My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2020

Three years ago I sat down and reminisced about my time in college, specifically my involvement in campus life and how that experience came to shape my life and career. This time of reflection resulted in my wildly popular blog entry “My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2017.

As I’m been working on my book You’re Doing it Wrong (available soon!) I’ve been looking back on a lot of different moments in my life in reflection and drawing out the lessons I learned from them. A big part of my life was spent at Salem State University and there’s a lot I wish I had known going into it all.

So I’ve decided to help out the class of 2020 by offering up some of pearls of wisdom. Here are some things I wish I knew as a college freshman.

Get Involved!

I know I stressed this a lot of my original “Unsolicited Advice” entry but I want to make sure the point is driven home (especially if you did read it). By immersing yourself in the campus community you are not only going to have a stro

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The office of the Program Council was all business except when it was a whole lot of fun (which was always)

nger sense of belonging but a healthy social life to boot! Some of my best friends were met through my involvement on campus and many of the skills that I use in my job today were developed while working with groups and clubs on campus.

Take Advantage of Campus Offerings

Just because you don’t follow through with being a member of a club doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of the amazing offerings. Our campus’ Program Council (I was their Publicist my senior year) was responsible for many amazing events happening on campus and a good number of them were free including movie nights, poetry readings, comedians, magicians and so much more. The Student Theatre Ensemble hosted theatrical events every semester. There were dances, improv troupes, and so much more. Like I said, many of these events were incredibly cheap or even free. At one point our Program Council bought a chunk of tickets to a Red Sox game and sold them for $10 each.

Don’t Spread Yourself Too Thin               

College is tough. It may not too so right away with your introductory courses but it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by it all. Make sure to budget your time wisely especially when involved on campus on top of taking a full-time course load. By all means check everything out when it comes to extra-curricular but try to quickly narrow it down to what you’re most passionate about and what fits well with your schedule. Same goes for choosing classes, put together a schedule that makes sense and doesn’t have you sprinting all over campus.

Get To Know Your Professors

When it comes to the educator/student relationship forget everything you knew in high
school. Take the time to get to know your professors outside of the classroom. Visit them

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Professor Peter Zachari (Pictured here performing in a production of Shake It Up!) was one of my biggest influences in college and taught me so much outside of the classroom. Today I credit much of my success to him.

during office hours and take advantage of lunch offers. Each semester our dining hall actually offered free lunch to student dining with their professor. I can’t even begin to describe some of the amazing conversations and insights I receive during these lunches and chats, especially when it came to classes I was struggling with. It also helps later on down the career line if you’re looking for a letter of recommendation or the scoop on an internship.

Don’t Be Shy

Be sure to branch out in that first year and strike up conversations with strangers. This is how I made many of the friends I had during my first semester. Some didn’t stick around beyond that first half of the year but the experience of chatting up that one stranger gave me the confidence to chat up and meet others. One of the best things I would do, and this is something I highly encourage, would pick a couple people in class and exchange contact information. This way I had someone to reach out to if I missed a class and needed notes and offered them the same. I can see this idea changing a bit with the wake of social networking (Facebook didn’t show up until my second semester of college and it was a difference animal back then). Get to know the people in classes and out. It’s a lifesaver!

Sleep

Had I known about the ‘3 by 5’ rule when I was in college I would have been sure to follow it. The rule states that you should study three hours a day, five days a week. Now, that sounds like a lot but when I consider the little bits of time I would waste between classes, I could have been studying. Try to find those random chunks of time during your day to get in your reading or studying to help limit the all-nighters. Cramming to all hours and not getting any sleep is super counter-productive.  Try your best to study those three hours a day and see how much it helps balance your social life and sleep schedule!

Get Off Campus and Explore

I went to college in historic Salem, MA (home of the witch trials!). There was so much to explore and experience outside of the halls of academia. I encourage you to explore the area where you are receiving your education and learn more about it. Even if you feel like you o to school in the middle of nowhere, get to know your new home! Salem was a short train ride away from Boston which offered even more exploration. Take advantage and have fun!

Don’t Buy All Your Books Right Away

Okay, this is gonna raise some eyebrows but I’m gonna go ahead and say it. Don’t buy your books right away. Wait until you get to class, check out the syllabus and go from there. I took a lot of literature classes which required hundreds of dollars for books. It was enough to make one cry. The first thing I would do is take a look at the workload the professor was requiring and whether or not I could make it work with everything else I had going on that semester. If I was sticking with the class I would then look for the book online rather than in the bookstore in an effort to save money. If I ended up dropping the class or switching to another, I wasn’t stuck with books I wouldn’t need. Also check out Studentrate.com to compare textbook prices.

