As the youngest of Dave Ramsey’s three children, Daniel Ramsey is the last one of the bunch still in college at the University of Tennessee. With one year under his belt, he’ll be the first to tell you that college life is an adjustment—some you can prepare for and some you’ve just got to learn as you go. Before Daniel heads back for his sophomore year this fall, we asked him to share some tips for the incoming class of 2015.
After your first year of college, you decided to intern here this summer. Tell us a little bit about your experience so far.
Daniel: I have been helping our publishing department get some of the information my dad teaches to my generation. My first day here, a copy of The Graduate’s Survival Guide was sitting on my desk. It’s a new tool my sister, Rachel Cruze, helped create for incoming college freshman. It’s a great reference, but I can add a few points that Rachel didn’t mention. I mean, I could have helped her out with the book—if she had asked!
Feel the family love right now! All right then, what is one lesson you would have added?
Some of the lessons I learned were easy. Some weren’t. An easy one: Always sign off your Facebook and Twitter accounts when you step away from the computer. Seriously. Your “friends” will mess with your profile.
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One of the first things you do after picking your college is sign up for classes. What was your experience with class registration?
Class registration can be a nightmare, especially if you wait until the last minute. Talk to your advisor ahead of time to make sure you are staying on track. If you don’t get the time or teacher you want for a class, always get on the waitlist and email the professor to see if they can make room for you. Some initiative here can go a long way, and it can impress a professor before you even step foot in the classroom.
Selecting a major can be a difficult decision. Have you seen this affect people?
Choosing a major is an important thing to do, and I see a divide between my parents’ generation and mine. My parents went to college with a plan, and now so many students are trying to figure it out as they go. In the process, they are there for an extra year or more. If you are fortunate enough to have your parents helping you pay for school, don't be irresponsible and delay picking a major. When you do, you are wasting your time and their money.
With all the freedom you have in college, it can be hard to go to class. What do you think about skipping class?
Go to class! I don’t know if anyone would skip class if they sat down and calculated how much you pay for each class. Even if you just show up (physically and mentally), you’ll have a hard time failing. You’re there to learn, remember? I’ve got some friends who will spend the next few years trying to fix the academic mess they made as freshmen. Trust me: It’s not worth it. And while you’re in class, sit near the front row. Professors will know you, and you are more likely to pay attention. Just be sure to stay awake. Oh, if your professor is a Ph.D., be sure to call him or her “Doctor” whatever. They worked hard for that degree, and they’ll notice if you keep calling them “Mr.” or “Mrs.”
What about driving on campus?
Parking tickets are given out like candy, so be careful where you park. If you don’t have a car, make friends who have one. Don’t forget to pitch in for gas.
How important is it to balance your schedule between academics and other activities?
Do something outside of the classroom. Even if you’re taking a full class load or working a part-time job while you’re in school, you need to experience something besides class and homework. Research also links higher grades with involvement in other activities. Branch out and meet some new people. There are ton of groups, intramural sports and Greek organizations to join. I found my niche with Young Life.
A lot of freshmen are concerned about who they are going to live with in their first year of college. How do you recommend dealing with roommates?
In The Graduate’s Survival Guide, Rachel talks about getting along with your roommates and surrounding yourself with good friends. Our dad drilled this into us growing up. You’re going to look and act like the people you hang out with. Make sure that’s really how you want other people to see you.
I knew my roommate ahead of time, and it worked out really well for me. But you need to be careful if you are picking a friend to live with. I have plenty of close friends who are great guys, but I would never want to live with them. The other thing about roommates is if you decide to live with someone random, they don’t have to be your best friend. I think it is easy to romanticize your roommate experience, expecting your freshman-year roommate to become your best friend and introduce you to who you are going to marry.
If every person knew that one bit of advice, and focused on building the future and not just immediate pleasure, they could set a great foundation to carry into the rest of their life. A portion of all the money I am making this summer is going into a mutual fund. It is easy to forget while in school, but if you aren't taking out loans, you need to be putting money into savings.
Are your friends working during the school year or over the summer?
We all realized that we had a lot of time at college that we weren’t using to study or go to class. Most of my friends are getting part-time jobs this year, and they are doing that for different reasons. Some for a little extra spending money, and others are doing it so they don’t have to take out a loan.
You’ve probably heard about the dreaded “freshman fifteen” (gaining 15 pounds your freshman year on dorm food). What was your take on meal plans?
I loved meal plans for the first few months, and I could eat any time I wanted. But then it was the same food week after week. I recommend having a few friends who live nearby. Then, you can go home with them to score a home-cooked meal every now and then! Also, if “fourth meal” or “second dinner” becomes a regular habit, then you’re staying up too late.
You lived on campus during your freshman year, but now you are living in off-campus housing. Why are you changing?
For me, it is a cheaper option than living in the dorms because I am sharing a house with a lot of guys. When you live in dorms, you don’t have to pay for utilities or groceries, and you have pretty much everything you need. I’m excited about living off-campus because I’ll have extra responsibilities and develop good habits before I am totally on my own after graduation.
Any last tips for the incoming college freshmen?
Don’t throw the frisbee in the halls of your dorm. Apparently a fire isn’t the only thing that can activate the sprinkler system. But, seriously, college will give you some huge opportunities to win and some even bigger opportunities to be stupid. Just don’t rush in unprepared. Think through what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and have a blast!
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Need more practical tips about going to college? Check out the Graduate Survival Guide.