An Open Letter to my Niece as she Starts College

My dearest niece,

Today is you birthday, and you are headed off to the hallowed halls of higher education. You thought being a freshman in high school was rough? Well, pull up your big girl panties and get ready for the ride of your life.

College is a whole new world filled with fun, stress, and changes that will forever shape your future.

Since I’m the queen of unsolicited advice when it comes to you and my daughters, I thought…”Why not offer up some useful advice about how to get through college without screwing it up?”

So…here it goes.

1) College isn’t for everybody. But you decided to further your education and attend a school that is hours away from your parents…and me. So, my first bit of advice is this: Don’t forget WHY you’re going to college. You’re going there to learn. You’re going so that when you get out, you have accumulated knowledge that you didn’t have before you went in so you can find a career you love. Remember that. College = Knowledge.

2) This brings me to my second point. In college, there will be men. Notice, I didn’t say boys. Boys no longer exist in your world. They can be a wonderful distraction, but they’re just that. A distraction. Refer back to #1.

3) Speaking of men, there are some that will do or say anything to get what they want from you. Now, I said ‘some’. Not ALL men are pigs, but unfortunately there will be guys with selfish intentions who will try to sweet talk their way into your life. It is your job to figure out which ones are crap and which ones are worth your time. I can’t give you much advice on how to determine which is which. But, I will say this…a woman’s gut instinct is rarely wrong. Listen to yours. If you get even the slightest bad vibe…tell him to take a hike. A really long one.

4) Make friends. Make all kinds of friends. Don’t just make friends with the people who are just like you. That’s boring. Make friends who have different interests than you – people who like different kinds of music, movies, and books. Learn what makes people tick – learn their passions and their dreams. People like that will teach you what the real world is like. Because one day, you will be out in the real world with a real job and “spoiler alert”…you will work with people who are vastly different from you. If you can’t figure out how to get along with different kinds of people in college, the real world is gonna suck.

5) Study

Your Aunt BJ, headed off for college. Don't laugh...that outfit was very chic.

Your Aunt BJ, headed off for college. Don’t laugh…that outfit was very chic.

6) You’ll have a roommate. You may get along with her. Then again, you may not. This is a great way to learn what marriage is like. Living with someone you don’t always see eye to eye with in a small, confined space? That’s almost exactly like marriage. Have a fight? Talk it out. You’re right and they’re wrong. Guess what? It doesn’t matter. They’re messy? They snore? They don’t like how you make your bed? Welcome to being an adult. Sometimes you have to swallow your pride and apologize, even when you’re not wrong. Show an interest in what they’re doing. Tell them how much you appreciated them cleaning the bathroom. It’s all about compromise, give and take. Like I said – just like marriage.

7) Study some more

8) Learn how to prioritize. This will be one of the most valuable things you’ll ever master. Classes and schoolwork before play. Hard work before fun. Which paper to write first. Figuring out what takes priority in life is part of being in adult, so learn this now.

9) You’re not in high school anymore.

10) You won’t get awards in college for participation. If you want something, you’re going to have to work for it.

11) If you screw up. Own it. People will respect you much more if you admit failure than making excuses for what you’ve done.

12) Keep studying

13) Back to those men. Don’t date someone just because he’s popular, well-built, and hot. Because that’s just stupid. Popularity goes away after you graduate, even the best built guys eventually gain a bit of weight, and sometimes hot guys lose their hair. You date someone because they make you laugh. You date someone because they would rather stay in with you than hang out with their friends. You date someone because they’re the first person you want to call when something good happens. You date him because he makes you smile and isn’t jealous, rude to waiters, and secretly cries during your favorite chick flick. And you continue dating him because it turns out he’s your best friend.

14) Have fun. Up until now, I’ve talked about hard work and remembering that college is there for you to learn and not screw around. But it’s also a time to find yourself. But do it intelligently. Don’t do something that could get you arrested or killed. Drinking is prevalent in college. Be smart and use your head. One day, you’re going to be married and have children of your own. When you’re about to do something, ask yourself this question: “Will I be able to tell my children about this one day?” If the answer is no…don’t do it.

15) Refer back to #1

Your Mother

Your mother

16) Call your mother at least once a week. Mostly because she will miss you and because you love her, but partly because if you don’t I’ll never hear the end of it.

17) Remember to sleep once in a while.

18) I  know I mentioned it before, but don’t drink. I would hope you’re smart enough that I don’t have to mention the drug thing.

19) Go to the store with your friends and buy ridiculous costumes. Put them on and spend a Saturday in downtown making fools of yourselves and taking pictures and doing goofy things. You are only young once.

20) Listen to me or don’t. It’s up to you. But let me leave you with this – high school wasn’t the best years of your life. College won’t be either. Your best years are yet to come. Have fun. Be silly. Be yourself, and find yourself.

 

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