Are you a current college freshman or recent high school graduate wondering what it takes to survive in college? Former college students are often filled with words of wisdom that can help you avoid many of the mistakes they made and put you on the road to success after graduation.

A few weeks ago it dawned on me that my girlfriend's daughter would be graduating from high school and starting her newest journey as a college freshman in the Fall. This set my mind on a whirlwind of old memories and experiences that I had during my college years, some positive and others negative. Luckily, I had an older sister that was able to give me advice before I even started college, and I was still able to call on her for help once I started school. It made me wonder how many people head off to college for the first time and have nobody to lean on for important answers and guidance.

As a result of this, I had planned to write a book for my girlfriend's daughter before she headed off to school. I was going to include little lessons and things to consider for when she got on campus. Then I figured it would be fun to get advice from a wide variety of my friends and family who had also been in college at some point in their lives. The wide array of pointers would cover areas that I may not have had to experience myself, and provide a bigger selection of life lessons than I could do on my own.

This article is a compilation of a few of those tips that I received from my friends and family. I hope that they are as helpful to other students as they were to me when I was in your shoes.

Academic Advice

  • Go to class: Ultimately, you are in school to learn and get your degree. As hard as it may be to wake up on your own without your parents pushing you out of bed, find a way to go to as many of your classes as possible. Take good notes because you tend to remember more information when you have already written it down once. Don't miss out on a great experience by failing to handle your business in the classroom. 
  • Cut class at least once a semester: I know it sounds stupid coming right after the tip advising you to go to class, but life is all about having a little bit of balance. I only advise you to do this once because excessive absences are the kiss of death in college. And if you do skip, make sure that one of your friends is in class to take notes for you. Skip days only get harder when you hit the real world, so you better take advantage of a few now. 
  • Take your easiest classes during your first two years: This may be debated depending on who you ask. I usually think this is easier because most people are not prepared for difficult college courses right after graduating from high school. It takes a moment to learn how to study and to perfect a good college writing style. It may be easier to ease your way into these things in order to prevent yourself from getting discouraged. Not to mention, it can also help to pad your GPA early on and give you opportunities at scholarships that may be available on campus. 
  • Wait as long as possible to choose a major: Do this if you can because chances are that you are going to change your mind quite a few times. Not many of us went to college knowing exactly what we wanted to be, and those of us that did usually switched to something else before they graduated. Of course there are certain programs that you have to start right away (engineering, pre-med, etc), and if that is you then I just wish you the best from the start.

College Social Life Advice

  • Drink in moderation: It's going to be real easy to get caught up in drinking and partying. By all means have a good time, but know what your limits are. You do not want to be the person that ends up getting wasted and ruining a good time for your friends. You also do not want to be the person to develop a drinking or drug problem that has to go to rehab instead of graduation. Just be careful and know how much liquor you can handle. And trust me, it's never cool to drink so much that you end up throwing up or blacking out. 
  • Know your surroundings and have a good reliable group of friends to hang out with: In the cases where you do end up drinking until you are puking or you do black out at the club, you are going to want to have good friends to watch your back and take care of you. Always let them know if you are planning on leaving a party or bar early or with someone else, and just keep an eye on each other while drinking. There are just too many bad people out there to try doing this stuff on your own nowadays. 
  • Date freely: College is the best time to find out what you like about yourself and what you like in other people. There is no other time in your life when the dating pool will be so large. You don't have to commit yourself to anyone right away. Just have a good time and who knows what may come of it. And of course if dating freely leads into doing other things freely, be safe.

Overall Advice

  • Remember why you are in college: During the first couple of semesters, it is going to be so easy to get caught up in the amount of freedom that you suddenly have. While this is a great life lesson in itself, it can also be the recipe for disaster if you fail to maintain your studies. Do not lose sight of your goals, and definitely do not let others pull you away from your dreams and aspirations just because they may not be on the same path. 
  • Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to you: This could range from internships to teaching assistantships to community service projects. The best way to grow as a person and meet new people is to get involved in new things. You will find that most of the people that truly enjoy college are the ones that have made connections within their campus community. Once you graduate depending on where you live, it may not be as easy to find a group of people with similar interests as you have. 
  • Study abroad if you have the chance: In the real world, people would kill for a chance to spend a week in another country. When you are in college, you may have the chance to spend a semester or even a full year in another country. Find out what the requirements are, and if you are interested then go for it. Yet another example of what could be a once in a lifetime experience that you will not want to miss out on. 
  • Try something new: This pertains to activities, food, and meeting new people. If you wanted to be the same person and talk to the same people, you would just stay at home after high school. College is a place where you can expand your comfort zones and be exposed to people that may have grown up in different cultures than you are used to. Embrace this opportunity to grow as a person, and you won't regret it. By the time you graduate, people will notice the difference in you and you'll be happy that you opened up your mind to new things.

The Best Years of Your Life

Finally, the ultimate piece of advice that I can give is to enjoy each year to the fullest. You will find that each year goes by faster than the one before it, and before you know it the real world will be knocking at your door. Don't just be in such a hurry to graduate that you lose sight of all the fun experiences around you. You don't want to have regret for anything when it is all over.

