in which i attempt to bestow my (questionable) knowledge of college

For the prosperity of those who have not yet started college, I have rounded up a few ideas for unsolicited advice.  I'm not claiming to be any kind of expert (not even close), but I did learn quite a bit about the whole crazy college business when I began last fall.  

Some background information:  I go to a small (we're talking 2,000 students small) liberal arts college in Portland, OR.  I am currently on the track to become a Theatre major with a concentration in Design (Costume, specifically).  I am starting my sophomore year this fall.  For posts about my time in college so far, go here.

Okay.  I am going to try to be as concise as possible, but I will admit this is not one of my strongest qualities...

Finding Your New Home for the Next Four Years
There are a number of ways to approach finding the college for you. For instance, some people are completely set in their career path going into college--these people should find the college that has the best program for their goals.  Other people are concerned with the price tag (as you rightly should be), and opt for the most affordable option.  Finally, people (like me) decide based on location.  After visiting Portland for a yearbook convention my junior year of high school (see here and here), I decided it was the place I would most like to study and explore.  Some people want to try out a new place for four years because they know they will end up starting their careers back home, and some people (like me) can envision themselves living there after college.  

Take all of these factors into account when researching colleges, and decide which one is most important to you and which will make you happiest overall.

P.S. Your School's Class of ____ Facebook Page is Lame
Don't let your college's groups get get you down!  Last summer people added me as a friend and come school time we would awkwardly try to strike up conversation or pass each other (multiple times a day because my school is small) and not even acknowledge one another. Your real friends will be the ones you make in person; not the ones that happen to love the same band as you. My advice is to not accept any friend requests because if you don't hit it off in person, it will be hard to see their frequent posts in your feed once school starts if they seem to be having a better time than you/making more friends than you/just seem cooler than you. I say this from experience!

That Person Sleeping a Couple of Yards Away From You
Roommates.  Can't live with them, can't live without them (unless you want to pay a bunch of extra money).  I was very lucky to not have any problems with my roommate this past year.  We were very different and had different things going on, so we never really got in each other's way (for the most part, at least).  You might end up with someone who has absolutely nothing in common with you, and that's okay.  Sometimes it's even for the best.

Just like any relationship, the most important thing is communication.  Be very upfront about your habits, and address things that you think might be annoying to your roommate.  They may not be comfortable bringing it up themselves, so make sure you ask them is something bothers them.  If something they do annoys you, try to be laid-back about it unless they are distracting you from your work or sleep.

Sharing your Struggles, Triumphs, and Hopeless Crushes With Those You Love

If you decide to go out of state or out of town, or have friends who do, it's important to remember that whatever struggles you encounter, you have friends and family who love you and want to hear from you, even if all you want to do is complain sometimes.  Skype, FaceTime, iChat, call, text, email, or write to those you care about so that they know how much you appreciate their love and support. I had a rough first month friend-wise, so keeping in touch with my friends and family back home and elsewhere was vital to my sanity.  If not for them, I would have had an even tougher time.

Before you leave for school, stock up on some stationary and stamps so you can send some snail mail once in a while.  Getting mail is fun.  Simple as that.  Care packages are even more fun--if your family does this for you once in a while, don't forget to tell them how much it brightens your day, week, even month.  I am lucky enough to have very generous family members--my grandma sends me packages for every holiday, big or small!  

As lame as it sounds, absence really does make the heart grow fonder.  The distance from my friends and family has made me appreciate them more than ever.  I feel closer to friends who I haven't seen in months than I did when I saw them every day.

Making Friends That Don't Suck
I'm going to get real with you here, not because I want sympathy or pity, but because I want you to know that if this happens to you, you are not alone.  Making friends was hard for me.  I left behind a group of people that were the best possible friends you could ask for--sweet, fun, crafty, hilarious, intelligent, talented, stylish, all-around awesome people.  This very concrete vision of friendship obscured the reality of making new friends.

