Saturday, August 17, 2013

How To Succeed in College Without Really Trying

My youngest brother, Sam, is heading off to college tomorrow and after saying goodbye today I was left with tumbling emotions: Michigan is so far away! Will his roommate be a weirdo? Will he keep in touch and let us know what is going on in his life? None of us have ever been so far away; he's not coming home until Thanksgiving! Holy cow, my little brother is a college freshman! I hope he has fun; I hope he meets great people and makes incredible memories. What an adventure!

I reflected on my own college freshman experience and I realized that the theme was definitely FUN. Fun fun fun, all the time. Fun being busy, fun making friends, fun staying up late, fun even doing homework. I LOVED it. So I want to make sure you love it too, Sam. Here's my advice for how to have an amazing first year of college:

(I guess I should mention that he is going into a competitive dual Voice Performance and Education program on scholarship, playing trombone in the Marching Band, auditioning for the famed Glee Club, and living on campus at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor. LEGIT.)

1. Do something athletic with friends. I don't know if it's a "guy" thing to go work out with friends, but I for one loved going to the gym with my peeps - it motivated us to stay in shape, and there were definitely plenty of laughs along the way. If you're not into that, no problem: join an intramural flag football, battleship (look it up!), or ultimate frisbee team. Participate in your dorm volleyball tournaments with the guys on your floor, sign up for broom ball even though the games don't start until midnight, and keep that running group going.

2. Practice, hard. Freshman year is more of a time to shine than any other year in the music program: stick out by always presenting great work, prove that you deserve to be noticed, practice as much as they tell you and don't skimp on the warm-ups/technique drills that your teacher assigns you. Don't be afraid to perform - after all that hard practice you'll always have one or two amazing pieces ready at any time. You're going into music, for crying out loud: if you don't perform, you'll never get better.

3. That being said, It's OKAY to skip once in a while. If your friends are going to some once-in-a-lifetime thing and they are begging you to come but you haven't practiced for that day, GO WITH YOUR FRIENDS. They'll respect that you are giving up something that is really important to you for just one night to be with them and make outrageous memories. Other times you're just pooped and need to skip practicing for a night to go to a new restaurant downtown and then come home and QRT. That's not only okay, it's necessary.

4. "If it's free, it's for me!" Repeat this mantra with your friends. Always keep your eye out for a gem amongst the millions of posters hanging all around campus and choose one random event every other week to attend. If it's free, it's automatically awesome. AND, free food is usually involved. If it's cool, it turns into a memorable night, and if it's lame, it turns into a sometimes even more memorable night: you can't lose! Examples from my experience: evening with a trained hypnotist, followed by a pancake feed; barbershop quartet/men's choir concert with accompanying after-party (which we were invited to because we introduced ourselves to the singers after the show); free ice skating weekends; "United By Yarn," the campus knitting club; 5Ks and fun runs around town; and, one of our all-time favorites: dorm Bingo night. We ended up winning a $100 Walmart giftcard!

5. SHOWER. No one wants to be "that guy" who smells or wears jammies to class; feel good about your appearance and you'll have a better day. But don't feel like you always have to dress to impress -sometimes you need a day in shorts and a t-shirt. We had Super Sweats Fridays which were great because then you never felt under dressed since all your pals are wearing sweats with you.

6. Don't spend all your money eating out. But spend a lot. It's fun to spend money, and you can always work and earn more later. (Mom, don't tell Dad I said that). I loved going to the bookstore once or twice a semester after a particularly stressful test or audition and buying the hoodie I'd been coveting or juicy new office supplies that I totally didn't need but made me feel better. Don't be the lame-o who never wants to do anything with friends because "it costs too much."

7. Get outside the music building. You NEEEEED friends who have no idea what a music major's life is like. You need to get away from the drama (let's face it: the music building is essentially a grown-up high school, just more talented) and talk about things other than German diction, the next performance class, or how much you love that Mozart aria. Non-music people think what we do is completely foreign and cool, and not talking about it all the time with them will only increase your mystique. Plus, they might have info about free, awesome events that no one in the music program has heard of...refer to number 4.

8. Stay up late at least once a week. Nothing is more fun than late-night runs to get pop and candy at the gas station with the bros...get good sleep most nights, but again, you don't want to be the lame-o who bags out on everything because he "has to get in bed, I'm soooo tired." YAWN, literally: no one cares, and most of my hilarious memories happened after 11pm. Suck it up...if you're not tired, you aren't a true college student.

9. Impress your teachers. No, you don't have to be a suck-up; no, it's not lame to get straight-A's. In fact, getting good grades is FUN. Having teachers respect you and know you are a good student is FUN. Not having to stress about turning in crappy or late assignments but having your paper nicely printed and put in a juicy portfolio more than ten minutes before class is FUN. Then when you do skip class once or twice or bomb an assignment randomly your professor will glance over it since you have earned a good reputation.

10. Be SAM. Nothing will make you realize who you are more than being away from everything and everyone you know. It's exciting: essentially you get a clean slate. No one knows your background, no one even cares. People gravitate towards people who are comfortable with themselves (like you), and I would hate to see the motivated, silly, intelligent Sam I know be squashed into a cookie-cutter standard-issue college student. Be passionate about what you really love, not what you think you should love to fit in; sign up for that book club even if none of your other friends like to read (you'll get to meet a cool mix of people who share your common love for reading, bonus! plus, "if it's free, it's for me!"); relish your time in the practice room even if others are complaining about how hard being a music major is - you love to be prepared and you love singing and you are TALENTED, so that practice time is sacred; and most importantly, don't ever be afraid to try something new. It sounds dumb, but if you throw yourself out there you will make awesome memories, find all sorts of interesting and wonderful friends, and have an incredible time doing it.
Natalie will miss her Uncle Sam! She'll still say your name before Max's though, no worries. : ) 
I can't say that we will up and drive to Michigan every weekend, but we really are just a Facetime away (Harold would love to be of use in that category) and we are completely excited and dying to know how you're doing...keep us updated! We are so proud of you - I feel like Dad because I'm always bragging about your accomplishments and telling people how awesome you are. Austin will miss having bro time and is reserving several hours Thanksgiving weekend to devote to a solid reunion QRT, complete with catered steamers by yours truly. STAY IN TOUCH or I'll tell Dad to stop paying for school and make you come home. Maybe I'll do that anyway just so we can hang out again. Thanks for being a good example to your friends, family, and community - U of M is lucky to have you...make the Plumbs proud!!

1 comment:

  1. this is such legit advice. this needs to be plastered all over fbook for all the college freshmen out there!