College advice your mama won’t tell you


Angel Saldivar

Students drink on the roof of a house during Unofficial 2023.

By Raphael Ranola, Opinions Editor

It’s no secret that going from high school to college is a big adjustment — and the newfound freedoms you’re met with as a rising freshman can be daunting and tend to be the subject of a touchy conversation with Mom.

This is especially true at the University of Illinois: a drinking school with an engineering problem. Don’t let this turn of phrase scare you — I’ve come up with a list of 10 tips to help you navigate your freshman year as somebody who’s gone through his freshman year with barely a scratch.

1. You will have so much more freedom

For many of you, this will be your first time living away from your parents for an extended period of time. With no parents, no truancy enforcement and easy access to booze and mind-altering drugs, the degree of freedom you will experience as a freshman is immense, much to Mom and Dad’s potential dismay.

2. Perhaps too much freedom?

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With freedom comes a need for responsibility. One of the biggest learning curves when it comes to adjusting to college is that you are in charge of taking care of yourself. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that, ultimately, you’re going to college to get an education. It’s up to you to figure out the balance of self-discovery and self-discipline you need to grow as a person.

3. If that’s not your scene, that’s okay too

Everybody talks about the college experience, but as much as the culture I’ve mentioned above is widely prevalent at the University, there is no expectation for you to participate. If you’re going to drink or smoke for the first time, make sure that you are doing so with people that you trust and that you know exactly what you are getting yourself into.

4. Prepare to be sick 

Dorm living isn’t glamorous. The combination of corralling all the freshmen to use the same facilities alongside going out to parties results in the phenomenon lovingly known as “Frat Flu.” Remember to wash your hands thoroughly and pack some Xyzal, because a brush with the Frat Flu is an inevitability.

5. Hit the ground running and make friends while you can

Make no mistake: The first two weeks of your freshman year are basically a strange adult summer camp, and everyone around you is in summer camp mode. Even if it’s outside of your comfort zone, make an effort to connect with the people on your floor or whoever’s next to you during an event. This excitement wears off super quickly, and there is a very brief window of time before you’ll never know your neighbor’s names.

6. Befriend your roommate

In a similar vein, try to connect with your roommate as much as possible and as soon as you can. You’re going to be living with them for at least a little while, so try to establish your boundaries as soon as you can — even if this particular roommate isn’t random. If you have no other options, you can always rely on the person who sleeps a few feet away.

7. Take care of yourself, don’t be a dumb freshman

College is a time for experimentation. This, however, is not an open invitation to black out and ruin your night and the night of the poor soul who is tasked to take care of you. Try to get a grasp on what your limits are and try to adhere to these limits — you’re not impressing anybody by drinking beyond your limit. While this excitement will go away, your liver will remember.

8. Kill your eardrums at least once

My first-ever “real” party was last year, and, while the novelty wore off after a while, I’m glad I went out of my comfort zone and had that experience. Parties are more fun with friends, so grab your girlfriends, grab the boys or whoever and lose yourself in that early 2000s pop. Whether it’s a musty frat house basement or Canopy Club, a little eardrum damage didn’t kill anyone, and you’ll have good memories of dance circles and mosh pits to take home with you.

9. Get a gadget

Despite the blue light system and other safety features in place, a college campus can still be an unsafe place to be — particularly in bars or frat houses. Here I remind you that window poppers, alarms, pepper spray and cup covers can be a crutch where the need to protect yourself arises.

10. Your parents don’t have to know everything

You made it. All of your hard work paid off, and now you’re on your way to a respectable institution that knows how to work hard and play hard. This also means that you’ll be putting a healthy and necessary distance between yourself and your parents, who are probably scared to death. Thus, it’s important that you have an open and honest discussion with your parents about boundaries and expectations so you can explore adulthood and come into your own.


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