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Dear Frosh: I wish I dated with confidence

Jenna Johnson

Today's advice for college freshmen is from Sara Goldman, a writer living in England who graduated from the University of Maryland.

I wish I'd known how to say 'no.' I wish I'd known that you don't have to date the cool guy to validate yourself and that dignity is more precious than any temporary social kudos gained from hanging with the in-crowd.

SaraGoldman.jpgDating is as integral to college life as books and calculus, and the expectations and opportunities are a world away from high school. Add a healthy dose of naivete to the mix and an inexperienced ego is asking for trouble.

Be careful; remember that choices made now will affect your life just as surely as your choice of major. If you're not ready to sleep with someone, then don't. It doesn't matter what your friends or your roommates or the cool girls are doing, the only person you have to answer to is yourself.

It may be hard to resist pressure from those around you, but you'll reap the rewards later. And any guy worth his salt will think you are too if you're confident enough to make choices independent of your dorm's social mores.

Be wary of alcohol - stay away from it until you are 100 percent sure of your safety and your date's motives. Don't think a date is an invitation to possibly share the rest of his life and start to make plans. Don't change goals for graduate school and internships to suit him or his major, and don't center your social and academic word around him -- because if it doesn't work out, you've got four more years.

Many people find their soul mate in college, but an equal number leave behind a trail of mistakes they'd rather forget. The key is to learn from them - but in your own way and on your own terms. Have fun; be safe; but never give up your self-respect.

What do you wish you had known as a freshman? E-mail me your short essay (less than 300 words) and it might be featured on the blog. Read previous essays here.

Campus Overload is a daily must-read for all college students. Make sure to bookmark http://washingtonpost.com/campus-overload. You can also follow me on Twitter and fan Campus Overload on Facebook.

By Jenna Johnson  |  September 14, 2010; 10:49 AM ET
Categories:  College 101  | Tags: Dear Frosh, University of Maryland  
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