11 Tips for Going to College


I just went to my 10-year reunion at St. Olaf College and it was a wonderful and eye-opening experience.

Many of us were amazed that we survived living in the dorms. There are many things I didn’t “get” when I was in college and while that’s okay – part of growing up is learning to appreciate the things you didn’t when you were younger – I thought I’d write this short memo to y’all still in college.

Tips for going to college (from someone ten years out)

Thank your custodial staff

As I was brushing my teeth in the dorm bathroom I noticed the sink was a bit grubby. Then I thought about cleaning it (that’s what happens when you are in your 30s) and then I realized that I never noticed the incredible custodial staff that cleaned our facilities on campus. Believe it or not there are hard working men and women who clean up after your gross bodily functions, endless streams of hair, residual toothpaste crust and yes, the mess you leave after a long night of partying. Tell the custodians thank you, if you don’t see them, leave them a note.

The bed you’re sleeping on is shit

I never noticed the mattresses in my dorm rooms. It was a bed to sleep on and that’s all I cared about. My friends and I, now having rooms adorned with king sized beds, realize that the paper thin, spring-laden mattresses we slept on were total shit. Don’t worry, as you get older your beds will get bigger, less noisy and more comfy.

Ten years from now all the B.S. won’t matter

For the most part my college experience was drama-free. With the exception of an occasional friend flare-up or relationship drama, it was pretty smooth sailing. Regardless of the stress you’re feeling right now, it will all fade away. Coming back and connecting with friends and foe was a delightful experience. People dropped their guard and just spoke to each other, regardless of what “group” they were in while on campus.

Your classmates get hot

Best part of the ten year reunion? Everyone is hot! No, seriously, you will look better as you age. Pictures of me from college slightly resembled a puffy chipmunk, my cheeks full of beer. The idea that you’re only beautiful when you’re young is a total crock, like most things, you and your classmates will get better with age.

Speaking of hot classmates, try sustainable condoms

If you’re having sex, make it safe and sustainable! (No seriously, 1 in 4 college students contract an STD in their first year of college, wear a rubber). There is a new line of sustainable, fair trade condoms out called Sustain. This company, started by Jeffery and Sheila Hollender (founder of Seventh Generation), is doing really cool things: they have created the first sustainable, fair trade condom, made from safe materials and 50% of the company is owned by women. Check out their great work and tell your friends.

Put down your phone

This is the one time in your life that you don’t NEED to be glued to your cell phone, Facebook and Twitter. I realize it’s a different generation now, but growing up on the cusp of technology we didn’t have cell phones or Facebook when we were in college. This is a rare time where you can meet your friends organically at the cafeteria, see them walking across campus or tell them you’ll meet them in the lobby. Enjoy that space you have from technology because once you enter the workforce you’ll have 24-hour work email and technological demands on your mind.

You get more privacy when you’re out of college

Dorms aren’t private, at all. When you get older you won’t need to hear your roommate snoring or shuffling around, the intimate details of how someone brushes their teeth or does their hair in the morning won’t be shared with a group of people in your dorm corridor.


 Enjoy not having to pee at night

One of the first things I thought of when moving back into the dorms for the weekend was: This is going to be a long walk down the hall to pee in the middle of the night. I don’t think I got up to pee once throughout my entire college experience.

Enjoy that, it doesn’t last long.


Eat too much pizza? Party too hard last night? Buy some Alka-seltzer! It’s the best remedy for over indulgence whether it be alcohol or food. It seems like a grandma recipe, but your grandma knows what’s up. Pass these out to your friends at the caf after a long night and you’ll be the coolest kid on the block. And just because I have to say it – be safe when you drink with your friends. Install a buddy system, monitor each other’s drinking and know when to say slow down or stop.

Buy ear plugs

I never thought to buy a pair of foam earplugs in college, despite being regularly awoken by loud neighbors, slamming doors, a bumping base and all around tom foolery. Buy some ear plugs and snooze away.

Give to the college

I wasn’t thinking about giving to the college when I was in college. I was just thinking “I’m giving you all too much money already!” – arms crossed and righteous. Whether it’s St. Olaf or another school, they rely heavily on alumni donations to help provide scholarships for the students currently enrolled. What that means is alumni that you don’t know were donating when you went to college making your financial aid possible.

I have had a spotty giving record over the past 10 years, but stepping back for a moment, and realizing the profound impact the education and social network of St. Olaf gave to me, I have decided to give to the college every year. It may seem weird to think about this when you’re in school, but getting in the habit to donating to the college right after you graduate will help ensure others have the same experience (or hopefully better) than you had. (No, St. Olaf didn’t tell me to write this :))

At the end of the day college is an incredible privilege and unique time in your life. Enjoy it. Heck, you may even enjoy it more now that you have ear plugs and a hang-over cure.

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Related reading: In college we were “Creating habits of mind and heart

(photo credit: claremontcollegesdigitallibraryquinn.anya, maureen_sill via photopin cc)

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