First things first. Let me explain this rather absurdly long title. During the school year, I have a lot of things to write about because then I’m actually at school and useful information just springs up and bounces around like the JiffyPop that someone careless enough to forego the reading of directions burned on the common room stove. However, I’m on summer vacation right now. So as a way to provide myself with material and you lovely people with information, I’d like to do a series on myths about college. I think there are so many rumors that students hear about college that may or may not be true, and I’d like to shed some light on those areas.

As I stood at my kitchen counter eating peanut butter out of the jar with a knife while a cup of yesterday’s coffee was heating in the microwave, I thought about how my eating habits are probably not the most conventional. Actually first I thought about where those little French vanilla flavor creamer things were and then I thought about how my eating habits are not the most conventional. Of course I then justified that by thinking, “It’s ok. I’m in college! College students are supposed to live in ways that a self-respecting adult would not!”

Part of the difficulty of going back to school after summer vacation is that you may not be used to absorbing information that’s presented to you. I’m not saying you should spend your vacation drilling facts into your skull; just find ways to learn while on break. I have one very simple way of doing that. You all have access to a computer connected to the Internet (if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be reading this.) So use it! My homepage is Google, and I use the application iGoogle to add “gadgets” to my homepage. Every time I log on (which is a lot) I’m presented with information. I have links to the website of major news groups (CNN, TIME magazine, the New York Times, and the Washington Post). I also have Dictionary.com’s Word of the Day which is a great way to keep your vocab in shape. I also like Places to See Before You Die, which I have my own personal list of. Plus weather for both my cities of residence, horoscope, Quote of the Day, and a language translator. All of these things are great ways to connect you to information. You can be your own teacher! Find an interesting article? Research it and talk current events with your friends and family. See a quote you like? Look up the author and see what else they’ve done. See a new word? Find the definition and use it in a sentence. (ex: The world may be a better place if everyone took a more latitudinarian outlook.) The point is, keep your mind active.

So there we are. There’s the belief that college kids live in such a way that is at best unconventional and at worst biohazardous. And this, combined with horrors that happened to your friend’s brother’s roommate’s sister’s boyfriend during freshman year, is probably why many students think that dorm life sucks. The truth is not (always) as frightening.

At most colleges, you do not have to declare a major until your junior year. Junior year! You’ll have 2 years of college experience by then! Until then, take the time to try things. Dabble in photography or dance or elementary physics or whatever! It is perfectly fine to enter your freshman year having no idea what you want to do. I think that high school was about learning how to play the game. You learn how much pressure you can take, or what kind of schedule works for you. You learn what you have to do to juggle classes and extracurriculars. College is about learning about yourself. So enjoy.

I have been blessed with the gift of good test taking abilities. Some people just test well. For the SATs and ACTs, several of my friends hired personal tutors, purchased practice books, and crammed the nights before. I scanned a few practice tests, took the SAT on three hours of sleep, and got a 2070. However, by that point I had also spent many many years taking tests. (For some reason, the vast majority of my teachers loved tests. Add California standardized tests on top of that.) No matter how well you test, you can still become out of practice. So practice this summer! I’m not saying you should finding calc quizzes online. Take a few SAT practice tests at collegeboard.com, or just try the SAT question of the day from time to time. Even if you’ve already taken the SAT, testing yourself is good practice.

Enjoy your summer vacations, everyone, and remember to keep your minds limber!

So you’re a high school freshman. Fresh off the beginning of the year Staples raid. Books, the hip tshirts (going to chuck the social suicide sweater vest no matter what Mom says), 200 ball point pens, 10 one inch notebooks, and a cool looking school supply apparatus that was on sale but you have no idea what it does. Summer’s on its last bow and school started sending you math homework in the mail to get done before the first day of class. Groan.

Embrace Technology

Avoid murdering anyone (it tends to decrease acceptance rates). Don’t fail any classes. If you can, do a little summer job. Enjoy your life. As much as a freshman can, anyway.