After many awkward meals alone or with strangers, I finally started to latch onto whatever group was around at the time.  I spent random nights with groups of people, until finally settling into one.  I thought I had found a steady group of friends, but what I really had found was a group of people that tolerated my presence at meals.  When I would text them to see what they were doing during the weekend, they never invited me to join them or didn't answer at all.  I spent these weekends crying and watching my Glee DVDs.  Despite this, I still tried to be friends with these people, only sometimes being included when they hung out.  Even when things felt like they were getting better, I never felt the connection I have with my friends back home.  Not even close.

It wasn't until late September that I got to know some people that I finally felt that I could relate to, one of which was Ted.  We talked about Harry Potter and watched Glee and New Girl each week.  These were my kind of people.  When October Break came around, a bunch of us had a Disney movie marathon, some of us went downtown together to see 50/50 and get bubble tea, and Ted and I had our first date, and we all went to dinner for his birthday.  YEP.  LIFE TURNED AROUND THAT QUICKLY.

However, even though I now have a boyfriend (that is one of the best friends I've ever had) and a couple of good girl friends (that I can count on to watch Pretty Little Liars with and humor my extreme love of Christmas), I still have a lot of work to do in the friend department.  For now, I am just thankful to have a couple of people I can go to when I am homesick or feeling discouraged.  That's important to have.

Although it seemed miserable at the time, all of my bad experiences led me to Ted and a better group of friends.  I will never forget one of the first Fridays I spent with that first failed group--We went to Shabbat.  Mostly because there was free ice cream, but also because we had nothing better to do.  It was there that I saw Ted for the first time.  When the rabbi asked us what beautiful things we had seen in nature that week, Ted raised his hand and said, "Well, this wasn't in nature, but I saw this really attractive picture of Emma Watson the other day."  That killed me.  Who was this kid?  I didn't even know he went to our school until after it was over and he came up to us to introduce himself.  He said, "Hi, I'm Ted.  I live upstairs."  (The service was in a dorm lounge.)  I remember this so clearly.  So thank you, failed group, for that.

Be patient, but also be persistent when it comes to making new friends.

Finding that Special Bearded Person 
I was so annoyed when couples started popping up after just a couple of weeks of school. I was like, Seriously?  I whined about it pretty consistently for about a month until I met Ted, started seriously crushing on him, and promptly made him my boyfriend in about a two week span.  Not only is this completely crazy, I never expected such a thing to happen to me of all people.

I realize that Ted and I are not the norm (for many, many reasons), and I do not encourage you to think this is going to happen to you just because it happened to some nerdy short girl like me.  College dating is bizarre, and at times should not even be given the name dating because that seems too wholesome a word.  

There will be girls who you see dancing (if you can even call it that) with a different guy every time you look away and girls that flirt with everyone.  Whatever.  Just look away and tune it out.

There will be girls who would rather be independent than worry about dating.  Awesome.

There will be girls who worry very much about dating.  Tell them to chill out.  If you are one of them--chill out.

There will be girls who just kind of go with the flow, but secretly (or not so secretly) want to find that special someone.  I'm like this.  I think a healthy dose of fangirling on tumblr (Darren Criss, anyone?) helps alleviate your need to love/obsess.

Whatever kind of girl you are, don't let your dating habits get in the way of what you're really at college to do--to have a fun, enlightening experience.  Don't spend too much time whining about being single. This not only makes you feel bad about yourself, it also doesn't do anything to improve on the matter.  Get out there.  Go to Friday night Shabbat.  

Okay, maybe don't go to Shabbat.  Unless you want to.  What I mean to say is, go out of your comfort zone to meet new people.  This way, you can't blame yourself for being single--you can blame all the idiots you are meeting who don't realize how awesome you are.

Having a Social Life Vs. Having a Netflix Account
Let's be honest here. Sometimes the most appealing option on a Friday night is to curl up into a ball on your bed and watch 30 Rock.  I've done it, and I can say that it was all I dreamt of and more.  But don't do this every time you have the urge to. Come on, it's Friday night!  Netflix is for weeknights when you need a distraction from your constant paper-writing.

