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The University Survival Guide

By Bob Cluely
May 1st , 2006

Okay, so as a two-time student, who has successfully passed through the colon of both undergraduate and graduate education, I feel I have learnt a thing or two about the collective experience of student life.  A university can be a strange and scary place, especially if you have just got there.  But fear not.  Help is at hand. Simply follow my five-step guide:

  1. In The First Week: Take the Bull By the Horns

In the first week at a university or college a large group of very different people with very different backgrounds will be forced into dorms and corridors, rooms and apartments with nothing else to bind them except the current holes they find themselves in.  You must make your mark somehow; you must rise up from the herd or risk sinking like a stone for the next three years of your life. 

We all know that first impressions count, so take the bull by the horns and establish yourself with a super heavy rep in the first week.  But beware, the reputation you make in your first week can last a long time, so think carefully and remember that mud sticks. 

My personal approach was as follows:  I made a pledge to myself to be the heaviest drinker in my college.  As soon as my parents dropped me off I was propping up the bar.  I met a lot of people in that week, all of whom remembered me as a loud, fun-loving, hard drinking, party animal.  Hearts were broken and property was damaged.  However, once this reputation was firmly in place I could concentrate on studying, and switched back to my natural role in life as a nerd, safe in the knowledge that I was welcome at any party, any social event really, as the party king.  Little did they know only hours before I’d been totally nailing coursework!

  1. Cooking For Yourself vs Making Friends With The Pizzashop Owner? 

It’s a simple enough equation I think.  If you have established your reputation in the first week properly, you’ll be a popular cat around campus.  This might be a strange situation for you, it’s like Homer Simpson said when describing being famous, “people know your name but you don’t know theirs’”.  However, remember one person’s name: the guy who runs the local pizza shop.  He’ll look after you no matter what.  If you’re down in the dumps, he’ll find a topping to pick you up.  If you failed an exam, he’ll throw in extra cheese or garlic bread for free.  He is truly a king amongst men.

  1. No, They Don’t Know That Much More Than You! 

Okay so you’ve now made it through the first week, you’ve woken up from your epic hangover and you are now a campus legend, you can chat about “the game” with the pizza man.  Shit, it’s time to learn. 

Picture the scene: you’re on the way to your first lecture when you get a nagging sense of self-doubt.  You think to yourself, “Everyone else is so clever, they use words I didn’t even know existed.  They have been travelling and working, whereas I just bummed around in a small suburban town for the summer trying not to get bitten by horse flies.  Their parents have great jobs, they are rich, their names are so exotic...etc, etc.” 

Fuck them.  They are fronting.  And it’s because they feel even more insecure than you.  Remember everyone thinks everyone else knows loads more than they do.  But true knowledge comes in knowing nothing, or at least valuing that you went to university to learn, not because you already know everything.  My mother always told me “No one likes a know-it-all”, this is especially true of your lecturers, they will weed these fools out and embarrass them.  Do not envy them, for they are already dead (to paraphrase Barney Gumble).

  1. Passing The Duchy - Clean Rotas Don’t Work 

Unless you are lucky enough to get a cleaner you’ll have to do it for yourself; your mamma ain’t here for you now. 

Here’s some simple tips to make life easier for you.  Firstly, ironing is over-rated, as is vacuuming.  Secondly, if you have too many dishes to wash up, throw away all spurious items.  At the end of the day, we survived perfectly well without garlic crushers and forks for centuries, so loss them.  Do wash your clothes and bed sheet regularly.  But be sensible, you really only need one or two outfits not a whole wardrobe. 

But whatever you do, please promise me one thing: you won’t make the mistake of thinking anyone will stick to a cleaning rota – apart from the person who came up with it.  It doesn’t matter if you laminate it, colour code it, publish on the internet with naked chicks superimposed on it.  No one will stick to it.  So unless you like getting yourself angry and cleaning other people’s mess, I suggest you beat them at their own game, clean nothing that isn’t yours and lock everything in your room.  This frees up plenty of time to concentrate on Playstation and scoring weed.

  1. If You Are Going To Hit The Books – Hit Them Hard. 

My final tip, ironically (don’t worry you’ll know what that words means soon enough) concerns learning.  At a University… learning… who’d have thunk it?!

Studying is like jumping into a pool of knowledge from a great height, the initial impact can do a lot of damage to you.  But there are times at university when it is absolutely necessary that you hit the books.  So close you eyes and dive in.  Hit the books hard, because they can hit you back! 

However, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about then here’s some cheats for you.  Drop in the words: “Ontology”, “epistemology”, “post-structural” and “post modern”.  Name check: “Jacques Derrida”, “Walter Benjamin” and “Michel Foucault”.  And learn how to use punctuation properly; it can get you out of many scraps!  TO MAKE YOU TEACHERS SALIVATE ALL YOU NEED TO DO IS … PUNCTUATE!

Now go forth and make me proud.

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