When my son, Jack (20), told me he wanted to write a letter full of advice to his sister who is going off to college in August, I was grateful I didn’t hit my head too hard on the way down when I passed out.
Thankfully I only hit a soft cushion, so I was fine.
He meant it, and I’m so glad he did. The following are his words, not mine. Maybe these words will be some encouragement for any of those reading this who have kids going off to college in August or in the next couple of years…
Even though I’m about to be a junior at Baylor University, it feels just like yesterday that I was saying goodbye to you, Elizabeth, Mom and Dad when you dropped me off freshman year. You are so close to having the University of Texas be your new home. Since I am the oldest, all I knew about college was what Mom and Dad had told me. No offense to them, but it has been a long time since they were in college. I mean a long time (sorry, guys).
I want to share with you some of the things that I have learned over my two years in college that I think will help you as you take off into a brand new world. I wish I had been given a list of tips before I had left, so maybe this will help.
Drop-Off: You will be full of so many different emotions the day that you move into your dorm. You are excited to be at college and all of the new people you are going to meet, yet at the same time you are about to say goodbye to your family. It’s a hard day, there’s no way around it. While Mom and Dad are setting up your room, everything is hectic. You don’t have time to stop and think about it. But when they are close to being finished, you slowly realize that they are going to be leaving soon, and that’s when everything hits.
You remember it being hard saying goodbye when you dropped me off, don’t you? Well, it will be even harder when YOU are the one saying goodbye to them. But it doesn’t have to be hard for long. The one thing I would tell you not to do is sit in your room and think about everything. Go meet some of the people on your hall and do something fun, or really anything, to keep your mind occupied. I remember a bunch of guys on my hall (whom now, two years later, I consider some of my closest friends) and I went and played basketball.
Go to class. I know that this may sound like a pointless piece of advice, given the fact you had no choice about going to class in high school. But believe me, it becomes way more appealing to just simply not go to class when you are tired or for whatever reason. I am not saying to never skip class. Just know that what is said in class will be on the test.
To reiterate this point, I have an example. On a Monday after a three-day weekend in one of my accounting classes, literally 25% of the class showed up. My professor decided to give each student who showed up that day extra bonus points on the upcoming test. Those points took my test grade from a B+ to an A. Had I not been there I would not have gotten those points.
Be yourself and choose your friends wisely. I am not kidding when I say you are about to meet people you will be friends with for the rest of your life. Since that’s the case, choose your friends wisely. If you can’t be yourself around certain people whom you think you want to be friends with, you need to find new friends. If you ignore everything else in this letter, please listen to this part. Do not fall into this trap. Just simply be you.
Call home. Especially Mom, since she’s probably the one most worried. Try to call home often because they want to hear how everything is going and it is nice to talk to them. Nobody is going to make you keep up your relationship with your family. That is your responsibility. I would love to call mom as I would walk to class in the mornings and see how things were going at home. Face Time is also fantastic because you get to see your favorite pup, Scooter. Oh, and text Elizabeth to check on her. She won’t have you around to entertain her anymore.
Know what you believe and why you believe it. This refers mainly to your faith (dig into your bible for truth and check out 1 Peter 3:15). Your faith can grow or shrink in college. While you will be surrounded by lots of intelligent people, don’t take everything that they profess as absolute truth. For example, I had to write a paper where I had to defend one of my beliefs and it was good for me because I had to actually put pen to paper on what I believed and why.
Freshman year grades are very important. Freshman year of college is going to most likely be your easiest year academically speaking. That being said, make good grades your first year. Don’t dig yourself into a hole. Starting off strong makes everything a whole lot easier. Don’t start to study for a test the night before. This might have worked in high school, but it does not work in college. Trust me, I have tried this and it ended poorly. Also, group study sessions are great social events, but not always the best study events.
Visit churches and find one that you like. Once you find one, get plugged into a small group and try not to skip on the weekends. Even when you are tired, it is a great place to get poured into…especially after a long week of class.
Journal. I don’t mean write down your feelings everyday, yet you can do that if you like. What I mean is to make a continual list of things that you have learned and that you are continually learning. Write down things that are important to you. Once in a while, describe an “average” day in great detail. It is cool to look back and read that a couple of years later to see how far you have come.
Be spontaneous. Some of your greatest memories are going to come from doing spontaneous things with friends. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. College is a balance between friends, school, and everything in between.
I’ll admit that college takes some getting used to. If you hate it the first few days, don’t worry. Trust me, you will get the hang of it and you will love it. But keep in mind that it’s not going to be a cakewalk.
The level of responsibility on you has been kicked into high gear. You will be responsible for getting to class on time, doing your laundry, feeding yourself, etc. Nobody will be there to hold your hand, but you can do it.
If you ever get overwhelmed, stop and take a deep breath. Remember that you have a brother who is only an hour and a half away in Waco. You can always come see me no matter what time of day, and you will always have a place to stay. That being said… HOOK’EM HORNS!