7 Tips for Not Screwing Up College

#3. Take Up a Martial Art

Take up a martial art. Don't have any fantasies about utility. Experts can defend themselves, but the average martial arts student couldn't defend himself against harsh language. The point is exercise that isn't catastrophically boring. You'll want to start something physical now if you don't want your guts to collapse later, and treadmills are for rehabilitation, not people with working legs. Martial arts let you practice focus, discipline, meeting new people preselected for "actually doing things" and imagining that you're knocking out terrorists.

You don't get to do that in ultimate Frisbee. They ban you.

Freeing yourself from thoughts of actual combat allows you to enjoy some of the best physical training you can get, exercise that keeps you interested and offers constant motivation. You even get to pick your flavor. When the clubs at my university demonstrated, karate were kicking their way across a hall, Shaolin were calling out the summoning of Captain Planet en masse, BJJ were using real-life 40-hit combos and the Aikidoka were practicing how to fall over without hurting themselves. The choice was obvious. And while I still have the street-combat ability of a curbside sofa, unlike most martial arts students, I got real use out of my skill on nights out.

#2. Work Beyond the Course

College is practice for the real world. That's the entire point. If you just sit on your ass and scrape by with the bare minimum required to continue, that's what your life will be like. Courses aren't about memorizing raw data -- we have Google now -- they're about the ability to think and work and complete tasks. Anyone whining about professors not giving out the test questions is worse than missing the point.

"Professor, I'm planning on having my co-workers hand-deliver prechewed food to my mouth,
so when will you tell us exactly what's on the exam?"

Resources will never be so available to you. Libraries, tutorials, fellow students -- it's an informational bonus level specifically designed to make you the best at what you love. Use it. Follow up on things you're interested in. Study the hard parts to work out what's going on, because that only takes a few hours in relaxed October and means you're actually learning throughout the course, instead of saving up an agony of stress the week before the exam. Then do more, because the fact that your course exists means there are thousands of other people who merely passed. And by now they have experience, too. Write an essay on exactly why Othello would have beaten Hamlet in a fight, or prove thrust bearings wouldn't work in Voltron's ankles ... do anything as long as it practices your course material.

"And if you integrate over how much we could conceivably drink, you'll see that my chances of sleeping with you AREN'T imaginary."

You might think you're too busy, but remember how high school showed how easy elementary was? And how the high school workload looks light compared to college? That process hasn't even nearly stopped. It's going to get significantly heavier every year, until you get a job, at which point you'll actually know what work is. Right now you have absolute control of how you spend your time. It's your choice whether you even turn up! The sooner you start glorying in how much time that is, and getting ahead of the curve by using it, the happier you'll be for the rest of your life.

#1. It's Not About Getting a Degree, It's About Becoming a Person

College isn't about a piece of paper; it's about becoming someone who can be trusted not to fuck something up. You're saying you'll become competent at something. That is the upper limit of qualification, and a glorious ideal several billion people still fall short of. Third level education is the real world's tutorial mode: You're given clear objectives and access to all the resources you need. Later you might not have either.

"If only someone had told me that being able to do things would help!"

If even half of what you learn is in the classroom, you're not doing things right. College is also the ultimate self-discovery school, a Brownian personality-builder that bashes you off other people to help you all stop sucking. The most important part of education is learning who you are because no, shut up, you really don't know. Not a clue. And that's awesome! Imagine how terrible the world would be if every 17-year-old was actually right about what's important.

For one thing, the species would go extinct.

We've built a special facility where you can gain wisdom by making fun mistakes as quickly as possible, surrounded by people doing the exact same thing, often with you. And that's only a side effect of getting to choose what you want to do in life. Then getting better at it.

Luke has a website, tumbles and responds to every single tweet.

Luke describes 3 More Landings That Made Neil Armstrong Even Cooler and learns 5 Things Star Trek Teaches Us About Gaming.

For more college education, check out The 7 Dumbest Things Students Do When Cramming for Exams and 19 Things College Students Suspect About the Real World.

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