07/24/2012 03:22 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2012

Advice for Surviving College From the Newly Advised

I was having a hard time with other kids my freshman year of high school, and like the fabulous and supportive sister and mother they are, I was told on countless tear-filled occasions, "Just get through high school, college is worth it. College will be so much fun you won't believe it. College will be the best years of your life."

I was so ready to get out of my Catholic, spirit-killing high school that I never went back after junior year. Instead, I signed up for dual enrollment through the public high school. I went to class Monday, Wednesday and Friday for four hours. I showed my face at Falmouth High School (Mass) only twice -- for the MCATS and to pick up my diploma a week after the ceremony. Even at the small, run-down Cape Cod Community College, I had had my best year of school yet.

So, after four years of anticipating "the greatest years of my life," I was teething with excitement when August 5, 2009 came and my mom, dad and I hopped onto Southwest Airlines -- final destination: Tampa Bay, FL.

The very next morning I began what have truly been some of the best, and worst, times of my life.

I'm happy that in my fragile adolescent state, no one told me that there were going to be bad times, too. But, it's been the bad times that have made my three years so far, all the more full and round, and purely exhilarating.

But of course, I could have gotten through some of these agonies a little easier and sooner if I had first known a few simple, but necessary things.

So, incoming freshman, especially Eckerd College freshman: Welcome to the best and worst years of your life. May my advice help guide you when you need it most!

Never expect anything to go as planned. Anything.

You're not going to get into the classes you want. You won't have the schedule or the housing you dreamed of. Your books won't come on time. Your alarm clock will break on mid-term, no make-ups, exam day. You'll get swine flu at the most inconvenient time.

Breathe. The beauty in this beast is that this not-planned plan will bring you to exactly where you're supposed to be.

Appreciate your up-bringers.

If you were like me as a high school adolescent, you treated your parents, or whoever, like dirt. Don't feel too bad, psychology of adolescence taught me that this is as natural as breast feeding. Now that you're on your own to do your dishes and laundry and wake yourself up, you can truly appreciate everything they have done for you... how they've cared for you and put your needs and wants above their own all those years.

Oh, and don't just think about the appreciation. Don't forget to send timely thank you cards, birthday and Valentine's day cards, and just tell them. The ultimate thank you: Work your grown-up butt off in school!!

Study/Travel Abroad

Eckerd has unique opportunities to go abroad for the semester, but also for Winter term, Spring break and Summer. Take full advantage. Apply for scholarships! There are plenty of them out there every year.

I made my best friends on trips abroad. I learned more about myself and the world we live in than any class or assignment could teach me. Plus, it's a great way to clear your head when you're getting a little bored or frustrated with your environment, which will happen, sooner or later.

Professors are really just smart, resourceful friends with scary titles.

Use your mentors and professors for more than extra exam help. At my worst moments, when my entire world was beyond my reach, it was my mentors and professors who helped me rip myself out of a dark hole and back into humanity. I know that at least at Eckerd, I'm not unique in this aspect.

Don't do anything drug or alcohol-related that makes you uncomfortable, even the slightest bit!

I am in no way condoning or encouraging illegal use of drugs or alcohol. The truth that they leave out on college tours is that drugs are all over the place in college. Yes, the one's you've seen on Blow and Pineapple Express, but also ones that you've probably never heard of.
A lot of friends of mine got caught up in prescription pills without even knowing their detrimental nature and indiscriminate abusive, addictive powers. Now, they've overdosed and died, been kicked out, arrested, failed out, gone to rehab or mental institutions and committed suicide. I have never seen one person use these pain pills recreationally and be in control. Not one.

You have been warned.

Enjoy these years, us upperclassmen are all jealous that you still have four, fast and fabulous years ahead of you. So if we're giving you the evil eye, that's why. Good Luck!

By Katie Honan, Eckerd College

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