A SUGGESTION FOR COLLEGE FRESHMEN
This column is for young people just starting college.
It is a suggestion that you make a Freshman Pledge.
That you make a promise to yourself.
And your parents, your school, the family you will one day have, and maybe even your God.
As you set out on this newest and thus far largest of life's adventures, I suggest you make a pledge that will help protect you and your future, and improve your chances of being successful at college and in life.
Simply and bluntly put, the pledge is this: Promise yourself that over your first year at college you won't get drunk, stoned or laid.
Sorry if that sounds crude.
But maybe it needs to be a little jarring.
For your first year, you promise that you won't get drunk, stoned or laid.
You won't drink alcohol, use illegal drugs or misuse prescription drugs, or have sex.
Not a little bit. Not ever. Not at all.
For your freshman year, those three things will be completely off the table.
Can you make that pledge?
Can you focus, for your first year of college, on academics and on establishing the habits and skills that will make you successful? Can you avoid substances and practices that can endanger and destroy you?
I'm not trying to be an alarmist, but as a college freshman, you are beginning one of the most fateful years of your life. It may have more impact on the course of your life than any other year in your life. And that impact may extend beyond your own life, into the lives of your children.
Here's what I mean.
If this year goes well, you will probably finish your college education and that will probably help you financially throughout your life. If this year goes poorly, you probably won't finish college, and you will probably be hurt financially for the rest of your life.
But the hurt can be much greater than just money.
At college, you may meet your future spouse. At college, you may develop habits that stick with you, for good or ill, your entire life.
So what does any of that have to do with a Freshman Pledge?
Avoiding those three things during your all-important freshman year can protect you from dangerous pitfalls, as well as enable you to make the most of your academic abilities.
Sometimes, students making the transition from high school to college face a bruising reality. It is not always easy, it is not always successful. And people who were on top of the world in May and June, can be in great difficulty by October or November.
And some of the worst of those difficulties can arise from alcohol, drugs and sex.
Unfortunately, sometimes in American society we think of the college years as a time of partying and fun. The revelry can become debauchery and real trouble can set in quick.
The first thing to remember is that even though you are a college student, the law still applies to you – the law of the land, the law of decency and common sense, and the law of God. Right and wrong are still right and wrong, even if you are a college student.
And when you choose what's right, you're more apt to come out OK. But when you choose what's wrong, you're more apt to hit a brick wall.
Alcohol is dangerous for a variety of reasons.
First, as a freshman, you're not old enough to legally drink. That means if you drink, you must break the law. And that can lead to an arrest and a record.
Alcohol use also increases, for a variety of reasons, the likelihood of sexual abuse, either perpetrated by you or perpetrated upon you. Both can be tragic. It is also tied to deaths and illnesses caused by drinking – and that includes everything from a DWI crash to drowning in your own vomit.
Alcohol also carries with it the risk of addiction, of you becoming an alcoholic. That would seem like a long shot, except for the fact that it happens with horrifying regularity to members of every incoming class.
You go to college to get an education, but if you're not careful, you could get a lifelong problem with alcoholism.
Same goes for drugs, except the ante is upped for everything. It's more illegal, it's more dangerous, it's more addicting.
Which brings us to sex.
If you're over 18, you are a consenting adult. But there may be considerations other than just what the law says.
There are all the biological concerns, like getting a disease or getting pregnant – or getting someone pregnant. You could find yourself ill, or with a child to support, or struggling with a decision on abortion, or the regret that can come therefrom.
Beyond the physical, you may not emotionally or psychologically be ready for sex. In trifling relationships that go too far, you might make it harder to form the lifelong relationship you ultimately will want.
Further, you may have issues with guilt and regret.
All of which will burden you.
All of which will be an obstacle to what you came to college for.
Somebody – you or your parents or the taxpayers – is paying an awful lot of money for you to go to college. It is an investment in a career for you that hopefully will bless the rest of your life and allow you to raise and educate your own children one day.
You can't screw that up.
Even more importantly, you can't screw yourself up.
So I suggest this Freshman Pledge, to take three of the biggest problems off the table.
Make a promise that you won't get involved with alcohol, drugs or sex during your freshman year.
Don't get drunk, stoned or laid.
I promise, it will protect you.
I also promise that anyone who tries to pressure you into becoming involved with alcohol, drugs or sex is not only not your friend, that person is a danger to you and your future.
Take the pledge, and avoid people who don't support you in it.
And at the end of your freshman year, looking back and analyzing how you did, maybe you'll want to extend that pledge.
But for now, let's focus on this year, and avoiding the traps that can keep you from getting through it.
Make the Freshman Pledge.
- by Bob Lonsberry © 2015