So I don’t know about you, but I love giving advice. It’s probably because I love talking, and giving advice is basically just an excuse to gab about anything and everything in the name of passing on some pearls of wisdom.

Now that I’m a rising sophomore and officially a veteran of the college experience (or so I like to think), I absolutely love giving advice about college to my friends heading off to school next year. If you’re in my position, here are a few words of advice … about giving advice.

Put on your listening ears. Before you open your mouth, listen to what your friend is saying. Is she excited? Nervous? Flat-out petrified? Gauge her feelings, and then tailor your words of wisdom to fit the mood.

If she’s already feeling good about school, feel free to confess the less glamorous aspects of college life — cafeteria food, shared bathrooms and the hell that is an 8 a.m. class. But if she’s totally freaking out, keep the conversation away from the negative side. Keep telling her about the great friends you made, the wonderful times you had with your freshman hall and the cool professors who took the class out for ice cream. It’s always important to be honest- but positive.

Remember that actions speak louder than words. Advice is great, but sometimes the last thing you need is another “to do” list. Is your friend stressed about dorm room shopping? Before she heads off to buy the entire Bed, Bath and Beyond store with her mom, take her window-shopping to get a better idea of what she wants to buy. Is she freaking out about class registration? Invite her over for ice cream and offer to go through the course catalog with her.

Don’t push. Remember, your suggestions are just that — suggestions. Of course your friend appreciates your advice, but that doesn’t mean that she is going to follow it. You can talk about the benefits of joining a sorority until you’re blue in the face, but it doesn’t mean that Greek life is the right fit for your friend. If she decides not to take your advice, don’t take it personally and definitely don’t hold out for an “I told you so.”

Why not?

Because, as a college advice-giving veteran, you obviously know that the most important thing is to be supportive.

Think back to your first days of college. Move-in, orientation, classes. It was fun and exciting, but it was also pretty scary. For most kids, going away to college marks the first time they’re living on their own, setting their own curfews, making their own decisions and (for me at least!) doing their own laundry. Add the pressure of learning a ton of new names and faces, the stress of making it to class on time and the inevitable pangs of homesickness, and the first few weeks of school can be downright menacing. 

If you really want to help your friend, make sure she knows that you’re there for her — whether it’s a reassuring text, a late-night phone call or even a snack-filled care package. Remind her that no problem is too big (do I change my major? drop a class? change roommates?) or too small (sandals or heels?) for her to ask you about.