In the spirit of the new year, I'd like to share a few "Resolutions for life." In no particular order or manner of import:
Get to class at least 10 minutes early. Give yourself time to settle into a seat and set up your laptop or whatever you use to take notes. Nothing worse than the distractions latecomers cause.
Don't go it alone. Whether walking on campus after dusk, working on a lab experiment, or studying for an important exam, don't do it by yourself. The adage strength in numbers applies here, in particular, physical and mental strength. You'll be in a better position to be safe and successful.
Do your own work. While it is great to collaborate, it's even better to be the author of your own work; to know you've put in the time to do the research, scour the scholarly journals and manuscripts, take solid notes, read the textbook, and write and rewrite the paper.
Don't be afraid to fail. I don't mean slack off until you get an "F." I mean do something out of your comfort zone and risk not succeeding as brilliantly as you would like. Being top dog ALL THE TIME has its downside, too. The pressure to live up to unrealistic expectations can be daunting. Trying something new and different is one way to help seal convictions about what you like, don't like--and who you are becoming.
Be more than a GPA. There is an online scholarship with a similar name. The GPA does matter; it probably helped you get admitted to Oberlin. But now that you are here, take advantage of some non-academic offerings. Enrich your educational experience; enhance your personal growth. Check out ExCo classes (even teach one), poetry slams, study abroad, study a foreign language, get a part-time job with a campus department or office (improve those interpersonal skills), take a midday yoga class, join a club or an intramural sports team that you wouldn't typically participate in, get to know other students whose background and interests are different from yours.
Save money each week. Start small, and increase the amount, as you begin to realize how much you didn't need that extra $5 or $10. If you work and can pull it off, set aside 2 percent to 10 percent of your monthly take home. Saving money is nothing more than paying yourself first.
Invest in your well-being. The new health care law encourages us to take preventative measures to ensure optimal health. In recent years, the college has offered a number of wellness programs and activities that address stress, mental fatigue, nutrition, fitness, and sexual health. Get free flu shots and other health screenings. Eat well, be it dining hall fare, a co-op, or an eatery in town.
Get a massage. Meditate. Take part in the 5-minute dance at Mudd. Climb the wall in Philips. Bowl. Pray. Do your part to remain or even get healthy--mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
Spend less time online. Social networking sites are instant and immediate, but they are also impersonal and addicting. Too much time online can interfere with the things that are more important: classes, coursework, studying, and relationships. Monitor the time you spend online and have the courage and discipline to shut down.
Don't procrastinate. If anyone has a sure-fire way to address this prevalent problem, let me know. That said, I always vow to manage my time more effectively, say no more often (and not feel guilty), admit when I need help and get it, and other times simply just do it. Life can be messy, difficult, strenuous, and just not fun. And there are some things we just gotta do. One way to combat procrastination is to follow the advice someone once gave me: Do what you have to do so that you can do what you want to do.
It's never too soon late to think about life after college. Don't wait until your fourth year to visit the career services office. Write that resume. Write it again. Practice interviewing. Research graduate programs and fellowships. Volunteer with an organization that supports your area of study to gain insight into the work involved. Pursue internship and study abroad opportunities.
And mostly, call home. Call your parents and others who've helped you come to school here. Call not for money. Not for advice. Not to whine, cry, or complain. Call just because.