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ten on tuesday: i should’ve known…

Carole is quite good at provoking lists on Tuesdays, and this week’s focus is 10 Things You Wish You Had Known When You Started College. Without any further dawdling (and yes, there is a cycling post in the works – I’ve just been busy with work and life, of late)…..

  1. Life is too short for cheap beer. Some of the swill I ingested in my early college days was vile. These days, I’ll have an occasional PBR or Miller, but 99 percent of the time, I’m after something craft brewed, microbrewed, or at the very least a beer with personality and flavor (e.g. Guinness).
  2. It’s OK to stand up for your choices, which goes hand-in-hand with…
  3. It’s possible to start over again. Originally, I was supposed to go to the University of Colorado at Boulder for my freshman year of college. I’d even paid the deposit, been assigned a dorm, etc. But a familial squabble put the brakes on that, and I started at the University of Utah – a fine school, but not where I needed to be at that time in my life. So, after two years of feeling meh at “The U,” I transferred to Connecticut College (after a 5 month stint working in Rocky Hill, CT), moved in mid-year, and thrived. And it was a college of my own choosing. And it’s where I met sprite.
  4. Good fences make good neighbors. Ben Franklin was right about this. Living in a dorm with a mix-and-match population in terms of tastes, lifestyles, music choices and the like makes you value the ability to close your door every so often to get some privacy and peace.
  5. Never be afraid to take risks on things you know nothing about. I think that’s something that hampered me at Utah: it is a huge school with a lot of opportunities, both in terms of academics and activities. On the academic end, I was disappointed that my original major wasn’t inspiring, and I let that set me academically adrift for two quarters, at least. I did, however, become a music reporter for the student newspaper, which allowed me a lot of access into the music and journalism worlds.
  6. Be willing to admit defeat and move on with more motivation. It’s true, my original major (meteorology) didn’t pan out, but after I picked up my chin, I found my bearings and decided upon a major I loved (international relations), which provided the inspiration to move east and transfer into Conn College.
  7. Never burn a bridge, but choose your friends wisely. As Carole notes in her list, the friends you make in college are often your friends for life. And I’m still close with a lot of my college friends. But there are close friends and there are folks with whom you were friendly but who wouldn’t factor in your life, post-college. And seeing as I’m a social guy, I had to learn the demarcation between the two – a valuable lesson that, if I’d known it before college, I’d have likely had a bit more fun.
  8. Be spontaneous. I was never really a spontaneous guy before college, and it took catharsis (my parents’ divorce going on while living at home being a primary catalyst) to get me to spontaneity. I submitted transfer applications. I moved east without knowing whether I’d be accepted at any school to which I applied. I had no job, but landed one in a music store. I went on a madcap drive to Cape Cod to see the sunrise over the ocean on my 22nd birthday. I danced in the rain and knocked huge puddles off of outdoor tents. I went sledding on the roof of the athletic center during a blizzard. I soaked up every moment of my short time at Conn, a lot of it spontaneously.
  9. Be flexible. There’s no real owner’s manual for being a college student. It’s an individual experience, dependent on the person and, even more so, the context of the situation (the particular school, the age of the student, geography, climate, etc.). And circumstances can change with the wind. Along with spontaneity comes the need for flexibility. The class you want may be full or cancelled. Your roommate may be a complete asshole. There may be a floor party in your dorm while you are taking double credits and need to study. A kitchen fire may force you to spend a night out at the diner as the local fire department clears the smoke out of the halls of your dorm. Being able to adapt makes this possible.
  10. Smile – a lot.
  11. ETA: It’s OK to transfer to another college. It’s often very difficult to tell whether a college will be the right fit when you’re coming out of high school, still a teenager, having not lived away from home for any period longer than a few weeks. If things don’t feel right, give the school you’re at a chance – at least a year, possibly two – just to see if things will change. If they change for the better, great! If not, remember that it’s OK to transfer to another school. (And an aside to this: make sure to get a well-rounded core curriculum done in your first two years of college, and try to do well in those classes – it makes the transfer process far less painful.)

So, folks, I turn the mic over to you: what do you wish you’d known before college?

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