Some good, and bad, advice for starting college


School at the University of Alabama and elsewhere begins Wednesday, and I came across a Twitter thread that exploded on my feed. Stacey J. Spiehler of Oxford, Miss., asked for best advice for someone starting as a college freshman (which she is doing as what we euphemistically call a “nontraditional” student, aka old enough to be everyone else’s parent).

Here are five pieces of advice from the thread that are correct:

  • “It's a clean slate, socially and academically. Nobody cares who was popular in high school.”

  • “Learn to write well. It is a lifetime art that will separate you from the pack.”

  • “Do the readings. And go to class even if you haven’t: Strange, wonderful things happen in class discussions.”

  • “Befriend people who grew up in worlds wildly different than yours — nothing will open your mind more.“

  • “Just because everyone around you is drunk doesn't mean you have to be.”

And here are five pieces that are wrong:

  • “Don’t let them know you’re a conservative or you won’t graduate.”

  • “Use upperclassmen as advisors because the university advisors are 9/10 times likely to be useless.”

  • “Study like hell this year and next, so that you build your GPA. Then you can slack off your senior year and cruise.”

  • “Every professor has a system. You can go to every class and read every word assigned but it won't matter at all if you haven't figured out their system. Gaming the system is what tests are all about. Like it or not.”

  • “Don’t ever take 8am classes if you don’t have to after your freshman year.”

I’ll add my five best pieces of advice:

  • Lectures and class assignments are awesome. But one real-world internship is worth 20 of them.

  • If college doesn’t ever cause at least a moment of doubt about your chosen major or career, you’re doing it wrong.

  • Take advantage of professors’ office hours. You’re not annoying them. Honest.

  • Don’t freak out if you don’t understand academic articles. They’re intentionally written to be incomprehensible.

  • You took an enrollment spot from someone who wanted to be here. You have an obligation to act like it.