Discounts! Discounts everywhere!

Carry your school ID everywhere, especially if you live in a “college town.” So many different restaurants and shops offered student discounts but didn’t advertise them. Don’t ever be afraid to ask about student discounts for food, movies even museum admissions. You’d be surprised where you can save a few dollars here and there if you just ask. Be sure to have your ID for when they say ‘yes’!

Have Fun

I’m sure there are many more things I could mention but for now I’ll leave it with what I have above. As I think of more I’ll certainly write up new blog posts. All said and done g out there and discover the new you. This is a whole new chapter of your life and a time to discover who you truly are. Get out there and do it!

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Cory Monteith: Lessons From Tragedy

One year ago today the world learned of the tragic death of Glee star Cory Monteith from a drug overdose. At 31 years old Monteith was a beacon of hope for the underdog playing the character Finn Hudson on the Fox musical.

CoryMonteith00My opinion of Glee has certainly faltered in this latest season but in the first three especially, real life lessons were taught through a menagerie of top 40 pop songs.

While it wasn’t just Monteith learning and growing through each season, he certainly stood out at the tent pole of the cast. He wasn’t perfect. Yeah, he was the star quarterback but he didn’t come with a six-pack and god-complex. If anything Finn Hudson was a great lesson in character development. He wasn’t the brightest bulb in the pack but he was a loveable goof that I miss seeing each week on the show.

Try as we might though, no one can be perfect. Monteith certainly wasn’t and that’s what made him human. Monteith had a troubled adolescence involving substance abuse from age 12; he left school at age 16. After an intervention by family and friends, he entered drug rehabilitation at age 19. In a 2011 interview with Parade magazine, he discussed his history of substance abuse as a teen, and in March 2013, he again sought treatment for addiction

In the light of his death, the trolls of the internet blasted Monteith as a loser and a junkie but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. He as a kind-hearted person who just happened to not be perfect. None of us are.

There’s a great moment in the pilot episode of the series where Finn is confronted by his jock friends after he’s left the Glee club but hasn’t fully regained their respect. They have locked Artie (Kevin McHale) in a portable toilet and are planning on flipping it. Finn releases Artie and is chastised by Puck (Mark Salling):

PUCK: “What the hell dude, I can’t believe your helping out this loser”

FINN: “Don’t you get it man? We’re all losers. Everyone in this school, no, everyone in this town.  Out of all the kids that graduate, maybe half will go to college, and then two will leave the state to do it. I’m not afraid of being called a loser because I can accept that’s what I am. But I am a freak for turning my back on something that actually made me happy for the first time in my sorry life.”

I think that, if anything, is an important lesson in life for everyone. No one is perfect. We all have our demons regardless of how well we hide them. I know for a fact that I am far from perfect. Rather than hiding from that truth I embrace it and use it every day to help make me stronger. Deep down we’re all losers. Love it. Embrace it. Ignore anyone that tells you otherwise.

Out of the hundreds of songs performed on the show, one stands out as my absolute favorite. A true loser anthem. Listen, enjoy, read on.

Monteith was trying his best to clean himself up but addiction is a powerful thing and as a celebrity I’m sure he was bombarded by pressure to be perfect at every turn. I’m sure along with that came temptation.

Every generation has lost an entertainer they cared about to drug and alcohol abuse. Judy Garland, Chris Farley, Marilyn Monroe,  Whitney Huston, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. And with each comes an opportunity for parents to discuss drug and alcohol abuse with their kids.

Conversations about drugs and alcohol should start early and happen often. It may be a year later but with Glee still on the air and the constant reminder of the loss of Monteith and his character Finn still on viewers’ minds the opportunity for conversation is available.

As I’ve mentioned to hundreds of parents across the country in regards to internet safety and cyberbullying, conversation is key in developing and open dialogue with kids. Letting them know that an issue is on your radar is sometimes enough to get into their heads as they go about their day.

Set your expectations early when it comes to certain substances.  Encourage and educate your younger kids on the power of making healthy decisions.  Teach them how to make these choices and understanding what unhealthy and healthy decisions look like during their day. Talk to them about how they feel after getting a good night’s sleep or eating a healthy meal. Conversely, talk to them about how they feel when making poor choices as well.

