The advice column you didn't ask for, but you'll wish you did
Hello, teens! It’s us, Dan and Sarah. In our advanced age (We both graduated in 2018), we’ve decided to bestow some of our sweet, sweet post-grad wisdom in order to make sure you enjoyed your time here before you shake President Tripathi’s hand. And don’t worry, you’ll find out who Tripathi is eventually, we all did.
DAN McKEON ‘18 alum
English major, former Copy Chief
Go to Buffalo
UB’s North Campus is oppressive, and no amount of trees, flowerbeds or nice little pocket parks is going to fix that. The Spine is a wind tunnel designed to chill your spirits, the giant lecture halls made to make you feel small, and the half-mile stretch from Ellicott to the Student Union exists to mock you. So, bold idea, you should leave it when you get the opportunity.
Buffalo, the rusty jewel of New York State, has neighborhoods with bars, cafes and miscellanea built in the skeletons of the city’s heyday, parks designed by world-class urban planners, and some fantastic museums. Tired of the goose-poop-laden, grey-on-grey brutalist North Campus? Take a walk around Hoyt Lake in Delaware Park. There’s just as much goose poop, but my oh my, it is worth it.
Crush your apathy
Go to class, study, socialize, drink and tweet about how Buffalo’s weather “makes literally no sense lol.” It’s tough in the daily grind to drum up the energy or enthusiasm to care about anything outside of what needs to get done, and yes, I’m counting drinking and lame tweeting as “needs to get done.” But caring is a motivator, caring is the thing that will make college valuable and really worth it in the end.
Some students will say or show that they just don’t really care about anything, but it’s a bit of a myth that caring is something that just springs up inside you. To beat apathy, you need to try. People usually go with joining a club, which is definitely a solid option, but another good way is to treat classes like opportunities, not requirements. I came to UB a psychology major, took a creative writing class as a gen ed, loved it, joined The Spectrum, switched my major and now I’m a published writer who is going to graduate school for it. I could’ve just gone on autopilot through a class not relevant to my major, but I didn’t and it changed my life for the better.
Don’t be a jerk
Many students haven’t lived independently of their parents until now. The dizzying high that comes from no supervision can turn some people into real pieces of work. Don’t be one of them.
Listen when someone tells you they’re upset with something you did or said, reflect on how you act as honestly as you can, and grow. The “haters gonna hate” mantra is often misapplied. If you think you have to block out the haters, make sure they really are haters and not just people pointing out valid problematic behavior. Put as much work into being a decent person as you do into schoolwork, and in no time at all, you’ll stop being an annoying little s--t.
SARAH, ‘18 alum
English, Political Science. Former senior news editor.
Keeping up with the Joneses? Who are they again, and why do we follow each other?
There is enough to worry about in college. Don’t stress out over how your “college experience” is being perceived by an invisible audience of social media acquaintances you will never talk to. This can seem like an almost impossible task for our generation, but I believe it is crucial to try. Make a sticky note, come up with a fun mantra to remind yourself: No one cares! Make decisions that you can feel proud of, and truly, forget the rest. Changed your major for the fourth time? Nobody cares. Back with your high school boyfriend again? They don’t care. Transferring to Alfred State? Curious on the back-story, but still don’t really care. Pregnant and the father is your Chemistry TA? OK, I’m not here to lie to you.
But seriously, take comfort in the fact that no one is watching your every move or misstep. This becomes even more true after you graduate. I am embarrassingly bad at remembering what friends are up to. I assume everyone I know is in the midst of a six-year PT program at D’Youville, with a roughly 60% success rate.
Go to class
Oh, the mental gymnastics we will perform to justify missing class on a 60-degree day in Buffalo. But the truth is, going to class will always be better than skipping, even if the teacher doesn’t take attendance, or the notes are all online. There are a few reasons: Professors, even if only subconsciously, reward those who show up. It’s just not a “good look” to always be the person coming in 15-minutes late, or missing every fourth class, no matter how chill the professor seems.
You will gain credibility with your classmates and the professor, which can be invaluable later in the semester. UB professors are some of the most humane people you will ever come across, but in my experience, they tend to be more willing to help students who make an honest effort to show up, and once in awhile, turn off the laptop that they are oh so clearly not taking notes on.
So you f----d up. Time to “face the music.”
When I was a kid and I forgot to do my homework or lost a paper I needed for school, I would beg my mom to let me stay home. She would gently insist I needed to go to school, “face the music” and assured me I would actually feel better for doing so. She was right then, and the advice still holds up.
Throughout college, you’ll undergo (hopefully) tremendous professional and personal development. And you will inevitably misstep. Maybe you’ve waited an uncomfortable amount of time to send a thank-you note you really should’ve emailed months ago. Or you’ve missed a class three consecutive weeks and would now rather transfer than face that professor again. Take a deep breath and recognize that at some point, everyone was a dumb 19 year old. The world is full of grace and people looking to do someone a favor. Send the email with a brief, lightly apologetic addendum, and feel the sweet relief of “facing the music.” You will be glad you did.
Dan McKeon and Sarah Crowley are ‘18 UB alumni and worked at The Spectrum from 2014-2018 and 2015 to 2019, respectively. Both are enjoying life after UB working in the Rochester/Buffalo area. Sarah really wants you guys to know she’s going to law school in the fall. Dan is in the process of buying a snake.