Friday, August 20, 2004

Advice for those entering college

Here's some witty advice I found at the NY Times online today. It's actually from a book review for a book called "Real College", which is kind of like a self-help book having to do with the college experience. The reviewer, Chuck Klosterman, said that you don't have to read the book to figure out how to succeed in college. He made his own list. This is it.
(I just hope I don't get sued by the NY Times for plagarism -- I give Mr. Klosterman full credit for writing this! Besides, it was free on the NY Times webpage, so why can't it be free in my blog as well?)

ROOMMATES: If you want to get along with your roommates, here are things you should never do -- never ''confront them'' about their behavior, never talk about your feelings if you're sober, never force them to live exactly like you and never sleep with anyone they are sleeping with (or intending to sleep with, even if the likelihood of that event appears implausible). Just be cool. I know that sounds reductionist and simplistic, but it's generally the whole equation; be cool, and this stranger will eventually become the best man at your wedding.

SOCIAL LIFE: Don't join a fraternity or a sorority unless you miss all the things you hated about high school. If you strongly dislike someone and find out someone else dislikes this same person for the same reasons, become that person's friend; you'll always have something to talk about. If you were smart when you were 16 and people thought you were weird, those people will find you fascinating when you're 19. And if something makes you vomit, don't worry about it; everybody vomits sometimes.

ACADEMICS: Your academic adviser will probably tell you to take at least a year to figure out what you want to do with your life, and there is no rush to pick a major. This advice is why everyone now goes to college for six years. Pick a major immediately. If you have no idea what you want to do, major in English; there are no wrong answers, and you can always change the totality of your life next semester. If nothing else, you'll get some reading done.

STUDYING: Someone will convince you, late in your college career, that if you smoke pot while you study you will latently remember everything, and all you need to do is smoke pot again before you take the test, because all the information you unconsciously absorbed will reappear in your conscious mind. This is a half-truth. It is possible you will not recall anything of consequence about the Teapot Dome scandal, but you will totally remember why Neil Young is awesome.

IDENTITY: If you are female and have a one-time sexual experience with another woman, you are probably exploring your physicality, expanding your morality, gaining an understanding of what you will (and will not) desire within the context of a mature, ideologically consensual relationship. If you are male and have a one-time sexual experience with another man, you are probably gay.

RELATIONSHIPS: At some point in college, you will have a platonic friend with whom you will fall deeply in love, and this will be painful. Later, you will have a platonic friend who will fall deeply in love with you, and you will tell others this process is actually worse. You will be lying. You will also spend inordinate energy trying to make other people break up with you, which will almost always have the exact opposite effect.

SEX: It will happen a lot, yet not enough. And it will happen to other people more.

PARENTS: There are only two things you need to know about your parents: (1) they are more reasonable than you think, and (2) they will never, ever understand anything about you (and it is unreasonable for you to expect otherwise). Once you reconcile these two realities, your parental problems will be over -- forever.

MENTAL HEALTH: The symptoms of depression (according to the National Institute of Mental Health) include anxiety, pessimism, loss of interest in sex, insomnia, thoughts of suicide, restlessness and chronic headaches. These are also the symptoms of being smart.

High school is hard. Life is hard. College is easy. Can you hang out and smoke cigarettes you hate for six hours a day? Can you advocate political movements you'd never possibly join? Can you hold polarizing opinions about books you haven't read and can you memorize things you never needed to know in the first place? Of course you can. And you'll be perfect.

Chuck Klosterman is the author of ''Fargo Rock City,'' a memoir, and ''Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs: A Low Culture Manifesto.”


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