Your college guide

Like many schools, Binghamton University, part of New York's state system, holds a freshman orientation. Newcomers this year started the process of engaging in college life through briefings on dorm living, academic programs, and such. Parents, meanwhile – the very people who, as students, ordered their own tuition-providers off campus the second the car was unloaded – also got advice. Theirs was on disengaging: "Coping With College: Family Communication," for example, or "Coping With College: Letting Go."

Maybe at one time it was enough for colleges to dole out maps and discount coupons to incoming students. No longer. In response to more students arriving with serious problems, not to mention more parents who hope to peer closely into the college experience, schools are ramping up communication.

Resident assistants, or RAs, are part of that effort. Their role has gone beyond that of social planner or noise-abatement specialist. At the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, in fact, RAs have just unionized to get better compensation for an increasingly tough job.

Still, on Day 1, seasoned student advisers often simply share what they wish they'd known sooner about this thing called college. That's what they did at Binghamton this year. So what did members of a résumé-building generation consider important?

Their list didn't include having taken more AP tests. The focus instead was on broader issues: "That it is OK to change your major, or to be undecided." "How different my life would be without parental rules." "That most of my education would be obtained outside class." "How fast money can go." "The importance of being open-minded." And, most important: "That I would have to learn how to do laundry."

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