Ah, college life. What better place to be a colossal slacker and party in every illegal, irresponsible, and wasteful method you can all the while experimenting, and abusing, everything about adulthood that you would normally reserve for a trip to Vegas?
Wait…did I just say all that out loud?
What I meant to say was what better place to learn advanced topics to prepare you for a meaningful career making lives better for humanity?
(You know…other than mission work or the Peace Corps or the military or starting a business that provides a useful benefit to mankind and ultimately is statistically likely to be a better long-term investment than you tuition, both in terms of personal wealth and societal gain.)
This post is for all of you out there who want a guide to college. And no…not that boring stuff like how to responsibly pass class or get scholarships or network or that other such matters that have been covered thousands of times by thousands of other people. I’m talking about the REAL pointers no one ever tells you about…or at least the ones no one mentioned yet. Here I will share some of my wisdom from my old college days to help you get the full college experience…
Well, except for the passed-out drunk parts.
1. Your dorm is your castle. Just because your dorm room looks like a prison cell doesn’t mean it is one. For one thing, a real prison cell would have better climate control. (On that note, if you don’t have AC, be ready to sleep in the nude on top of the sheets until late September for most of the country.) Customize the hell out of that thing! Now me…I’m not very artistically inclined…but some of the people I knew back in college could make those dimly-let monk chambers downright inviting. Bring some of your own furniture to help or start learning the poor-college-student trick of scrounging around the city during big-trash day for free easy chairs and recliners. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time in here if you’re a sensible, studeous, responsbile, non-partier, right? (Probably not…the place was a ghost town on weekend nights in my own dorm save for the occasional retching and students too drunk/stoned to even stand up that started at 1 AM…oh, and of course the sounds of people on the other side of the paper-thin wall having sex from time to time.) So you’ll want to make sure it’s your place of zen as opposed to a stifling, soul-crushing, hot pocket of hell that only makes you obsess over the next four years of your sentence…er, college career.
2. Check out the town. Especially if it’s not your hometown! So long as you’re living in here, you want to occasionally see something besides the all-too-close walls of your dorm and the classrooms, right? So get out there and see what’s happening! My guess is if it’s a big enough college town, it’ll have your standard full line of cheap rat-trap motels (which is perfectly fine because your standards will quickly lower once you start spending your own money on everything), 30 pizza places in a quarter mile of each other, and, of course, bars. But there’s usually a lot of neat stuff there too. After all, when it comes to society, college towns are something like Hoovervilles, in that you’ll find all sorts of crazy walks of life going around there that you probably never got exposed to before. Like, for example, learning that anarchy, in spite of its definition, is indeed considered a form of government by that pot-smoking guy in burlap who always sets up a stand in the student quad! Or where and when the local witches will be having their next get together! And, of course, where you can get lots of genuine live performance street entertainment. I’m talking about the soapbox Evangelists and protestors arguing with opposite politicial affiliations, of course. Ha ha! Hours of fun.
3. Beware the Parking Gestapo. Anyone who’s brought a car to college knows these guys…the dark army of every large college campus in America. The mortal foe of the college student. College campuses provide plenty of ample parking spaces for everybody…provided you’re willing to walk to campus from the next adjacent county. If you want any place closer, almost all of the spots are in short supply and reserved…save for those few “pay” spots that always seem to be open. These are traps set by the Parking Gestapo. They’re waiting like vultures literally for you to go one minute over, at which point they’ll slap you ticket after ticket after ticket to line the college’s coffers with whatever money they didn’t siphon out of you for tuition. Depending on the campus, you’d have better luck arguing your way out of a DUI that resulted in a family’s fatality than getting them to go easy on you for being two minutes late. Be on guard.
4. The REAL professors you want. As a general rule, you want a professor who is completely insane to teach you your class. You do not want a sensible, calm, collected, even-tempered professor. Chances are that professor is there simply to do research and, in order to get grant money from the university, has to teach a few classes. These professors have all of the teaching skills of the Rock of Gibraltar and about half the personality. The professors you want instead are the ones who have been studying their subject matter for so long that it is has driven them utterly mad, to the point where if you even hint at liking the idea of forces or atoms or birds or whatever, they’ll be ecstatic. Granted, not all insane professors are good, but at the bare minimum they’ll hold your interest. It’s even better if they’re emertus because, at that point, to be a bit vulgar, when it comes university rules and procedures they just don’t give a f***. A wonderful biology professor in my freshman year defaced the nearly-new auditorium he was teaching in twice on a whim, and the results of his defacement remained there for another year before they were finally cleaned up. (I’m not making that up…and he was a great professor.)
