Raise your hand if you have relevant advice for the 21st century college student!
Not so fast, Mom and Dad. Even if you’ve got the most wonderful parents in the world, they’re not always going to know what to say. And they’re probably wrought with insecurity that you’re not in diapers anymore. They probably feel like you don’t need them and, well, you don’t. Feel free to completely ignore these nine awful pieces of advice that parents often impart to their college student children.
It’s not that you shouldn’t be good, it’s that you shouldn’t listen to your parents when you make that decision. When you go to college, you’ll be faced with lots of choices and opportunities, both positive and negative. You’ve got to have an internal moral compass that guides you autonomously. There’s not much that you can’t get yourself into in college, but you shouldn’t not do something that you want to do for fear of upsetting your parents. It’s called adulthood. We welcome you.
Don’t Bother (or Hook Up With) Your Professors
While it’s not the greatest idea to be a problem child to your professor, the squeaky wheel often gets the grease. If you don’t understand something, do your best to figure it out on your own, and then don’t be afraid to catch your professor after class (not before, as they’re probably still waiting for their coffee to kick in). You can also visit with them during their posted office hours, or by phone or e-mail. As for hooking up with them, it’s an ill-advised but extremely common phenomenon. And hopefully you’re mature enough to navigate the intricacies of academics and romance without having to call your mother for advice.
You Can Do Anything You Put Your Mind To
In addition to being grammatically suspect, this statement boasts a bevy of problems. It’s simply the truth: you really can’t do anything that you put your mind to. While you should never sell yourself or your abilities short, and being humble has its limits (whereas focused determination has very few), make sure that you’ve chosen to study a field that brings you both happiness and success. If you’re not good at something, do a skills assessment to figure out where your talents truly lie.
Follow Your Heart
Loving what you do is important, but your heart may be impractical. Find a balance between what you love and what you’re good at, and be methodological as well as creative when you’re making tough life choices. While your parents definitely want to encourage your interests, you might be better off majoring in something that you’re particularly talented at, whether it’s fun or not. It’s not too many people’s dreams, for example, to become an insurance adjuster, but the money’s good and can provide you with the life that you want. Follow your long-term-minded gut rather than giving in to every whimsical impulse that floats your way during your college years.
And you absolutely should. But besides for killing yourself with classes, college is the prime time to figure out what type of adult that you’re going to be, and in what areas you can make work easier by working smartly. College is about deepening skills and knowledge in a field (or two), just as much as it’s about learning how to balance work and life with very little supervision. Don’t stay home on Saturday night to read if there’s a study group that meets on Wednesday. Take advantage of collaborative projects and do your very best, but don’t get wrapped up in overkill; you’ll eventually resent sacrificing your entire life to memorize textbooks. Note:This does not apply to graduate students.
Don’t Drink. Don’t Do Drugs
Seriously? Don’t do drugs. But don’t let your parents make that choice for you. College campuses are ripe with parties centered around binge drinking and getting loaded on god-knows-what, but you’re old enough (and, hopefully, smart enough) to make decisions about your own health. If you’re struggling with whether or not experimentation is something that you want to try, don’t let your parents’ opinions shape your future. You’ll end up resenting everyone, including yourself. Be aware that your brain is still developing, and you can really screw it up by flooding it with substances that alters its makeup and function. Abstain from things that harm you because you respect yourself, not because that’s what Mom thinks you should do.
Get A Job
While it can certainly be beneficial (and sometimes necessary) to work through your college years, that’s not a blanket concept that, um, works for everyone. If you’re a new college student, it’s important to figure out how well and quickly you can accomplish your academic goals for your classes, and it’s important not to skimp on study time. Don’t use this as an excuse to be lazy and to not diversify or augment your life, but make sure that you’re setting yourself up for success in whatever you do. Having to split brain power between a job and tough courses can take its toll, and you’ve got to make your education a priority. That being said, remember the words of The Big Lebowski:
Don’t Turn Out to Be Gay
Unless you’re the star student at a backwards Bible college, this is absolute bar-none worst parental advice ever. It’s imperative to love and honor your parents, but you don’t have to agree with everything that they say. And if they’re encouraging you in any way not to be “different,” that’s cause for concern. If you’re struggling with your sexuality (or any identity issues), make sure that you’re kind to yourself — and understand that there’s an entire world of people out there who have the ability to love and accept you, just the way you are. Turn out to be the most authentic version of yourself, and take heart that you’re honoring your parents by being a well-adjusted, happy, super gay grown-up.
Move Home For The Summer
Absolutely not. When you move home for the summer, you’ve got to deal with conflicting issues of your newfound independence and your old teenaged life. You might have a curfew, you might upset your parents, and you might just not have as much fun as you would doing something else. Consider getting a university job, studying abroad, or obtaining an internship to further your personal goals. Your mom might do your laundry best, but don’t cave and make her do it forever.