I don’t know about you, but it has been a long time since I had a summer free of assignments for next year. If you do have summer reading, do it. Don’t see it as a chore and put it off. Read little by little, break it up into chucks, or take your book(s) with you on a trip. It may feel more enjoyable if you’re reading on vacation in someplace other than your home. Aside from required reading, you should read for pleasure as well. Make a book list and try to tackle it this summer. )Mine is incredibly long and I don’t think I’ll finish it in one summer. That’s okay though.) Find times when reading suits your schedule. I read before bed every night. If I’m having lunch at home, I’ll take my book and food outside and read while I eat. I also like to go to the beach with a good book. Reading is good for you!

Read

Take a breath. You’ll need it, seeing as you’ll be spending most of your time stuck in a locker. But, really. You are a freshman. I’m sure you realize that last year, you were in eighth grade. You’re fourteen, fifteen. Stay in school, watch CSI, decide what to name your future children. Life is good. If you’re lucky you are still one year away from doing your own laundry. (Oh how parents love the chores that come with sweet sixteen). Eat. Eat a lot. This is hot, home cooked food. A delicacy when you go to college. Not to mention: it’s free. And the hidden commodity: the shower. Enjoy the privacy, the consistent hot water, the shampoo/soap/washcloth/razor setup on the ledge to your liking.

So, my point is whether you know what you want or you don’t, the most important thing is to be thinking about it. Do your research, know how things work at your school. And as cheesy as it sounds, don’t give up on your dreams because sometimes they are what’s keeping you going.

“Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.” –Jonathan Winters (Coincidentally, this is actually one of today’s Quotes of the Day)

That’s just like adults. Looking into the future. Itching to smack teenagers on their heads with the responsibility wand and make them grow up instantly.

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice; In practice, there is.” – Chuck Reid

Remember these wise words when making popcorn or anything else that could possible burn and set off smoke detectors: “It is folly to punish your neighbor by fire when you live next door.” – Publilius Syrus

In some cases, declaring a major from the get-go is just how the school runs. Emerson College, which I attend, is one of those. It’s a very focused school for the arts and communications where the vast majority of people come in having already declared their major. I entered as an undeclared major…or so I thought. I was actually enrolled as a Communication Studies major. Somewhere in the application process, it was a box that just got accidentally checked. See, I applied to ten schools my senior year. I decided that it would be easier on me to apply undeclared to all of them so that I wouldn’t have to do any supplemental forms, essays, or auditions. I was just too overwhelmed. Looking back on it, I applied to a lot of schools that I didn’t even want to go to. I should have narrowed my choices down and then thoroughly researched each school. Then I would have known that most Emersonians enter knowing what they want to do. During my first semester, I was surrounded by so many people who love to be involved in theatre, which is what I love to do too. But I never thought of applying as a theatre major to any school because honestly I thought that would have been a stupid idea. To me, an eternal cynic, studying to be an actress seemed like such an unstable path. So few people really make it in that business and I didn’t want to try so hard only to have my dreams constantly crushed. But as I talked with my friends, my academic advisor, and they head of the Performing Arts department, I realized more and more that I wanted to be a theatre major. Unfortunately, that required an audition as part of my application, and Emerson is so selective in its PA department that switching in would be just shy of impossible. So I did the best I could. I auditioned for plays and took an acting class for non-majors. In my acting class, I discovered how many people found themselves in a similar situation, that is, wanting to be an acting major but unable to get in. The more people I talked to, both at my school and others, the more I realized how many people were still unsure what they wanted. Even people I knew who had done every audition to get into one of the greatest performance schools in the country and had a 20 year plan of getting their dream career questioned themselves constantly.

A word to the wise: When looking at interesting classes, see if any of them fulfill a general education requirement. Example: You are interested in fashion and, hey look at that! There’s a course on the cultural significance of clothing in the Britain in the 1600s which fulfills your history requirement! Perfect!

I know, I know. Summer studies sounds like no fun. But bear with me for a bit. However, first things first. For those of you who are graduating this year, congratulations! As I’m sure you’re sick of hearing by now, graduation is a big step on the path of life (or marker on the road map of life, or stepping stone in the Japanese garden of life, or what-have-you) and you should be very proud of yourselves! High school can seem like such a quintessentially teenage part of your lives, a time that defines your adolescence, even though it is only four years. But the reason that as a society we see high school graduation as so important is because, even though high school is only four years, graduation marks the completion of 13 years of education (if you count kindergarten), and that is quite an accomplishment! So, if you are graduating, congratulations!

