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Class of 2017: Nervous? You Should Be

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tips for new college freshmenStarting college? Nervous? No? LIAR! If you’re just starting out at college and you’re not nervous, you’re likely in college denial. You should be nervous. Being nervous is a good thing. It’s like getting nervous just before going on a blind date, before taking the first step toward a 500-foot bungee jump, before the big drop leading to the twisting, looping, corkscrewing rollercoaster track.

College truly is a thrill ride, as you’ve likely been told. There will be big moments of intense elation and unexpected surprises (some good, some bad). Should you hit a patch on the downside that lasts longer than you expect, I’m here for you. The following list serves up tips to help remind you of what’s ahead. Call it a cheat sheet to enjoying the wild adventure awaiting you.

College Friends

It takes a good year to figure out who has your back and who may stab you in the back. You make friends by getting out and doing things you love (or hate) to do with people who love (or hate) to do the same things. Leave your dorm. Turn off your computer. Quit the 24/7 Skyping with your girlfriend or boyfriend.

College Roommates

If you want to get along with your roommate, you will. Even if your roommate is everything you aren’t, you can get along. Let your roommate be a roommate. Don’t expect a friendship (that’s a bonus). Talk about problems before you blow your nose on your roommate’s pillow in a passive aggressive rage (nothing passive about this).

College Money

Get a job. It will help you make friends, find out what you love (or hate), keep you from wasting time, and…lightbulb!...make money!

College Experimenting

You will absolutely do something you regret. Don’t do it twice. That’s just reckless. Be smart about being stupid. Don’t put yourself at risk. Only experiment with people you trust and who will call for help if you need it. If you think someone needs help, don’t think. Call 911.

College Dating and Hooking Up

There’s more than enough love for all. Take risks. Talk. Listen. Talk. Thousands of people will want you. Millions will not. NEVER let the ones who don’t want you stop you. Stop blaming, hating, and hiding—and start loving.

College Sex

Remember the “College Experimenting” tip: don’t put yourself at risk. Sex does not equal love or a relationship. Know the difference and make smart (and sober) choices. Take risks but know the risks you’re taking. When you really want to scare yourself, look up the statistics on STIs! (Yummy).

College Insecurities

We all have them. If someone tries to make you feel ugly, stupid, and defective it’s because that person is ugly, stupid, and defective. Stay away. Find beautiful, smart, and passionate people and surround yourself with them.

College Dreams

Dream big. Never stop. We stop NOT because dreams come true. We stop because we get stunted or hurt. If you get hurt, get professional help. Then continue dreaming.

College Parents

These annoying people love you. Be nice to them. If you can’t be nice to them, grow up. And realize you still need them to annoy you. (Note: some people may say “support” in lieu of “annoy.”)

The college classroom is a whole new playing field. But you can still make the grade!

Learn how with The Secrets of Top Students.


College Tech

Don’t get stuck behind the fifth wall of technology. Use social media to meet, mingle, and help, not to hide and hurt. If you can’t say it, don’t Tweet it, blog it, Tumblr it, Pin it, Vine it, or Facebook it. Don’t get lost in translation. Real conversations clear up confusion.

College Professors

Professors do love you (but hate it when you text in class). Profs secretly want to see you succeed. Don’t let jerky profs fool you. Get to know all of them. Profs you deem the worst are often the most awesome.

College Classes

Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Sleep in. Go. Go. Go. Sleep in. Go. Go. Go. Take your finals. Go home for winter break.

Passing College Classes

There will always be someone smarter than you. Find him. Find her. Study with that person.

College Nakedness

If you see your roommate naked, don’t stare. Unless he or she asks you to look at something. Note the awkwardness. Then help him or her.


We are all impatient. Search results take .0034 seconds. Finding your place in college takes a good year or two. Wait for it.


Find three places to hang out, meet people, and do stuff you love to do. Expect one place to be filled with idiots. That’s why you need three.


Who are your fab five? When in the gutter, find five people on campus to be in your corner and turn to them (professors, res life staff, counselors, rabbi, priest, family, friends, therapist, coworkers, coaches, staff). Always respect student leaders; they may be your greatest advocates.

When You Feel Alone

You’re never alone. You’re actually more connected than anyone has ever been. If you don’t like yourself, work to have a better relationship with you. Love yourself, spoil yourself, and be selfish. This time belongs to you.

Good luck. I’m with you every step of the way!

If you want to add something to this list, post it below, send it to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Tweet me @HarlanCohen. Buckle in and enjoy the ride!

Looking for more tips to make the most of your first year?

Check out The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College.


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Harlan Cohen is the author of The Naked Roommate series of books and is one of the most widely read and respected syndicated advice columnists for people in their teens and twenties. His column, "Help Me, Harlan!," is distributed by King Features Syndicate. Harlan regularly tours high school and college campuses giving presentations to students, professionals, and parents. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Follow Harlan on Twitter @HarlanCohen.

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