Senior year of college, I decided to be an RA. Yep, a dorm-rule-abiding-camp-counselor-wannabe-please-everyone-just-get-along resident assistant.
Not because I love summer camp or crafts. Because I don’t. In fact, the closest I’ve been to camp is watching Wet Hot American Summer. But, I thought it would be a great way to save some money and perhaps offer a little guidance to 30 bright-eyed and bushy tailed freshman. After all, it wasn’t long ago that I happened to be one.
As a freshman, and from my freshman perspective, I remember thinking I was pretty sweet. I knew where the cool parties were. I knew where to purchase peach schnapps. And I knew it tasted best when mixed with sprite and orange juice from the 5th floor vending machine. I knew every vespa-driving Dominos delivery man by name and would plead a convincing case for why they should give me a free cheesy bread at 3AM. After all, I was broke. I had brunch every Sunday at the cafeteria with my girlfriends to recount our weekend drama, or what we could remember of it. And I had a full wardrobe of Wet Seal “going out” tops. I had life pretty much figured out…
Fast-forward to senior year and I had a very different perspective. I still knew where the cool parties were, but I opted for cooler bars. And while I did frequent some house parties, there tended to be a lot more conversation and a lot less T-Pain. I not only knew where to purchase peach schnapps, but I also knew never to drink that crap. I no longer knew the Dominos delivery men and when I did get a whiff of cheesy bread, I was quickly reminded of 60 minute elliptical sessions. I was no longer broke, in fact, I was tending bar and making close to $300 per night. My classless sex-in-the-city brunches had been replaced by mimosas with my boyfriend. And my wardrobe now contained mostly casual chic pieces, an effort that Stacey London and Clinton Kelly would certainly applaud.
Lucky for the 30 freshman that came under my wing, I could bestow upon them three years of college wisdom. Here are some tips I gave them:
- Be social on your floor. Believe it or not, the friendships you make on your floor freshman year will last all four years.
- Embrace your roommate. Whether you like them or not, your roommate will teach you something about yourself that you did not know. And, that, in itself, is worth the experience, no matter how painful it may seem today.
- Don’t sweat academics. You are not the only person that failed the midterm. So don’t freak out and drop the class. Just finish the race. For most professors, how you finish is all that matters.
- Practice makes perfect. If you take a foreign language, find a foreign exchange student to practice with early on. Too many of us only do this after studying abroad junior year.
- Get off campus once a week. It will improve your sanity and remind you that there is in fact a world outside of going to class, going to the gym, going to the cafeteria, and going to the library.
- Get a part-time job. Even if it is just an on-campus work study. Even if you don’t need the money. A job keeps you from procrastinating and makes you feel accomplished on a daily basis.
- Don’t ask your roommate to go everywhere with you. While you may feel stupid to go anywhere alone in your first few weeks, you look more dumb attached to your roommate’s hip.
- Know your drinking limits. Nothing is more unattractive than someone getting sick on their way back to their dorm.
- Get lost. Whether it is on a metro, on a bus, on a bike, or on your two feet. Explore your surroundings and take ownership of your campus. It will be yours for four years.
- Go to class. It’s a lot easier to skip class now that no one accounts for your attendance. Don’t make it a habit because sleeping in everyday is not as cool as it sounds.
- Intern during the summers and/or semesters. Internships are integral to your resume and your job search senior year. They are all pretty much the same so make the most of each one by meeting as many people as possible. Networking is crucial so utilize tools like LinkedIn to stay in touch with professionals.
- Don’t lose touch with high school friends. These friendships will last forever so make time for them during your time apart.
- Stay classy. Take a cue from Ron Burgundy. Know what is appropriate and know there is a time and a place for everything. And girls, don’t wear an outfit out tonight that you wouldn’t want to be seen in tomorrow at 9AM.
But, as much advice as myself or any RA could ever give, there are some things that you need to learn for yourself. I guess the college experience is just that, an experience. After four years, you will have it figured out. And if you don’t, just do a 5th year.
Lauren McKibben is a guest blogger on DormDelicious. She recently launched her own website, CollegeKnowItAll, where students and alumni rate their college. The free site offers a college blog and jobs and internships for college students. She holds a BS in Science, Technology, and International Affairs from Georgetown University.