7 Tips for Not Screwing Up College
College is the greatest time in your life, but only if you screw it up. It's meant to be the greatest time in your life so far, while permanently improving you and the rest of your existence. That it's a wonderland filled with more adventures, sexy people and incredible scientific breakthroughs than the Bond franchise is a mere side effect. But students are sometimes too distracted by how they've just taken the safety catches off their genitals.
Luckily, sexual friendly fire is a lot more fun.
If you've just arrived in college: Congratulations! Allow us to correct the fact that you're already screwing around on the Internet instead of learning with some crib notes for the next four years.
Don't Do Anything Easy
If you've signed up for a degree just because it's "easy," drop out and get a job. The shit you need to learn is way more important and isn't taught in college; staying is four years of making yourself even more unemployable. The point of college is to get better at things, and while only one of those is your degree, it's still important. If your only priority is screwing around, that tuition money can buy far better times than falling asleep in lecture theaters.
Doubles Jet Ski 101 is particularly recommended, and still cheaper.
An "easy credit" is also a waste. You're spending countless dollars and the most energetic years of your life, and you're happy to find a course that doesn't improve your brain? If you bought an empty box of chocolates, you wouldn't be happy that it's "easy" to finish. You'd be pissed off! Forrest Gump would be pissed off! And thinking less than Forest Gump is a good sign that you're losing at college.
Choose a Subject You Care About
We live in the most amazing time ever to exist, a world where people can spend years upgrading themselves with a deeper understanding of something they love. This is new. It didn't used to matter if you were the next Isambard Kingdom Brunel: If your father was a poor plague rat masturbator, that was it, you had to take over the family trade when he died of the worst STDs imaginable.
You got soft little hands, college boy.
Now you can learn molecular biology, or comparative theology, or programming or ancient Greek languages or medicine or whatever you want. The STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) fields drive the entirety of human progress, while the arts and humanities give us even more reasons to do that. But you have to care. You need either a love of the subject or a deep passion for getting paid later. Preferably both, but at least one. And yet every year we read scare stories about a million percent of new graduates being unemployed, followed by interviews with idiots who stumbled through a bare pass in philosophy and are now genuinely shocked that regurgitating the basics of a field where they were supposed to be learning how to think didn't work out.
If he'd read Marcus Aurelius instead of copy-pasting, he'd have a better job, or at least be more stoic about enduring this one.
If you drop your textbooks the instant the finals end, you're wasting your time with both. You don't scrape a pass and then clock in down at the Existentialism Mines. People do not order Gender Studies in the Works of Shakespeare to go at fast food restaurants. Those are important subjects, and their continued study is a vital function of academia, but if you're just turning up for attendance, your own time is worthless and your professor's is wasted. You are spending years to permanently alter your brain based on your degree. If that's scary, good -- you've just learned that you need to change your degree. I don't regret an instant of my physics training, even though my job is now overanalyzing He-Man. Because I still love and study science every day, and the scientific habits of research, analysis and logic are useful in every occupation. If you're not going to use it later, why on earth would you learn it now?
Level Up Your Social Life
It used to be that if you were unpopular back in Nowhereville, your only smart option was saving time by skipping straight to marrying your donkey. At least that way you kept warm at night. Now you get a special facility exclusively populated with everything you could ever want to learn, try, experiment with or do, many of which are actually whoms -- countless members of whichever gender orientation(s) you like (or want to try), all aged between 18 and 24, and just as eager as you. Education promises a better land than most religions.
"Existing" is another advantage, and also more fun in college.
How things went in high school doesn't matter. Some people felt like they'd failed at something important despite getting the highest grades in the class. They'd specialized in all the wrong skills, screwed up the conversation trees, and they didn't have enough party members to proceed. Possibly because they'd spent far too long playing RPGs like Chrono Trigger.
Chrono Trigger gave me wildly unrealistic romantic expectations.
College is the part where you leave your crappy Generic Home Village and march into the world, suddenly able to do things and meet new characters. Your mission is to explore and level up, and you do it the same way as in the game: walking up to as many new people as possible. College is a social accelerator. Instead of dumping you in a city where everyone already has friends and automatically assumes strangers are hiding a knife, they take in a horde of brand new people at the same time, then stuff the place with societies whose sole function is to get people together based on shared interests. Join with as many as possible, and that applies to both societies and people.
As an adult, suddenly deciding "I want to trampoline right now!" is frustrating and awkward to organize, especially since you'll have to get out of the straitjacket first. In my university, it just meant going down to the trampolining club, and to this day I regret not going because I wanted to save the five dollars that night.
Two pints of Foster's were not a good trade.
Try everything in college. It will never be this easy again. There are dozens of clubs set up just to get you fencing or mountaineering or publicly arguing that a truck is better than a jet fighter (debating is fun), and many offer free trial days. And anything you think is expensive now will cost a real fortune in money and precious time later. Try everything you're interested in -- many people (including Cracked columnists) discover their real passion during this almost unlimited "try-out" phase. And make sure you join at least one club like climbing or kayaking, where the group has to travel for weekends of physical activity together while sharing cramped accommodations. Trust me on this.
It's a cram session for the University of Life.
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.
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.
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.
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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.