Going Back to College: How Would You Change Your Experience?

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Something I love about the start of the approaching football season is reminiscing on that eager anticipation of going back to college every August.

Covering college football now keeps me young, to employ a cliche. I’m not exactly old, but walking campuses to cover practices, interviewing student-athletes and spending Saturdays in stadiums keeps the youthful spark that burned in me as an undergrad stoked.

At the same time, I want to grab random passersby and give them some words of advice — primarily:

Imagine that you, now, could have a brief conversation with your college-age self. This exercise employs Back to the Future rules, so no need to worry about generating on campus naked like in The Terminator and risk arrest. You also won’t transform your docile best friend into a violent Goth, like The Butterfly Effect.

And, no, you can’t give yourself an almanac to bet the farm (or is that The Farm) on Stanford beating USC in 2007.

Get Involved

Many of my favorite memories from college came from working on the newspaper staff. I covered an NCAA Tournament courtside, was on the field for one of the biggest Pac-12 upsets of the last decade and stood on the turf of the Coliseum at the height of one of college football’s great dynasties.

However, I waited until my junior year to even apply to the staff out of fear of rejection.

Fear derived from a lack of confidence forced me to miss out on a lot in college. If there’s a channel available for something that remotely interests you, at least make the effort.

Also, seek out these groups as a freshman. It’s easy to fall into a rut by sophomore year, so strike while the butterflies are fluttering you’re still starry-eyed.

If you test it out and discover you suck, no harm no foul. No one outside of a small handful of people are going to see or hear your youthful ineptitude on student TV or radio…well, unless you’re the Boom Goes The Dynamite guy.

To his credit, he’s remembered a decade later. Few college TV broadcasters can make such a claim.

Learn to Dance

Fat Joe’s “Lean Back” was hot at bars when I was an undergrad. The concept of dancing being uncool resonated with me as a gawky, 6-foot-4 dork. Needless to say, I lack the natural grace to look like anything other than a baby giraffe.

But, let me assure you, looking cool by not looking uncool doesn’t fly if you’re not a member of the Terror Squad.

If you’re in a setting where dancing is acceptable, do it. If you’re terrible, play up how terrible you are — but practice on the side. No one improves by not doing.

You’ll Never Have So Much Access to Knowledge Again, So Make Use of It

Your college campus is quite literally a think tank. The entire place exists to make you smarter. Take advantage of that.

It’s one thing to study just to get through coursework. However, you have unfettered access to study damn near anything at any time.

Take In Every Element of College Football Saturday

Confession time: before covering my alma mater’s team as a beat writer, there were home games I missed. In retrospect, this is inexcusable, but my immature brain justified watching game that were in walking distance of me (and free to attend!) on TV because the team was lousy.

Sorry. That may be a valid excuse for the working family, which has to invest money in tickets and travel to-and-from the stadium. As an undergrad, however, it’s your privilege — nay — your DUTY to attend all home games regardless of your team’s performance.

I got much better about this my last fall before covering the team, attending every home game. The team’s home record that year? 2-4. But that’s not the memory I have of that season.

The memories I have are of grilling breakfast sausages before an early kickoff, MacGuyver’ing beers into the stadium, dunking my shirt in the university fountain on the way into the stadium before afternoon kicks.

Football Saturday is a wonderful part of the college experience. Immerse yourself into it fully.

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Here’s where you come in, dear reader. What’s the advice you’d extend to yourself, or the many students going back to college around the nation this week? Fire away below.