1. Your health

Colleges were originally designed for the betterment of young people. With that being said, many students manage to make them the occasion for self-destruction. If you generally follow these tips, you’ll probably be ok. For everything else, just use moderation.

Don’t tomahawk your diet at the dining hall. Dhall is probably a food metropolis compared to your high school cafeteria. Tread carefully or prepare to buy new clothes.

Don’t pull all-nighters. You’re a freshman. This is upperclassman stuff. If you start now you’ll never make it.

Do go to the gym. Not going to the gym is a huge mistake. Not only does exercise keep you trim, but it’s the second best stress reliever, and the best one you can do by yourself. Scared of crowded gyms? Try late at night or weekends before noon.

Don’t be a fool. Being a fool can be hazardous to your health, and might also lead to a smudge on your permanent record to match that smudge in your memory of the previous night.

2. Your work

Surely you must have seen this one coming.

Whatever your goals in life are, the simple fact is that these days a college degree is merely par for the course. When you go to apply for a job, everyone around you will have one, so you’d just better accept the working world as the academic arms race it’s becoming. Your undergrad degree is a step in the door, a ticket of admission to bigger and better things. There’s no reason not to build your foundation as sturdy as you can manage.

And unless you’re a self-made teenager, you’re probably attending school on someone else’s good graces. Whether it’s your parents, grandparents, the university, the U.S. taxpayers, it doesn’t matter. Your middle-aged father could’ve bought his dream car with that money, or the university could have used it to dig up even more of the campus. Don’t let them down.

3. Joining organizations

There are tons of organizations on campus in the form of clubs, sports teams, or other fun activities where you can meet like-minded people. If you’re on the fence about joining a club, just do it. Most are fairly laid back and won’t brand you as one of their own within your first week.

4. Staying grounded

It is the tendency of newly enlightened individuals to adopt the “go tell it on the mountain” mentality. Yeah you’re going to learn some cool stuff in class, and you might even become really passionate about one or a few causes. Just remember that life goes on outside the bubble of college campuses.

The world might need to be changed, but you’re not going to do that as a freshman. Just focus on learning as much as you can, and stay humble. Or be prepared for the eye-rolling at the family holiday get-togethers.

5. Letting go of the past

If you travel far enough from home, college can be sort of like the witness protection program. Nobody knows who you are or what you’ve done, so you’re free to reinvent yourself. High school didn’t go so well? That’s ok; here is your chance to try again. Just don’t be the mobster transplant who moonlights as a bookie in small-town Nebraska. If it didn’t work before, don’t do it again.

6. Having fun

Why is it so far down the list you ask? Because you shouldn’t have to go out of your way to ensure you’re having fun. If you nail down the stuff that matters first, your quality of life will improve around you, and fun will find its way.

If you go into college thinking it must be the best time of your life, you can’t help but be disappointed. It’s just like anything else; there are highs and there are lows, peaks and pitfalls. Instead of the Jet Ski that tosses you off in turbulent seas, opt for the surefooted schooner to gently lull with the waves.

Contact opinions editor Joe DiBello at joseph.dibello@richmond.edu