do. Then you can talk about stress.

There, I said it. Trust me college freshmen, these words are the truth. Follow this advice and you might come out of college with not only a degree, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn enough to know just how much it is you don’t know. Which, in my opinion, is the whole point of college, anyway.

And, fellow teachers, parents, former college students, and readers, I know this list is incomplete. Please comment, adding your tidbit of wisdom to the ones I’ve mentioned above. Somewhere there’s a bleary-eyed, un-knowing and un-suspecting college freshmen in need of all the honest help we can give them. A professor will thank you for it.

Until next time, Peace!