I have been known to work on projects on Friday nights.  So sue me.  Sometimes it just feels good to get things done before the fun.  Even so, you must remember that although studying is important, so is your sanity.  Don't become a hermit.  Get out there and do stuff.  I am lucky enough to be a 15 minute shuttle away from downtown Portland, so I try to go every weekend, even if it's just to hang out in my favorite tea place and do homework or browse shops with friends.  If you don't get away once in a while, you'll go a little stir-crazy.

However, if money is an issue, going out every weekend may not sound doable to you.  I personally have a lot of "college student guilt." I don't feel like I deserve to be spending any money, because I am already going to my dream school in my favorite city ever. Even if you feel this way, remember that you DO deserve to have fun. Money doesn't equal fun. Remember that college is meant to be an experience. Preferably, a FUN experience. Do yourself good by getting out once in a while, even if it just means a coffee, cupcake, or movie. 

Finding a Job So You Feel Okay About Spending Money on Just a Coffee, Cupcake, or Movie
Getting an on-campus job is a good idea if you qualify for work study.  I was surprised to find that finding a job is not as hard as you may think.  I was fortunate to get a job working in the costume shop at my school's theatre department right away.  Not only did I learn a lot (mostly from my many mistakes), it gave me a look into how my chosen career path will look.  Whether your job ends up being relevant or not, it is a good way to gain some job experience in a forgiving school environment. 

Oh Wait, I'm Here to Actually Go to Classes...
Wait, what?  Classes?  Studying?  Papers?  

Yep, that's what this whole college is actually meant for.  Who knew?

A few things to remember...

If you don't know what you want to study, start taking general requirements and as many classes as possible in the subjects that you are interested in pursuing as a major.

If you do know what you want to study, dive in, but don't forget about general requirements (I will cry if I have to take a lab my senior year... just cry) and take a variety of electives that challenge your mind in different ways. 

Have confidence in your thoughts, and share them.  My biggest struggle was accepting that I deserved to be at my school.  In class, it's so easy to assume everyone else is smarter than you.  Sometimes someone says something completely off the wall so confidently that you think to yourself, They must know what they are talking about...  If you ever feel this way, remember--you got into this school.  You can handle the work, and you have more than enough to offer.

Pick a night or two to watch your favorite shows live with friends in a dorm lounge.  It is such a great way to take a mental break from your workload and it's much more fun to squeal over Blaine and Kurt during Glee with fellow Klainers than watch it all alone in your room.  Plus, this is an easy way to meet new people who have similar interests.

Always finish a paper to turn in at its earliest due date.  If I hadn't finished my paper on Greek Tragedy before October break last Fall, I wouldn't have had all that time to watch Disney movies with my future bearded boyfriend.  GET IT DONE SO YOU CAN HAVE GUILT-FREE FUN.  Leave angry notes all over your desk if needed.

Some people need their coffee, others need their Sourpatch Kids.  Find your fuel for late nights.

Take naps if necessary.  Naps are for winners (aka students who would rather stay up super late to finish a paper than wake up early to finish it).

Above all--keep stress levels at a minimum.  You are capable of every task that is handed to you, even if it feels like a stretch at times. It's up to you (and your Sourpatch Kids) how it gets done, how much you will procrastinate, how much time it will take (versus how long you can draw it out), and how many times you can look at it until your eyes start to burn.  Stay calm, and it will usually work out.

One More Thing...
Bake a batch of cookies or cupcakes every once in a while and spread the love.  This past year I made cupcakes a few times to hand out to friends and lucky strangers.  There is nothing that college students love more than free food, especially if it's homemade.  I'm the kind of person who loves bringing a smile to someone's face in a small way.  I made Christmas cookies during one of our reading days before finals and it put everyone in the holiday spirit, despite the looming exams.  Study hard, but remember that college is a once in a lifetime experience--make sweet memories.

