The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

promise-not-laugh-anymore-college-ecard-someecardsFor many of my friends, this was the first week of school — and for me, it was the first August since the early 90s that I wasn’t starting school! Since I first began blogging in 2010, I started sharing the lessons I had learned from each year of college, but my wonderful friends and readers have also shared their own advice and wisdom on my blog as well (here and here). In honor of the brand new semester, I bring you 15 helpful tips from 15 college students and alumni with diverse backgrounds and degree programs. Best of luck this school year!

The Freshman 15: Advice From Readers (Year 3)

1. Study what you love.
Picking a major can seem really daunting upon entering college, especially if you’re unsure of your post-undergraduate plans. However, the most important thing is to study something you are passionate about. Don’t let overbearing relatives and nosy strangers dissuade you when they sneer, “Oh, you’re a [blank] major? What are you going to do with that?” Doing homework and studying for tests will suck a little less if you actually enjoy what you’re learning. And at the end of your four years, you will find the perfect way to apply your passion to your “real world” pursuits.
– Jill Dutmers, University of Central Florida, English Literature (@straightupjill)

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2. Be open and accepting to all kinds of people.
In life, but college especially, you will meet a wide array of personalities! Students come from all walks of life and they WILL have different opinions, perspectives and values than you. Stay true to your beliefs but also make sure to keep an open mind. Understand that many students work multiple jobs to pay their way through college, may be going through personal issues or have social disorders. It’s so important to take all these factors in to consideration before jumping to conclusions about different types of people. Learn something new from different people your age…in the long-term you will grow more accepting and appreciative of others.
– Carlie Craig, Florida State University, Theatre and Media Production (@carliecraig, Website: Carlie Craig)

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Zweinstein 23. Get familiar with your academic community.
Professors will be impressed if you stay informed about the current trends in your major field. Although some academic journals and monographs can be dry, make an effort to find a moderately accessible journal or a scholar that you like. Attend seminars and symposiums if you can, and submit papers to journals and local conferences (you’ve got nothing to lose!). Undergraduate publications and conference history will look great on a curriculum vitae.
– Brittan Wilkey, Wake Forest University, MA English (Blog: Discharmed)

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4. Pay it forward.
As soon as you figure out what you plan on doing (whether picking a major, joining a club, or finding an internship) start passing along what you’ve learned and your experiences to anyone who asks or who may need it. Be a resource to people around you — you never know what difference you’re making in their lives by helping them out. On the flip side, never forget about the people who helped you out along the way and always remember to thank them and maybe even let them know what you’re up to especially if it’s been a while.
– Kaitlin Border, University of Central Florida, Accounting

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5. You’ll meet your best friends in time.
Chances are, the first group of friends you get knit into won’t be the last. Don’t feel pressured to find all your best friends in the first semester. It takes a while to adjust to college and you actually transform into a new person as the months go on so don’t think any kind of group of friends needs to be there for the four years ahead. Be open to meeting new people and be mindful of when friendships naturally click. Those are the ones to tuck close to you. I didn’t find mine until my sophomore year but I still have them as best friends today.
– Hannah Brencher, Assumption College, English + Mass Communications/Sociology (Website: Hannah Brencher)

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EssDormSocialTime6. Get to know your RAs… for the RIGHT reasons.
Resident Assistants aren’t just there to get on your case if you are being too loud. RA’s are students, just like you, and they have been through it. They are there to talk to you and help you out. Their training is VERY extensive and know just about every resource available to you from free counseling services to listing off names of student organizations. You pay big bucks to live on campus, and a big part of that payment is living on the same floor as a walking/talking college life guru. If you have a problem, or even if you are doing well, tell your RA, they want you to succeed and do your best.
– Karina Garcia, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@karinacreative)

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7. Never stop making friends.
I am very much an introvert, so once I had a small circle of friends I was more than happy to stop putting myself out there. In result, for my first semester of school I had a very small group of people I knew well, while I was surrounded by dozens more who would have loved to get to know me better. Not every friend you make will last, and you might not think you’d like hanging out with a certain kind of person, but you never know until you try.
– Gabrielle Upshur, Austin Peay State University, English (Blog: Of A Writerly Sort)