Let your child made decisions for themselves. Maybe as an adult we can’t understand a peanut butter and fluff sandwich for lunch every day but that let your child make that choice for themselves. Allow them to choose their clothes for the day regardless of how good the outfit looks or if it fits with the forecasted weather.  This shows them they have the power to choose for themselves and that not all decisions are the greatest in retrospect.

As a child gets older, make sure you are being a positive role model. In the world today the old go to of “do as I say, not as I do” isn’t really going to fly. It never really did but it’s gotten harder to ingrain into a kid’s head. Telling your child not to smoke or drink really isn’t going to resonate if your downing a second cold one after a long day of work.

Take a good look at your own actions and make sure that your are being the best influence on your kids. Remember your actions speak louder than words.

Be sure to check in with the parents of the children your child are hanging out with. They also serve as role models for your kids. Talk regularly with them about their own expectations for their kids about tobacco, drugs and alcohol.

Entering middle and continuing to high school is a scary and pivotal time in a child’s life. It’s a time when they are discovering what their values are. It is here that conversations are important. Conversations, not lectures. Talk to your kids about what is going on in the world around them and ask them if they understand.

Build them up with positive reinforcement. Let them know that it’s okay to take their own path rather than following the trends. Encourage them to be themselves and make decisions based on what they like and not their friends. Teach them the value of true friendships rather than being a part of the in crowd.

Continue to encourage them to make healthy decisions for themselves. Get them involved in school and extracurricular activities. Look into things that you can do together as a family. Decreasing the amount of boredom in their lives will help eliminate the temptation for them to find other ways to alleviate it.

As always my advice and information comes from a place of experience as someone’s child as opposed to being someone’s parent. At the end of the day, you know your child the best and what they will respond to.

I encourage you to share your thoughts and tips in the comments section below.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

My Unsolicited Advice to the Class of 2017

It’s hard to believe that it was ten years ago that I stepped onto the Salem State College (now Salem State University)  campus as a freshmen. I honestly went into that first year with no idea who I was, what I was doing, or where I was going. It took that entire year to being to put the pieces together and it was the end of the year I learned the secret to success in college and beyond:

Get involved!

My first real involvement on campus was when I auditioned for Human Action Theatre. Being an English major it was a bit of a long-shot but the director took a chance on me and sure enough I found myself on stage for the 2004 orientation. It was a thrill.humanaction09

From there I joined the, now disbanded, Students’ Works Theatre Project, an independent theatre group that gave opportunities to students to write, direct and perform 10-minute plays. It was a chance to stretch my wings and get to know people on campus.

I had found myself a niche in the theatre world and even began taking classes in the department. This lead to my applying to direct the 2005 Human Action Theatre (a position I held until my last summer at Salem State in 2009) while serving as assistant director for Summer Theatre’s Return to the Forbidden Planet.

From one simple audition, my entire world was changed.

Following my summer being immersed in the theatrical world I added on a second major- theatre. This found me in a whole new world and soon I was the publicist for the Student Theatre Ensemble.

At this point I must also caution against limiting yourself to just one area of involvement. While the theatre world at SSC was great, there was a world beyond that. Thankfully, because of my involvement with orientation and Human Action Theatre, I had made a lot of connections in the Student Government,  Student Commuter Association, and more.

These connections lead me into a new world with the residence halls as I signed on to become and academic mentor in the freshmen hall and a member of the National Residence Hall Honorary. My position in the hall gave me the unique opportunity to get the underclassmen involved as I was constantly chatting with them and letting them know about events on campus.

My final year at Salem State proved to be one of the busiest as a was elected into the Public Relations position for Program Council, a group responsible for some of the biggest events on campus. It was a crazy and amazing time and though there were a lot of long nights, close calls on getting assignments in and very little free time, I regret none of it. My schedule was always full but for all the right reasons.

I am deeply indebted to Bruce Perry and Becky Jimenez in the campus center for all the opportunities they gave me. If you are looking to get involved and don’t know where to start, these are certainly the people to talk to. They believed in me, helped me learn to push beyond my limits, and turned me into a leader. I can’t leave out Jeff Smith and Helene Collins who put up with so much from me and were great shoulders to lean on.

I can’t promise that your college experience will be the same as mine but I can promise that if you go through the next four years without checking out what is going on beyond the classroom, you will regret it. During my time at Salem State my professors taught me a lot about the world, getting involved on campus taught me a lot about life.

Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com

You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.

Pictured Above: The 2009 Cast of Human Action Theatre. Photo Courtesy of Stu Grieve.