After three years here at Central Connecticut State University, I’ve decided to declassify my Central survival guide for all of you incoming Blue Devils. Be aware, your results may vary.
Ned’s guide helped you survive middle school back in 2006. But, you’re all grown up now. College isn’t quite what we thought. It’s not all drinking and partying—like Hollywood might have you believe—and it’s not all books and exams. There will be a ton of challenges you’ll face in college, but with the help of this guide and some determination, you’ll be more than ready to handle it all.
Rule 1: Keep your schoolwork organized and get it done ASAP.
Schoolwork is the first rule for a reason; remember that. Procrastination is your worst enemy. It drops your grades faster than a freshman blacks out, and it constantly keeps you stressing out. So, buy a journal or planner and mark down all of your due dates. Begin any given project the day it is assigned, so that the concept is fresh in your mind and you get a head start. Set aside time to meet up with your friends in your dorm, in the library, or outside to do your homework and study for tests. Remember, this isn’t high school anymore. The work might seem overwhelming; but if I could do it, so can you. When faced with a grueling schedule, remember why you are here. College is meant to refine your skills and understanding. You have to bring the same energy to your school work that you plan to bring to your future career. If you want to be number one in your field, you have to start by being number one in your class.
Rule 2: Use the tools your parents didn’t have.
As children of the Internet, we have a gazillion more tools at our disposal than past generations. Use them. Websites like Quizlet or QuillBot and tools like Grammarly can help immensely when it comes to homework. Newer artificial intelligence like ChatGPT could theoretically be used to help lighten the workload. But, you and I both know you’ll just have it do your homework. Practicing skills for future work does not include having others do the work. Teachers across the globe will get wise to it soon enough, and it’ll most likely be integrated into your learning in a few years anyway. So, it’s best to stay away from it for now.
Rule 3: Pick a major you enjoy.
You don’t have to love it, but you have to be willing to bear it. If you don’t really know what you want to go with, then take your first year, or even two, to figure it out. All undergraduate students have to take general education classes; so, there is no rush. You won’t be behind or off track to graduate if you don’t declare your major right away. This is also a good way to get used to the professor-student relationship. Teachers know your name and put you next to your friends on the seating chart. On the other hand, some professors wouldn’t even notice if you stopped going to class. It is best to make a good impression on your professors and get them to notice you. They will appreciate your interest and be much more inclined to help you out when you need it. Quick tip, I wasn’t the best student in high school; so, I picked communications thinking the workload would be light. If you are thinking the same thing, be a business major.
Rule 4: Protect Yourself.
Things can get out of hand at college. Your parents are probably further than a short drive away, and you aren’t with friends you’ve known for that long. No one is looking out for you except yourself. Everyone has this mentality that they are the exception. “I’ll vape when I drink but, I won’t get addicted” or, “I can have a few drinks and be fine to drive.” No. I know your kindergarten teacher might get upset, but you are not special. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Also, if you do tend to sleep around—something I’m sure is the goal for many new college students—then you have to use protection. Condoms. Get them, have them, and use them. Plus, STDs are more prevalent than you think, and oh my, pregnancy is much scarier than finals week.
Rule 5: Get involved.
You don’t want to wind up like Tom Hanks in Castaway, painting a face on your laptop and calling it “Wilson”. Don’t go at it alone in college. The best people to befriend are your roommates and fellow classmates since they are in the same boat as you, struggling to find their way around and nervous to be in this new environment. Clubs and sports teams here at Central are also great ways to create friendships and keep your sanity. They give you a sense of belonging, akin to high school. There are a bunch of different clubs to choose, from poetry to karate. And if you like to party and host events, join the Brazen Blue Devils. If you love basketball, soccer, or hockey, then join their club teams. Or, if you want to be a nerd, you can join a club that relates to your major. Another tip, just ’cause you seem cool, that last one actually looks great on a resume.
Rule 6: Don’t date.
Rule 7: Just Say No (or Not So Much).
This might take trial and error; but after all, this is college. In all seriousness, it is very important that you remember the things we all learned in health class. You have to be prepared if one of your friends gets too drunk. Get a safe, sober driver to get you where you want to go and back. Try to set that up before you go out. Don’t pregame so hard that you can’t stand straight up to greet the bouncer. I’m sure you’ve heard this stuff for years. So, if you don’t want to hear it again, just skip to the next paragraph. We are adults now, let’s be real. There is more than just alcohol running through people’s blood on the weekends. I won’t go into all the different powders and pills. Just remember to stay away from them when you’re out at the bar or club. Seek out help if you or one of your friends is struggling with substance abuse. It is more common than you think, and more serious than it seems. The Student Wellness Center offers counseling and other services, or can direct you to other outlets of support.
Living on Campus
Rule 8: Have enough money.
College gets expensive, and I’m not just talking about the textbooks and tuition. The costs of groceries and toiletries alone can be mind-boggling. All the bar crawling and club jumping you’ll be doing on the weekends will certainly hurt your wallet. Many students here at Central get jobs on campus as an RA, dining hall worker, or staff in the gym or student center. There are a ton of options when it comes to on-campus jobs for students. But if you’re like me—not the most academically gifted—you won’t want to get a job while you are a student. While having a few extra bucks to throw around on the weekend is nice, it’s not worth your grades dropping if you can’t handle the workload. It’s best to work as much as possible during the summer so you have a sizable nest egg to draw from when school starts.
Rule 9: Get a food plan that suits you.
Memorial dining hall may be the worst food you’ll ever eat. So, it’s best if you set yourself up with a dining plan that gives you some Flex Dollars. You can use Flex Dollars at Devils Den, which is by far the superior dining venue. Here at Central, we have another currency called Blue Chip. This is the money used to do your laundry, but you can also spend this at a few restaurants on and around campus: Dominos, Wing It On, and MofonGo, just to name a few off-campus options. And of course, you can use it to pay for your coffee and bacon-egg-and-cheese at the Starbucks in the library. For groceries, your best bet is Costco if you can get your hands on one of their coveted membership cards; if not, then Stop and Shop and Dollar General are the spots for you.
Rule 10: Bring things you thought you might not need.
Have you ever showered with shoes on? Well, there’s no time like the present. Your dorm room isn’t anything like your parents’ house. That means you won’t have that Bandaid or extra bottle of shampoo under the sink. Oh, and by the way, you have to do your own laundry. The cleaning staff will make your bathroom look spotless, but they won’t clean up the rest of your dorm. Make sure you bring a vacuum; you don’t want to live in filth. Bring a carpet if you don’t want your feet to slap the cold hardwood floor every morning. Make sure to bring extra towels, so that you always shower with a clean one. Bring some sort of lamp or light. The faint yellow lighting in the dorm rooms gives off a post-apocalyptic vibe. Really try to think of the little things you use in your daily life that you wouldn’t live without: your posters to liven up the walls, that one throw pillow on the couch to make your room feel like home, and your teddy bear you’ve had since you were six. On second thought, you might want to leave that last one out.
I hope my Central survival guide helps all of you new freshmen deal with college. There’s so much more to this new chapter in your life that I just can’t include in this guide. There are sure to be many ups and downs, but that’s what college is all about. No one is here to hold your hand anymore. Take the lessons you’ve learned from this list, and throughout your life, and apply them to every aspect of yourself. This is the time to take the potential within you and develop it into the person you want to be. But don’t worry, as the American author John Green once said, “Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you.” Good luck. I hope all of you new Blue Devils go on to do great things!
Zachary Morro is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Header photo courtesy of Central Connecticut State University.