As the college acceptance letters start rolling in, as a parent, you’re probably starting to think about dorm supply lists, financial aid applications, and the bundle of neuroses you’re bound to have for the next few months because how in the world are you going to let this kid move away from home?!
But what you may be forgetting to think about are all the amazing experiences your student is about to have the privilege of enjoying over the next four years. Of course some of these experiences will not be so pleasant, and you’re going to need to prepare yourself for your phone to ring at 3 a.m. and the voice on the other end saying, “Mom I’m OK, but…” but the non-academic growth opportunities college students can enjoy and learn from are a huge part of their collegiate matriculation journey.
So what exactly did I want my student to experience while at college? Hopefully, all of these (and some others I probably don’t ever want to know about!)
25 Things All College Students Need to Experience
1. Take one totally epic road trip.
The kind where every meal comes from a gas station, sleeping is optional, and their Snapchat is filled with selfies in front of randomly hilarious monuments like “World’s Largest Killer Bee.”
2. Take a class from a professor you 100% fundamentally disagree with.
And sit in the front row, listen intently, ask questions, debate, be open to learning new outlooks on life, and tolerate every single world (no safe space needed.)
3. Defend someone’s free speech, even if it goes against everything you believe in.
Can’t stand to hear what the liberal, conservative, libertarian (and many others!) club has to say? Too bad. Stand up and defend their right to say it.
4. Play intramural sports.
Play as many as you can, because this is the last time you’ll ever have the time or energy to play co-ed softball at 11 p.m. at night.
5. Watch all the free foreign films they offer.
And theater performances, musical concerts, and any other live and on stage anything that is free to students. Trust me.
6. Go to all the free lectures from visiting famous people.
Take advantage of listening to all the brain power that comes visiting. Social media newsfeeds can’t compare to hearing professionals in their field come speak to a live audience.
7. Eat nothing but Ramen and pizza for an entire semester.
And maybe french fries and buffalo wings. It’s okay, because 11 p.m. co-ed softball burns a ton of calories, and this is the only time you will have this metabolism so chow down for me, OK?
8. Get dumped.
Royally, and by someone you really liked. It will humble you in a very beneficial way.
9. Talk someone who wants to quit college into sticking it out.
That kid down the hall who wants to go home? Do what you can to encourage him to stay. Be his friend and his cheerleader, because some kids never had one at home.
11. Invite someone to your home for the holidays who isn’t able to go to theirs.
That other kid down the hall who lives 3,000 miles away and can’t afford the trip home for Christmas? Bring him home with you.
12. Learn to make one very delicious meal that will impress the hell out of a date.
Your first apartment kitchen should include everything it takes to make a great roast chicken. And use real plates and glasses, no red SOLO cups.
13. Get your car towed.
Two, three, or four times. Then realize you are not immune to parking laws, so stop breaking them. Duh.
14. Party Like it’s 1999.
I’m not condoning blackouts, heavy/binge drinking, or one night stands — but a few unforgettable nights of partying should be in there somewhere.
15. Go to student government sessions and help lobby for a cause you believe in.
Guess who decides how to spend the millions of dollars in student activities fees? You. Really. So go participate.
16. Work or volunteer on campus in an office filled with Ph.Ds.
Because they love to talk. And their conversational style will keep you on your toes, mentally.
17. Change your major a half dozen times.
Don’t have a clue what you want to do? Good! Keep looking.
18. Start a side business or hustle with your frat brothers or sorority sisters or roommates.
Move junk, drive an Uber, paint houses, nanny, tutor, mow laws. Just spend time earning money you made sweating and complaining. Humility is college lesson #1.
19. Skip class.
And miss a pop quiz because of it. Then learn that skipping class is stupid because you’re paying for every single minute of instruction.
19. Lose a $200 textbook you paid for with your own money.
See how that works? Learn to manage your stuff better, okay?
20. Find out where all the free food is.
Everywhere, all the time, especially during the first few weeks of each semester and finals week.
21. Get sick.
And then learn how to be an informed consumer of your own health care, which includes navigating doctor’s appointments, claims, prescriptions, and everything else that can keep you healthy.
22. Be broke and collect furniture from curbs.
Live poorly so when you graduate and get your first job, everything that comes to you feels like a million bucks. You’re gonna need something to look forward to. (Granite countertops in college is ridiculous.)
23. Have so much damn fun you never want to leave.
Please do so, because life is hard, and adulting is even harder.
24. Be very ready to leave.
Please do so, because eventually you’ll outgrow the college scene, and be ready to face the real world courageously and confidently (but without a hangover).
25. Make yourself proud
You’ve just spent 18 years trying to make mom and dad proud (and we are!) but now? You are the captain of your pride boat, so steer her humbly and intelligently.
You Might Also Want to Read:
The Grown and Flown book – everything you need to know about shopping for college, moving in, and…how to say goodbye.