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8. Go to class.
Don’t skip class, even if it’s early in the morning or boring. The great thing about college is you control your schedule, and there’s time for naps.
– Kayley Tool, University of Central Florida, Nursing

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How_i_met_everyone_else_-_ted_and_marshall9. You don’t have to be friends with your roommate.
Many people enter college with the expectation that they’ll click instantly with their roommate and become best friends. This isn’t always the case. Unless you pre-selected a roommate, you will be moving into a tiny dorm room with a complete stranger. You may enjoy baking and crafting while your roommate is interested in video games and cosplaying. It’s okay if you have nothing in common! Don’t try to force a friendship just because you live together. The most important thing is that the two of you cultivate an environment of mutual respect. Respect your roommate’s space and belongings and he/she should do the same for you. However, some people are just too different to get along. If you and your roommate can’t make things work, don’t hesitate to talk to your RA about the process of changing rooms. Classes and work are taxing enough and you shouldn’t have to come home to a stressful living environment every day. Moving in the middle of the semester can be inconvenient, but it’s better than being miserable for an entire school year.– Tori Twine, Elon University, Cinema (@toritwine, Blog: I May Be Mildly Obsessed)

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10. Remember your passions.
I was miserable with my major for a while, until I remembered that I loved robotics. It basically reinvigorated me, and I’ve been doing a lot better since. Sometimes you lose sight of your passions, but it’s great when you remember them.
– Peter Cheng, University of Central Florida, Computer Engineering

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tumblr_mes5drMMc51rwr9v911. Be open to all types of Greek life.
During my first two years of college, a lot of my friends joined social sororities and fraternities. While this looked like a lot of fun, I just didn’t think that Greek Life was right for me. In my junior year, I heard about an honor fraternity on campus and decided to check out one of their Rush events. Two years later, I consider it to be one of the best decisions I made in my college career. I experienced many leadership, academic and social opportunities and made some of my best friends. The point is social Greek Life is not for everyone, but there are so many Greek organizations on every campus that there is bound to be a place you’ll fit in! Try looking for sororities or fraternities related to your major or other special interests and don’t be afraid to go and meet new people!
– Jessica Faith Meyer, University of Central Florida, Political Science (@jfaithmeyer)

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12. Get internships.
I know they pay less than waitressing or bartending – maybe they’re even unpaid!  But the skills you learn and the connections you make are worth so, so, SO much more than money.  If you’ve got a great resume filled with internships related to your field, it’s about a million times easier to land a job.  If you only work in restaurants during college, you’ll be a super well-educated and experienced server when you enter the workplace.
– Sarah Von Bargen, BA University of Minnesota – Morris (English), MA Victoria University of Wellington (Applied Linguistics) (Blog: Yes & Yes)

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13. The easiest way to their hearts is through their stomachs.
When it comes down to making friends in college, It’s important to cater to your strengths. In my case, I’m a third generation, nearly full blooded Italian girl. Cooking a hearty italian meal is embedded in my DNA. Thankfully, our college dorm had a well equipped kitchen at my disposal, so cooking, despite our sensitive fire alarms, was encouraged amongst us all. First night at the dorms, I gathered my utensils and went to work in the kitchen. My new roomies, now my best friends, caught a whiff, literally, of what I was up to and decided to lend a helping hand. Within an hour we had whipped up a huge bowl of pasta and meatballs and made sure to prop open our door so the sweet aroma or marinara sauce could flood through the hallways – and into the nostrils of several hungry college kids. What a success! In seconds, our floor mates were lingering in our doorway, mouths watering and stomachs growling. We invited them in, gave them a plate and conversed. As simple as that. It was history in the making. Many of our hungry floor mates from that first night became some of my lifelong friends, even now after college. If you cook it, they will come. That, I’ll assure you is a fact.
– Lauren Durando, University of Central Florida, Advertising and Public Relations (@dran34)

