By Sam Coren
One of my favorite things to do when I was a student at Northeastern University was read the infamous Huntington News campus crime log after the first week of the new semester. Why? Because every other report was about some freshman going crazy with their new-found freedom and breaking the rules in ways that display astonishing levels of stupidity.
My personal favorite? The time a new Husky had the bright idea to lean out his dorm room and scream that his roommate was selling marijuana for all of Boston to hear. This shenanigan led to a major drug and alcohol bust. Not only were the students kicked out of Northeastern before they even started their classes, but they faced some serious legal consequences.
Fortunately, I have good faith that the readers of StudentAdvisor who happen to be new college students aren’t that dense. But what about trying to avoid being “that freshman” all the seasoned college students can spot from a mile away?
Here are a few hot tips for breaking those nasty freshmen stereotypes:
1. Don’t be a jerk to your RA.
While not all resident assistants (RA’s) are going to be your best friend, or even pretend to, getting on their good side is in your best interest. Be friendly and respectful to your RA because you never know when you’ll be locked out of your room or end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and they’re the only ones who can save your butt. Don’t fight them or argue when they tell you to quiet down or to get rid of something in your room that you’re not allowed to have. More often than not the freshmen residence halls are the least desirable positions for these students who are working long, hard hours for their room and board – don’t become the thorn in their side.
2. Dress appropriately for the weather.
Newbie college students, for the most part, don’t realize just how much more time they’ll be spending outside as they’re shuffling from class to class. If you’re going to school in the parts of the country that get all four seasons you need to keep that eye on the forecast every morning. Nothing is worse than getting all your expensive textbooks soaked because you forgot to bring an umbrella or ruining your new pair of kicks because you forgot to wear snow boots.
3. Take that lanyard off your neck!
I love swag as much as the next freebie hoarder, but there’s no bigger indicator of your freshman status than if you’re wearing that lanyard with your keys and student ID on it around your neck at all times. Unless you’re going for a jog around campus and don’t have pockets in your gym shorts, keep the ID in your wallet and the keys in your pocket. The “lanyard on neck” look is the equivilent of having your mom stitch mittens to your coat.
4. School yourself on public or campus transit.
At bigger schools getting from one side of campus to the other can be quite a long hike. Many colleges operate their own shuttle bus fleets that can cut down on the time it takes to get to class and save you from a few blisters. If you’re in an urban college, learning to use the city’s public transit system is crucial.
Some bus services for colleges and cities even have public GPS tracking so you can use your computer or smartphone to see when the next bus is coming in real-time. Check out the Next Bus website to see if your school or city’s transit system is listed.
Oh and before you ask for directions: look at a map first! Google Maps offers a public transit or walking option when you’re searching for directions.
5. Learn to say “no” and vote with your feet.
One of the things that freshmen fail to realize is that many schools have strict “no tolerance” policies when it comes to just being a bystander in the case where someone else is breaking the rules. What’s that mean? Let’s say you go visit a friend down the hall and they just so happen to be passing around a bottle of vodka. Everyone who lives in the room is under 21 and taking shots, but you choose to stick around and not partake in drinking. After all? College is for making friends right – why bail out on your new neighbors? Five minutes later an RA passes by and catches what’s going on.
What happens next? Everyone gets written up for an alcohol violation, including you for just being there and not doing anything to stop the situation or reporting it. This is where that bit about not being a jerk to your RA can really help you out if you can calmly explain what happened. However, you need to understand that you could’ve avoided all this drama by just walking away from a situation where people were blatantly breaking the rules (and the law).
Learning to say “no” takes a lot of courage, but it can save you from a lot of unintended consequences. Also if you go to a school with a strong religious affiliation it might be a good read through your student rule book a few times since there may be extra rules such as curfews and policies on visitors of the opposite gender that aren’t obvious.
6. Don’t bring your laptop to class if you’re only going to check Facebook (and turn off that cell phone while you’re at it).
Since I’ve graduated in 2009, more and more students are opting to get “netbook” style laptops – cheap, highly portable notebook computers – with the idea that they’ll tote it around to all their classes for notes. In addition, more college campuses are moving toward campus-wide wifi access. While some students are more diligent than others in their digital note-taking habits – others can’t resist the novelty of always being “connected” after getting through high school with a pen and notepad.
Not only are you doing yourself a disservice by not giving 100% of your attention to what your professor is trying to teach you, but you’re also being a huge distraction to the classmates. The people sitting behind you don’t need to see your party pics from last night.
As for keeping your phone on in class? Yes, people around you can still hear it even if it’s on vibrate. Shut it off – millions of other college students before you have made it through their classes before the era of everyone having a cell phone, and so can you.
7. Understand that college is not a “safe zone” from the eyes of the law.
There seems to be an unwavering sense of invincibility among new college students. Realize that just because you’ve got into college doesn’t mean you’ve been given a cart blanche to bend the law and get away with it. Colleges have a duty to report crimes that happen on their property to the authorities. Also, many schools have strict “honor codes” which sometimes entail disciplining you if your less than legal antics happen off-campus and get reported to the school by local law enforcement.
Don’t end up “that freshman”. Just use good judgment and common sense and you’ll have a safe, fun, and drama-free first year of college. Good luck!