My niece just started college as a spring semester freshman. I searched online "advice for freshmen girls" and found things like: Wash your face before you go to bed; wear sunscreen; don't stay up all night before a test... All good stuff to know if you've spent the last 18 years locked in your room knitting wool caps for your only friend -- a sad field mouse. I'm fairly sure my niece knows how to avoid a breakout, and fairly sure she wouldn't have been admitted into a highly selective university if she'd pulled all-nighters in high school.
The stuff I'm not so sure she knows is stuff you can't possibly know until you've had enough distance from high school to grasp that college really is different. I knew a girl my freshman college year who missed a midterm exam because she didn't want to be seen walking in 20 minutes late.
1. Being late is not the equivalent of pooping your pants and yelling, "Look at my pants! I pooped in them."
It isn't embarrassing. Why isn't it embarrassing? Because no one cares. After class grab a coffee, sit somewhere and read. College is like being re-born into a magical world where ponies run free and no one gives a s#!t where you sit. Welcome to the other side of high school. It really is beautiful.
2. Don't let anyone take pictures of you topless, holding alcohol or provocatively licking foot-long sandwiches.
You will bear children, who will bear grandchildren, who will bear great-grandchildren. Then you will die, be reincarnated and live a long, meaningful life as a Tibetan Monk. Tectonic plates will shift, California will break off and float into the Pacific, rabbits will evolve to walk upright on two legs... and those pictures of you licking sandwiches will still be online.
3. Stop using that voice.
You know that voice you learned to use when you were six, conforming to the idea that girls are pretty princesses with sparkly eyes and pinkie-sized waists? Stop. Use the voice you use when you are with your best friend scarfing chocolate-drizzled kettle corn, flatulent and laughing out your nose. Yes, that voice. It's strong, even-toned and doesn't sound like a cartoon girl drawn by a pervy, middle-aged man who hasn't washed his "house pants" in a month. The next time you need to borrow a pencil or make a case for a grade adjustment, speak as if you are the Secretary of Defense, not a secretary from the 1950s.
4. You are not a cute puppy.
Girls are expected to be people-pleasers -- bubbly in personality and quiet with their intelligence. You are not a puppy. You don't have to wag your tail at everyone who sails a frisbee in your direction. One out of 25 seemingly-ordinary people are sociopaths, which means you could shoot a spitball through a straw and hit a sociopath in every one of your classes. Yes, you are a nice person, but you need not offer your kidney to the first girl who loans you her notes and bakes you gluten-free-vegan-spiritually-enlightened cupcakes. Figure out who the psycho-texters are before you're ambushed with texts like, "Where are you? Who are you with? What are you doing tonight? Tomorrow? Right this second? Are you mad at me? Hello? I BAKED YOU CUPCAKES!" Point being: Take your time getting to know people, and get over the middle school mentality of needing to be liked by everyone.
5. The Ultimate College Advice:
Is there someone you admire? Maybe it's Jesus, maybe it's Hillary Clinton. Maybe you have a really smart pet at home with a keen sense for danger. When faced with an iffy situation, ask: Would X do this?
Would Jesus Tweet a Selfie holding a bottle of vodka?
Would my dog get in a car with my friend's drunk boyfriend driving? Or would my dog pee on his tire and walk away?
Would Hillary Clinton do a line of coke just because her staff members were doing it? Or would she slip away to her bedroom to eat dark chocolate and read Vonnegut?
If you can't think of an immediate favorite, feel free to borrow mine: What would a baby dolphin do? A baby dolphin would not do six shots of Cuervo, because dolphins are smart. And cute. No one is cute after six shots of anything. Which brings me to...
Maybe you will, maybe you won't. I don't want you to drink alcohol the same way I don't want a baby dolphin to drink alcohol, but if you insist, keep in mind...
You're an adult now. Adults like to be in control. They don't like passing out in a room full of strangers, utterly defenseless. The next time the world treats you like you're still a child, look around and see what the world sees: college students binge drinking and assaulting each other. Have you ever hung out with toddlers? They pee their pants, struggle with consonants, pull their friend's hair, strip off their clothes and pass out in a stone cold sleep only to wake crying, confused and smelling of urine. When you binge drink, you behave a lot like a toddler, which makes it difficult for the world to treat you otherwise.
7. Don't walk home alone after a party.
Just don't do it. Choose not to do it the same way you choose not to stick your wet finger into an outlet. Is it fair that you will get electrocuted and die? No, it is not. My hope is that someday we all may lick our finger and shove it into an outlet and it will be a wonderful, fulfilling experience. Until then, and until rape statistics change (no one in America is more at risk of being sexually assaulted than college women) don't put yourself in a precarious situation either by walking alone or passing out drunk. Keep your wits about you.
8. Fun fact: One in four college students has an STD.
9. Sex (See fun fact #7)
Most college guys approach sex the same way shoppers at Whole Foods approach the bulk bins -- they do not sort through the bin looking for one very special cashew. They want scoopfuls of cashews. So too, college guys want lots of sex. Bulk bin sex. Will they expect it on the first date? Probably. Will they make you feel like a jerk for saying no? Probably. Will they try to make it happen with one of your friends? Probably. But who cares? You are not a sparkly, people-pleasing princess. You are not a college perk, like group insurance or free dental. You are a self-determined individual, no longer suffering from the high school girl syndrome of needing to please everyone.
10. Tabula Rasa (Fancy Latin for "blank slate")
The person you were in high school now lives in a journal under your bed back home. Starting college is like being handed a beautiful blank slate. Any doubts you have about yourself, your abilities -- every negative thing you believe, even the good stuff -- throw it all out. Were you the best among your peers or the worst? The prettiest or the plainest? Were you popular, invisible, miserable? You aren't any of those things any more. You are a beautiful blank slate. This opportunity doesn't come along very often. Become the person you always imagined yourself to be.