Whew!  That was a long one.  If I think of anything else I will add it, but if I don't post this now it will soon become ready to be published as a survival book for freshmen.  Feel free to leave your own advice in the comments--I know there are so many other perspectives and experiences out there. 

Best of luck. xoxo Kaylie


Maggie Shirley said...

This is actually the cutest post anyone has ever posted on anything. Such good advice, and so fun. Also, I just love it any time you talk about Ted.

My advice for incoming freshmen: Just do college the complete opposite way that I've done college and you'll do fine.

Bookish.Spazz said...

^Haha, Maggie.

And I really enjoyed reading this post!

Isaac said...

Sorry about jumping on your post, but I just want an opportunity to throw in my bit.

I got lucky and they actually had me take a single at a reduced price because they needed to fill them. Having a single was nice...

I actually picked my college based on extra-curricular activities, and that's basically where most of my friendships came from. The Quidditch team here is basically my family.
Also, study groups are good ways to find friends. My best friend is a guy who sat next to me in Calc the first day - sometimes things just fall together.
(Also, you have to remember that, at least in the beginning, everyone else is looking for friends too. So, if you have trouble reaching out, try to imagine you're helping them too (in the least arrogant way possible)).

COLLEGE DATING IS HARD. I accidentally went on a date with a Crack-head the second month into school. It was weird. She didn't look like it, but she brought it up in conversation and that was the end of that...

Also, I totally endorse going to Friday night Shabbat. I went, and now I'm accidentally the religious chair of Hillel at RIT. I think FNS is just a blanket good idea.

Also! Sometimes you can combine movies with your social life (and homework! and many other things as well!). The number of random movie marathons that took place on my floor was ungodly. That Lord of the Rings director cut marathon the week of finals was a mistake.

I still can't manage to get an on-campus job. I should probably try harder...

Also, I fully endorse procrastination. Nothing, and I mean Nothing is more fun than staying up in the library until 3 for a class at 8 because you haven't finished a paper. (No, in fact, this is not fun. Don't make the same mistakes I did)

RIT's big thing is Free Hugs. People love free hugs.

Keri said...

I love you. This post was adorable, and I can't wait for you to mentor your sister through going to college someday. xoxo

Natalie said...

I'll be starting in college in less than a month, so needless to say I will probably be referring back to this post very often in the first few weeks. Or months. Thank you for having such detailed advice. Plus my school is also a small liberal arts school, so I feel like things will be similar. I know I'm going to be so bad at making friends at first, but hopefully I can find a great group of friends (and maybe even a boyfriend as wonderful as Ted? I better not be too optimistic though... haha) sooner or later.

Is said...

This was so cute. I would throw in that going to an "accepted students" day or something is a great way to meet people in your major (or potential major, if you didn't have to declare it upon applying, like I had to!). I actually met a girl with whom I hit it off so well that we decided to be roommates the next year, which was great. She's now one of my best friends.

I'd also say that if you have friends going to the same school, don't spend all your time with them, and definitely DON'T room with them! You want to get out there and meet new people and make new friends.

Dillon said...

Great advice! I too am going into my Sophmore year, and a lot of your expereinces were similar to mine (minus shabbat.) I think it would be safe to say freshman year creates a lot of oppurtunities and you (well, not you, but incoming freshman) should try to take advantage of them!

Lizzie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing this, Kaylie! <3

As Natalie also said, I will probably be referring back to this often. It's just such a wealth of good information! Sometimes it's nice to hear about another person's college experience and even though you know yours will be different, it is still a stage of life most people go through, or at least time after high school, so it's good to connect with it.

I'm looking forward to going out and meeting new people. Like seriously, I think my body released dopamine every time. It's nice.

Jan-ee said...

Great post Kaylie,,,I love learning more about you through your posts!! You can watch those new freshman come in and know what they will be going through! This will will be great for you! everything is way more familiar. love you?