Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Back 2 School Manners - The College Years

The beginning of a new school year is sometimes met with bittersweet sentiment, especially for those parents with older children who are leaving the nest and going away to college for the first time. After years of preparation, test taking, filling out applications and going on tours, the final weeks are spent shopping for dorm room essentials, new wardrobes and such.

I remember my first day of Sarah Lawrence College like it was yesterday. I recall the outfit I wore and the friends that I met. I remember the strange feeling of being in a new environment on my own and left to my own devices. It definitely took some time for me to settle in and feel comfortable. I can only imagine what college will be like by the time my girls attend in about ten years. One thing's for sure, I will want to arm them with survival skills to ensure their transition is a smooth one and bears no resemblance to an episode of Gossip Girl. Below are 8 surefire ways for your child to make the most of their college experience while simultaneously maintaining their respect as well as their reputation.

Be Approachable and Friendly. The quickest way to win friends and make allies is to be approachable, kind and friendly. Your fabulous presentation and engaging personality won't mean much if you forget to smile. Being happy and smiling sends a signal to others that you wish to engage. Use all three to your advantage. At all costs, stay away from negative body language. Crossed arms give the appearance that one is uncomfortable, defensive or does not wish to be bothered. Be aware of this so that you always put forth a positive first impression.

Know How to Start a Conversation. College is a melting pot filled with students from cities all over world. To connect with others, your conversation skills must be up to par. Those that can speak about a number of subjects are more attractive and appear more intelligent. It is a good idea to brush up on cultural events, national news and local happenings so that you may contribute to any conversation topic that may arise. Remember the key to being an expert conversationalist is to be a good listener and ask thoughtful questions.

Keep Your Dorm Room Neat & Be Respectful. When living quarters are shared, it is important to pay extra careful attention to keeping your belongings neat and tidy. Not only are students coming together and meeting each other for the first time, but they are also expected to live together under the same roof and learn to put up with each other's habits and so forth. Be respectful of your dorm mates, maintain your privacy and allow them the same courtesy. This will go a long way towards making sure you and your dorm mates are still close at the end of the year.

Beware of How You Present Yourself Online. Social media has become a very big part one's college identity. After all,Facebook was started by a Harvard college student! Begin your college experience with a clean slate by easing in to your online communications. Remember professors, school administration, your parents and many others may be able to view your postings. Stay away from uploading inappropriate photos or posting offensive messages about yourself or others. Keep certain information private. Leave some details to be uncovered during your face to face communications.
Practice Face to Face Communication. Although you may favor texting to talking or emailing to chatting, it is important to incorporate some quality face time in your relationships. Technology, although convenient, has only moved us further away from our personal interactions and has, in effect, caused us to separate from the people we care about. Schedule regular face time with your friends because no matter how many emoticons you incorporate into your devices, it's nice to read one's true emotions and feelings in person.

Maintain Good Health Habits. Just because you're off to college and there's no adult around to nag at you doesn't mean you should neglect regular hygiene and eating nutritionally. Trust me, your roommate has no interest in living with the stench of someone who has not showered in a week and eating nachos and drinking 20 ounce Diet Cokes for breakfast, lunch and dinner will provide you with absolutely zero nutritional value.

Challenge Yourself and Diversify. You may have already chosen all of your classes, but there are many extra-curricular activities you can enroll in to broaden your horizons and help make you a more interesting, well-rounded person. A challenge is always necessary for growth, take risks and do something that is different from what you are accustomed to. The rewards of breaking out of your comfort zone will pay off in the long run.

Have Fun and Act Responsibly. Most importantly, the time spent at college is meant to be fun. Since you will be there for a good four (or five years), you may as well make the best of it, possess a positive attitude and embrace everything it has to offer. Just remember that fun would not be as fun without the balance of responsibility. Dressing appropriately, showing up for classes on time, communicating respectfully to administration, staff and fellow students, participating in school activities, doing your laundry regularly and finding ways to contribute to your college community are all excellent examples of showing you are growing into a responsible and mature adult.

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