A Big Sister's Sloppy Guide for Freshman Year of College

I promised myself I wouldn't cry today. I have cried every day for the past four days and today -- I told myself -- was going to be different. But the thing is, I somehow managed to get my arm stuck in a mailbox and people were staring.

A package was jamming the chute and I was worried the letter I'd dropped in wouldn't reach its recipient in time. It wasn't a bill or anything time-sensitive like that, but a graduation letter for my little brother. I had no plans of writing one until he emailed me last week saying he couldn't wait to get what I had written. I panicked and stayed up all night writing.

When the letter got stuck between a package and the chute, I couldn't bear to leave it. If I was going to attempt to be a good big sister for once in my life, I was damned sure that envelope was going to get to my brother before graduation. I shoved my arm into the mouth of the mailbox, I could almost feel the Tetanus seeping into my veins and wrapped my fingers around the stuck envelope. It wasn't moving and neither was my arm. I began to tear up. Luckily a man spotted me struggling. He freed my (now bruised and swollen) arm out of the mailbox and was able to fish out the graduation letter too.

"My, what skinny arms you have!" I squealed as he grumpily disappeared into the daylight. I didn't catch his name, but somewhere in Los Angeles there's a man with an angry face and slender arms who saved me from crying a fifth day in a row.

As an adult who cries regularly and has yet to figure out how to mail a letter, I feel it is my duty to warn all 18-year-olds to take my advice at their own risk. But I'm happy, have good memories of college and am on the verge of achieving my wildest dreams. You decide what to take or what to leave.


Some of the lessons I have learned I will dispense in this letter. Others I will leave for you to learn on your own.

To start, forget about what was "cool" in high school. College is a whole different beast. Fashion, lingo and hairstyles change, but there are three things that will forever be cool regardless of your age, location or life stage:

  1. Ambition: Live passionately.
  2. Intelligence: Study hard and don't limit learning to the classroom.
  3. Humor: Find the funny -- it's in every situation.

Use ratemyprofessors.com to find easy professors. Sign up for hard ones too -- they have a higher probability of changing your life.

Don't worry if your first year isn't amazing. Mine wasn't. I didn't feel like I belonged and I missed home. The worst part is everyone else from high school seemed to be having the time of their lives -- don't trust what you see on Facebook. Everyone is scared and uncomfortable their first year and they're all too proud to share it. College is a big adjustment; you just need a clear mind, big heart and open schedule to get used to everything that's going to be thrown in your soon-to-be pudgy face.

I know your girlfriend is the love of your life but try not to leave campus too much. This is the last time you'll ever be a freshman. Enjoy it.

Listen to your college radio station. You'll be first to learn about new bands and you're going to feel so fucking cool about it.

Save $8,000 before you graduate but don't get a job your first year either. I worked a couple of jobs every year after freshman year. I did it. You can do it.

Be friends with the frat guys, they have access to alcohol, old exams and babes. But don't get caught up in the party lifestyle because it's overrated.

Speaking of party lifestyles: cameras are your worst enemy. I don't care if you think your Facebook is so restricted that even NSA couldn't crack it. There are ways to dig up photos. Your talents lie behind the lens anyway: pursue that. I repeat: don't take photos of you drinking, smoking or whatever. It will make your life much easier when you get older. Take the word of a former RA, there are ways to dig up incriminating photos and it will negatively affect your life in manners you couldn't even imagine.

Oh, and speaking of RAs, be nice to yours. Even if you get one of the duddy ones that actually takes his/her job seriously: Be nice. They're students too. They're students that work their asses off to make sure you're safe. They're students that have sacrificed their party life for yours. Just be nice.

Wear protection. STDs are for your mid-20s.

Try everything once. There is a smart and safe way to try drugs, alcohol, piercing your cheeks, gay sex and/or whatever it is that college kids do these days. But don't do anything more than a few times because then it turns into an addiction and addictions are tacky.

Go to your classes. Just do it. You may have some professors who never give exams and upload all the lectures online. Still, go to your classes. It helps make the transition from college to the real world a lot smoother. AND you never know whom you may meet. Dad met Uncle Alan in college, which means your best friend for the next 50 years could be sitting in Statistics 101. While you're at it, introduce yourself to your professors -- it's polite.

Call mom and dad everyday at the same time. You're their baby and the only boy in the family. When you leave it's going to be a hard blow. Call me, but not everyday.

Be kind but don't take shit from anyone. You're too good to let anyone let you feel a modicum of doubt or sadness.

Steal bananas from your dining hall. Use coffee cups to sneak out cereal. Wear your school colors. Sit in the courtyard. Read. Meet with your counselor -- a lot. Pull all-nighters. Wear pajamas everyday. Go to study groups (they're actually fun). Please don't get a tattoo. Be weird. Work hard. Don't jump off of tall things. Or do, you get "free" healthcare for the next four years anyway. Get good grades (it's easy in college). Get a minor. Don't plagiarize. Don't sit on your computer in class -- write notes. Shower. Get internships. Gain weight. Lose weight. Laugh really hard. Talk to the people on your floor. Check out campus jobs. Use the resource center. Collect free t-shirts. Eat free meals. Go to campus events. Have debates. Discuss God. Fight about movies. Go to shows. Be your school's number one fan. All of these experiences are few to non-existent as an adult.

You're going to love college and I know college is going to love you back. Don't worry about the "after" stuff. I'll have a letter waiting for you then too.

I love you. Congrats grad.