A buddy is more than just a friend to hang out with

Photo by Vicki Harris

Photo by Vicki Harris

I am concerned about those young men and women who are beginning their college career. According to a UCLA student survey, 30% of new freshmen feel overwhelmed. It's no wonder, since the transition from high school to college is probably the single most significant change in their young lives. Here is some advice that can make the transition easier:

Many students, now out on their own for the first time, feel they don't have to do the things their parents may have insisted on; like eating healthy foods, exercising, getting enough sleep and avoiding drugs and alcohol. Often, eating disorders and drug/alcohol addictions begin or worsen during college. My advice is to have fun responsibly. Enjoy yourself, but keep yourself healthy.

Use the "Buddy System." This is more than just avoiding going out alone, but having a "buddy" who is like-minded and can help keep you on track academically, spiritually, physically, and emotionally. Keep each other accountable. Study together. Work out together. Look out for each other. It is also a good idea to let your folks back home know your schedule and provide some local phone numbers.

While in college, you may live in a dorm or share an apartment. In either case, you could be living with others whom you may not have known previously. The tendency is to trust, until you are shown that such trust is misplaced. My advice is to not trust so easily. Be friendly, but keep your stuff locked up. Make sure that desirable items like netbooks, iPods, Blackberrys, etc. are engraved with some personal identifiable mark.

Remember that college students are prime targets for identity theft. Take precautions to protect your personal and credit information. Keep financial and personal information in a safe place out of view. Protect your wallet, checkbook, credit card receipts, and incoming and outgoing mail. I know you will use your computer for everything, but during your college years, keep your financial information on your parent's computer. If your computer gets stolen, that will be one less headache.

Also, resist the temptation to get a credit card while at college. The Federal Reserve reports that credit card companies spent over $83 million marketing credit cards to college students in 2009. Your new-found independence coupled with your lack of financial experience makes you an easy target. Just remember that college is expensive enough without taking on extra debt. After college, you will need a good credit rating to get an apartment, utilities, a phone line, your own cell phone account, etc.

Remember, text books, term papers and lectures are only part of the college experience. Much of the college experience is about learning to be an adult. This is the time to establish yourself. Determine your beliefs and values and stick to them. You will come in contact with many who believe differently and embrace different lifestyles. You should be respectful and understanding, and expect the same from them.

College years can be the best years of your life, but you are the one in charge of making them that way.

Sheriff Kevin Sproul, a longtime resident of Dougherty County, is a graduate of Albany High School, Darton College and LaGrange College of Albany. He has been employed with the Dougherty County Sheriff's Office for 28 years and can be reached at (229) 430-6508.