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A Decade Later: Advice for New College Freshmen

Friday, August 24th, 2012
Posted in Advice by Joel Gross

I am dedicating this blog post for my youngest brother, Josh. He’s going to start college in a few days at Washington & Lee over on the East Coast. One of my first friends at UW actually had a really amazing scrapbook his father had put together for him before he left for college giving him advice in a fun way on what he should and shouldn’t do while on his own for the first time. We both really thought it was cool back then and I’ve remembered it since then, so now I will try to pass the favor on to the next generation with my advice here.

Alcohol

College is the first time in your life you are on your own without close adult supervision. This means that you and your friends will go wild and do all sorts of fun, dumb activities.  One of these activities will be partying.  Partying can be a lot of fun, but it is also very risky to your grades and health. Alcohol has a huge myriad of downsides health-wise, but people like to drink because it lowers inhibitions and makes you feel good temporarily (though you feel bad the next day). Here are some great rules of thumb for partying safer:

  1. Never drink on school nights
  2. Learn to drink safely:
    • Stick to beer and wine as much as possible and limit yourself to two or less drinks… just drink them slowly so you always have a can in your hand and people don’t give you as much crap
    • Do not drink mixed drinks in your first semester for the reason listed in the next bullet point
    • Do not take shots in your first year of college unless you want to black out and get alcohol poisoning. You don’t have the experience to monitor how you feel yet and it is extremely unsafe to take shots or drink hard alcohol with other people who don’t know what they’re doing (and not even seniors in college usually have this figured out even if they claim to lol)
    • Resist the urge to stay out past 1am. If you haven’t found a girl at that point, you definitely won’t that night. Don’t put any more nails in your coffin- the only thing to do late is drink more and that’s when people get alcohol poisoning and hangovers
  3. 1 regular beer can/ bottle = 1 glass of wine = 1 shot = 0.5 mixed drink (roughly)

Class

Guess what? No one is there to wake you up and make you go to class. You could go the entire semester and never attend one class!  Sounds nice right? Wrong.  You should make an extremely strict rule for yourself: never miss a class, not once.  Professors and teacher’s assistant’s loathe students who miss class or come in late.  By promising yourself firmly never to be late or miss class, you ensure that you will always be on hand to at least passively absorb the information if not actively participate.  90% of winning in life is just showing up.  Make sure you show up for class every day regardless of if you are hungover or tired or sick or broke your arm.  Go every single time.

Do grades matter in college?  Absolutely yes.  I use college GPA’s to help me assess the work habits of potential employees every time.  If you want to get an MBA or JD or another advanced degree down the road it is crucial to have had good grades.  Your college grades will follow you for the rest of your life, don’t screw them up.

Sex

Wrap it up every single time, no matter what she says.  If she says no or is wasted, walk away.

New Friends

You are going to make tons of new friends in college.  You will have a blast hanging out with them and going on adventures.  Girls, parties, sports, studies, and little trips are going to bond you to these friends.  Keep in mind though that in a decade you will still only be in regular contact with 1/50 of them.   Don’t let them influence you to do stupid things, party too much, miss class or fail in other ways.

Drugs

I recommend avoiding drugs altogether. I know that in today’s world that is not feasible so if I was you I would make a firm promise to myself that I would only use alcohol and no other drugs.  You must make this decision ahead of time or it will not stick in the situations you will find yourself in. Below is my assessment of different drugs:

Alcohol – hard to avoid.  It’s okay if you can control how often you drink and how much you drink.
Cigarettes & cigars & chew – retarded. Primarily for white trash people and idiot frat guys.
Marijuana – fairly safe except for your lungs and work ethic. Not my thing, but if you do try this don’t smoke on weekdays.
Adderall & prescription study drugs – makes you feel like you are studying harder, but doesn’t actually improve performance long term. Avoid.
Vicodin & Oxycontin & other downers – Not much fun and when mixed with alcohol will kill you.
Mushrooms – hallucinogen – I’ve never done it but do you want to lose control over yourself and your reality? Some people don’t come back the same person.
LSD – Another hallucinogen but much more powerful. Another one I have never done.  A single use can result in psychosis or flashbacks for the rest of your life.
Cocaine – Scary upper. Bad for your heart (can cause heart attacks in young people without heart disease), bad for your brain (can cause seizures and bizarre/violent behavior), bad for your kidneys (can cause rhabdomyolysis – massive kidney failure). I’ve done this one and can tell you from personal experience that the twenty minute high you get is not worth the slow depression over the next day. After your first twenty minute high you want another and and another and another. Then you will be really depressed after.  The up is not worth the down. Stay far away from this and it’s retarded cousin crack.
Heroin – really bad news. Very bad for your body and very easy to overdose on and die.  Never come near this.
Meth – One of the worst drugs there is.  Leaves holes in your brain and your body falls apart.  It’s a massive upper that lasts for a long period of time and when you come down there is nothing you want more than to do it again. Many a rich and successful man has been brought down by this drug.  It is completely uncontrollable and over a period of years will destroy your life.  Avoid at all costs.

Risky Adventures

These are going to be a lot of fun. You and your friends are young, strong and feel invincible.  I am lucky to be alive today considering all the risky activities my friends and I participated in.  I also knew a lot of guys who broke bones and even a couple who died.  One guy died when he was drunk and fell out the window of a frat house. The other guy overdosed.  The guys who broke bones broke them jet skiing, longboarding, jumping from rooftop to rooftop, getting in fights, etc.  I encourage you to have fun, but use your head.  No one is there to say “No Josh, don’t do that, its dangerous”.  Your friends don’t care and want to be entertained and will encourage you to do retarded things. Flip it back on them instead.

Also avoid fights.  There is few things that will take the wind out of your sails like having your jaw wired shut for a year and having to withdraw from school from a semester.  You are a grown man in body (if not in mind haha) and you are surrounded by boys in mens bodies who don’t know their power yet.  One unlucky punch is all it takes to give you brain damage, shatter your jaw, break your nose or collapse your windpipe.  I had a friend in college who looked fairly normal – slightly larger and bulkier than average but it was hard to tell.  He was the four time national heavyweight karate champion and he loved to get in fights at even small provocations. You never know who you will come across at a bar or party and what their training/experience has been.  A lot of the people will probably not even attend your college and will hate college guys.  Be careful.

Applied Learning / Education

Do your best even as a freshman to work in applied sciences, engineering and business.  Do whatever you can to get good internships and work directly under professors on their projects.  You will learn more in a good internship or interesting project for a professor than you ever will in class.  You will also have a ton of fun and make the best connections by doing these things.