Nancy Roman

College Advice

I am fortunate enough to have two separate generations of nephews and nieces. Once my sister’s kids were just about grown, my brother started a family. I think that was very considerate of him to give me a chance to spoil only one set at a time.

And my second set is now growing up. The oldest went off to college this week. 

So I thought it would be appropriate to repost my college advice – he is very much like me, so perhaps I can help him just a tiny bit to be just a tiny bit less like me.

It’s a week or so late (since I wrote this two years ago in August….) but I am hoping my nephew can still save himself from being me.




It’s August, and of course we are already being inundated with back-to-school advertising.

When I was a kid, I hated seeing those ads for school clothes and newspaper flyers for pencils and notepads. It was August. Not time to think about school. Give me another month of wonderful summer, please.

But since school seems to be starting earlier every year – semesters are starting before Labor Day now – I’ll jump on the back-to-school bus with some college advice.

What I have learned in my forty-one years since college (and yes, that means I was an undergrad until I was 24; let’s just say I changed my major a few times) is this:

Don’t take yourself so seriously.

Maybe kids don’t these days anyway. Maybe college now is all about weekends and selfie-sticks.

But I think there are probably a lot of kids out there like me.


I studied hard. I took extra courses. I wanted that 4.0 GPA. I wanted my professors to think I was special.

Oh I’m special, all right. But I am also sure, looking back, that not one single professor remembers me.

And though I didn’t make a 4.0 GPA, I did manage a 3.8. And you know what – it still took me ONE YEAR to get a job as a clerk.

I did learn a lot in school. And I even remember quite a lot of it after more than 40 years. That’s the best thing about being a serious student. I learned shit.


You know those old people who always reminisce by saying, “I have no regrets”?

No regrets?

Holy Bleeping Cow. Are you kidding me?

I have a HUUGE pile of regrets.

So for those serious-worrier kids who are already stressed about going off to college, I’d like to express a few of those regrets. For whatever it’s worth.

I regret not attending a single sports event in my multiple years in college.

I regret not going to more parties… (although I don’t regret not getting falling-down drunk).

I regret not ice-skating on the campus pond. Or even bringing my ice skates to school.

I regret not telling Stanley that I really liked him a lot. And Sean. And Steven.

I regret studying alone in my room – instead of going to the library or joining a study group.

I regret not staying up all night giggling with my roommate.

I regret not taking advantage of all the music and arts available every single week at school.

I regret not streaking across campus when that was all the rage.

I regret taking on extra-credit work when I did not need extra credit.

I regret not going to the local hotspot once in a while. I worried that it was a firetrap. And yeah, it did eventually burn down – but not for a few years.

I regret those beautiful early May days when I studied for finals, when I could have been laying out on the lawn in a bikini, still studying for finals.

So what I am saying – to Type-A teenagers, if you still exist:  Work hard, learn a lot – but also: ENJOY college. Don’t pass up your opportunities to have fun. To really FEEL like you are in college – on your own for the first time.

Oh yeah, one more:

I regret not calling my mother and my father and my sisters and my brother every single day to tell them I loved them.




  1. I don’t have as many regrets, wasn’t going for the 4.0…just grateful to be out on my own at a great school. We did go to a couple football games, I only liked the half time shows, and the tickets were too expensive so I didn’t go after freshman year. Never went to any of the museums. DID lay out, but did not study during that. Regret being a business major (Sooooo boring). Am still best friends with my roommates who I mate there. In fat, going to a Democratic fundraiser for our Senator this afternoon with one of them.

    Still…I’d like a do-over if I could. I’d study more fun stuff. Important stuff, but less stuffy stuff. You know what I mean.


  2. I love this. You are so on the mark for many of us…even those of us who didn’t go to college. Your advice still rings true to those who go straight to work. Especially the one about calling family every day to tell them you love them. I tell my hubby and kids and grandkids that all the time. I probably make them nauseous. But for that I’ll have no regrets.


  3. What great advice. The same thing I told my freshman son. Enjoy your college days.


  4. Pretty much everyone has some regrets in life as I sit here trying to think of my regrets and having nothing come to mind I think there must be some I just can’t think what they are but I bet when I go to bed tonight I will be able to think of them


  5. Pam

    I never believe people when they say they have no regrets. Maybe they don’t want to admit to their mistakes or something, but I have learned a lot in life and I would not make the same mistakes again if I had a do-over. I share many of the same regrets as you. Next time around, I would be less serious and more inclined to please myself instead of others. I spent a lot of my time in youth worrying about making good grades and I spent too many hours studying when I could have been having fun. Really, no employer has ever asked to see my transcript!


  6. Not the streaking. You would probably regret that. 😉


  7. The first time I went to college I was very young. I had skipped grades which landed me in college with people a lot older than me. I enjoyed college a lot. We had a lot of fun and my classmates included me in a lot of things. However, pub nights and some of the older activities I was left behind.
    The second time I went to college was in my late thirties. The tables had turned. Now I was the old one. I still enjoyed it and had fun with my classmates but I wasn’t included in the Pub Nights or extra curricular activities.
    So, regrets, I have a few. But circumstances dictated them.


  8. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    Good advise, Nancy. I hope the young are reading this. It’s really true that age can bring wisdom, especially for lifelong learners like you.


  9. Cara Robison

    I love this story a lot


  10. Regrets too are a kind of learned thing, perhaps even a form of knowledge.


  11. This is good! I started out in college pretty type-A, and then by senior year I was strolling to class 5 minutes late on spring days, and getting papers done early so I could enjoy a run outside with friends. I learned how to value time alone and time with friends, how to study well and how to know when it was time to lay the book down. You write about a good mix of responsibility and carefree attitude. I like it!


    • It sounds like you figured out a winning balance. Good for you!


  12. joyugo

    This is good


  13. What wonderful advice! A little superficial, but candid. As a college undergrad, I can say I really needed this. Thank you!


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