I’ve reached the point in my 20’s where I have an equal number of friends that are way too old for me, and ones that are way too young. Like, distract the bouncer so these kids can sneak into Tonga Room young.
From this experience, I can confidently tell you that there is no greater pleasure than being asked for advice that you have no business giving. Especially during college acceptance season. Now is the time to dole out those tips for anyone committing to their next four years of university life. So when my spry, too young to remember flip phones friend asked for my advice, I was all too happy to dedicate an entire written piece to this upcoming cohort of dorm room criers.
They won’t give you this advice at orientation, folks.
Find your bathrooms
No, not find a bathroom, but your bathroom. You’re about to live on campus. There will be week-long periods throughout which you slowly set up camp in the library. Most will advise you to find a place that you love to study, or take a nap, but let me tell you — there’s nothing more important than a good bathroom situation on a college campus. In all likelihood, your dorm or apartment bathroom will be gross as hell. No one is cleaning, there’s hairspray on the mirror, there are dried contact lenses on the floor. If you happen to live in a frat house then you’re better off just holding it. So really, campus is your only opportunity to find a clean, well lit, peaceful place to pee. This becomes especially important on huge campuses, and come finals week, when you finally make the switch to an all caffeine diet, you’ll be thanking me. You’re going to want to look for newer buildings, but there are some real gems in older buildings — marble sinks, huge mirrors, graffiti from 1983. Some UCLA freebies — Dental school second floor, Royce Hall basement, Botany faculty bathroom. Find your sanctuaries and never tell anyone about it.
Get creative with your passive aggression
Your roommates will drive you crazy. Don’t deny it, just expect. But once in a while, they’ll do something so minor yet so egregious that it will haunt you for days. You tell your friends about it, you question “ why, oh why would she leave a bowl of oatmeal on her desk over the entire winter break”. You draft up several texts or consider having a real conversation, but ultimately decide against it, claiming “harmony amongst roommates” to be more important. Ultimately, you’ll have to let all these things go and continue to coexist, but you can always find creative ways to get even. Honestly, why bother with all the hassle of confrontation when you can just drop one of her moccasins out the window? Or, steal her sweetener packets. Little victories.
Leave campus often
If you go to a big school, campus will likely have everything you’d ever want. Mine had kombucha on tap —need I say more? But it’s so important to remember that there’s a whole world out there. More importantly, it’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that is your higher education experience, that you forget to plan ahead. Trust me, it feels so much better to come back to your college town and feel like you own it. Find a restaurant that makes you happy, a bus ride that helps you think, a place to get cheap shoes downtown. Make yourself a city scavenger hunt and go find your places.
Use your friends
A natural precursor to the corporate “employ your networks!” Make friends with people that can help you, and that you can help back. Find the people you like to study with, the people who can cook you nice dinners, who know the best spots in town. Know the people who have the best washing machine or a cool balcony. Trade some lecture notes for a tray of cupcakes. Not everyone will be your best friend, but everyone can have a part in your college experience. Be good to your friends and they’ll be good back.
To drugs and alcohol! In moderation, they can be very conducive to a fun time. But more so than that, say yes to new things with new people. For me, it took saying yes to a dinner, and saying yes to singing along during a drunken, after dinner jam session. Now, I’m part of a scattered network of wannabe musicians that record songs from our quarantine couches. A chance encounter facilitated by an openness to trying new things can resurface as something that changes your life forever. That’s not going to happen if you eat lucky charms in your room all weekend.
Don’t cry in the dining halls
Cry literally anywhere else. Everywhere else. It’s encouraged and accepted. Remember that everyone walking around you is an anxious mess. But if you so much as bat a dewey eyelash in the omelette line, every human around will ask if you’re ok, and it’s really hard to come up with excuses before breakfast.
Write things down
What I wouldn’t give to have any written record of the thoughts and whims from my college brain! Everything moves by so fast — so fast — that it’s easy to quickly forget about something that felt so drastic in the moment. Always think of your life as a story. Bad experiences are just an opportunity to write another chapter. Use the notes app on your phone and write down ideas, feelings, frustrations. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
For the love of god don’t go to Trader Joes on a Sunday
Everyone and their mothers (literally) will be there. Avoid it. Wednesday morning — that’s your sweet spot.
And always remember, you have a friend. Write to me and I’ll send you back some sassy advice.
Give em hell, kiddos.
Your wise, old friend.