Happy Independence Day!
This Friday, we as a country celebrate our history of political independence and our desire to govern ourselves as we see fit. In a way, the 4th of July is a foreshadowing of your personal independence day that is swiftly approaching—that is, the day you move in at WSU.
Clearly, independence is a wonderful thing—I love my independence and couldn’t move back into my parents’ house (Sorry, Mom & Dad!)—but you should be careful not fall into these traps and temptations that arise when you are given your much anticipated freedom.
1. You Don’t Have a Curfew
In college, there is no one to say you must be home on school nights by a certain time. You can stay out until 2am if you want to, or even say to hell with sleep and pull an all-nighter. However, a good night’s sleep—and moreover, a consistent sleep schedule– is important for your health. Lack of sleep can negatively affect your attention span, memory, mood, physical performance and even lead to obesity, diabetes and higher susceptibility to infections. Campus life is busy and, of course, you don’t want to miss a minute of the fun but do yourself a favor and get some sleep so you can fully enjoy it.
2. You Can Eat Whatever, Whenever
Without parents around, you can decide to eat pizza for breakfast, get ice cream for dessert every night and never let anything green touch your plate. But it’s important to get good nutrition and limit portion sizes –especially if you are hoping to avoid the Freshman 15. Step out of the line for burgers and fries once in a while and head over to the salad bar for a healthy alternative.
3. You Don’t Have to Go to Class
College, unlike K-12 education, isn’t a government requirement and no one will come after you for skipping classes. Some professors may take role every day and factor attendance into your grade, but others won’t. While skipping a class offers short term benefits–an extra hour of sleep, an early start to the weekend, avoiding a boring lecture—in the long term, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage. There is a strong correlation between going to class and achieving a high grade. If you attend class regularly, you will understand the material better, can ask questions and get to know your professor which will help you make contacts and get letters of recommendation.
4. You Don’t Have to do Homework or Study
The same logic applies here: no one will make sure your homework gets done or that you study for exams. College classes may not have homework to turn in every day but they usually have hefty reading assignments and major papers or exams that can make or break your grade. And don’t think that you’ll be able to leave it all to the last minute—procrastination only leads to late night cram sessions that leave you with a half-assed attempt, a potentially passing grade and a weakened immune system. If you don’t do the required work as it is assigned, you’ll find yourself floundering in the class, a situation that definitely isn’t worth a 12 hour Netflix marathon or a weekend of partying with your friends.
5. You Don’t Have to Clean Your Room
Now that you’re out of your parents’ house, there is no one to complain if you never make your bed, drop clothes on the floor, let the trash pile up and forget what a vacuum looks like. This is especially true if you live in a single room. While cleaning and organizing you room does require some effort, it can help you feel more focused and less stressed as well as avoid any health code violations.
6. You Can Buy Whatever, Whenever
Up until now, your parents have probably had some say in how you spend your money, but once you turn 18, legally you are on your own. Your parents can’t access your bank accounts or track all your purchases. But this is not the time to get a giant tattoo or the latest Apple gadget—you should be saving your money for basic needs, school supplies and textbooks. You are also likely receiving credit card offers in the mail and all I can say is BE CAREFUL if you decide to get a credit card. It’s a good idea to start building credit early but on the other, but woe unto you if you use a line of credit irresponsibly as it can swiftly drag you down into the Pit of Despair—I mean, Debt. The WSU Financial Aid Office offers tools and information to help you manage your money.
This list may seem like a collection of juvenile excesses and since you’re adults now, you’re obviously past all that. Well, college offers you the chance to make your own choices but don’t let that freedom lead you to making poor decisions just because you don’t have any adult supervision. Yes, you are the adult now, and with that independence comes the responsibility to live with the consequences of the choices you make.