My sister wanted me to leave you with one final piece of wisdom. Don't go to law school. I will just save that post for another day. Good luck in school...

Do you know someone who just became a new driver? Remember what it was like to start driving on your own for the first time?

This gift guide is devoted to gifts for new drivers. The suggestions below are a great way to congratulate your new driver for their achievement while also reminding them to be safe on the road. The prices vary for each item, and there are a few that may even bring about some laughs. They are all guaranteed to be useful,and you may even find yourself buying a few items for your own car.

Enjoy the gift guide and feel free to offer any suggestions you may have at the end of the page.

1. ResQMe Car Escape Tool

Unfortunately, there are times when we may need to exit our vehicle quickly due to accident or emergency. If the door is jammed or windows nonoperational, it can be a hopeless and very scary feeling. The ResQMe escape tool is made to smash out a car's side windows with a mere 12 pounds of force. In certain situations, this can be the difference in life and death.

The tool is also able to cut through seat belts if needed, and is small enough to hang from a key-chain. The tool has been trusted by policemen, firemen, and EMTs for years. Don't let your new driver leave home without one either!

2. Garmin Nuvi 5-Inch GPS Unit

Every driver has dealt with getting lost in an unfamiliar environment. This can be especially hard for new drivers because almost everywhere is a new environment. Having to take their eyes off the road to look for side roads and directions can lead to accidents and possible moving violations.

The Garmin Nuvi is the perfect solution to this problem. Its 5-inch touchscreen is large enough to view while driving, and it is also aided by vocal turn by turn directions. The GPS comes loaded with maps of the United States and some of the Caribbean, and for slightly more unlimited map updates can be included.

Rest assured your new driver is getting to the right place with this GPS.

3. Jump-N-Carry Jump Starter

I can tell you firsthand that having a dead battery in the winter, or any season, is no fun. Trying to find someone to help jump your car is even less fun. And depending on your set of jumper cables, actually jumping the car can be the worst.

The Jump-N-Carry is portable enough to carry in your own car. It carries a charge long enough for you to feel secure that it will work if needed. It also allows you to give your own car a charge without having to track down another motorist willing to help out. And if it happens to be dark outside, the jump starter also comes with a built in flashlight.

4. GoGroove FlexSmart X2

There are still quite a few cars out there without direct connections for your telephone or mp3 players. That leaves you with a phone full of music and no way of listening to it while you are in the car. With the FlexSmart X2 by GoGroove, you can transmit your music from your music device through your radio.

It also allows you to charge your phone at the same time in case you are worried about the battery drain it may experience while playing music on long drives. As if this wasn't enough, the FlexSmart X2 also lets you take hands-free calls through its bluetooth connection.

*Compatible with iPhones, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone

5. New Driver Parking Sign

It took a while, but your new driver finally earned their own parking spot. This parking sign will let the world know who that spot is reserved for. Guaranteed to bring a few laughs unless you're the owner of the car that gets caught "illegally parking" in the spot.

6. White Fuzzy Car Dice

Although not as popular now as in the past, fuzzy dice are still a great way to christen a new car. They add character, color, and a touch of good luck over the car. For those seeking more than just white dice with black polka dots, they also come in a variety of colors and styles. Pick the ones that showcase your personality and toss them on your rear view mirror!

7. RoadPro Accident Report Kit

Hopefully your new driver will never end up in a car accident, but just in case they do this accident kit by RoadPro is a great gift to have. In addition to the accident report that can be filled out before any details are forgotten, it also comes with a disposable camera to record any damage to the cars involved.

The kit is portable enough to fit in your glove compartment, and your insurance company is sure to appreciate the additional details it provides after the accident.

8. The Driving Book

Even the most experienced drivers know that there are still tons of scenarios new drivers have yet to face after passing their driver's test.

The Driving Book is a great supplement for new drivers to have on hand when they hit the road. The book includes chapters on essential items in the car, maintenance, driving in bad weather, driving in the city/country, driving with pets, and much more.

If you buy any driving book for a novice driver, this should be the one.

9. Travel Angel Visor Clip

"Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly."

No matter what your religious background is, the message on this travel guardian angel applies. You may find yourself wanting to buy one of these for every driver you know as a gentle reminder that excessive speed can be fatal. The message is simple and reminds us all that cars can be dangerous when driven recklessly.

10. Car Reverse Backup Radar/Alarm

My sister would have died to have this gift when she was learning how to drive. She is still nervous about backing out of tight spaces in her car. I'm sure many of you know people that feel the same.

This car reverse radar comes with 4 sensors that detect other vehicles, objects, and people in the immediate area. Not only will it prevent car accidents, but it will also keep small children safer around the car. The kit requires simple installation, and allows you to color the sensors to match the color of your car. The benefits of having the unit are priceless.

