Editor’s note: This story initially appeared in the Roaring Fork Weekly Journal, our sister paper covering the midvalley. For more, visit www.rfweeklyjournal.com.

To the 2019 graduating classes of the Roaring Fork Valley:

Hey there. First off, congratulations! You survived high school and are now looking at college, trade school, the job market or maybe living in a van. That’s pretty exciting, but a bit anxiety-inducing as well, I bet.

You don’t know me, but my name is Chapman and five short years ago I was in your shoes. I graduated in 2014 from Elbert High School, where I had a graduating class size of nine. So, remember the next time you think your class is small.

After high school, I attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and I graduated last May with a degree in journalism and information technology. Because the experiences of college are fresher in my mind than the rest of my colleagues at this paper, I’ve been asked to offer some advice to those of you headed to college this fall.

So, without further ado, here are some tips and tricks to college freshmen from a recent adult.

1. Attend lectures

This might seem like a silly thing to start with, but I have known a great many people who made a decision somewhere along the semester that they can pass the class without actually showing up and just doing assignments online. Plenty of these people also ended up having to repeat classes they didn’t pass, so I’m going to point to some heavy correlation. Depending on your tuition, each class session could be costing you something like $50, and being in class is also the best way to start a connection with the professor, which will pay off if you ever need help.

2. Be prepared for a whole new world of relationships

For me, going from a small, rural town to a city was a huge shock, and part of it was that there were suddenly way more prospects in the world of dating (and also friendships, but mostly dating): “You mean I’m not limited to the two other girls in my class or people from a different school?” But, a larger pool to pick from came along with new types of drama and a lot of chances to figure myself out. There’s really no better place to meet lots of people than college, so enjoy it while it lasts.

3. Take advantage of your situation

There is also no better place than college to try all the new things you want. Most large colleges have clubs for every interest imaginable and it’s so easy to find other people who want to try something with you.

One important thing I would recommend is learning to take care of your body. Exercise and good eating habits are important to learn now that you’re on your own, and dining halls can be dangerous buffets. Also, be mindful of what you put in your body — you only get one.

College is also a great time to spend time learning more about yourself and becoming the person you want to be. Just don’t spend your freshman year trying to be someone you’re not, like I did. It’s an easy way to lose friends.

4. Ask for help when you need it

As a former resident assistant, my job was to provide support for the students in my dorm and find help if I couldn’t give it. Too many students get caught up in the independence of college and don’t reach out until much later than they should. Most colleges offer resources for a variety of issues, and there are so many people who just want to help. It’s important to deal with emotions and issues in a healthy way so that they don’t negatively impact your life. Or, just have a breakdown your first Christmas break. I did that and it was bundles of fun.

5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, fail or take a step back

One thing about our current society is that there’s an expectation to head straight into college with a goal in mind right out of high school. ­Unfortunately, that isn’t ideal for a lot of people. Some folks have no idea what they want to do with their lives, some aren’t ready to continue schooling in an unfamiliar place and some just fall apart without the support network they had at home.

Personally, I’m a firm believer in taking things at your own pace. Take time to explore what major is right for you, even if it extends your time in school. Or, take some time to determine if this college, or college at all, is even right for you. College is expensive, and there shouldn’t be any shame in taking a break to figure yourself out first. No matter what happens, just know that this columnist back in the valley supports you all the way.

There are a million other pieces of advice for college, but I think a lot of them are best experienced in a hands-on manner. So, get out there and do Basalt proud.