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Alice14. Stop and smell the roses.
Stop and smell the roses. –Yes, you could do this literally, but more figuratively, you should definitely take the chance to stop every now and then and appreciate the amazing opportunity that is attending college in the 21st century. The world is literally at your fingertips at any given moment via the internet. Opportunities abound around every corner. You are currently living and experiencing history being made on a day-to-day basis. Take the time to sit back every now and then and appreciate the epicness. Then go out and make your contribution to it in whatever form makes you happiest!
– Melissa Smith, George Mason University, PhD Human Factors (@mabsmith)

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15. Find yourself in a new place.
It may sound lame but friends, boyfriends, girlfriends and coworkers will come and go but you will always have yourself with you. This took me a while to learn but I have been able to slowly build a better relationship with myself through studying abroad. In immersing myself in other places and cultures around the world, there are things I learned that can’t be learned from in a classroom. The main lessons in life that I will look back on when I graduate will be things that I learned from being abroad. In fact what you learn from museums, old ruins, or double decker bus tours doesn’t nearly compare to what you learn about yourself. About how you work with others, how you can navigate through a strange place, and the stress of being in the big open world. So study abroad and set forth on a journey to a new place to find your new self.
– Arielle Poliner, University of Central Florida, Event Management

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A great big thank you to everyone who contributed this year! Readers, what is the biggest piece of advice you have for incoming college students?

The Freshman 15: Topics To Discuss With Roommates

As you settle into college life, one of the first people you’ll meet will probably be your roommate. Although this doesn’t apply to those who stay at home and commute to school, you will quickly have to adjust to sharing a very small space with someone who might otherwise be a complete stranger. Roommates come in all shapes and sizes and can become your best friends or the agoraphobiacs who never leave the dorm, but regardless of the closeness of your relationship, you should keep an open line of communication in order to avoid conflicts. This month, we will focus on some of the topics it is helpful to discuss with your roommates before things get too out of hand.

The Freshman 15: Topics To Discuss With Roommates

1. Who is bringing what?
Before you pack to move into the dorms, you need to know what appliances to shop for and what your roommate will provide. You don’t want to end up with two microwaves in one kitchen, or two television sets in one bedroom. Conversely, you don’t want to avoid purchasing something that your roommate doesn’t have, either. Keep a list of what each of you plans to bring to the room, and if you need additional items, try to split them up as evenly as possible.

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2. Overall cleaning habits.
Are you the compulsive neat-freak type, or do you let things pile up throughout the week? These two types of people tend to get on one another’s nerves, so it is important to identify your personality types right away so you can show more respect toward each other. If your roommate cares a great deal about keeping the place neat, for example, then the knowledge of your roommate’s preferences will make you more aware of your own habits, and you may think twice about leaving dirty dishes in the sink overnight.

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3. Daily/class schedules.
If you realize right away that your roommate believes in “Early to bed, early to rise,” but you’re more of a night owl, you will have a better chance of sorting out those issues early on. Figure out if your roommate has an 7:30 a.m. engineering class she needs to go to bed early for, so that you can find a way to dim the room and keep quiet as possible during the evening hours. Your roommate will hopefully be able to return that favor by getting ready for those break-of-dawn classes without making too much noise. Also, if one of you likes to nap in the afternoon, you can work it around the other one’s course schedule.

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4. Locking doors.
Although I always felt safe when I lived on campus, I always knew that my belongings were less secure when I shared a bedroom and a key with a roommate. Not only did a greater number of people have access to my bedroom that way, but also there was always a greater chance that one of us would forget to lock the door on the way out. You each have a key for a reason, so remember to talk about it and use it.

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5. Daytime visitors.
You don’t need to notify your roommate of every friend you ever plan on inviting to your dorm room, but you should at least give fair warning to your roommate if you plan on becoming a complete social butterfly. If you’re hosting a lot of little get-togethers and your roommate doesn’t like having so many people in the dorm at once, then you need to come to a compromise. Figure out a rough number of people you would accept in the dorm at any one time, and if you are expecting a greater number of people one night, then give your roommate the heads up.