Test Yourself

When I’m at home, usually have to drive at least 20 minutes to get to my friends’ homes. At school, I just walk down the hall. My school friends and I joke about the fact that we can just tick our heads out of our doors and yell in order to talk to someone 3 doors down. Living close to people means that you can always find what you need. A friend of ours (my roommates and I, that is) used to come over to our suite when he was working on homework because he liked the environment, and having other people around meant it was easy to bounce ideas around and get feedback. When friends of ours ran for student government, they could just go around the floor to collect signatures. When we decided to have a Thanksgiving party and eat cranberry sauce and yams from the can, make mashed potatoes in a microwave, and decorate with fake candles, we invited our neighbors and also used their coffee table and cooking utensils. When the hot water got turned off, our friend came knocking on our door dripping wet and wrapped in a towel asking if he could use our shower. Once, our neighbors got the idea to bring us breakfast in bed, but because we all had early classes and never ate in the morning, they decided on just a gentle wake-up call instead. So they borrowed keys, let themselves in, and that morning, instead of waking up to alarm clocks, we awoke to “Good morning, girls! Rise and shine!” which just made the whole day better.

So, College Myth #1: Everyone Knows What They Want To Do.

And then you get it. The “what to think about as a freshman preparing for college. Do not slack off, colleges look at all high school grades. Take hard classes. Make the sports teams. Make an impression on the school community. Join ASBC.” The time for doing all this was yesterday. The hot woman’s raised and lowered the checkered flag. Annnnd they’re off. This is your future that you’re diddlying with, kid. Make it count.

Alright, you’ve probably all heard that dorm rooms are tiny. Any yes, they can be, but not always. My bedroom at school is bigger than my bedroom at home. However, my dorm room is a suite – a living room, bathroom, kitchenette, and two bedrooms – that I share with 3 other people. In fact every room in my building is a suite, though most house 6 people. Another residence hall has mostly double bedrooms with communal bathrooms on each floor. And there are pros and cons to each of these. Yes, dorms may be small and can get messy. But the fact is, that’s part of college life, and really, dorm life is fun. After spending 18 years living with your parents, you now have the chance to decide how you want to live. You decorate your home, make your own rules, create a new way of life. It’s exciting. In the words of a tour guide at UCLA, “when else in your life are you going to get the chance to live with a thousand people your age?” And he was right. College life can be like having a sleepover with your best friends every night.

Now, as great as it feels to be done with school, it’s important to keep your brain limber this summer before you go to college. A few years ago, I spent the summer hanging out at the beach, swimming in the backyard pool, going on trips with friends, and basically having fun! And that was great, don’t get me wrong, but when September rolled around, I was so out of practice with the whole school thing, I didn’t feel like doing readings for classes and I didn’t see the point of taking tests. I had no motivation because I got so used to my summer schedule. So to help you learn from my mistakes, here are a few things to do during the summer so that going back to school isn’t a struggle.

When it comes right down to it, dorm life can be scary in theory. What if you have noisy neighbors? What if you don’t get along with your roommate? What if the shower the floor above you leaks so you have massive water damage to your ceiling and when you call maintenance they cut a hole in the ceiling of your shower to see what the problem is and then they never come back to fix the whole until the end of next semester and even then the damage isn’t fixed? Well…you’ll deal. Trust me on this, the pros outweigh the cons. If you’re interested in further reading I recommend The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run into In College by Harlan Cohen. Visit the website at www.thenakedroommate.com where you can hear original songs like “My Roommate Stu” and “The Syphilis Song.”

Well, this myth can actually have some truth behind it. Frankly it comes down to your school of choice. The best advice I can give you is to research. Learn as much about your school as you possibly can. Visit it and go on tours. Also keep in mind that your tour guides will be telling you all the wonderful things about the college in the hopes that you will attends, and al of these things can be blinding. Talk to regular students. I’m sure that anyone will be perfectly helpful and willing to answer any questions that you have. After all, they were in your shoes not too long ago. Learn about how the average person attended your college figured out what they wanted to do, if they have figured that out yet. Chances are, they’ll tell you it took them a while. And that’s ok.