This Foreigner's 10 Tips For American College-Bound Kids


This weekend, I watched a U.S. news clip of a father tucking in the sheets on his kid's dormitory bunk bed. I actually said it out loud to the TV screen: "I hope you (kid who hasn't learned how to make your own bed) appreciates what you've got."

As a middle-aged professional and part-time professor, here's what else I would tell this year's crop of college-bound freshmen:

1. Have a broadly-defined career plan. Yes, you will change your mind and even, perhaps, your major. College will change you. Let it. But make sure that every course and internship you take follows a trajectory toward your passion.

2. Don't lie. Ever. If you screwed up, didn't complete the paper, say so. This is how you gain and retain respect. Lying is how you lose it.

3. If someone puts his or her own reputation on the line to help you get an internship or job (or get into this college), this is a big deal. Don't abuse it by acting like a bratty 5-year-old.

4. Small town kid off to big-city college? Wahoo for you. Take every opportunity you can to meet, do, say, love somebody different from yourself. Be bold. Venture forth. Take risks. If you're a young woman, shush those 'nay' voices inside your head or from with your own family and go kick some serious you-know-what.

5. This is your public health warning: Think STDs, date rape (and yes, boys, that really applies to you), alcohol poisoning, drug overdose and avoidable pedestrian and building-related injuries. You *can* get a degree from the ICU hospital bed, but it's not the best way to do it.

6. Learn and practice humility: Your profs, your new boss, your mentor, your internship supervisor or the person across the job interview table really *does* know more than you. It's an age and stage thing.

7. Take a rhetoric and/or public speaking class: Employees who write and speak well gain their colleagues' respect and are infinitely more promote-able. Trust me on this one.

8. Take a creative or reflective writing class (poetry, fiction, personal essay, journaling) to find out who you really are. There is no greater self-confidence booster than coming to know and treasure your own individuality.

9. Have manners. Send that "Thank-You" card. Oh, and the response to "thank you," is "you're welcome." (Not, 'Yep.').

10. Have a blast. Really! This time in your life will never come again. So stop comparing yourself with others and remind yourself that you've gotten this far and by gum, you're going to make the best of it.