I’m turning 18 soon and I don’t know how I should celebrate my birthday. I’m not much of a party person, but I want it to be memorable. Any ideas? —A., 17

I am not much of a party person either, but I love birthdays because, like Mariah Carey, I do consider myself to be incredibly FESTIVE. If my love for celebrations were a cake, there would not be enough Funfetti frosting in this world to cover it. While the occasional wild and messy red-cup-all-on-the-lawn party can be fun, I prefer a nice, cozy gathering. Turning 18 is cool and weird because you’re technically becoming a legally independent adult, but your life doesn’t really change all that much, because you’re probably still in school and/or live at home. A good first foray into adulthood is hosting your very own dinner party, which your parents/guardians will probably be cool with as long as you ask first. Insist that your friends all dress up for the occasion and find (or make!) solid playlists for both the hanging out and dancing portions of your party.

You don’t have to get that fancy, but you can still get somewhat fancy! An ideal situation would be serving various junk food items on incredibly elegant dinnerware. Stack Twinkies and Ho Hos on cake plates! Serve Cheetos in a crystal bowl! Pour soda into plastic champagne flutes! Go with what feels right to you—just channel your inner Martha Stewart as your browse the snack aisle. If all else fails, order a pizza and request that they cut into a pentagram.

For my own 18th birthday, I had a fondue dinner party. I served a bunch of tiny foods alongside pots full of melted cheese and melted chocolate. It was truly special and I am convinced it inspired the “chillin’ by the fire while we’re eating fondue” part of Justin Bieber’s hit single “Boyfriend,” which came out four months after my party, for the record. Hopefully, your 18th birthday is so fun it will also be commemorated in a pop hit single!! —Gabby

I am a freshman in college. I really want to move out of the dorms next year and live somewhere near campus. The problem is that none of the people I know want to live together, and I am introverted and somewhat bad at talking to new people, so I’m not sure what to do about a roommate. Any thoughts? —Elise, 19, Bellingham, WA

That’s a big step you want to take, lovebird! I moved off campus the summer before my junior year of college, and it was the most stressful and exhilarating transition I’ve ever made. Nothing makes you feel like you’ve finally taken that reckless leap into independence and adulthood quite like living in a place you pay for yourself, so I commend you for even considering it!

Reading through your question, I’d like to tackle some other important factors to consider, if ya don’t mind! Before thinking about what is “expected” for you, think about the practicality of this potential move. Do you feel uncomfortable living in the dorms? Does it make financial sense? It turned out to be cheaper for me to move out of student housing, so busting out of campus life turned out to be beneficial to a savings account I’m now very grateful for. Research how much your rent would be off campus and compare it to your current sitch. Don’t forget about bills like utilities and internet when you’re considering your options, too. There are so many layers to living on your own that go beyond just the simple fact of living on your own, and being fiscally wise is crucial.

Once you’ve mapped out all your finances, you can decide to fly the coop—and if you want a roommate. If it’s feasible, you should consider living by yourself! Consider your priorities re: neighborhoods, amenities, layout, budget, and more. If you go the roommate route, you should be very sure you find someone who is willing to negotiate and compromise with you—a true partner you can Laverne & Shirley your way through life with! Make sure you don’t just settle on living with someone because they’re available; I’m extremely fortunate that I found a roommate with the same budget and desires as my own. We’ve been living together in the same apartment, the one we snatched up before our junior year, for nearly three years now and are getting ready to sign a lease for a fourth one!

Don’t be afraid to hit up other people who rent apartments near your campus for advice! I’m sure your RA or another upperclassmen can help direct you to some students who are living on their own. Find out their apartment-hunting and money-saving strategies, what services they used to find their places, and what other advice they may have for you. And unless you feel unsafe or uncomfortable in your dorm/on-campus, there’s nothing with stickin’ around a little bit longer. As a fellow introvert, I found that two years of dorm life were exactly what I needed to help with my socialization skills. It allowed me some great access to even more new people, and if your friends are staying there too, then you won’t be alone! Plus, that way, you can wait until they’re also ready to consider other living options.

Either way, be smart and practical, and think for yourself! You should live where you’re comfortable. Once you sort out what you need, what you want, and what you have, then, my dear chickadee, you will be ready to fly the coop—if that’s what you choose for yourself! —Brittany

I’m in a band, and we are releasing a single at the end of this month! The problem is, we have, like, zero Twitter/Insta/FB followers, and have no idea how to get our song heard. Do you have any tips for band promotion? —Jecca, 17, London

First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on your single! That’s such a big accomplishment.

Now, let me tell you the story of a little punk band from the middle of nowhere. When they started, they quietly recorded a four-song demo, which they uploaded to Bandcamp so their friends could listen to it for free. They didn’t have a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. They played one show in their hometown, then one in another city, and then all of a sudden, they were in Rolling Stone.

Nope, not kidding. That’s actually more or less what happened to me. The point I’m trying to make is, contrary to the model you see people following nowadays—getting famous through social media or internet fame or whatever—there are definitely other very real ways for your band to get exposure! Sometimes it happens in a way that makes you believe in a benevolent universe, like what happened to me, but there are other methods with which you can get the word out as well!

Do you have preexisting recorded material? If not, that could be why your social media presence isn’t tremendous! Get a free Bandcamp account. Post whatever you’ve got, including your single when you’re ready to premiere it! Make it free or pay-what-you-want so people who love it can download it and listen to it over and over. If you decide to make actual merch, like cassettes or shirts, you can also set up a webstore through the site.

Make sure you have a band email address, so if people hear it and love it, they can contact you with any questions they might have, like whether or not they can play it on their radio show or podcast, or when your next record is coming out, or if you’re planning on putting that record out with a label (maybe they’ll contact you because they want to put a record out for you!).

If you’ve got a Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, or other shareable form of social media, make sure they include links to your Bandcamp or a single you’ve uploaded to Soundcloud. With Soundcloud, you can easily embed streamable tracks to all different social media platforms. One person likes it and reblogs it, then another, and another, et cetera.

Bands have been using college and indie radio stations to promote their music as long as that’s been a thing. This is how Mission of Burma got around in the 1980s, and how K Records got their start in the early ’90s, and so on. Send your single to the local college radio station along with a copy of the flier and ask if they’ll play it! Maybe you could even go play in the studio live, if they do that sort of thing. Honestly, the best way to get the word out about your band is through tried-and-true DIY methods that kids have been using for decades. Get on some local shows with bands you like, then make fliers and staple them to telephone poles and pin them on bulletin boards in places where lots of people will see them. If you can’t get on any pre-existing shows, consider booking shows yourself! My friend Maria wrote a simple guide to booking shows that you can read here! At your shows, make sure that if you don’t have physical copies of your single, you have download code cards, or even just little slips of paper with your name and the address of your Bandcamp. If people like you, they’ll look it up!

The point is visibility. Play as many shows as you can possibly stand, and don’t be afraid to dream big. Send your music to anyone you think will like it. You’ll have people interested before you know it, and you’ll have fun along the way. Again, good luck, and I’m very proud of you! —Meredith ♦

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