Dear college kid,
I bet you are SO excited and a little bit nervous about going away to college. This is a HUGE transition for you that will offer so many opportunities to learn and experience a variety of new things!
In this next season of your life, you’ll be building friendships, exploring your interests, and pursuing academics- while learning so many lessons about living on your own.
This will be the first time you won’t have a curfew or live under the supervision of your parents, which means you are free to do whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it. THAT kind of independence will be empowering and thrilling for you! But sometimes, without the guardrails of your parents’ watchful eyes and the structure of your home, you can slide off the road with bad decisions. You will feel pressured to make some choices that can have devastating repercussions.
It is SO tempting to say yes to every single thing that comes your way- because you CAN. But don’t.
Here’s the thing: The most important lesson you’ll need to learn is having the courage and confidence to say “No”.
It will be so hard because you’ll want to make friends and fit in. You’ll want to experience “college life” to the fullest, and well, that means parties and lots of fun. While there’s nothing wrong with making new friends and going to lots of fun activities and events, there are serious dangers you can face with both. You might feel like you can handle it all just fine, and I truly hope you can. But even the smartest, most responsible students can make big mistakes, and I want to warn you before you have the chance to do the same.
You will be tempted to make friends with people who are at college to party.
When you go to college, you’ll want to make friends with anyone you meet. You might be tempted to join social circles that might have the sole priority of partying. LOTS of students do. This direction is risky in so many ways. Please be cautious of the friends you make. When you are invited to join these types of peer groups, you will feel pressure to say yes and participate in their reckless activities. Please be wise and brave enough to say no to people who will be a terrible influence on you. Every choice you make matters. You might say “yes” and then realize you are involved in something you do not want to do. It’s OKAY to leave the situation by slipping out without even a goodbye. You don’t owe them an explanation, but you can make up any excuse if they ask why you’re going.
Instead of the partiers, find friends who have the same interests as you. Look for people who care about their health and safety and college goals. Pick friends you can trust and who care about you and value other areas of life more than partying. You can still have so much fun with these friends, and you will make memories that will last a lifetime! If you choose wise and responsible friends, you will feel much more at peace with your choices and consequently feel at peace within yourself. The friends you keep are key to the success you’ll have at college, and these people will play a MAJOR part in who you grow up to be. Some college friends will stay with you for life. THOSE will be your people.
You’ll be tempted to skip class and not study.
When you are at college, you have the freedom to make daily decisions all on your own, which means you will be tempted to skip classes when you’re tired or something MUCH more fun comes along. You’ll think you can get by just fine, and it’s so easy to blow it off when the professor doesn’t even take attendance or notice you’re not there! This is a destructive habit to start because that one time turns into more times, and pretty soon, you’ll be so behind you’ll be completely lost and start failing the class. Students’ academic downfall happens OFTEN.
Get yourself to class, no matter how tired you are or what other opportunities come your way. You are at college for THIS VERY REASON. Your academics must be your priority, no matter how much fun you might be missing. You (or your parents) are paying LOTS OF MONEY for you to get this degree which requires your attendance and study time too. You must make time to study and do your homework. You will have a TON of chances to blow off both. This takes self-discipline and a strong determination you must find within yourself. Believe me, you will be so glad you kept on course and took your academics seriously.
You will be tempted to drink and do drugs.
I’m sure you’ve had a lot of experience with both during high school, but think of high school like the minor league and college like the major league when it comes to partying. Alcohol and drugs will be EVERYWHERE. You will be offered pills for energy or concentration to study, for feeling depressed or anxious, and oftentimes, just for fun. DON’T TAKE ANY OF THEM!! Even if you trust the friend who has them- NO ONE knows what’s in those pills. Fentanyl is literally everywhere now, and you could DIE if you ingest a tiny molecule of this fatal drug that can be in anything. If you are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to your parents or go to the school clinic for guidance in treating your symptoms. Don’t risk your life on an impulsive yes to ANY pill. And the same goes for snorting or inhaling ANYTHING. One hit can kill you. Don’t think for one minute that marijuana is harmless because ALL DRUGS can be laced with deadly substances and cause overdose deaths.
And there will be alcohol everywhere you go. You will be tempted to join in all the fun, but you will NOT know what is in your drink unless your pour it yourself. NEVER drink anything someone gives you… and yes, even if you trust that person. There are countless cases of drugs being put in drinks which can easily include yours. If you choose to drink, get your own cup and SLOWLY sip on it all night long, and do not keep drinking more. You can easily get drunk with a small portion, and you will be at risk of making terrible decisions that can be harmful to you or others. You might feel like you’re not feeling the effects of whatever you’re consuming, so you’ll think you’re safe to keep drinking. THAT IS NOT TRUE. Alcohol catches up with you and will HIT YOU HARD.
Here’s the honest truth: Alcohol consumption can lead to colossal consequences. Drunk students get out of control, and whether it’s your decision or theirs, someone WILL get hurt. The damage from drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, criminal activity and arrest, physical abuse, DUI’s, injuries, addiction, and dare I say DEATH. Do not take this lightly. Please have self-control and remember you can still have fun without getting smashed and reckless.
You will be tempted to have sex.
Just like high school was the minor league in drugs and alcohol versus the major league of college, the same applies to sex. Now that kids have so much freedom to do anything and many are partying, the opportunities to have sex will be everywhere. Unfortunately, many students will say yes to sexual invitations when they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This can lead to shameful remorse and regret, as well as risking contracting a variety of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.
Please don’t feel pressured to have sex with ANYONE. Having sex will NOT make you more friends or build romantic relationships. It will only make you feel vulnerable, violated, and used. Sex has become a recreational activity for many. Please honor your body and make very careful choices about what you do with it. You deserve respect and relationships that are built on a deeper connection than impulsive and careless sex.
Listen, I know this is all stressful stuff to take in. And you might already know a lot about these things. But what you won’t know is how you will behave until you get to college and you are faced with these really tough temptations while living on your own. Some of the smartest kids I know have failed out of school. Some of the most responsible kids have ended up addicted to drugs. Some of the kindest girls have been sexually assaulted. And sadly, I know a few precious souls who died from an accidental overdose. I’m betting you are aware of similar tragic cases.
So, with all that said, you must find it in yourself to be courageous and confident and strong and secure in who you are and what you want. You will be put to the test often. Will you choose any of these temptations, or will you choose to honor your commitment to being healthy, well, and safe?
With every decision you make, you are building your identity and your future. Believe in yourself. You are worthy of GOOD THINGS, GOOD PEOPLE, GOOD GRADES, and a GREAT FUTURE. Pursue them all with self-discipline, self-determination, and self-respect.
Your wise choices will lead to a much more fulfilling life than any of these detrimental decisions can bring. I promise.