Feschuk’s ‘University Rankings’: 5 things to know for first year

College tips from an old pro who completed a four-year degree in six short years


Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

Photograph by Jessica Darmanin

The information in our University Rankings issue is interesting and whatever, and your parents were probably super-psyched to read about new advances in mortarboard tassel aerodynamics—but you want to know what university is really like, right?

I hear you. As a Certified University Graduate who completed a four-year degree in just six short years, I am more qualified than most to reveal the only five rules you’ll need to follow to have a successful first year at school:

1. Wake up. Sounds easy enough, right? Setting your alarm for 7:15 a.m. will give you ample time to shower, eat breakfast, make your way to two morning classes and hit the gym before lunch. Unfortunately, all of this will happen in Opposite World because instead you pressed the snooze button, woke up at 11:48 a.m. and spent the afternoon in your pajamas watching YouTube videos of waterskiing cats. Oops. “Oh, well, it’s just one day,” you’ll say, 18 days in a row.

2. Pace yourself. During first year, we discovered the formula for a successful all-nighter: drink a cup of coffee, then drink a beer. Repeat until dawn. It’s all about balance.

The Coffee/Beer Doctrine™ is a good rule to apply to the entirety of your university experience. Don’t be square and bookish all the time. And don’t be like one of my neighbours in residence and go on a 60-hour bender that ends with you passed out facedown in a ditch alongside a major thoroughfare. Trust me: you don’t ever want your name associated with the phrase “discovered by passersby.”

On every floor of every first-year residence, there is likely to be at least one flameout. This person is known as the life of the party. After he flunks out by Christmas, he is known as the junior assistant manager at the car wash.

3. Figure it out. You’re going to discover a lot about yourself in university. What you like. What you don’t like. Why that weird rash keeps coming back. And you’re going to have a lot of questions. Questions like: How long can I wear these underpants before I have to wash them? And: Where can I buy new underpants? Because it was easier just to throw away the old ones.

It’s up to you to solve these riddles. Don’t understand a new theory in class? Figure it out. Short on cash? Figure it out. Does vodka mix well with ginger ale, Tabasco sauce and milk? Trick your buddy into figuring it out. Point is: Don’t let things get away from you.

The same goes for the stranger who’ll be sleeping eight feet from you. My roommate and I bonded over our love of the Beastie Boys, Salisbury steak (the dollar store of protein!) and napping. But tension and conflict are not uncommon. Don’t let it fester.

For instance, what if one of you needs the room for “rendezvous-based reasons”? (Kids, that’s fancy talk for “sex-having.”) You’ll need a signal. In the movies, roomies leave a sock on the door, which is nice and subtle. But why be subtle? This is news that everyone in your residence should be aware of! Maybe buy one of those flailing-arm guys they have outside car dealerships. Cheaper than renting the school’s marching band every time.

4. Don’t do that. Factoid: While at university, almost everything you’re going to want to do outside of the classroom is stupid. You should go ahead and do most of these stupid things. But every once in a while, if the thing you’re about to do is really stupid, maybe listen to the little voice that’s saying, “Hey, asshat, don’t do that.” For instance, I once convinced a roommate to duct tape couch cushions to his body and jump down a flight of stairs “just to see if it hurts.” (Spoiler alert: Yep.) If only he’d listened to that voice in his head, or had a nicer roommate.

5. Have fun. Such a cliché, right? But here’s the truth: When you look back on your school days, you’ll think mostly of the many fun memories—and also the memories you had to piece together because your actual memory is blank and you’re basically just taking everyone else’s word for it. Hang on, whoa, I did WHAT to the sombrero? Bottom line: Make sure you have the fun you’ll forget to remember so you can later remember forgetting it.

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