Helpful Hints for Freshmen: Volume Two

I don’t know how many incoming freshmen will read my blog, but if you are an incoming freshmen to Northwest Missouri State University and you are reading this, please pass this information on to all your first-time collegiate friends. The quality of your first year of college depends on it.

I will quickly describe the highlights from last year’s freshmen hints. You can still find the advice in the archives. Remember, don’t go near Main Street, especially on the south side anytime on the Thursday the freshmen move into their dorm rooms. Really avoid the 3 p.m. hour, since Kawasaki has a shift change. Also, don’t assume people will stop at crosswalks for at least the first two weeks of school, it’s a hit-and-run accident waiting to happen. I do have five important hints probably reserved for the 17-, 18- and 19-year-old freshmen who are entering college for the first time this fall.

Hint number one is your morning wardrobe. You will stick out like a sunflower in a row of pansies if you wear anything dressy anytime before noon. I even embarrassed myself 42 years ago when I wore a brand new pair of jeans and a right-out-of-the-box plaid shirt my first day of classes at Kearney State College. I’ll never forget my first class, English 101 at 7:30 a.m. and taught by one very rigid Dr. Fritten. His first instruction was for all the students to look around the room. As I gazed at all the college women I was impressing with my still-stiffly starched jeans and shirt that still had the fold lines in them, I knew I was in trouble socially.

Anyone that has been in college or has an older brother and sister knows that college students in the know throw on a pair of sweats, shorts, holey pair of jeans and T-shirt, then head to all morning classes. Women’s hair is always an issue, but not to the knowledgeable college coed. Theses savvy females always have a display of hats to tuck their hair inside or a variety of hair accessories to throw it back until they can shampoo it pretty. The college men and women that are dressed to the nine’s at 8 a.m. will be looked at as misfits. Wait until noon to break out the new wardrobe.

There is a limit to the casualness of the morning outfit, however. I personally don’t think much of pajama bottoms that both males and females will wear to morning classes. Sure, you can jump out of bed without making a single move to the closet, but I’m not sure pictures of Casper the Ghost on that pajama bottom is appropriate for your favorite 9 a.m. class. The same goes with boxer shorts, worn mostly by women. However, if a college man shows up in boxer shorts, it’s really in poor taste. Not much left for the imagination. Stick with that new pair of Bearcat shorts and a hooded sweatshirt that is good for all weather. Then just before lunch, jump in the shower and come out with a whole new appearance. You are now officially a fashion-conscience member of Northwest Missouri State University.

College relationships are a tricky issue and need to be dealt with early. There are two troublesome relationships that are found on the college campus. Some people bring their boy/girl friends with them to school. Other potential relationship owners let the love bug catch them in the first weeks of school. I really hope you aren’t bringing your boy/girl friend with you to campus. It’s a recipe for a disastrous outcome. Your significant other may have seemed like the coolest person in high school, but they aren’t even close to being the coolest thing on our college campus. First, she/he’ll catch your eyes wandering to attractive members of the opposite sex. Then, you’ll make “close” friends in class. Soon, you’ll be spending more time away from your high school sweetheart than you are together. Worse yet, the reverse may happen to you and your best “friend” from high school finds true love with another student. I have no hard data to base this on, but I believe that less than five percent of high school sweethearts make it through four years on the same college campus. That’s less than five out of every 100 couples. Play Power Ball instead. At least if you lose, it’s only money.

Finding that true love the first weeks on campus leads to a very distasteful venture called “public display of affection.” You don’t see a lot of it on the college campus, but when it’s present, you can’t miss it. For some reason, public display of affection happens most often at meal time or near Colden Pond. You see more hand holding, arms around the shoulders, public back rubs, fingers in the hair, and outright making out at meal time than almost any other time. It’s enough to regurgitate your dessert. If you are smitten early in the semester by Cupid’s arrow, take it to a private place or you may start a food fight.

What makes Colden Pond so attractive for a public display of attention? I have personally seen a pair of freshmen apply mouth to mouth resuscitation for more than five minutes on, near or in Colden Pond. I swear I have been tempted to charge up to this entangled pair of love-birds with electric paddles and try to restart their heart beats. If you are a freshman and have come upon love for the first time, don’t go to Colden Pond and don’t go to the food court in the Union. I could offer suggestions, but you figure it out. You are a college student, right?

I have an update from a year ago on how the incoming students should handle their parents. It’s a known fact that the college freshman is at a distinct advantage over their parents, who are grieving the loss of their once homebound son or daughter. Last year, I told the freshmen to take advantage of their parents’ delicate state of mind and buy, buy, buy from the neighborhood store. I now have a change of strategy. I think the new freshmen should go for the cash.

Here’s how it works. As you pack at home and unpack at college, keep a mental list of all the things you could buy at WalMart. Make that list of groceries, furniture and toiletries that will make your life easier as you start your way to a degree at Northwest Missouri State University. However, don’t tell your parents. String them along the whole time they are helping you move in. Then just before they are ready for the final hug goodbye, drop a dollar amount for the list you have been accumulating. Don’t let them make last minute trips to buy those things themselves. You can easily guilt them into giving you the cash instead of buying the merchandise. A nice nest-egg of cash can go a long ways to making your freshman college experience unforgettable.

My final hint is parking tickets. If you are fortunate to drive a car to campus, I suggest you park it in the farthest corner of the campus parking lot and let it set until Thanksgiving. Just like on every other college campus, there is very little parking for new students. Don’t think, “I’ll be back in 50 minutes, I bet the parking police won’t notice me.” You might get away with it once or twice, but sooner than later, the $20 parking ticket will be stuck in the windshield wiper when you get out of class. Do that for a whole month, and watch the tickets build up.

Maybe you are lucky and your parents will pay the tickets at the end of the semester. However, if you are like most freshmen, your dad/mom will say, “You were too lazy to walk, pay your own tickets.” Now you have a problem. I’ll bet that pile of cash you shamed from your parents at the start of the semester is long gone.

Did you know you can’t pre-register for classes if you have a bill at the University Cashiering office? That includes parking tickets. If you have academic or athletic money coming in the form of scholarships, the money will be held until the tickets are paid. Worse case scenario, you’ll be home and working in the factory by Christmas. This isn’t pretty, but you can try to convince your parents that you’ll enlist and volunteer for Afghanistan deployment if the tickets aren’t paid. It’s a dirty trick on your part, but it works. If you are really economical and have saved the money you got from them as they left campus you are ready for the parking ticket crisis.

I’m sure I could write an entire book on freshman survival. These are five hints to make life easier. I do have to admit, I failed at almost every one of these way back when I spent that first semester at Kearney. For example, I dressed up the first day of classes, I immediately found a girl friend who I smothered with affection (in public), I didn’t even let my parents help me move in so I had no stash of cash, and worst of all, I ran up $50 in parking tickets and I only had my car on campus two weeks. My 1962 Chevy blew an engine on the way home after two weeks of college classes. I was headed home to get cash or threaten to enlist and volunteer for Vietnam. I’m pretty sure it would have worked.

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Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.