I would like to welcome the Class of 2021 Freshmen with my copy of the welcome letter/essay, with my apologies to Marie Schmeish.
In 1997, the Chicago Tribune published Mary’s article, “Advice, Like Young People, May Be Lost on Youth” or “Sun Protection Discourse.” It has been erroneously attributed as an initiation speech supposedly given by author Kurt Vonnegut at MIT. This never happened.
If you haven’t yet, I urge you to read her article because Schmich gave one powerful piece of advice: apply sunscreen. You don’t want skin cancer when you’re 65.
Without sounding like a wise old man – and I am – accept my belated welcome, for you have been in class for over a month. Enjoy your time in Columbia and in college.
You’re at an age where taking care of yourself without your parents’ supervision is a prelude to the rest of your life – unless you’re Dr. Sheldon Cooper or Nola Oaks. You may want to join a sorority or fraternity. You may want to join one of the many sports or non-sports organizations at your university or college. You may have already counted the days until you graduate.
Your primary goal in college is to excel in your education in your chosen field. Choosing your major is one of your first decisions for adults within the walls of a university or college. Your “dream field” may change more than once with the time you spend in school. Who knows, you might find microeconomics or astrophysics fascinating.
You may want to get a job to lighten your tuition burden or just to get some extra spending money. I highly suggest that you consider the idea of working in a customer service industry, such as a restaurant or retail store. The experience you will gain will make you a better salesperson, supervisor, entrepreneur, and person.
Student loans are not the only way to pay for college. There are hundreds, if not thousands of scholarships available for you to explore. Some only require a letter of interest, others require an extended essay. Still others may require you to belong to a particular ethnic or religious group, study a particular field, etc. I have a girlfriend who went to undergraduate and graduate school on scholarships and grants and still had money left over when she graduated with her masters in social work.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Post-secondary academia is tough, especially with all the distractions hitting you. There are teachers, usually at no additional cost, waiting for you for most of your classes.
Register to vote. If your parents claim that you are a dependent, you may want to register and vote in your hometown, either in person or by mail. If you’re out of your family’s financial grasp, or don’t want to go home in the middle of the week, sign up for Columbia. Contact the County Clerk office for more information. This is your town now and you are our political future.
Keep a calendar handy and schedule classes, work time, homework time, volunteer time, play time and bedtime. Adults sometimes forget that volunteering, playing, and sleeping are important to your mental health.
Set the party time. This doesn’t mean “stay home and be secluded,” but choose your party time wisely. Partying with friends before the “big” test is usually not a good idea. This is especially true when the test is at 8 am the next morning.
Be nice to the faculty. You probably know more about them through the student gossip mill than they do about you. Many would forget your name outside of the classroom if they knew it at all. If you meet a faculty member outside the classroom, please say “hello” and tell them who you are.
Get to know people from different countries, cultures and religions. This is your chance to get to know the world without leaving Colombia. We have a large presence of Chinese, Japanese, Russian, African, Middle Eastern and European in our schools, so take advantage of their friendships.
Now is a great time to build your credit so that one day you can buy a multi-million dollar Shack car, house or yacht. Become a money management expert. Open a checking account with a debit card and a savings account, get a credit card but only use it in case of emergency or if you have the money to pay off debt quickly.
But trust Mary and I about one thing: wear sunscreen.