My little sister was 10 years old when I went off to college. On move-in day, she accidentally locked herself in my dorm room closet. Now, a brief eight years later, it is her turn. This week, Virginia will go up I-95 to the University of Maine at Orono, and I couldn’t be more proud of her.

I have also been giving her nonstop advice; I graduated four years ago, so college is still fresh in my mind. I still have moments in the day where I freeze up with a random fear that I have forgotten to submit an important paper, only to remember that I am an alleged grown-up now, out of the school cocoon.

So, for my readers who are going off to college themselves (or who have children and grandchildren who are), I thought I would share the best of my hard-won wisdom. (Readers, please feel free to clip this article out and send it to the youths in your life.)

Do not buy textbooks until you have seen the syllabus for the class. If you need a book for only one or two classes out of the entire semester, just photocopy the pages from the campus library and save yourself the money. And, if you can help it, don’t buy the books at the campus bookstore. What I am trying to say is, college textbooks are enormously expensive and an enormous ripoff.

When it comes to alcohol, you will most likely have to get rip-roaringly, throwing-up-ly drunk at least once in order to figure out what effects booze has on you (are you an angry drunk? a weepy drunk?) and to learn exactly how to cope with hangovers. However, crowded frat parties are not a very good place to do that, because some people look at incapacitated individuals and see targets, not human beings. Use the buddy system. There’s a reason we teach it starting in kindergarten – because it works. Don’t leave without your friend. Don’t be afraid to tell someone to back off. And if you are on the other side of the equation: A good rule of thumb is that if someone is too drunk to drive, they are too drunk to consent to sexual activity.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help – from professors, other students, passers-by, whomever. If you don’t know how the laundry machines work, ask someone. If you don’t understand something in class, your professor most likely has office hours. I spent my first two weeks on campus getting lost in my own dorm because it had a lot of confusing staircases and hallways. Don’t make my mistakes.

 If you are too embarrassed to buy condoms at the store or to get the free ones from the campus health service office, you are not mature enough to be hooking up.

However much water you are drinking, it’s probably not enough. Stay hydrated.

If you have the ability, start a savings or investment account now. Compound interest works in your favor the younger you start. Even 10 bucks a week will eventually pile up and make a difference! (This piece of advice brought to you in honor of the late Lois J. Fleming.)

Check what the rules of voting are in your state. I stayed registered in Maine and voted by absentee ballot for all four years of college; you can do the same or change your registration to whatever state you are in. I highly recommend this. Your government representatives help set your student loan interest rates, and – trust me on this one – that will be a very, very important issue to you in a few years.

n In my four years, I failed two classes. One was because I didn’t cite sources correctly in a term paper (because I had never been taught to) and was accused of plagiarism. (Tip: You may have to properly cite lectures your professor gave in class!) The second was because the whole grade was based on three tests and I bombed the first one. Also, because it was an 8:30 a.m. class, in a dark auditorium, and I sat next to a friend with a very comfortable shoulder. Yes. I kept falling asleep.

But, most of all – have some fun. (Except you, Virginia. YOU have to work your butt off and live like a cloistered nun in college.) Take advantage of all the things college offers you (grab every giveaway that you can carry). Sign up for a class if it interests you, even if it seems silly or doesn’t match the rest of your schedule. You’re young, you’re free to do nothing but learn things, your brain is ready to expand and your back can handle sleeping on crappy dorm mattresses.

And just ignore the growing thunderstorm in the distance. It’s only the student loan debt …

Victoria Hugo-Vidal is a Maine millennial. She can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Twitter: @mainemillennial

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