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6. Overnight visitors.
These can range from one-night-stands to visitors from out of town. While neither of you needs to divulge all of the details of your social life (although, chances are, you’re both probably fully aware), you should be cognizant of your roommate’s feelings about the situation. In other words, don’t hole up with your boyfriend all the time — it will make even the coolest of roommates completely uncomfortable, even if you live in an apartment-style dorm and don’t even share a bedroom. If your best friend is visiting from another university for a few nights, just let your roommates know ahead of time so they aren’t asking themselves “Who is that strange girl in the apartment?” a few days later.

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7. Borrowing and sharing policies.
This is one that my friends complain about to this day! It’s great to have a roommate you feel comfortable with and with whom you share similar interests or fashion sense, but you should always ask your roommate before borrowing something of his or hers and vice versa. When you do return that item, return it in as good as or better condition than when you borrowed it. (Word to the wise: Don’t borrow or share boyfriends. This is usually not good for your relationship as roommates.)

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8. Use of living space.
This concept especially applies if you are sharing the actual bedroom with your roommate. Each of you may have completely different personalities, viewpoints and personal style preferences, and while you can certainly decorate your particular sides of the room in your own way, you want to make sure that neither one of your style choices makes the other too uncomfortable. For example, if your roommate decides to plaster a lot of nude photos or a Confederate flag on the wall and that makes you queasy, speak up. College is the time to be exposed to all sorts of different worldviews, so it is important to choose your battles wisely, but if you feel that your roommate’s decorations are appallingly offensive, politely tell them that it makes you uncomfortable.

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9. Best way to reach you.
In case of emergencies, you always want to have backup. Store each other’s phone numbers into your phones so that if you ever do need them at the least convenient time, you will be able to contact each other. One late night early in my first semester of freshman year, I was almost locked out of my room because I left my key in a friend’s car downtown (I was young!), and without my roommate’s number, I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get back in until the next day. Luckily, my roommate was around to let me into the dorm, but I could have avoided a lot of anxiety if I had just gotten my roommate’s number in the first place. (Would have avoided even more anxiety, had I kept ahold of my key, but hey- freshman year is the time you’ll make the most mistakes.)

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10. Noise habits.
The roommate with the loud set of speakers who likes to practice his music always seems to get paired up with the quiet roommate who would prefer complete silence. Find a place for compromise and stick to it.

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11. Study habits.
These often border on noise habits because many times, roommates will fight over the noise levels in the room while doing homework or studying. If you can’t come to an agreement on the appropriate level of noise for the room during certain hours of studying, then you should take turns in going to the library to study and making loud noise on other parts of the campus.

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12. Chores.
Although some tasks are entirely your own responsibility (such as how often you decide to do laundry), others are important for the entire room. Who is going to vacuum the floor/clean off the kitchen surfaces/put away dishes? For my first two years in the dorms, my roommates and I often battled over who had to take out the trash. Although we devised a trash schedule to take care of this problem both years, I often found myself picking up the slack and resenting my roommates for it, even though we were all friends, and one time I even fell down the stairs carrying trash out when I was sick. Talk with your roommates early on to figure out what needs to be done as far as cleaning goes, and figure out who is going to do it when.

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13. Bathroom schedules.
If you and your roommate both have a 9 a.m. class and you both want to take a shower beforehand, how are you going to decide who gets the bathroom? Devise a schedule so you can figure out if one of you needs to get up earlier than usual, or if you should merely switch your showers to the evening. This way, you aren’t completely pressed for time in the mornings and caught off guard because of it.

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14. Personal space and alone time.
When you’re an independent person who suddenly has to share a bedroom with someone, it can be a difficult adjustment. Chances are, your roommate feels the same way. If you can figure this out early on, it will be easier to decide how you might be able to create your own brief solitude while your roommate is in class or at a club meeting. If you like to keep to yourself, this is also important for your roommate to know, so that he or she doesn’t bother you too much and so that you don’t seem too cold or distant.