In the movie “Groundhog Day”, Bill Murray plays a weatherman who wakes up and relives the same day over and over again. As he wakes up each day, Murray eventually realizes that he has a chance to get things right and begins to make the choices in life that will make him and the people around him happiest. Although the movie was hilarious, it touched upon a serious subject. How many of us feel as if we are waking up to the same day over and over again? How many of us are really making the choices that will make us the happiest?

I found this question pretty hard to answer, not because it was hard to understand but because it really made me look at myself in the mirror. While I can’t say that every day was exactly the same, I have had plenty of days where I have just gone through the motions. I found myself wondering the other day what life would be like if everyone stopped living for the weekend and started truly enjoying their weekdays. Every day presents new challenges for me, and they also bring new opportunities to interact with the people closest to me. Every time I look at my daughter, I feel as if I learn something new about life that I had previously taken for granted. In a way, she keeps my life in perspective and keeps me from overlooking the little things that mean so much.

A few years ago, I read a book called “Peace is Every Step” by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. It basically outlined the Zen Buddhist practice of being mindful in our everyday lives so that we never lose sight of the little things going on around us. According to the book, even a routine drive to work can be a new experience if we take the time to be aware of our surroundings during that drive. For example, we look around and see the trees every day, but how often do we really stop and look closely at those trees. Have we ever really noticed how many different shades of green the leaves are in the Spring? Have we ever really taken in the soothing sound the wind makes as we drive down the road? Taking a moment to do those things can reel us back into the current moment and keep us from missing out on all the positive things that are happening around us even if we are having a bad day.

I freely admit that there are plenty of days where I have lost sight of this practice. Many days I feel as if I am living for the weekend, and when the weekend finally arrives I don’t take full advantage of it. When I was growing up, I always used to say that there are people who go out and make things happen, and then there are those that wait for other people to make things happen for them. I look forward to becoming one of the people that makes things happen because at least I’ll have some control over adding some variety to my everyday life.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my life and where I am today, but I don’t see anything wrong with continuing to add more excitement to it. I have no clue which day may be my last, so I’ve got to do my best to make them all memorable in their own right.

Question: Are you seizing the day and living each moment to the fullest extent?

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” – Michael Jordan

A few months ago, I spoke with one of my best friends from college. For reasons that seemed serious at the time, we had stopped speaking to one another for years prior to this conversation. We were finally able to reconnect due to the help of a mutual friend, and I feel so much better because of it. During the course of our conversation, I was reminded of how bold we were during our college years. It seems like no matter what challenge we were faced with, we took it head on not caring if we failed along the way. Back then it seemed like failure was nothing more than a lesson and more motivation to come up with a new approach and try again.

Somewhere along the way, it seems like failure started to transform from being motivating to being inhibiting. Failure no longer pushed us to try things differently, but rather made us avoid these situations altogether. Rather than acting on our dreams, we tended to toss them aside as just that…dreams. We looked on with quiet envy as others pursued the things that we used to talk about doing, simply because we were now scared to take risks for ourselves.

Looking back at it all now, it’s easy to say that never trying is so much worse than failure itself. Often times, failure leads us to other options that may even end up being better than the original plan. Not trying never leads to anything productive. The only doors that open due to not trying are those that lead to regret. We can never get our college years back, but we can always hang on to our dreams and sense of adventure in life. Hopefully they allow us to continue living with a healthy respect for the positive things that failure can bring.

Question: How has failing helped to strengthen your dream?

“I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other. Everything comes from an understanding that you are a gift in my life – whoever you are, whatever our differences.” – John Denver

There have probably always been divisions in the world, but for whatever reason it seems like differences are driving so much negativity around us. I think if I was to change one thing about the world, it would be to eliminate the general lack of understanding that people have about one another and the sense of apathy people tend to have when presented with an opportunity to learn more about other groups.

If you look hard enough around you, there are so many examples of differences driving the world apart. It is not just about race anymore. Political parties are failing to compromise leaving entire countries in jeopardy. Radical religious groups are mixing in messages of hate where peace and tolerance once stood. Talk radio and network news stations are battling to see who can deliver more shock-worthy headlines rather than giving more objective facts.

So many of the world’s political and religious conflicts seem to stem from the fact that people just have different visions about how the world should be run. In some cases, these visions force people to see the world in simple black and white terms no matter how complex an underlying issue may be. Rather than acknowledging these differences and searching for common ground, people start to choose sides in hopes of winning some fictional battle. Along the way, each side throws jabs and insults at each other while trying to discredit each other. By the time the media pounces on the disagreement, the situation just becomes even worse. By this time, neither side wants to agree on anything simply off general principle. Good ideas presented by either side are abandoned just because they cannot gain support from across the aisle.

It seems that the world has fallen into the trap of loving to start arguments instead of learning how to solve conflicts. People have stopped listening to each other, and neglected to respect the fact that people have different opinions. In the end, the world is challenged because nobody wants to work together to achieve common goals.

Maybe I have too positive an outlook on what the world could be. Maybe the world has always been divisive and is destined to stay that way. All I know is that given the chance, I would love to see people do more to work together rather than finding ways to continue to tear us apart.

Question: If you had the power to change the world, where would you start?