So you just wrapped up 14 years of learning the absolute basics, much of which you'll never use again for the rest of your life. If you prefer physical labor or low-end jobs, or you have rich parents, congratulations! Your formal education is finally over. For the other 66 percent of high school graduates, don't get comfortable; you're just getting started. And trust me, as much as your college planner has vomited information onto you, there are a whole lot of dry heaves waiting for you to discover on your own once you're locked into the system. For instance, most of us who have already been through it found out the hard way that ...
#5. The First Two Years of College Are a Repeat of High School
Jack Hollingsworth/Photodisc/Getty Images
One of the most surprising things I found in my first year of college was that it's all refresher courses. I don't mean those borderline classes that could be either high school or college classes (like trigonometry or erotic male dancing); I'm talking about having the same exact chemistry and biology classes that you already took, sometimes right down to using the same textbook. I'm talking about math classes that teach you how to work fractions. Part of my first college-level composition class was learning how to use a fucking library.
Imagine my surprise when I entered my second year and discovered the same thing. Now, you can test out of some of these classes -- for a fee, of course. God forbid you so much as fart without them collecting money for it -- I'm surprised they haven't resorted to putting credit card swipers on the bathroom doors. But many of these courses are required as a part of your "core curriculum," so you're stuck with them, even if you've mastered the subject.
Jetta Productions/Photodisc/Getty Images
"No, you're teaching it all wrong. Here, just let me do it."
For older students, that can be a good thing. Since you haven't used a lot of the worthless bullshit you learned in high school, you're probably going to need some heavy reminders on naming all the parts of a cell or how to find the exact center of a circle using only your nipple rings and a small amount of goat blood.
For everyone else, it's just money-leeching horseshit. And before you get hung up on the idea of using transferable credits that you earned in high school, know that they generally only apply to specific colleges. Even then, that school can turn them down. Or they can apply those credits, but just in general -- not toward those exact classes. Or the ones that do may not count toward your GPA. Or they'll accept them in full, but you have to blow a horse to prove your loyalty. It's a clusterfuck system that changes with every school, and you'll never know the fine print until some office douchebag is reading it to you during your denial speech.
Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images
Here we go, I'll just file that under "Go Fuck Yourself."
No matter what, though, those first two years will be like watching a late-night marathon of Friends reruns while waiting for the new episode of South Park to come on. Of course, when you finally get past those, you can take comfort in the fact that it's all new ground from here on out ... classes that finally relate to the degree you're shooting for. Well, not exactly ...
#4. You'll Be Forced to Take Classes That Have Nothing to Do With Anything
If you've never heard the term, get familiar with the word "electives." Those courses will be both your dream classes and your ever-taunting nightmares. Electives are classes that are not a part of the core set required for your degree. However, you will be required to take a certain number of these, just in general. It sounds weird, and it is, so let me explain.
Say you want to be a math teacher. Your class planner will show you that you need certain science classes, certain math classes, etc. And sometime between now and when you graduate, you also have to mix in so many hours' worth of elective classes of your choice. In that context, no specific elective is required ... but the class type is.
"Yep. I can feel my psychology skills sharpening by the second."
So now, while you're worrying yourself into vomiting bile over passing these extremely important classes that dictate your future career, you're also forced to take bullshit like 1970s Music Appreciation or Buttons to Zippers: A History of Fastening Devices. And yes, they have final exams, just like the rest of your schedule. That's part of the nightmare: staying up the week before finals, listening to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" on a loop to make sure this stupid jackoff course doesn't buttfuck your GPA, and knowing that you could be using that time to make sure you're solid on the classes that actually matter.
The upside is that there usually aren't many people in attendance, so it's less stressful for a person like me who continuously screams if he's in a room with more than five other humans. And the subject matter is usually pretty light and easy to retain, so it's a break from the normal grind. Unless that class is Advanced Grinding for Stress Lovers.
David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images
On the bright side, she won't need a bikini wax for a while.
Even outside of electives, many of your required classes won't have anything to do with your actual career. You'll have to take multiple writing and psychology courses, even if you're shooting for a degree in mathematics or coaching dodgeball. What does biology have to do with your aspirations to teach European literature? Absofuckinglutely nothing, besides the fact that ... well, you just have to, because we said so. Please give us money now.
But don't think of your normal classes as more important than the electives, because ...
#3. Failing Will Cost You Severely
You know how when you fail a class in high school you can just retake it in the summer or the following year? It's not that simple anymore. When you fail a class in college, you are forced to get naked and ride a horse with a sandpaper saddle. Well, metaphorically. Unless you're taking the Torture With Horses elective.
But trust me, it will feel that way, financially. If you get a poor grade in certain classes, it can directly affect how much financial aid you receive the following year (or if you receive it at all). If it's enough to drop your GPA below a certain standard -- I think most of the time it's 2.0 -- you will be put on academic probation and not receive any aid or loans until you bring that up. Oh, and you have one semester to do that. And it gets worse from there.
"Now you sit there and think about what you've done. I'll be back with the gimp."
You paid $120 for your biology textbook. You've rescheduled that class for a second try next semester, so you keep the book, rather than reselling it for cash in the bookstore. When the semester starts, you find out that it's been updated with a new edition, effectively turning yours into a lifeless block of dead tree shavings. The new one is $130 ... on top of you having to pay the fees and tuition for the class itself. Again. In the bigger picture, you're redoing a handful of credit hours, setting you one major class behind schedule. Now you have to either add another class to get back to where you were or extend your graduation goal because of it. Or burn that whole motherfucker clear to the ground.
You're now on academic probation, so you have to pay for the next semester out of your own pocket. If you flunk a few classes this time, you'll be put on suspension and not be allowed to attend again for a full year. If you're in junior college preparing to transfer to a four-year university, you might as well hit the reset button and try again from scratch, because until you pull your head out of your ass and redo this clusterfuck, you're not going anywhere.
Erik Snyder/Digital Vision/Getty Images
"Unless you've passed sociology, you'd better get your face out of that wall, mister!"
If that's the case, you might as well say goodbye to your new friends because -- wait, actually, that reminds me ...