When you go off to college, it’s probably the first time you’ll get to make all (or most) of your own decisions. And it’s probably the first time you’ll interact with the world as just you. Not as ‘somebody’s kid’ or ‘the younger sister of whoever’, but you as an individual, unique person. I’m mostly talking here about your interactions with adults and other people who are older than you, and not necessarily with your peers.
For the most part, the people you interact with, at least to start, won’t have pre-conceived notions or expectations about who you are, what you think, or how you act. They’ll only have their experience with you to base their opinion on. If you act like a young person, you’ll probably be treated like a young person. If you act like a young adult, you’ll probably be treated like an adult.
I’m talking about your interactions with your professors and advisor, with the secretaries in the campus offices you visit, with the people in financial aid and housing offices, with the cell phone company, with employees at businesses you frequent, and with the neighbors when you rent an off-campus house, to name just a few.
Acting mature means treating others with respect and being appreciative when someone helps you – not taking it for granted. It’s taking responsibility for your actions – whether that’s locking your room when you leave to protect your belongings (and your roommate’s), or fessing up when you break something in campus housing. It’s making responsible choices about alcohol, drugs, personal safety and sex, and it’s NOT getting a DUI or MIP (ask a college student…). It’s being able to do well academically even in subjects you’re not interested in or are difficult. It’s taking ownership in both your achievements and your failures.
In some majors, you’ll have to be admitted to a ‘professional’ program, which may be synonymous with permission to take upper-level classes in the major. This may be determined by an interview and/or review of your major-related work, and possibly passing some sort of test. In these cases, you’ll actually have to present yourself and function as a professional in that field. This includes professional dress (guys – slacks, nice shoes, shirt and tie at least) and demeanor, and the ability to articulate your goals and opinions in a professional manner.
Some organizations will have these expectations for membership, as will scholarship and award committees for selection.
The point I’m trying to make here is that college isn’t just a series of endless parties and irresponsibility. At times, and probably more often than you’d like, you’ll actually have to act like a respectable adult. The trick is to know when to act the part. Please note also, that I deliberately used the word “act”. I’m not suggesting you’ll have to be serious and respectable all the time, but you will have to sometimes!
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