Campus life: an unauthorized guide

How to have fun and earn the same diploma as all those people currently losing their jobs

It’s great that Maclean’s devotes an edition to higher education, but here’s the truth: everything you really need to know about university life is contained on this one page. Let your parents slog through all the articles on the latest in mortarboard technology—with these 17 critical pieces of information, there is no force on earth that can stop you from becoming a successful university graduate (except failure).

1. Vodka? Not a food group.

2. At school, you will live in accommodations that blend the comfort and amenities of a jail cell with the aroma of a hamster cage. You will love them.

3. There are two kinds of university students—one kind lives in filth and squalor and uses the power of negligence to fashion teetering skyscrapers of dirty dishes and terrifying bio-wads of fetid underpants. The other kind is female.

4. The music you listen to in university—you’ll remember it forever. No matter how old you get, the faintest hint of a song from your school days will take you back to that time, unleashing waves of wistful remembrance. So make sure the music you listen to doesn’t suck. You don’t want to be like the lame sap who was driving with his kids the other day and got tears in my eyes when Mr. Roboto came on.

5. In your classes and dorms, you will be exposed to a fascinating cross-section of Canadian diversity—unless you go to Queen’s, in which case you’ll be exposed to a fascinating cross-section of the children of white dentists. (This isn’t true, but as a Western grad I’m legally obligated to sully the reputation of Queen’s without regard for ethics or accuracy. I’m pretty sure it’s in the BNA Act.)

6. Osama bin Laden? Queen’s grad.

7. University is a voyage of self-discovery. You are about to learn so much about yourself—things like, “I had no idea I could grasp such complex scientific concepts” and “Oh, that’s where I left my pants.”

8. Technology has altered the post-secondary experience. When I went to school in the late 1980s, we didn’t have “social networking” sites like Twitter. We had to bore people in person. We didn’t have “GPS devices” with which to find our friends. We had “looking over there.” Heck, in my day, the closest thing we had to “user-generated erotic content” was begging your roomie to leave the curtains slightly open. My point is this: I am old.

9. Slice of bread, peanut butter, slice of processed cheese, layer of BBQ Fritos, second slice of bread. You’re welcome.

10. Men: during your time at university you will feel pressure, anxiety and, if you play your cards right, boobies. The boobies will make up for the pressure and the anxiety. That’s just biology.

11. Let me tell you: nothing beats the experience of packing up and leaving your bedroom in your parents’ home forever and then graduating and returning to your bedroom in your parents’ home.

12. Some of your days at school will be tedious. More will be difficult. Ten years from now, none of this will matter. You’ll think to yourself, “Man, those school days—those were the days!” So remember as you’re having your school days that those days are one day going to be the days that were the days.

13. In a pinch, this page can be fashioned into a bong.

14. There will be times when the workload is overwhelming. These can be stressful moments. Perhaps you actually ripped this page from the magazine and you’re staring at it now—months into the future—and you’re experiencing one of these moments. You’re on the verge of tears. And you’re trying to read this section of life-saving advice—but the page is smudged and torn from when you tried to turn it into a bong. The lesson: you’re an idiot.

Take a deep breath, idiot. Close your eyes. And tell yourself: if you stay up all night, if you apply yourself to the task at hand, you will by morning be one small step closer to acquiring the very same diploma that’s currently in the possession of countless people getting thrown out of their jobs. Now get in there and get it done!! (Wait, why are you sobbing?)

15. Don’t cheat. Just don’t. But when you do cheat, don’t just copy something word for word and try to pass it off as new. That’s someone that only a scoundrel or a professor keen to force students to buy a “new” edition of his textbook would do.

16. Have fun. Do dumb things. By the end of three or four years, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how many activities can end with someone declaring, “It probably isn’t a serious concussion.”

17. In my day, we had a contemptuous term for those who finished a four-year degree in only four years: “graduates.” My advice: stay at school as long as you can. Let’s face it: the real world is a bit of a mess right now—what with the economy, and the environment, and the Leafs. We’ll give you a holler when we’ve got it all fixed up.