4 College Tips That Won't Make Your Teenager's Eyes Roll

Father Helping Daughter Move into Dormitory
Father Helping Daughter Move into Dormitory

Because many of my friends are, like me, the parents of soon-to-be or current college students, my Facebook feed is officially on college-tips overload: Things Nobody Tells You About Freshman Year; How To Avoid The Freshman Fifteen; Advice For My Son/Daughter Leaving For College; Don't Forget To Pack...(fill in the blank), and so on. The advice is all good, all completely spot-on, and all necessary, but as with most well-meaning advice to teenagers, will almost certainly be met with a collective eye roll.

I'd like to offer an alternate perspective to the "don't skip class/get lots of sleep/join a club/make new friends" well-meaning parents. Here are a few tips that you might consider offering your future collegian -- some of which I know for a fact work, some I wish I had been told when I went to college, and all of which probably will make you shriek in horror but will guarantee your child's attention.

Old advice: You're now one of many thousands on campus, instead of one of hundreds (or fewer) in high school, but if you just be yourself, eventually you'll make new friends.
New advice: Be more than your old self -- let your freak flag fly.

Let's be honest. If you struggled through high school as anything less than king or queen of the prom, you're not going to magically become popular just because you're in new surroundings. You've probably been told by your parents that if you just be yourself, eventually everyone else will see the jewel inside of you (the one that your parents have loved all along), and you'll make lots of friends. Except that it's already been 12 full years of school and apparently nobody ever got the memo.

So why not embrace your "otherness" and make it work for you rather than against you? You know who you are -- you're the drama kid, the nerdy kid, the emo kid, the kid obsessed with sci-fi, the kid who likes to wear trench coats and goth eye makeup. I promise you, there are many more of you in college than there were in your high school, and because there's power in numbers, everyone's a lot less judgmental, so now's the time to double down and break out. Who knows? You might even discover you're a leader. In college, different is the new cool.

Old advice: Make sure you show up for every class, and always be on time.
New advice: Don't stress if you oversleep once or twice for your 8:00 a.m. (or 9:00 a.m.) class, because the world will keep on spinning.

Of course I'm not advocating blowing off your classes on a regular basis -- we're paying serious money for this education! But realistically, you're going to be up late a lot -- probably (hopefully) studying, but just as likely hanging out with your friends because you have no curfew -- so it's equally probable that you're going to sleep through a couple of alarms.

I repeat, don't make it a habit, but since sufficient sleep and low stress are as important factors to good grades as the class itself, I'd rather you miss a class and move on than get overly stressed about what you missed, or sit there like a sleepless zombie and forget everything the professor said. And for most freshman classes in 500-seat lecture halls taught by disgruntled professors waiting for tenure, you're probably better off going to the TA and asking questions afterward, anyway.

Old advice: Don't get in trouble!
New advice: Get in (just) a little trouble.
Not enough that you risk your grades or scholarship, certainly. But just enough so that when you have your own children, and they assume that you were as boring in college as they think you are now in middle age, you get to have a slight smile play around your mouth, while they wonder if maybe, just maybe, you might be a little interesting, after all.

Finally, and most important of all:
Old advice: Call or text your parents frequently with updates of your activities, as well as any problems you encounter.
New advice: Only call if you see blood.
Actually, if you see blood, go to the campus clinic, because they can help you a lot more than I can from a city or a state far away.

Seriously, it's not that I'm not interested in your new life. Of course I'm dying to know about your new friends, your classes, your professors, and your general state of mind. You're my adored child, for goodness sake, and I've been intimately involved in your life for 18 years. But that's exactly why, for the sake of both our maturation processes, you should resist the urge to share every detail of your life with me.

Just as you need to learn to tackle problems and challenges on your own, I in turn need to learn to let go and stop enabling you. This doesn't mean you should ignore me completely, especially when it comes to good news that I can brag about (dean's list, made the tennis team, etc.) and yes, I definitely will want to know about any new boyfriend/girlfriend (c'mon, I'm not that chill).

But, all the previous advice above notwithstanding, I don't actually need to know that you slept through your 8:00 a.m. class, or that you discovered I lied when I told you tequila shots would make your hair fall out, or that your roommate is teaching you how to ride a motorcycle and your state doesn't have a helmet law. Your generation invented the term TMI for a good reason, and my lack of gray hair appreciates it.

But, fair is fair. Don't call me to ask if you can put a red shirt in the wash with your white socks, or is it ok to microwave corn inside the can, or how do you get beer stains out of the rug. You'll figure it out (albeit the hard way), the sky won't fall, and you'll have joined the ranks of millions of teenagers who have discovered the joys, as well as the agonies, of independence.

Welcome to the club, freshman. You're in for a great ride.