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A Ball State Guide for Incoming Freshmen

Welcome to Funcie fresh meat, I mean freshmen.

Writer’s Note: This is not a sports column as I wanted to take a break from the usual to give some advice to those going to college. About 4,000 newcomers will soon descend upon Muncie and this is for them.

After I was approached in my church to give advice to some of the kids who are about to go to college I had an epiphany. Why not write a guide to incoming Ball State students on OTP?

I just graduated from Ball State two weeks ago in Worthen Arena. Alan, wanted me to bring the student voice to the blog, but I admit I am far from the typical Ball State student. I do not drink. That right there alienates me from 85 percent of the campus. I led a bible study, I watch “Star Trek,” and the wildest night I had was a pancake eating contest with my friends at the Daleville Denny’s. While college may be “American Pie” for some, for me it was closer to “The Big Bang Theory,” without Sheldon and less nerdy. Too bad Penny was not there either. There goes my street cred.

Jason Whitlock did his best a year ago for those in the party scene and hopefully I can balance that extreme out.

More than a job

The overwhelming opinion I hear for college is to get a job. If that is your attitude I am sorry. The majority of classes I took will have little impact on your future job. I wrote dozens upon dozens of essays from Abraham Lincoln’s inaugural address to how women are portrayed in the media. Because of the latter I can no longer view scantily clad women on television commercials without thinking of the connotative meanings geared towards negative female stereotypes.  Thanks for nothing COMM 412.

College is more about discovering your interests then it is about getting a job. Do not be that guy who graduates only to hate the job he spent four years preparing for. If you want a job go to trade school. If you want an education go to Ball State.

Ditch the ego

The odds are low of you being the big fish that you were in high school at Ball State. More than likely there will always be someone funnier, smarter, cooler, and stronger than you. For the girls who considered themselves the prettiest in high school, keep in mind most women coming to Muncie feel the same way about themselves. Then again do women actually read a Ball State football blog? High school is a time where we compare ourselves based on clothes, prom dates, cars, etc. No one cares about that junk in college. Who you were in high school no longer matters at Ball State. The quicker you come to terms with this the quicker you will adapt to campus.

Explore the area

Ball State students have a bad reputation among Muncie natives for many reasons but the biggest one is not giving a crap about the area. When told fellow students I was going to a church in Yorktown they gave me confused looks as they fail to even name the town next door. I was fortunate to build connections in Gaston and Yorktown and those added greatly to my college experience.

Exploring Muncie takes effort as driving up and down McGalliard does not count. That would be like saying you have been to Atlanta because the plane stopped at the airport on its way to Florida. Some parts of Muncie are rough like the Southside is known for a strip club, a closed Borg Warner plant, and a large Walmart. Yikes. On the bright side there are several nice parks along the White River so take advantage of them. When it gets cold hit as many restaurants as you can.

Muncie will become your home for four years so the more you do to make it feel like a home the better off you will be.

Get involved

I must stress the importance of getting involved on campus. For me it was a couple of Christian groups and the Ball State Daily News. Extracurricular organizations are in many ways more important than classes as this is where field experience is possible. It is easier to build relationships in those places too. There is no shortage of lazy students who do nothing but video games and Facebook. When the poor grades hit they complain about the professor or the major. We all know those students. Do not be that student.

Give yourself free time

At the same time though do not overload yourself. I was stunned at how many students are constantly busy. I knew some students who would work one or even two jobs, while taking 18 credit hours with other activities. Yet they would find time to run 10 miles every morning even in the snowy winter.

Flexibility can go a long way at Ball State. Free time is to students what cap space is to pro sports teams. Taking on bad player contracts can make life miserable. If you have a full schedule in college what is it going to be like when you become a parent? It feels like there is no middle ground between the students who are overworked and students who are just getting by. If you can find that balance you are doing an amazing job.

Take some chances

Senior year I applied for an unpaid internship with Feed My Sheep, a Thanksgiving Food Drive in Muncie. Not knowing what to expect it turned out to be one of the best things I did in college and led to what might be the most awkward photos President Gora has ever been in.

She makes more cash in a year than the President Obama but how much would she have paid to not have this pic on the Internet?

Another chance on a smaller scale was when I wrote a paper on non-BCS college athletic budgets. Our professor wanted us to have our papers publish so I e-mailed it to Alan as it somehow went to his junk mail. He found it weeks later as it became this leading to whatever this puppy is now.

