A College Survival Guide


August. The air is filled with the sound of commercials for back-to-school savings and the frustrated moans of kids who have not yet finished their summer reading. Many of my good friends are headed to college for the first time this month. Having endured college for 30 weeks, I consider myself an expert on surviving such a strange and unnatural environment. College may seem a bit scary or unreal at first, but you will soon realize that this is just an illusory understatement for the true horrors that lie beneath. These are my top tips for keeping you happy, healthy, and alive at college.

  • You roommates are your first friends at college, but sometimes they can be annoying. If their telekinetic possession of inanimate objects is keeping you awake at night, remind them that they signed the Roommate Contract in pretzel sticks and tacky glue.
  • The maps of campus that your school provides you will usually be inaccurate. The campus shifts very slowly over time. The ground sinks and bends, buildings gradually migrate, and statues of the founders have been known to disappear entirely until they are discovered weeks later in a utility basement by a janitor.
  • In high school, you probably borrowed books or used legal, government-issued money to pay for them. In college, you can only buy them in exchange for objects of sentimental value.
  • Everyone has preferences for which cleaning product to use around the dorm. I personally used holy water in a spray bottle; it worked wonders for the infestation of unknowable horrors in my dresser.
  • If your school has a pond, check for giant squids by using the mnemonic SQUISH:

    See if you can make out any tentacles under water.
    Question yourself whether the pond is large enough for a squid.
    Understand that squids can survive in even a shallow pool.
    Initiate underwater echolocation equipment.
    Sigh impatiently.
    Have a friend swim down and see.

  • The improv club is probably a cult.
  • Most universities have a laser-tag arena within walking distance to distract students from their problems, if only temporarily.
  • Communal showers can seem a little weird at first, especially with the voices coming from behind the pink ceramic tiles whispering unremembered dreams and theme songs to television shows long forgotten. Do not let it break you.
  • Laminate all your important papers. This will protect them from tearing and reflect light to distract large birds.
  • The quinoa salad in the dining hall is actually buckwheat.
  • College courses are very different from high school classes, mostly because they are more concentrated on strange vision quests that reflect the individual nature of each student. When you read every fifth letter and every “E” in the syllabus, it reveals the hidden Final Task. Luckily, you have all semester to figure out what the message truly means and what it reveals about the self.
  • Sometimes, your overdue library books will just start screaming.
  • It can seem difficult to make friends at first. There are so many people, it may seem like you’ll never find your perfect place in the metaphorical jigsaw puzzle. Don’t let that stop you. Find friends in classes, in your residence hall, in the cracks in the walls where only dreams may go. You never know when you will need an ally.
  • Trust no one who declines a slice of pizza.

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