Stop! 10 High School Habits to Drop Before Freshman Year

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You can have two distinctly different paths freshman year. You can become friends with awesome people (aka find drinking buddies), make exams and papers your bitch and pump your fist—Tiger Woods style—as you arrive back home a celebrity. Or a darker freshman year timeline can find old high school habits haunting you; and as a result, your grades suffer, your social life becomes a case of beer and a party of one, your grades suffer some more, you drop out of school and then you wake up in a ditch (whoa, that escalated quickly). Don’t end up in a ditch. Lose these 10 high school habits before you move into your dorm.

1. PROCRASTINATING

I’m sorry to be the wet blanket of your senior celebrations, but it’s time to put down that graduation cake and buckle up for freshman year. Studying—cramming—for tests the night before and finishing homework minutes before class may have worked in high school, but no more. You may get away with it the first time, and even the second, but eventually this dangerous high-wire act catches up to you, as do the sleepless nights. College exams cover weeks’ worth of material, and if you expect to go the distance, you need to prepare. Alright, now you can finish your cake…or hand it to me.

2. BULLSHITTING WORK

While your best B.S. work in high school slipped through the cracks an astonishing 150 percent of the time, this number drops significantly for college assignments. College professors can see B.S. coming from a mile away—they call it bullshit-dar. The same kind of half-assed work that got you A’s and B’s in high school sadly turns into C’s and D’s freshman year. Don’t let this take you by surprise. Spending a little more time with a paper and showing it some tender love and care goes a long way.

3. GETTING BY WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM YOUR FRIENDS

Whenever you needed help with difficult homework in high school, you called up a friend or Facebook messaged the guy in your chemistry class who looked the smartest. In college, as you look around the lecture hall day one and see hundreds of unfamiliar faces, you realize that your high school homework club pals left you at the altar. Bottom line, you need to support yourself academically. Sure, you might talk to the people who sit near you, but when you send out an SOS smoke signal, old reliable—that genius chemistry guy who wore smart-looking glasses but may have only had a 2.5—won’t be there to rescue you.

4. LOOKING FOR LEEWAY WITH PROFESSORS

Thank god for high school teachers: our Mr. Feeny’s of the (boy meets) world. Whenever you needed to correct an assignment, makeup a test or receive that generous grade bump, they happily came to your aid. College professors on the other hand are a totally different species. Though they want to see you succeed in their classes, these hardo, no-nonsense folk rarely make any exceptions if you bomb an exam or turn something in late. And leave your excuses at home because professors are shrewd. No more “My aunt’s cat died and I need to plan the funeral.” Work hard in class and build good relationships with your professors and when you least expect it, they might grant you mercy. Might.

5. PLAYING 20 QUESTIONS IN CLASS

The incessant urge as a freshman to ask questions about upcoming exams and projects exists—especially when they pertain specifically to you. Fight it—I believe in you. Asking your high school teacher a million questions was fine, and often a fantastic way to bleed out those brutal eight-hour days. That won’t fly any more: College professors value every minute for teaching. So unless they ask if anyone has questions about this or that, the right moves include emailing the professor, going to her office hours or talking briefly once class ends.

6. COMPETING WITH PEERS

While attempting to outsmart and outfox your classmates in high school provided World Series-like entertainment, treating your college classmates the same way paves an easy path to a miserable freshman year. You and the thousands of others who arrive on campus enter on roughly the same intellectual playing field; and on this proverbial playing field, you all go to bat for the same team. You won’t get any trophies for competing against each other academically, only unnecessary stress. If you work together instead, your freshman year will result in a ton of success, less stress and maybe even a few new friends.

7. LAUNCHING HEADFIRST INTO AN EXTRACURRICULAR ACTIVITY

Your initial instincts from high school might tell you to join a club or organization and become heavily involved. But here’s a lesson not taught in your freshman gen ed lecture: Everyone was the leader of a club or team in high school. Rather than jumping right into a major organization and taking on a huge commitment, ease into your freshman year. Let one of the thousands of other capable people do the heavy lifting for a while. These clubs need key cogs, and you’ll be thankful for your super important pencil pusher role when it comes time to study for finals.

8. USING YOUR PARENTS AS AN ALARM CLOCK 

This one sounds fairly obvious. Of course your parents don’t wake you up in college. This is a case of something that is easier said than done. Once you start to get the taste of hitting that snooze button for your 9 a.m. class—oh, baby—you’ll want to relive the experience each and every morning. What happens next? You guessed it—you end up with a fly-looking “incomplete” on your transcript.

9. CARING WHAT OTHERS THINK 

You worked hard in high school to cultivate a rock star image and figure out how to push all the right buttons to get people to love you. Sorry Elvis, here’s some bad news. College kids don’t care about your flash and pizzazz. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by what others think. Instead, take classes you enjoy and hang out with people who share your weird obsession for Claymation films and Hawaiian pizza.

10. PLANNING FOR THE (DISTANT) FUTURE

Welcome to the big leagues, kid. You made it. Over four long years in high school you plotted and planned every step to help you get here. Now you need to relax and not worry about your next move. Along the way you might change majors, meet important people and experience unpredictable, life-altering events like beginning the (impossible) quest to perfect the grilled cheese sandwich. So stop trying to create the master plan and instead take your first year day by day because let’s face it: You’re just a freshman.

Nick is a senior English major at Boston College. The three ways to his heart are Survivor, the Baltimore Orioles and Zac Brown Band.

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