Your College Survival Guide

So I’ve been, more or less, in college forever. As with most things, that fact has it’s distinct advantages and disadvantages. I’ve learned a lot since I started college seemingly back in the late 90’s – most of which involves things found outside of a textbook. It’s always bothered me how college is always portrayed in movies – a 4-year window in which to squeeze as much drug/alcohol/sex-fueled debauchery as one can. Don’t get me wrong – within moderation, there’s certainly a place for that kind of stuff – but it doesn’t represent all of our experiences. So without further ado, let me share with you all some of the things that college has taught me personally:

1) Get your nap on. 
When I was a kid, I hated napping. It seemed just asinine to designate an hour or so during the day just for stifling the activity of energetic little children. Those daytime hours are prime juvenile delinquency hours – I sure as hell wouldn’t be able to approach strange vans with “Free Kandy” written on the side when it was dark outside. Now that I’ve learned the perils of misspelled advertisements for sweet treats, I’ve embraced the midday nap as not only a viable option, but as one that should probably be implemented into adult life as well.

I’m not breaking any new ground here – people love to sleep. College students in particular love to do it, especially during the day. The more class time and daylight that you can siphon away while catching some Z’s, the better. Sleep at night – who does that? What are you, a mature adult? Get your head out of your ass.

2) You will most likely be flirting with poverty most of the time. 

As always, this doesn’t apply to everyone, but it does to a decent chunk of the college populace. There’s a fairly thin line between being a complete deadbeat bum and being an average college student, and generally, you’re going to spend your collegiate years playing jump rope with said line. It isn’t your fault, really – dorms, drugs, and textbooks certainly aren’t going to pay for themselves. You figure you can only hit up mom & dad for extra money SO many times, lest you undermine that impassioned “I’M AN ADULT” speech that you gave as they dropped you off at school. Adding the interpretive dance number to Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Woman” was probably a bit much, though.

But alas, given the certain shortage of on-campus/in-city job options, you will need to generate some revenue in some way. This could lead to any number of non-traditional moneymaking ventures. Is stripping viable, you ask? There’s nothing wrong with that, and one should never joke about the sublime art of burlesque dancing. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, you can sell a kidney. You can only do that once or twice at the most, so make sure to ratchet up the price to something reasonable – anywhere between 10 and 10,000 doll hairs should be fine. Finally, most cities also have blood/plasma/sperm banks that pay you to donate these commodities. I myself have been a donor of plasma for most of my college career, and yes, you will run into the sketchiest people on earth there. But I’m here to tell you that if you’re going to put yourself at risk of the HIV and skepticism of people you do and don’t know, then you might as well get paid for it; homosexual intercourse is SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 20th century.

However you decide to supplement that income, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll avoid this next thing…

3) Your meal standards – and consequently, your weight – will change drastically on a regular basis. 

Common staples of a college diet include Ramen noodles, Easy Mac, crappy beer like Natty Light and whatever passes for “food” at the dining halls. You’ll find that childhood favorites such as lunchables, Capri Suns, and Little Debbie snack cakes will come back into your life with a vengeance, only you’ll be eating them as a meal, and unfortunately, without even a hint of irony.

But even then, I get it, folks – Lunchables can be quite expensive. Nowadays, a guy isn’t getting the goods from his female friend on a date if he treats her to a REGULAR Lunchable – it has to be one that involves a food that replicates an actual meal course or requires heating. That “cold cuts on crackers” life is dead. You have to pay the cost to be the boss.

Either way, you are likely to see both a huge gain and then subsequent dropoff in poundage. The so-called “Freshman 15” will hit you HARD when you have access to on-campus dining halls, but when you eventually move into off-campus facilities, you’ll gradually talk yourself into a mindset that one meal a day is really best anyways because you’ll never be up early enough for breakfast, you may or may not be able to catch lunch if you can get your soup through an IV, and you can go out partying late into the night, which will lead you to having either beer or sleep for dinner.

4) There will never be a better time to experiment with and cultivate your religious, ethnic, and sexual identity.

If you grew up Catholic or Methodist, you won’t be faulted by your peers if you want to take a dip into the Hare Krishna pool, though you should take last week’s yarmulke off first – it’ll clash with your robe. Are you a previously preppy Caucasian girl who has always wondered what it was like to date a black guy? Date a white guy that dresses and talks like a black guy. This way, you can still defy daddy without finding out whether or not real black guys’ skin is so much darker because they accumulate dirt faster, as you suspected.

Girls, if you have ever been at least a little bit curious about what it’s like to kiss another girl, college is the time to give it a shot once or eighty times. At the very least, guys are going to keep you around because they know you’re down for a little girl-on-girl action. Guys, it’s a much stickier situation in terms of sexual experimentation, but remember this: it’s only gay if you are. Or if you get caught. Not that anything’s wrong with that.

However, at the end of college, you want to be somewhat close to a finished product and ideally, the answer you’re looking for is “Disarmingly handsome and charming, heterosexual Protestant African-American male.” Or so I’m told…

5) Professors generally give less than a damn about you personally. 

Don’t be fooled by the first day hijinks and contrivances – most professors don’t care too much one way or the other how you do in their classes, despite their best efforts to pretend otherwise during that first week. That detailed syllabus is definitely for appearances, but it’s also to absolve them of any blame when you inevitably miss that paper or exam.

This applies especially to large lecture classes. They aren’t going to bother to learn everyone’s name, so if you’re not one of the handful of students that were clearly planted in the crowd to keep discussions going with inane questions and comments (“Well professor, I think the documentation of the document was very well, ummmm, documented…”), then you are still mostly a nobody. Much like a snowflake, every one of us is unique in some way, but at the end of the day, we’re just apart of an increasingly-homogenized conglomeration of organisms that look the same to the untrained eye.

6) Your stable of friends will be fluid. 

What I mean by this is that you should expect a certain amount of fluctuation and change amongst the people you’re going to consider to be your best set of friends. If you’re from the state in which you’re going to school, chances are that many of your high school constituents will be going there as well. Yeah, you probably shouldn’t expect to see much of them once you hit college; too much opportunity to diversify there. In high school, you more or less forge an identity as a part of a specific group – jocks, geek fanboys, theater nerds, blackities, uggos – but college is much too big to have such well-defined cliques. As a result, your freshman-year friends and your senior-year friends are likely to be two separate groups of people, give or take a holdover or two. You’re not going to spend all of your time with the same people for 4 years; that’s just the way it is. The key is to get members of each group of friends to do incredibly stupid and/or ridiculous stuff that you can take pictures of and lord over them for the rest of their lives. Your previous suitemate got married and didn’t invite you? That’s cool, crash the reception with a picture of him going through that phase where he only slept in banana hammocks. Your former best friend have a job interview coming up? Fudge their resume with a blurb about their proud participation on the school’s national championship-winning Dominatrix team.

These are just a few things that I’ve picked up over my longer-than-usual college experience. There is a plethora of college-related learning to be had out there, all you have to do is look alive, detectives.


  1. Henry aka Stephen says:

    Section 4 possibly deserves it’s own blog post!! And you hit the nail on the head with the “Friends are Fluid” section.

    Good stuff Marcus! Keep ’em coming!

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