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Don't miss your chance: 12 things to do before graduation

Last weekend, in the grand tradition of college summers, some friends and I decided to take a road trip. One of my travel companions was a fellow fourth-year student, while the other graduated from the College in May.

There are a lot of odd conversations to be had during an eight-hour journey from Charlottesville to South Carolina, but when our talk shifted to school, the ride got a little nostalgic and weepy.

Two of us looked toward our final year as Wahoos with sadness and disbelief, while my graduate friend looked back longingly on all her fond University memories. As we zoomed along Interstate 95 and headed back to Charlottesville, we decided that college is a twilight period in life.

It is a glorious time when you can still enjoy the parental safety net (emotional and financial) while reveling in freedom and independence (no more high school curfew). But college is short.

After this realization and a phase of immediate panic, we quietly reflcted on all the things we wished we had done sooner, and everything we still wanted to do while in the twilight hour of college.

Whether you are a first year about to begin the college adventure, or a fourth year looking forward to life beyond the University, there are certain things everyone should do before taking that final walk down the Lawn at Graduation.

1. Take a walk around the Lawn and the Rotunda at night.

The Grounds are truly awe-inspiring, especially at night, and it makes for a great study break from Alderman or Clemons Library. You may even get to be a spectator in the University's tradition of streaking the Lawn.

Halloween is another perfect time for a walk there. Hundreds of children in costume from all over Charlottesville converge to trick-or-treat at each of the Lawn rooms. This is probably the only time you will see Power Rangers, fairy princesses and witches scattered over Thomas Jefferson's Academical Village.

2. Streak the Lawn.

Even the most conservative and self-conscious University students admit to making the time-honored birthday-suit dash. Be daring, take a risk, but don't get caught. And beware of some Lawn-residing professors who have been known to steal unguarded streakers' clothing.

3. Get involved in the Charlottesville community.

You can volunteer through Madison House with activities like tutoring or Adopt-A-Grandparent, or attend town events such as Fridays After 5 on the Downtown Mall.

Charlottesville is your home for four years - take time to give back to community and truly be a part of it.

4. Take advantage of all the history that surrounds you.

People travel from all over the world to visit Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, yet many University students have never made the 30-minute trip to our founder's home. On the way, you can also visit Mitchie Tavern and Ash Lawn, home of James Monroe.

5. Arrange your schedule to have no classes on Fridays for at least one semester.

It not only gives you a long weekend, but a free mental health day to spend studying, exercising or sleeping. (Sleeping tends to be the most popular). But be aware that after one has experienced the glory of free Fridays, they usually are hooked until graduation.

6. Get to know at least one University professor or faculty member well before you graduate.

Scary as they may sometimes seem, professors are people too and most of them thrive on interaction with students. Go to their office hours, talk about what interests you and make yourself known as more than a social security number. When fourth year finally rolls around, you will not only have someone who knows you well enough to write a good recommendation, but more likely, a mentor who can provide you with invaluable advice and wisdom for the future. Many professors have also been known to invite groups of students to dinner, and free meals are always welcome.

7. Take time to stop and smell the roses at the University.

College is stressful, but there are tons of places in and around Charlottesville to relax and have fun. When spring fever and finals anxiety hits, many students head to Beaver Creek near Crozet for picnics and Frisbee. (Bring a few books to convince yourself that studying is a good thing.)

Also, Carter's Mountain is a popular place for autumn apple picking. And you might want to take a hike up Humpback Rock off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The mile-long incline will leave you winded, but the amazing view from the top will make you forget about that Chemistry exam for a few hours.

8. Take a class out of your major just for the fun of it.

Even if you're not the next Jacques Cousteau, take marine biology if it interests you. Try a poetry or music class. College is the time to expand your knowledge as much as possible, even if it doesn't fulfill any course requirements. You may find some of your favorite professors and most interesting classes outside your area of study.

9. If you are not already a regular, go to Arch's Frozen Yogurt.

Some University students have been known to make several trips weekly (even daily) to the beloved yogurt shop for one of its numerous "Archers," or for a healthy dose of the ever-popular "gooey brownie." The frozen treats are an unofficial University tradition for many students. Arch's has two locations and it delivers - what could be better?

An ambitious goal for yogurt-loving students: try every variety of Archer before graduation.

10. Attend as many school events as possible.

This may be easier when you live at the center of the University as a first-year, but try to stay involved even if you live off Grounds. Go to football games and basketball games, but also be sure to see a soccer match or a lacrosse game. A popular annual fall event attended by nearly the entire University population is hypnotist Tom DeLuca's show in the Amphitheater. Also, go see outdoor movies in the Amphitheater or the Sunset Concert Series in Newcomb Plaza.

11. Don't pass up late night excursions with friends.

Some of the fondest college memories may be made during a random 2 a.m. trip to Littlejohn's or Waffle House.

12. Enjoy the University's hidden treasures.

Special Collections at Alderman has original writings by Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner, as well as one of 26 known copies of the Declaration of Independence. Take the time to stroll through the Bayly Art Museum and see your classmates' masterpieces at Fayerweather Hall.

As another school year looms ahead there will undoubtedly be additions to the list of things to do before you leave the University. And regardless of which point you have reached in your University journey, remember that your time here is limited. Take advantage of every opportunity so when your years at the University finally come to a close, you will leave with a sense of fulfillment and some great memories.

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