Wow, a whole year has gone by since my last “Dear College Students” advice spew-age and this time I have some new on-campus experience to back me up! This week was my first week of classes in three and a half years and I’m loving it all over again! Phones – Oh my gosh. When I was in college, smartphones were extremely rare and very expensive. Few people had them. Yes, there would be a lot of texting and talking going on during the daily class commute, but good grief, nothing like I’m seeing on my campus now. PLEASE, just put your phone away. Headphones – I repeat: You will never have the opportunity to see as many people your age on a daily basis as you do in college. You can listen to music when you’re doing your homework or when you’re by yourself. Can’t you just pay attention to the people around you during your walk? I understand some people are anxious and need to calm down with some tunes, but I suggest you’d be less anxious if you gave your mind some quiet time and absorbed your surroundings.

Smile – This is in-line with the prior nuggets of advice. Once you have mastered storing your phone and your iPod in your bag, notice how many people you’re passing along the way. This is not high school anymore. It’s OKAY to be friendly and to make people around you feel good and welcome! Smile at the passersby, say hello, wish someone a good morning, all because you CAN. I can’t stress this enough: the real world doesn’t often bring you into contact with as many strangers as you see in college. Date dorks – I don’t mean the term “dork” as an insult. It’s quite the opposite! Trends – Feel free to ignore this one, as I am just about the least fashionable person on my current campus. I suggest not spending at ton of money on fashion trends. 100 on a nice day dress you’ll wear 3 times. Otherwise: no one cares if you’re wearing something that is ‘so last season,’ at least not those who value who you really are. But don’t go broke in the process. Take the stairs – Plan ahead and make it a habit to take the stairs.

I have walked about 20 miles in the last week, no joke. Ask me how much I walked on a weekly average during the last three years in the work force. The answer is closer to 20 meters. Enjoy this time in your life where you use your body as more than a mode of transport for your brain from the desk to the water cooler. If you make it a habit to take the stairs and walk when you can now, perhaps you’ll hang onto that when you go into the workforce. Side note: when college students go into the workforce, they typically start gaining a few pounds, likely because they transition from walking everywhere to sitting at a desk 8 hours a day. Just do it – My parents were extremely gracious to pay for my undergraduate education. I never realized the value of it, but I have a better grasp on that now.

100 an hour in the classroom, everyday for a whole semester. Now that I’m paying for my own degree, you better believe I’m going to class with walking pneumonia. You’re joking me. I call that the weakness button. The button for those who don’t mind flushing their money and time down the toilet. Just do your work. You have a spare hour, reread your notes. It’s a rainy Saturday night and you’re too tired to go out, get ahead on your paper due in two weeks. You have an awkward hour and thirty minutes between classes, spend your time looking over the syllabus and planning out when you’re going to do which assignments on what day. Just do it. That’s your job. Get involved – Let me let you in on a little secret: you’re not that busy. How many hours per day are you in class? Three hours one day?

Six hours on a really bad day? Ask your dad how many hours he’s working his day job. Then ask him how many hours he “works” as a dad, taking care of your family. Then ask him what weekend activities he’s involved in. Finally, ask him what he does in his spare time. The majority of your time is spare time, I’m sorry to say. I know you’re spending a lot of time walking, in class, studying, and fostering relationships. That’s what you’re supposed to be doing at your age and stage of life! But don’t stop there! Get involved with a club or three. Go to campus events. Meet the people in your class and ask them to join you for coffee. SPEND your time rather than letting it go by unaccounted for. I want to offer a big plug for getting involved in your Catholic campus ministry club. Yes, it will be awkward to introduce yourself to new people and you may be intimidated by people who seem holier for you, but it’s like choosing the stairs over the elevator: healthy choices beget healthy souls. This is the time you’ve been waiting for and it’s the first step toward a great new world! Make these habits now!

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