My experience is that these kids think that everyone operates on the same value system as they do which can leave them vulnerable to predators and other various misanthropes.
So, I have a conversation with them where I highlight the following points. When I send them their report, I summarize what we've discussed on paper. I've yet to have a parent react negatively to these "life lessons". In fact, many are grateful. They appreciate the straightforward approach.
- Develop a "healthy" suspicion and mistrust. It's nice if people pleasantly surprise you and turn out to be trustworthy, but stay on guard!
- Don't loan anybody anything of any value, EVER!
- Lock up your stuff! Lock up ALL of your stuff!!
- Don't let anyone mistreat you. If they get away with it once, it will happen again. Anyone who is threatening or intimidating needs to be dealt with immediately. Get it solved. It won't get any better. Clearly state to them how they will treat you or the behavior you won't tolerate. ("I don't let people threaten me.") The college curriculum moves fast; you don't have time to get distracted by other people's emotional and behavioral problems.
- Girls lie. They may lie about birth control. Wanna be a parent NOW??? You don't want sexually transmitted diseases. You also don't want to contract sexually-transmitted cancer which can happen with some types of the human papilloma virus (HPV). You don't want to contract an oral cancer, either. Throat, salivary gland, esophageal and tongue cancers, especially in men, are substantially on the rise. Consider the vaccine which is a series of just three injections.
- Boys lie. You are not likely to be THE ONE even though he "loves you". Wait until he tells you that he loves you, but he's not "in love" with you. Ha! Dumped by semantics. He may give you a sexually transmitted disease or the human papilloma virus (HPV) which could lead to genital warts or cervical cancer or throat/tongue/salivary gland/esophageal cancer. These oral cancers are on the rise even for women. Attractive, very attractive. Be safe and consider the vaccine. Three injections...that's it! Get informed.
- If you date someone once, twice or three times and they become intensely attached to you, look out. If they start to stalk you, call you, leave notes on your car, show up an unexpected times, it's an extreme situation. Look up borderline personality disorder and see if what you are reading, "fits" your experience. These folks have extremes of emotionality. They love you one minute and hate you the next. They can seriously, very seriously, interrupt your education and destabilize your life. Get help immediately. NOW!!!
- When in doubt about situations, ask yourself the 4 Most Important Questions in the world:
- Can I live with the short-term consequences?
- Can I live with the long-term consequences?
- Is this healthy for me (physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually)?
- What is this person's motivation for getting me involved and what do they want from me?
- Ask questions. Ask lots of questions to make sure you understand what is expected of you. You don't have college experience. It's a different world. If you make assumptions, things can go sideways really fast. You may not be able to recover your grades before the marking period ends.
- For the first two trimesters, quarters or even for the full year, take the minimum number of classes that qualify you as a full-time student. You'll need this first year, especially if you are involved in sports or other time-intensive activities, to get your legs under you and figure "things out" such as "What do I do if I have the flu?" BTW, get the flu shot if medically indicated. Control the controllable. You cannot be absent.
- See the professor during their office hours. Ask questions about the classwork and other areas of interest. If they are open to it, ask them questions about how they came to teach and their professional history. Teaching and learning is an emotional relationship. If they know you care about your education, you may earn the "benefit of the doubt" in special circumstances. Also, most of these people are very interesting and teaching is only a minor part of what they do.
- Take advantage of seminars, workshops, tutorials until you get a sense of "what" is required at the college level. It's rather like being slightly over-dressed for an occasion instead of being slightly under-dressed. Which would you rather be? Be prepared for it all. Be overly prepared. Be confident. Control the controllable.
- Having problems with a professor? Get into the learning support center to get some advocacy help. Some professors are diagnosably mentally ill or have other "issues". They're human; they fall down. They also have character flaws that make them jealous or resentful of certain kinds of students. Don't get caught up in their drama. They hold a position of authority and they can hurt you. Get help. You don't want to re-take a class or fail it because you look just like the girl who jilted him 25 years ago. If they are not cooperating on your accommodations, get help NOW!!!
- Get up, dress up and show up. You can't phone it in. Professors take attendance. They expect you to be there. Let them see your face.
- You will be submitting many of your assignments, papers, etc., via the internet. They're not playing. You can't get away with much. If you don't submit by the cutoff time, they don't have to take your work and your excuses/reasons are likely not to be accepted.
- Time management, time management, and oh yeah, time management. Everything takes at least twice as long as you estimated. If it doesn't, then yippee! Go out and play. But if it doesn't, you are in control. When students have moved onto college, they are often impressed by the fact that they have more time. It's not the "6 classes a day and homework late into the evening" schedule. They have more time than expected which can throw off their "routine". Beware!!
- If you decide you need a quiet dorm or a single room, begin making arrangements as soon as possible. Yes, there are such things. If you need extra room for your flatbed scanner and other "learning gear", you have the right to have the extra space.
- Have nothing to do the summer before college or during the summers once you've been in college for a year or so? Think you want to go into advertising? Then volunteer at whatever ad agency will take you. Get in there and see what it is actually like to work in that setting. The "job" that you are taught in college is likely to bear only a slight resemblance to the job you actually work at every day. So, take some summers and explore before you commit to a profession that may not be a "good fit" after all.
- Join in. Even if you don't think you'll like the activity, it's not about the activity, it's about the other people who show up. You never know who you'll meet.
Enjoy your college experience. It's the time of your life. Be safe, be smart, be capable.