University City

College is about more than just parties and friends

All you freshmen at Davidson College, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, area colleges and universities: Please, (re)consider the advice you are getting.

Just a week or so ago, I read a specimen of such advice. As I teach at a university in these parts, I attend to such publications.

This is what I learned: Going to college is all about developing your social skills. What's more, if you need a makeover, this is the time. Geeks can leave their academic reputation behind and work on chatting up their neighbors. Shy folks should make a point of interfacing.

Students, I read, are advised to keep their dormitory doors open in order to solicit conversations. They are told to participate in dorm parties and club meetings. Meet! Greet! Have fun!

Eighteen-year-olds are entering a brave new world when they go away to college. They will most certainly need to develop support networks.

But I know what steep learning curves my own freshmen students face every fall. These have little to do with how well they can chit-chat.

Here is what I wish someone would tell them:

Get enough sleep. The more late-night parties you attend, the less you will grasp in the 9 a.m. lecture.

Eat decently balanced meals. It will make a difference to your brain and how well it functions whether you live on pizza and fast food or whether you make friends with vegetables and fruits and grains.

Read the syllabus carefully. It's a contract, and if you stay in the course, you agree to its provisions.

Pay close attention to class rules - most particularly about attendance. You must attend classes to succeed. Even when the material in lecture is also found in an accompanying text, go to class. It will not hurt to go over the material twice.

If you do not understand a particular word the teacher uses, raise your hand and ask. If you don't understand the material, seek out the teacher and ask. If you need extra help, ask where you can find it.

If you were an A student in high school, be prepared to collect a C or two in college. College expectations are not what you are used to, despite AP courses.

Lastly, get to know your teachers. Most are in the profession because they love to teach. Most long for students who care.

You will learn things that will shock you. You will learn things that will amaze you. You will learn, if you give yourself half a chance, to become a better person because of the education you receive.

That, in fact, is what college is about.