In retrospect I could have taken more chances at Ball State. Could have applied to more internships and joined more clubs, but that goes back to the free time argument. I am happy with how things turned out and I am sure those who take risks will have success too.

Adversity will strike

For many students, college is the first time where trouble will hit. Whether it is grades, family trouble, relationship drama, or money problems, adversity will come eventually. Sophomore year was a bit of train wreck for me, yet I know dozens of kids who went through worse.

I wish I could say more other than be prepared for it. More importantly have some solid friends you can lean on. Isolating yourself when things are tough is the dumbest choice one can make.

Be smart about the drama

It is shocking how a break-up can cause a person to flunk out of school. Approach these situations knowing you are only 18-22 and being single is not the end the world.

Most importantly: CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS WISELY!

You become who you hang out with. Hang out with people who hate going to class and you will hate going to class too. Hang out with people who sleeps with anything that breathes and chances are you might too. It is not always the case but your friends will have an impact on your day-to-day activities. Making friends in college is different from high school where your friends are people who you grew up with or play on the same varsity team. For college, all that matters is that you developed some kind of support system with people you trust. Your Ball State friends do become a family. For me it was a fantasy football league family but whatever works for you. There goes more street cred.

Would tell more but it is best that you figure some stuff on your own. Time to get back to sports.

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3 Responses

  1. Nice article. I’d only add a few things for incoming students, including a few from the non-teetotalers perspective:

    1. Don’t be afraid to room with people who are completely different from you: in my four years at BSU, I, suburban kid from Chicago area, roomed with the following: dude from Owensboro, Ky., who remains my best friend to this day; guy from South Bend who was a guitarist in a punk band; a country singer and avid hunter from a small town downstate; another guy who grew up on a pig farm; a guy from an inner-city h.s. in Indy who regularly had to dodge bullets on his way home from school growing up; and a wacky prankster from Michigan who we’re all pretty sure spent his free time dealing drugs on the sly. Yes, cultures will clash, and you’ll have your disagreements, but your college experience will be much fuller for it (save for having a drug dealer in your house — don’t allow that, kids). Furthermore, you’ll be much more prepared for the “real world,” where your co-workers will likely come from different worlds/perspectives from you, yet you’ll need to get along with them and work together anyways.

    2. Study abroad: Seriously, take advantage of the BSU study abroad programs. You’ll never be able to go overseas and travel the world anywhere near that cheaply again in your life. You’ll think you can’t afford it now. You’ll be wrong. Go.

    3. Don’t be the cynical jackass who sits at home watching the Big Ten game of the week on TV or playing video games instead of hitting your own school’s home games. Yes, you may not see ten first-round draft picks on the field/court at a BSU home game. So what? You’ll have a damn good time, you’ll make new friends, oh, and you’ll actually get to cheer for a team that is honestly, unequivocally *yours.*

    4. If you are going to drink/party (and there’s nothing wrong with that, within reason), then make sure you learn your boundaries. Did you get sick after a night of carousing? Go back through the fog and count your beverages for the evening. Deduct two or three. That’s your wall. Stay on the right side of it forever more. Not only will you feel better, you’ll be more likely to find that “moderation” zone that eludes too many people. Plus, you’ll be less likely to engage in any sort of drunken asshattery that may harm your future.

    5. Also, if you are going to party, you can maintain your good academic standing by following one hard, fast, and simple rule: NEVER, EVER SKIP A CLASS DUE TO A HANGOVER. Legitimately sick? Fine. Family wedding? Cool. Cramming for a final in another class? Borderline, but we’ll allow it. But too many Jager bombs last night? Tough. Get your ass out of bed and drag your throbbing headache to your 8 a.m. lecture, Van Wilder. Not only does this teach you to moderate (see above), and impart good habits for when you’re out in the working world (where if you skip work because you were out late drinking you end up f-i-r-e-d), but it will help you to prioritize the main reason you are at college. One skipped class can easily become two, three, and four, with the associated drop in your grades. Showing up is half the battle. Win that part of it.

    6. Finally, take that wild-ass elective class that has nothing at all to do with your major. It will allow your mind to roam free, let you have some fun in the classroom, and chances are, it will be one of your more enlightening experiences in college. You will never regret doing so, I assure you.

  2. Great article and great comments

  3. Nicely done. Makes me wish I could go back and do it all again…

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