My prior unsimplified life involved working with college student housing for the last 15 years. Since kids are headed back to college over the next few weeks, I tapped a few of my former colleagues for their one piece of advice for our future generation. Here’s a sampling:
For the Parents:
*Be supportive of your children going to college by empowering them to act for themselves. Instead of calling the Residence Life Office or the Accounting Office for them, encourage your son or daughter to go to those offices in person, to learn how to solve such problems themselves and to be able to network with those offices to find those people out there at the college or university whose job it is to support students. The same goes for faculty in that parents should encourage their children to utilize faculty’s office hours to get as much as they can out of their education. You have already passed the college years; it is your son or daughter’s turn to learn the lessons available inside and outside the classroom on the college campus.
*Drop you student off, and tell them that you’ll see them for Fall Family Weekend. Do NOT allow your student to come home for the Labor Day weekend, no matter how much they might beg and plead. Students need time to get used to their new community, and they cannot do that if they return to their old one right away.
For the Students:
* The best time to start looking the job you want AFTER college is the day you START college.
* STUDY: It IS what you know. SEE: It IS who you know. BE SEEN: It IS who knows you!
*Make a point to visit each of your professors during their office hours at least once.
*The night before the first day of class, print out your schedule and “walk” your schedule. You don’t need the added pressure of finding buildings /classrooms during the first week.
*Don’t be afraid to ask for help. First-year students think they know everything…and the secret is, they don’t! Make sure to stop and ask for help—you will be happy you did. College advisors, administrators and faculty have all been in your shoes before.
*Take advantage of the plethora of opportunities college presents. If you’ve always wondered what karate would be like – go to a karate club meeting. If you’ve never seen an Indian dance performance – go to the Ramadan celebration. If you want to be a better writer – make an appointment with the writing center. Each semester plan to attend at least three campus activites you wouldn’t “normally” plan to attend.
*Think of it (your college experience) as a triangle split into three sections: the top is the highest priority and it should be reserved for God or a higher power. The second section is Self, and the third is all others and things. If students work hard at keeping this in priority order, they will be able to learn, develop and grow and exceed their expectations.
*You are entering a time in your life when you will be faced with new choices. It is essential that you learn how to take responsibility for those choices and to be able to at least think about the long term effects of these choices. CHOOSE WELL. Choose to befriend someone with different values than yours and learn to respect those differences. Choose to be yourself without alienating others. Choose to work hard and play hard…but work hard. Work at studying, researching, working, learning, etc. while still having some time for play. Choose to embrace the experience. Choose to face the reality that college will someday end and you will be catapulted into the real world. Choose to prepare for that. The truth is, the real world is a rather amazing place to be, and it comes with an entirely new set of choices.
* A good coffee maker is great investment. It makes coffee, tea AND ramen noodles!
Contributions from college student affairs adminstrators at: University of Wisconsin – Madison, Saint Louis University, Transylvania Univeristy (KY), Webster University (MO), University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, Millikin Univeristy (IL), John Carroll Univeristy (OH), and Maryville University (MO).