My oldest daughter is headed off to college next week. I'm freaking out. Time moves so fast it seems like yesterday she was learning to ride a bike.

She and I had a little chat over some cucumber salad a couple of days ago, and as we were talking about life, she took notes. She said she was going to hang them on the living room wall of her apartment. This got me thinking about when I was 18 and all the things I know now that I wish I knew then.

Here are 18 items that landed on my daughter's wall.

1. Go to class every day

It's so easy to skip one class and then two, soon you're so far behind that it's almost impossible to catch up.

2. Stay in school

No matter what, finish. Get a degree in something. It's very difficult to survive in today's world without a college degree. Be committed and get it done during the period of life when it is most likely to be accomplished. Set goals and re-set goals until you finally achieve. This is such an important skill to develop; it's one you'll use all throughout life. Get yourself in the best position possible to handle whatever life brings.

3. Don't lose your scholarships

It's free money. Make sure you know the minimum grade point average required to maintain each scholarship and keep your grades up.

4. Make a friend in every class

Find someone to share daily assignments if you're sick, to answer a question, or be a study partner.

5. Take advantage of this time in life to develop your identity

Figure out your dreams and goals in life. Travel or study abroad. Develop your talents, learn, discover, and improve yourself. You'll be a whole and healthy person who will make lifelong decisions of marriage, career, and rearing a family when you're ready.

6. Get some sleep

It's hard for your brain to function on too little sleep. Figure out a healthy routine and stick to it. Our bodies function best if we have a consistent sleep schedule.

7. Feed your brain and body by eating a balanced diet and exercising, even if your budget is tight.

Try eating fresh produce, whole grains, and lean proteins. Exercise is a stress reducer, and keeping your body fit improves quality of life. Build healthy lifelong habits now.

8. Remember to buy toilet paper

Enough said.

9. Don't drink other people's milk

Make it easy on everyone and eat your own food. It all boils down to being respectful of each other's belongings. You know, just like your folks taught you. The only difference is that now it's real life.

10. Don't be a pig

Living with other people can be hard. People living together have been raised under different definitions of the word "clean." Try to make life easy on your roommates by picking up after yourself and taking turns with bathroom, kitchen, and garbage duties.

11. Live on a budget

Closely monitor your monthly expenses such as rent, food, utilities, entertainment and gas. Get a bike and ride it as much as you can. Not only is it good exercise, it saves money. Also, save your extra money for the bigger expenses like tuition, school fees and books. If you happen to have a car, you'll also need money for repairs and maintenance.

12. Avoid debt, particularly credit card debt

College-aged kids are a prime target for credit card companies. It's better to go without than to rack up a huge credit card bill. My husband had a credit card in college and messed up his credit for 8 years because of missed payments and other problems.

13. Date all kinds of people

Look for someone who is well-rounded, not the best looking. Looks change over time.

14. While dating, be cautious

To be safe, make sure a friend or roommate knows where you are and when you should be home. This is especially important for first dates and as you are getting to know someone.

I may be a bit paranoid, but I carried mace in my purse because I got out of work late and lived at the end of a dark hallway. I just felt safer knowing I could use it if I needed it.

15. Don't settle

Every one of us wants to be adored, to be the most important thing in the world to a special someone. Be picky. Get to know what you want in a lifelong companion by dating different people.

16. There's no such thing as a soul mate

Sorry to burst any bubbles. There are thousands of people out there that you could be with and with whom you can live a long, happy, and fulfilling life. It's important to find someone that fits your life, that compliments you, so choose wisely.

17. Once you find him or her, get to know the family and friends

If a person isn't capable of having healthy and strong relationships with his or her family and friends, that person isn't capable of a healthy relationship with you. You should never be so tied into some "thing" that you can't get over it and move on. Listen to your heart and your mind and make a wise choice.

18. If you are going to be sexually active, be smart about it

I don't care how you were raised, your religion, or what your views are about premarital sex. For heaven sakes, be smart. If sex is a part of your life, protect yourself from disease and unplanned pregnancy. See a doctor or planned parenthood center and get informed about your options.

The college years are such an important time. You are laying the foundation for the rest of your life. Make smart decisions, stay focused on your goals, improve your mind, take care of your body, and stay in tune with your spirit. Embrace this part of life and reach for the stars.

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