Last week I took a few minutes during the end of one class and shared a few tips for college success with my students, all of whom are freshmen. We've spent three weeks together at this point, so they know a little about my intentions and, hopefully, recognize that I have their best interests in mind -- both inside and outside of my class. Here's what I shared:
1) Wash your hands. The easiest way to prevent sickness is to wash your hand properly and avoid touching your face. (I'm amazed at how many of them were sitting at their desks touching their faces right as I said this -- and how quickly they dropped their hands by their sides when they realized the same thing.) Illness spreads quickly on campus thanks to inadequate rest, close living quarters, and untested immune systems. The plague will hit your dorm floor by week three, I joke with some seriousness, and they reply that it already has. If you're battling sickness, you won't perform to the best of your ability or enjoy yourself, so take care of yourself. Wash your hands.
2) Show respect. When emailing a professor, write grammatically. Include a brief salutation rather than jumping directly into your request. Avoid text lingo. It's proper elsewhere and fine for other audiences, but when writing to someone in authority, consider your own credibility. Thank them when they help you. Outside of the classroom, demonstrate this same type of respect for those who serve you. Thank the bus drivers who drop you off, the custodians who clean your bathrooms, and food service workers who serve your meals. Honoring others is a diminishing practice. Stand out by showing respect.
3) Choose companions with care. Everything about college is new for freshmen, including their friends. It's a unique opportunity to make a new life for themselves, to shrug off the inevitable labels -- whether bad or good -- that they had been branded with during high school. What an opportunity! What a responsibility. One crucial factor that shapes or limits this process is the people who surround them. It's for this reason that I encouraged them to consider character. Since people gradually take on the traits of those closest to them, it's worthwhile to check if those values and behaviors are ones they want to emulate, especially during a time when everyone is searching to discover where they fit socially in this vast campus. Choosing excellent companions helps you to be excellent.
Later that same day I smiled as I prompted my daughters to wash their hands. I reflected on how we teach them to say please and thank you, and how we're so grateful for the kind friends who are appearing in their young lives.
Regardless of the different ages and experiences, the tips for success are surprisingly similar. Choose companions with care. Show respect. And, bottom line, wash those hands.