Recently, I went back to my single-sex Catholic high school to participate in Transitions Day, a program that prepares seniors for their future college experience. A few of my friends and I from the Class of 2010 sat on a panel where students could ask uninhibited questions about what to expect from university life. There was a discrepancy between what we freshmen thought was valuable advice for our audience and what they wanted to know.
Our unsolicited advice
Don’t Expect to Sleep: One of the panelists warned students not to fear 4 a.m. nights because the greater academic challenges faced in college can require sleep deprivation to achieve success. College classes involve more effort than their high school counterparts, so students must make sacrifices accordingly.
Use Your Time Wisely: College schedules don’t make sense. Students might have short breaks dispersed throughout the day that can either be squandered or be used effectively. By spreading out your homework among these short intervals, students can avoid too many of those 4 a.m. nights.
Get Involved: Students should take advantage of on campus opportunities. Not only are they a great way to make friends you would not have otherwise met, they can be enriching as well. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and try something new, also.
Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin: Although enjoyable extracurricular activities abound, academics still come first. It may be difficult to prioritize at the beginning, but academics must always be most important.
Don’t Be Concerned with College Stereotypes: Just because the media portrays college students as slackers and partiers doesn’t mean that is what you have to become. Only do what you feel comfortable doing. You might find the stereotype to be off-base.
Your Roommate Might Not Be Your Best Friend: A few panelists had roommate horror stories. Others were simply cordial to their roommates but didn’t hang out with them. Although it is rare to find your best friend in your roommate, it can still happen, but don’t be downtrodden if it doesn’t work out.
It’s Ok to Transfer: One panelist is transferring to a completely different school next year. She realized that her old college was not the right fit and was proactive about it. If you feel you are not in the right place, act on that feeling. These four years should be the best of your life. Don’t waste them somewhere you aren’t comfortable.
What Do I Wear?: Although panelists’ advice focused more on academics, students’ questions mostly involved the social aspect of college. Coming from a school where uniforms were the daily dress and boys were nowhere to be found, the girls wanted to know about proper class and weekend attire. For classes, anything goes. Your classmates’ outfits range from sweatpants to dresses depending on the weather and the time of day. Weekend attire is more fashionable with hopes of impressing the opposite sex. For harsh winters, calf length down coats, fleece-lined leggings, and boot liners for your rain boots are lifesavers. For going out to parties in sub-par weather conditions, buy a cheap fleece that you wouldn’t mind losing.
How Do I Ditch that Annoying Boy at a Party?: Boys can be oblivious. If he doesn’t take the hint, there are ways out. Make a plan with your friends. Have a signal for when boys are being too aggressive, and your friends will save you. Moves you learned in self defense class are a last resort.
What are Parietals Like?: I had no idea parietals (or visiting hours for the opposite sex in single sex dorms) existed outside Notre Dame, but apparently they do. If your school has parietals, you may be surprised to find that they are useful. You won’t have to encounter your roommate’s boyfriend in the middle of the night (unless he is brazen enough to flout the rules), and you can walk to the bathroom in your towel when you are delirious at 3 a.m. without being self-conscious.
Should I Opt for a Substance Free Dorm?: Some schools offer the option to live on a substance free floor or an entire substance free dorm. One panelist shared that she lived above a substance free floor and found it to be quieter. She said she would sometimes sleep down there if her own floor was too rowdy. This depends on a student’s personal taste. If you prefer a quieter atmosphere, a substance free one may be beneficial.
Current high school seniors—don’t be afraid to ask questions. Older students are more than willing to answer them.
Current college students—be there for the incoming freshman, especially during this important summer of transition. Impart what you wish someone had told you during that crucial time, and maybe you can save them from making the same mistakes you did.
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