5. Carry your debit card/checkbook with you everywhere. At one point, you’re going to either write a check for fifty cents or use your debit card to cover it. It’s not a question…it’s a fact. If you don’t believe me, it’s only because you haven’t gone to college yet. You might as well be ready for it when it happens.
6. Be good to your roommate or life will be hell. Over my undergraduate career, I had four different roommates. I regret to say I wasn’t probably the easiest to get along with simply due to the fact that I’m a bit of a weirdo. (You probably guessed that by now after reading enough of my blog.) Most of my roommates were good. One was an awesome guy who let me use his easy chair and NES all weekend every weekend while he was out of town. One was an a-hole who would stare at me every time I entered the room and just seethe with utter hatred at my existence. (Again, I am not making that up.) The perfect roommate, of course, is one who moves out of the dorm a month or two into the semester for one reason or another and is never heard from again, leaving you to enjoy the benefits of reduced price and a room all to yourself. But we’re not all that lucky, and most roommates approach each other with the intention of just giving each other their space and living together. Try to adhere to that if nothing else, and make accomodations when necessary. That may be harder for the slobs…like me. Yes, you will actually have to have cleaning days, if you can believe it.
7. The fifth food group is pizza. Pizza is the most universal food to a college student. Before you’re done, you’ll be eating pizza at least nine times a week. And that’s as a meal, to say nothing of snacks or leftovers. If you were to ask me what the relationship is between college students and pizza and what is the reason for it, I honestly couldn’t tell you. It’s not like it’s the cheapest or easiest-to-obtain alternative. It’s just something a college student “does”…kind of like how an engineer has to have lots of pens and pencils in their breast pockets. And since you’re a college student, you’ll do it to. In fact, they’re counting on it. All of the organizations try to bribe you with pizza to get you to attend…and you will just for the free pizza. It’s like Velma is out bribing folks with the Scooby Snacks and you’re pasting a picture of a Great Dane over your face.
8. Be a neighborhood watchman. I have no idea who does this, but apparently everyone who gets so drunk that they black out (not pass out) has a natural inclination to wander into strange dorms, go to certain floors, and deface whatever is in the lounge before departing again. Back in my own day, an ugly, uncomfortable chair for the lounge was thrown off of the balcony and broken. Somehow, in spite of being uglier, cruder, and less comfortable than any chair I could have gotten in a store myself, it cost about $1,000 extra. My guess is the university got it at a higher price because, hey, it’s not their money they were spending. It was ours. Anyway…colleges use the same type of response to this situation that grade schools and pretty much the entire educational system uses. Rather than thinking “innocent until proven guilty”, they’re more along the lines of “spread the punishment over everyone in hopes that we’ll hit the true culprit”. They gave everyone a fee increase to pay for the chair and they locked the balcony at night so that none of the students could smoke. Granted, I don’t smoke myself…but I know BS when I see it. This could have been avoided if the resident students had kept their eyes open and not been afraid to “be a rat”. You’ll only hurt yourself not doing it. Hey, you can be a “stand-up” guy if you want…but let’s see how you feel when the fire alarm gets pulled for the third weekend in a row at 2 AM in January.
9. Now that you’re an adult…return to your childhood. Assuming you didn’t start again in high school, you will now realize what an imbecile you were when you were four years old and screamed at your mom whenever she tried to put you down for a nap. Prepare to spend the rest of your life (including after college) wishing you could take several naps a day. Also be prepared to sit around watching old cartoons and new cartoons, talking about stuff like how Ninja Turtles and Transformers are awesome, how “The Goonies” and “The Nightmare Before Christmas” are beautiful, and occasionally buying a Nerf dart gun or Super Soaker just for fun. In short…everything that you tried to abandon as quickly as possible so you could feel more “adult” in high school you will now readily embrace once again. And, frankly, you should at least live in that kind of “spirit”. You’re in college now, moving into adulthood. It’s time to stop being ashamed of who you are because it’s not what “everyone else” does. …Ok, serious moment over!
10. Buy a stapler. And if anyone asks to borrow it, not unless they promise you a pound of their flesh if they don’t return it.