Freshman: How Not to Puke In Class

As a professor of an intro sociology class, I've got 150 students who need to set their alarms and get to lecture -- sober -- each Friday morning.
10/12/2008 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

College classes are back in session, and with any luck, my students will learn basics of sociology, be sparked with a lifelong academic curiosity and not vomit in my 8:30 Friday morning lecture.

This year the University of Iowa is encouraging departments to offer early-morning Friday classes in an effort to curb binge-drinking on Thursday nights. Other universities are following suit.

Many of the Friday morning classes are large, introductory lectures dominated by impressionable freshman and sophomores (kudos to the administration for the clever resocialization strategy.) As a professor of an intro sociology class, I've got 150 students who need to set their alarms and get to lecture -- sober -- each Friday morning.

So far so good. Students have been coming to class, on time, and, as far as I can tell, sober and attentive. But as the semester wears on I can just imagine a freshman stumbling into the lecture hall, still drunk from the night before's ill-advised experimentation with unknown clear liquids. The kid sits down, relieved to have made it. But 20 minutes into lecture, a wave of nausea hits: She's just hit hangover stage and it's not pretty.

For parents whose stomachs are turning as they read the above scenario, there's hope. For students who are reading this despite the pounding in their heads from last night's millionaires-and-maids parties, I'm here to tell you that there is another way.

BustedHalo, a young-adult website, recently posted its annual Freshman Survival Guide, full of these and other down-to-earth bits of advice for college students. The first Guide was published in 2005, and since then it's been downloaded by tens of thousands of students, distributed en mass by universities nationwide and received a fair amount of press. It's written from a Catholic perspective, but it's solid advice for anyone who wants to make the most out of those early months on campus. (Full disclosure: I'm a contributing editor to this website.)

There's advice for how to deal with a weirdo roommate, advice for how to protect yourself from being duped by fake friends ("Save your deepest secrets for later in the semester and don't loan out your keys or ATM card to someone you've only known for a week.") and how to reinvent yourself without losing sight of who you really are.

It's simple: For the first month of college, live like a monk. Monks take vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience - and these three simple things can get you back on track for a good start to the college year.

Chastity: "Take some time to get used to your new surroundings before adding a boyfriend/girlfriend to the mix or hooking up with someone who may turn out to be a jerk," Nora Bradbury, author of the Freshman Survival Guide argues.

Poverty: Don't blow all your cash in the first week. And just say no to free credit card offers.

Obedience: Go to class. "Do a little math and figure how much it costs for you to have your butt in that chair per hour. You'll be less willing to blow one off. Save your absences for the end of the semester when you've got mono and three papers due in the same week."

Also a gem: The advice on proper care and feeding of the college professor. We're very pleasant creatures if you follow these rules.

I'm rooting for my students this year. We're off to a good start, and I'm optimistic. I'm peppering my early lectures with advice why alarm clocks are good precommitment strategies, why drinking all night before a Friday early-morning lecture isn't so clever, and where the exits and bathrooms are... y'know, just in case.