Letters for my son: One day ’til college

We’re here; the day before the boy leaves for college. Some of you have called, written or e-mailed to say you’ve enjoyed this series and hey, where did you go? Why did you bag it when you were just getting to the bitter end? Well, we’re here. The last several days the concept of “gone” has become much more real; and I’ve grown quiet, reflective.

To my rescue came two guest posters — G. Mehlhose and J. Varsoke. G-man is a guy who was integral to our overall freshman year experience. J. is a guy I only wish I’d known since freshman year (although we met many years after college, he certainly has the status of college friend in our realm).

G-man’s advice came in a box filled with energy drinks, Ramen noodles and a few bucks for ordering late-night pizza. G. wrote:

  • Always do your homework
  • Always go to class
  • If possible, never take a 7:40am class. If you get stuck in an early class, go to class

He also mentioned, “Hydration is important so please consume lots of water.” Good advice for anyone.

From J., the following:

Practical Advice to Freshmen, Class of 2012:

  •  Girls – don’t be a nice guy.  Actually, be kind of a jerk.  Unless she’s ugly, or you have no future romantic or sexual plans with this girl, then go ahead, be a gentleman.  Otherwise you just locked yourself out of anything beyond friend status.  No, I don’t know why this works the way it does.  Play your cards close to your chest.  Ignore their probing emotional questions.  Don’t talk about how your first dog was taken to a farm when you were eight.  Don’t offer to carry their mini-fridge up three flights.  Don’t console.  Keep them anxious about whether you like them.  Frustration is the best bait.  If the girl is marriage worthy (you’ll know) tone down the jerk thing – that can come back to bite you.
  •  Studying – the women’s dorm is a good place to study all night . . . unless you actually have work to get done.
  •  Freshman year – until cliques are established you will have lots of friends whom you’ll never talk to again after Freshman year.  Just keep that in mind when the “most embarrassing moment” question comes around.
  •  Roommates – work out a code.  Sock on the door-handle doesn’t cut it.  Don’t be passive aggressive.  Don’t let him be passive aggressive.  Be men; settle your problems.  Don’t go after the same girl.  Bring headphones.
  •  Parents – it’s about negotiation. You want freedom; your parents want you to nail this critical part of your life.  And here’s the hint: better your grades the stronger your position.  Bring home straight As and you could set the house on fire but still leave a smile on your old-man’s face.
  •  Money – lots of ways to solve this on campus.  Iron shirts a buck each.  Burn a girl’s LedZep bootleg CDs to mp3.  But asking for a hand-out from Mom and Dad erodes your position as responsible (read: trusted to do whatever the hell he wants) – grand-parents on the other hand have deep-pockets and no strings.
  •  Grades – this is the last time in your life that when you work hard it will be directly for your own benefit.  After 2012 you’ll likely work hard for someone else’s. 
  •  Grades 2 – the harder you work now, the easier you’ll have to work for the rest of your life.  Rumor has it summa cum laude translates to “goof off until retirement.”
  •  Cultures – eat with the foreigners.  Find where they hide in the cafeteria and join them once a week.  Then squirrel money away for when Raj invites you to stay in his father’s palace over winter break.
  •  Dating – Freshman girls are looking for confident status symbols who can show them around.  Upperclassmen are looking for easy pickings.  This means you’re SOL until sophomore year.  BTW: dating high school girls will brand you for life.  Sorry, that’s just how it is.
  •  Girlfriend back home – take a break.  Cuddling with a telephone and a drunk co-ed are two very different experiences.  If you get back together after Spring finals, it was meant to be.  BTW: no need to tell campus that you’re a free-agent (see Girls).
  •  Limits – challenge them.  Challenge your beliefs.  Challenge old ideas.  It’s the only way to make sure you’ve got the right ones.
  •  Phone home – just to say hey. Moms eat that stuff up.

 — J. Varsoke


Good stuff, guys. Tomorrow is the big day.

About marijean

I'm a public relations professional, social media consultant and work-at-home-mom living and working in Charlottesville, Va. I'm Marijean Jaggers and this is my blog.
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8 Responses to Letters for my son: One day ’til college

  1. Kathy G says:

    I wish someone had told me this before *I* went to school!

  2. Dave Donohue says:


    I also wish someone had given me this list. It would have been equally accurate for the class of 1994, if you substituted Phish for Led Zep and took out mp3s.

    Come to think of it, if mp3s had existed when I was in college, I never would have graduated.

    Best of luck to your son!

  3. abunslife says:

    Awesome advice J. Just perfect. He should print it out and memorize it. His first test.

  4. Liz says:

    Wow! Some very insightful (and true) words from J.! Wish someone would’ve told me these things when I was going to college. Or better yet, I wish I would’ve listened.

  5. Formerly Known as Dwight says:

    Great, GREAT advice, esp. “No 7:40 classes.” God. That was THE stupidest thing I did my first semester at college. Naturally it was an every day class, too. Jeez.

    I’ll throw in two of my maxims:

    1. Remember, this isn’t high school. You are not an institutional inmate. You are a CONSUMER of their educational services. Drop a class before you fail it. Don’t ride mistakes into the ground. If you show up on Day One and your prof proudly proclaims his Dick-osity, (“I’m here to flunk you out of college!” – Oh yes, you will cross paths with this teacher sooner or later) finish out the hour, walk down to registration, and fill out the paperwork to SWITCH CLASSES. This isn’t high school. You have options now. USE THEM.

    2. College professors can only give out so many A’s and B’s. If you want one of those A’s or B’s, you MUST TAKE IT AWAY FROM ANOTHER STUDENT SITTING IN YOUR CLASSROOM. You are in competition with your fellow students. You can like them. You can respect them. But somewhere in your predatory limbic wolf-brain, you need to understand that you must CRUSH the kids sitting next to you by doing your projects to a level that unmistakably embarasses them for their substandard efforts. Srsly, kid. You are either a wolf, or you’re a sheep. Lots of bully dumbasses will roll their eyes when you keep raising your hand and monopolizing a classroom discussion.

    Three years from now those eye-rollers will have dropped out and be sweating the latest round of layoffs at the shoe factory.

    You will be on track for a sweet internship at a cooshy job where the receptionist wears dresses so short they might not be legal.

    Eff the bullies. Eff peer pressure. Eff your concerns about being the kid who tries too hard, or kisses ass too much.

    Look at the kid in the chair to your left. The chair to your right. Good.

    Now crush them.

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