Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Advice for College Freshmen

While in Atlanta, I had a couple friends that taught middle school.  From the very beginning, I would ask them “When are you going to let me come into your classes and tell these fucking kids about life?”  I wasn’t kidding.  I could help these kids out with a few choice words (or maybe a physical example of what not to do; a kind of Scared Straight scenario).  But they had enough good sense to never allow me near their children.  I think those kids missed out, but it’s all conjecture at this point.

Just the other day, I was speaking with a customer at work.  He told me that he was going to a thing at a local college and would be giving advice to students.  So, he asked me what I would say in such a situation.  It got me to thinking about it, and since no one has the great sense to actually give me the opportunity to actually speak personally to malleable, young minds, I figured I could toss my thoughts into the useless black hole called “Internet.”  So here you go, youngsters.  Listen up.  These are the things that I wish someone had told me when I first entered college.

1.  Picking a Major

It’s a big deal.  However, no matter what you choose, there are going to be a shit load of electives that you’ll be able to take.  Take a year of random electives (I know it’s not the most cost-effective method since they might not all go towards your eventual major, but it’s important) and figure out the type of classes that you enjoy.  I first chose Jazz Guitar as my major because I liked playing guitar and no other reason beyond that.  However, after taking classes for it, I realized it wasn’t for me.  But I had already wasted a bunch of credits and cash going towards a major that I wouldn’t be pursuing.  I value the knowledge I gained from these classes, but in the long run, it doesn’t mean shit.

That being said, I had the right idea about choosing a major.  I enjoyed something and took it because I wanted to learn more about it.  Sure, it didn’t turn out how I imagined, but that’s because I didn’t investigate the classes first.  You don’t just hop into the ocean all willy-nilly.  You have to make sure there isn’t a sea monster waiting to rip your fucking head off.

But people talk a lot about choosing a major as if they have a magic future-seeing ball that will predict where the jobs will be around graduation time.  This is stupid.  You’re going to school to learn.  That’s what school is for.  Learning.  You are going to have to spend a lot of time working towards your major, so you might as well choose something you like.  It’s not like you can bullshit your way through a Marketing degree, get a job, and then forget all of the marketing stuff you learned in school.  You have to keep doing it.  Every day.  Until you’re a dead person.  School has become a career-factory instead of an institution for higher learning.  I have an idealized version of college in which people sit on blankets in the courtyard and discuss philosophy while others play Frisbee with foreign exchange students.  This probably happens, but not on the grand scale I would like to see.  I think it’s more people getting shit-hammered and pushing over trash cans (which I’ll get to in a minute).

Choose a major you want to learn about.  Don’t choose a major you don’t like because it has good job-placement rates.  If you happen to be into Marketing or Business classes because that’s your jam, then more power to you.  But if you like art or something less likely to land a salaried position, go for that.  You’ll be much happier using that knowledge on your spare time while paying the bills with something else.

2.  Getting shit-hammered and pushing over trash cans

These kind of shenanigans are stupid.  Really dumb.  But go ahead and do them.  I think they’re important.  You always hear about people trying out lesbianism or getting arrested for public urination while in college, and they’re good things.  Experiment.  Go crazy.  Just be sure to wear condoms, don’t get behind the wheel, and don’t die.  If you can do those things while avoiding negatively impacting anyone else, go ahead and get crazy.  You have the rest of your life to look back on the crazy shit you did and laugh at it/learn from it.  They always say that you never really learn to not touch the stove until you burn yourself.  Well, you never really know how weird you can get until you run down the street butt naked and piss drunk yelling Spice Girls lyrics.  Try it out.  Why not.

3.  A few various tips that will help in your classes

Always take more credits than you actually want in a semester.  You get a few weeks before you can’t drop classes anymore.  Use this grace period to make sure you can handle the workload for your classes.  There’s also always the possibility that your school is going to throw a wild card at you and you simply can’t stay in the class.  I once took a math class where the teacher was flown in from the Middle East a week before school started.  He was knowledgeable and probably a good teacher, but I couldn’t understand a word he said.  Immediate drop.

Books are expensive.  Super expensive for no apparent reason beyond the fact that they know you need them and fuck you so that math book is $200.  Here’s how you give them the finger right back:  Buy the books you need for your class.  On the first day, they will give you your syllabus with every chapter you will need for the semester.  Chances are, you won’t be needing the whole book.  Take that list of chapters and the book to a local Kinkos or something of the sort and photocopy all of the pages you will need.  It takes a while, but it will only cost you around $30 or so depending on the class.  Then, take your book back to the bookstore for a full refund, and smile as you flip off everybody around you.

Always take one throwaway class that you know you won’t need to study for.  Linguistics 101 and the like.  It will fill your credits and also leave you time to focus on the important classes.  Go to lectures and pay attention, but when it comes to study-time you can let that one slide right by.

Writing a paper about a subject that you don’t like sucks and chances are, you’re going to run into a problem with minimum word limit.  You’ve given it your all.  You’ve researched every angle you can think of.  You have a catchy introduction and a great conclusion that sums up every point you need to make the paper a cohesive explanation of your points and thoughts.  However, you’re still a handful of words short.  You can’t think of anything else on the subject and you feel like ripping all of your hair out of your head.  Teachers don’t fall for increasing the font to 13 or screwing with the margins.  They’ll be all over you if you try that.  What do you do?  Go through your paper and take out all of the contractions.  It takes away from the writing style, but it will magically produce an impressive amount of words that count directly towards your grade. 

I’ve heard many people say through the years that high school is the best four years of your life.  That’s bullshit.  The only people that truly think that are the ones that never leave their hometown and still wear their varsity jackets twenty years later.  Truth is, college isn’t the best years of your life either.  If they are, you’re doing it wrong (life, not college).  College is a great time to try new things, meet new people, and learn a ton of shit about yourself and the way you interact with the world around you.  I think it’s an invaluable experience even though it doesn’t really get you a job anymore.  But that’s okay because you’ll still find a way to pay your rent and you’ll (hopefully) be more prepared to simply get through the day than if you went straight into the work force.

So there you go.  Those are the things I learned about college that I wish I knew when I went in.  That and keg parties are a waste of time and a great way to get an underage drinking fine. 

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