I meant to write something like this a while ago, but time got away from me, as it often does. Anyway, I seem to be in contact with a disproportionate number of college freshman this year for a 33-year-old man. And, like all grownups, I like telling the young people what to do. Given those two facts, it seemed a good idea to offer my advice on how to correctly navigate college. Here we go:
1. Do all your homework. I know, I know, I’m starting off with a rule you are totally going to break. But here’s the thing: When you were in high school, your lesser teachers sometimes gave you something called busy work. This is part of why much of high school seems pointless. College professors will not do that. Oh, you’ll have some awful professors, of course, but they’ve all been required to think hard about something at some point in their lives and they have good reasons for whatever they assign to you. You will break this rule, I know that. I also know it will also be something you regret when you think back on college.
2. Assume everything is interesting.
3. The extent to which you listen to your peers should be inversely correlated with how often they talk.
4. Avoid being the smartest person in the room whenever possible.
5. Be stupid on occasion. Small mistakes are okay. You need to take a few risks. Just don’t get yourself expelled from cheating and don’t impregnate someone/allow yourself to become impregnated. Those are big ones.
6. Don’t just hang out with people who major in the same thing as you. That is called an echo chamber.
7. Remember: The only thing new is you finding out about it.
8. Remember that the world exists outside of college. Not everything is theory.
9. I’ll leave this one to Sherwood Anderson: “You must try to forget all you have learned,” said the old man. “You must begin to dream. From this time on you must shut your ears to the roaring of the voices.”
You will not listen to my advice because you are human and humans are not good at listening, but if you think about it sometimes, it won’t hurt you any.