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15. Methods for dealing with conflict.
Having a roommate can be one of the most exciting aspects of dorm life, but occasionally you won’t see eye to eye on things. (Tweet this!) In such cases as these, it is important to know your roommate well enough to know the best ways to communicate with him or her in the face of a conflict. Talk about your personal styles for coping with such disputes early on, so that you know the best ways to seek compromise with one another.

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Some questions for readers:

– What are some of your worries about dorm life?
– If you have already lived in a dorm, what were some conflicts you ran into? Ways you fixed them?
– What other topics would you like to read about in future Freshman 15 posts? 

The Friday Five: Roommates You Meet In College

Throughout your time in college, you will come across students from all walks of life. In the past, we’ve talked about the boys you meet in college, the girls you meet in college and the friendships you cultivate in college, but in some cases, you won’t even have to travel past your own dorm room or residence hall to find an interesting mix of people. Living on campus will not only teach you about yourself and how you function away from home, but it will also provide you with a roommate you will always remember (for better or for worse!).

This week, we’ll talk about the five types of roommates you might end up living with. In the comments section, please feel free to include your own dorm life experiences and any additional roommate types you encountered in your time on campus!

The Friday Five: Roommates You Meet In College

1. The Stranger.
When you first received your housing assignment, you were told that one of your roommates would be a girl named Anna. After you move in, you see Anna’s stuff all around the dorm and her name on the door sign, but throughout the next several months, you and your other roommates hardly (if ever) actually see Anna in person. Anna is a prime example of The Stranger, a roommate who probably exists but whose rare presence suggests otherwise. The Stranger comes in two subsets: a. The Stranger Who Is Never Home, or b. The Stranger Who Holes Up In His/Her Room (ie. Total Loner). You often wonder if this person is either out on a secret agent mission, or creating a meth lab in his or her section of the dorm.

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2. The Overzealous Overachiever.
Unlike The Stranger, The Overzealous Overachiever makes his or her presence known in the dorm room and beyond. This person is usually excited about something, whether it’s an internship, the number of As he or she got on recent exams, or a big event he or she is organizing. The Overzealous Overachiever can be a little exhausting to hang out with in large doses, but is also a great resource when you want to know what is happening on campus or which professor to take for Speech. Avoid this person during midterms and finals week.

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3. The Bedroom Socialite.
The Bedroom Socialite embraces his or her single status by inviting over as many “romantic” partners as possible. This can be problematic if the two of you share a bedroom, but even if you live in an apartment-style dorm, you are still generally privy to the walk of shame and the endless string of visitors who walk in and out of your place. Don’t try to get to know these people by name; they will only be replaced in the days and weeks to come. The Bedroom Socialite is not ashamed of his or her number of conquests. In fact, if this roommate is a girl, she will most likely be proud of her “progressive” outlook on hooking up and relationships; if your roommate is a guy, then he will simply be proud because, well, he’s a guy.

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4. The Crazy Conservative.
Depending on your personal viewpoints, this person may not actually be a “crazy conservative,” but rather a “loony liberal,” or anyone else who veers away from your own personal beliefs. The Crazy Conservative has radically different viewpoints from you, and this can occasionally cause tension in your roommate dynamic, especially when both of you are politically minded. Instead of resorting to name-calling and heated debates, try subscribing to the “agree-to-disagree” mindset when interacting with this person, and embrace your differences in order to become friends.

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5. The Best Friend.
Whether you knew each other in high school or simply clicked in college, people often see the two of you as a package deal. Living together, you scarcely get anything done because you’re too busy getting into crazy antics or just having late night talks and gossip sessions. You get along well and don’t come across too much conflict by living together. See “Best Friend” in my post about the gradients of friendship for further details.

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Confession… I have had mainly awesome roommate experiences in the past two years, but many of my friends did come across several of the above roommates during their time in the dorms.

Readers: What types of roommates have you encountered?