Hey hi, kids!

Yes! I get it! Leaving home and going to college is hard — especially the social part. Just thinking about the social part fills you with anxiety. Will you have someone to eat with? Sit with? Talk with? Walk across campus with? Will you like your roommates?

And if you don't, can you live with them without getting arrested for assault halfway through the semester?

(ANSWER: Not always. But good luck with that!)

Anyway, I know. You're worried.

The GOOD NEWS is that everybody pretty much goes through it. Even the kids who live at home while they're going to college go through it. So you're definitely not alone. The BAD NEWS is that everybody pretty much goes through it. Which explains why you're so, soooo miserable right now. You can't help it.

And seriously! I do feel your pain.

That's why I'm sending you this letter SWAK (acronym for "Sealed With a Kiss," see also "Sent With a Kiss," see also "Scan, Weigh, and Key," see also "Spinners & Weavers Association of Korea").

It's filled with not very original advice. You've heard it all before. But dude! IT'S STILL EXCELLENT IF NOT VERY ORIGINAL ADVICE.

So here goes — Ann "Landers" Cannon's Rules for Getting Along When You Go Away:

1. Respond to the new people you meet as people — not to labels you give them (or the labels they give themselves). Yeah. I know. You hate Conservatives. Or Liberals. Or Nazi Mormons. Or Cafeteria Mormons. Or Skaters. Or Nerds. Or people from Utah County. Or possibly Southern California. Or take your pick. But the truth is human beings are more than their labels, so why stop there?

2. Get into the habit of cutting people some slack. If you screw up, don't you want people to forgive and forget? Then you should do the same.

3. Smile. Otherwise you look bored or scary. But hey, if you want to look bored or scary, then damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead.

4. Refuse to take offense. Most people don't mean to offend you. But if they do, why give them the satisfaction of knowing they got under your skin?

5. Get in some real face time as opposed to Facebook time. Seriously. It's a good idea to unplug yourself sometimes and have non-cyber-type interactions, just so you can get a sense for how we used to do things in the olden days.

6. Ask questions. Best technique in the history of the world to keep the conversation going.

7. Remember that people aren't looking at/talking about YOU. That's because they're pretty busy looking at/talking about themselves.

8. Be the first one to say something. Don't worry. You won't say something stupid. If you do, it's no big deal — you can just be a columnist when you grow up.

9. Join a club. Yes! I know! I thought clubs were lame, too. That's why I never joined them. I might have met some new people that way, though. Instead I got a job at Albertsons bakery where people yelled at me for screwing up their wedding cake orders. Apparently they never read Rule No. 2.

10. Give it time. Even though you're young, you already know deep in your bones that things usually get easier with time.

Trust me. Trust yourself.


E-mail: acannon@desnews.com