As September approaches, young people gearing up for college are inundated with information about freshman year – what NOT to buy for your college dorm room, tips for getting along with your new roomie, how to/why you’ll love freshman year, how to drink at college parties, and of course, the Freshman 15.
Now, all the data tells us that the Freshman 15 is a myth – the average weight gain for students is around 3 lbs (the same as for non-students of the same age), but the problem of sexual assault is not a myth. So we here at SJFB are shamelessly co-opting the phrase “Freshman 15” to give you the top 15 things you actually need to know as college students, first year and otherwise:
- You get to decide what you do with your own body. That’s right – whether it’s what you eat or who you’re with and what you do, that choice is yours, and yours alone, as long as you’re not deciding something for someone else’s body in the process.
- Trust your gut. Take the time to learn how you feel, and pay attention to it. If something, or someone, doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not, and you get to leave any situation or person that doesn’t feel right for you. As they say, there are plenty of fish in the sea (or…carrots in the field, for the vegetarian/vegan crowd…)
- See the options around you. Good advice for anywhere on campus, not just the cafeteria. Take the time to survey who and what is around you, and if something – or someone – isn’t working for you, know that you can choose a different option, whether that is where to live, where to socialize, or who you are spending time with.
- Get the facts. Even in college, and even about sexual assault, misinformation abounds. Don’t rely on what’s right in front of you – whether in conversation with friends, a statement by a professor, or a sign on the door in the bathroom stall. Fact: fighting back can be extremely effective in thwarting an assault – it’s a right you have, and a choice you can make if it feels right to you.
- Tweak your lifestyle. – For the better! Make choices (not just food!) that are good for you, and surround yourself with people who are interested in what you want for yourself, not just what they want from you.
- Swap your go-to order. Old habits die hard, and we often go with what feels familiar, rather than what feels safe and healthy. If what you’ve done before doesn’t feel good now, try something new.
- Skip the stupid aisle. Okay, in the diet magazines, they will you to “skip the salty aisle”, but we like this better. College – like life – is too short to waste with stupid people, and by that, we mean people who are interested in bringing you down to their level. Trust us – there are better aisles out there.
- Do a purge. One nice thing about college is that you get to leave high school (and middle school) behind you. We’ve all made mistakes in the past, and we will make them in the future. Don’t let them define you – a figurative purge allows you to let those go, and move forward in the direction you want.
- Healthy up your happy hour. As we’ve said before, alcohol is complicated. The connection between alcohol and assault on college campuses is well-documented, which in no way means that drinking or being intoxicated makes a person assault someone else, or makes a person responsible if someone assaults them. Know, whether or not you choose to drink, that it is important to know your limits and the risks associated with alcohol use.
- Pile on the boundaries. You get to “no” to things you don’t want, without disclaimer, explanation, or apology. As scholars who write for a living, we are here to remind you that “No” is a complete sentence. (And remember – what’s posted on-line STAYS on-line. Err on the side of caution.)
- Show some restraint when appropriate. Whether in person or on social media, remember that you are not obligated to please others at the expense of your own happiness and well-being.
- Get off the couch. Staying physically active in college is a great way to manage stress and manage your moods. Stay focused on exercise that makes you feel better—not whether it makes you look better.
- Know what you stand for. Notice injustice and oppression in your environment – your own personal space, and the world at large – and decide how you can respond to it safely. Being in college is just like being in any other community: there will be conflicts, tragedies, and triumphs. And what kind of community member you choose to be will help shape what that community becomes. Part of a group or club doing something deplorable? Take a stand—change it, report it, leave it.
- It’s always okay to ask for help. Whether it’s help with your writing skills, with depression or anxiety, or in a situation that feels unsafe, ask for what you need. You may be living on your own, but you’re not an island. College campuses have more resources than ever to support your well-being and your academic success. Know the resources out there, and don’t be afraid to use them.
- Get fired up. Take the time to get to know yourself, and then go for it, full steam ahead. Know what you want – and don’t want – and keep your eye on the prize. You’re in college to be an academic rock star and pursue your dreams. College is about making your future, so evaluate every option or course of action based on whether it will help, or hinder, achieving your goals. Believe in yourself. We believe in you.