University students: welcome to the best years of your life

The essential guide to campus living by a diploma-having expert

Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

Attention high school students: I don’t know you (unless I do, in which case: Hi!), but as a diploma-having university graduate who successfully completed an entire four-year degree program in only six years, I am fully qualified to guide you through your upcoming life transition.

I’ll admit a lot has changed during the past 20 years. For instance, that Salisbury steak I had one Tuesday in the residence cafeteria has pretty much worked its way through my system. Also, whereas I was taunted and pelted with eggs during Frosh Week, new guidelines now restrict upperclassmen to cocking one (1) eyebrow at newcomers for no more than 12 seconds. Consider yourselves hazed!

For further information on first year, please consult this list of Frequently Asked Questions.

Q: What should I not do at university?

Don’t sweat the roommate thing.

These living arrangements couldn’t be more normal or natural. Dave—here’s Phil. You’ve never met, you may not be the least bit compatible, and each of you has at least one habit that will make the other guy want to punch you in the throat—but hey, enjoy the next eight months of stressful, high-stakes academics alongside a complete stranger in this cell-sized hellbox!

It’s fun to envision what awaits you. Maybe your roommate will instantly become your bestest friend and you’ll wear each other’s clothes. Or maybe she’ll have punishing body odour, night terrors and the world’s foremost collection of doom metal. Oh, good, it’s 6:30 a.m. and she’s playing Eyehategod again! All you can do is make the best of it. I knew two guys in residence who hated each other but found a way to tolerate life together by rarely coming into contact. Think of it as useful preparation for marriage.

Q: What should I definitely not do at university?

Don’t plagiarize.

Plagiarizing is commonplace now. Recently, a researcher was even censured for his habit of self-plagiarizing. Self-plagiarizing? It’s not worth the risk of going blind, people!

At the risk of overdoing it with the slang preferred by today’s teens, I’m not some rule-loving dip stick from Squaresville who’s trying to play back-seat bingo with the Man. I myself pushed the boundaries as a student. Once I even composed an essay for a friend, who in the place of a mark received a note from the professor that said: “This is a terrific essay, Nick. Who wrote it?”

And that’s my point: if you plagiarize, you’ll get caught. THE ALL-SEEING EYE OF GOOGLE WILL FIND YOU. Kids today are always getting busted for cheating or plagiarizing and I just have to wonder why they don’t do things the old-fashioned way: put in a half-hearted effort, earn a terrible grade and make your parents wish you’d never been born. That method works, folks. It’s time-tested.

Q: What should I not, under any circumstances, do at university?

Don’t pass out in a ditch.

I haven’t done a lot of bone-stupid things in my life—but I did spend one entire night in a ditch during my second year at school. You may be thinking to yourself: I would never pass out in a ditch! But take it from me: drink enough (i.e. too much), stumble out of a bar, start sway-walking home and all of sudden those ditches start to looking pretty enticing, especially once you somersault into one.

Drinking is as much a part of university as later regretting having drunk so much. But here’s a general guideline worth following: it’s more fun to be the slightly tipsy person who experiences, remembers and possibly live tweets the mayhem than the blind-drunk fool who wakes up with a screaming hangover, no eyebrows and his pants filled with poop (his own, if he’s lucky).

Q: Hey, is there anything I should not do at university?

Don’t skip too many classes.

It’s thrilling to have full control over your life for the first time—and it’s fun to blow off the occasional lecture to do something more important, like nothing. But you don’t want to wind up like me. You are reading the words of a man who skipped so many classes in first year that he ended up having to withdraw from introductory geology. I still feel a wave of shame every time I see a—uh, what are those things called again?—oh yeah, a rock.

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