My Best Advice on Starting Your College Career
Higher education is in full effect as freshman college students start pinning their Animal House, Pulp Fiction, and Pink Floyd posters to dorm room walls. I assume they’re still doing that. I think those posters are legally required in order to claim being a college student.
I didn’t get date raped, or an STD, or fall off the cliffs on Del Playa to my death. I did come through with a double major Bachelors Degree, and these pearl necklaces of wisdom.
Go to class
I know. Weird. You actually have to go to class if you want to succeed in college. You’d be surprised how many people are surprised by this. I landed myself on academic probation my first quarter at UCSB for not attending class regularly.
That’s probably because I transferred from Ventura Community College where there were two 16 week semesters and you could easily miss half those weeks and still earn your AA. Which leads me to my next piece of advice.
Drop out and go to community college first
This is definitely the wiser choice. Your first two years in college are spent getting your prerequisite classes out of the way. Don’t waste University money on this, man. Get that shit done at your local JC and then transfer and start your major.
I lallygagged and took three years to get my AA. Way cheaper AND you don’t have to take the SATs to transfer. Score.
Take weird classes
I took a class on Horror Films. We watched and analyzed a film once a week. John Carpenter was teaching a class on Sex & Violence in Film next door and came over and talked to us about making Halloween. It was, uh… it was pretty rad. As was my class on the history of rock and roll.
And I’m still kicking myself for not taking the Egyptology class. The professor had been a consultant on the Mummy movies and we were doing to practice actual mummification techniques!
I honestly didn’t take the class because my favorite band was playing a show in San Fransisco the night of the final and I decided I was going to attend that instead. (Didn’t go to the show. Shocker.) Super stupid move.
Take that weird and wonderful class that has nothing to do with your major. You’re there to learn cool shit. Take advantage of what they offer.
Burn the candle at both ends
Sign up for your own campus radio show at 7am every morning, have a full day of classes, work a part time job at Borders and be the lead in a one act play on campus, all at the same time.
Meet up with classmates at the local coffee shop at 5am to cram for your midterm after getting off work at midnight and not getting to sleep until 2am.
Drink like you invented it and go to class/work hungover or still drunk.
Unless you have a great coke dealer you will never again have this kind of energy. Ever. I know you don’t believe me. I didn’t. You can’t conceive of life being any other way.
Shit’s gonna grind to a halt when you’re about 27 and asking yourself what’s wrong with you. “I used to be able to stay up all night! I used to be able to do this and that…” Kiss those days goodbye.
Run yourself ragged living all the life NOW just because you can. And send me your coke dealer’s info.
Mix your liquors
Friends would ask me, “What are you drinking tonight?” And I’d be all, “Tonight? Well, right now I’m drinking a whiskey sour. Next, I’m gonna want a Southern Comfort and cranberry, then a Singapore Sling, and then a Rainbow Brite Blowing Sunshine Up My Ass.”
I order drinks the same way I bet on horses or buy nail polish: based on their cool names.
Mix that shit. I don’t believe for a second that mixing hard alcohol makes anyone any sicker than sticking to vodka all night. Nor do I buy each liquor making you act different. Cut the crap. Alcohol makes you drunk. The end.
The only difference between me drunk and me sober is I tend to spin around on my stomach on top of tables a little more often when I’m drunk. Otherwise, totally the same person.
DO stick to the “liquor before beer, you’re in the clear. Beer before liquor, never been sicker.” If you start out with beer, stay there. If you’re having cocktails and want to try that new IPA, feel free. But there’s no going back.
Order all the drinks, mix all the cocktails, and try everything.
Live in a walk-in closet
I had to take an acting class in order to audition for the Bachelor of Fine Arts acting program. It was six weeks long and during the summer. Instead of wasting my life commuting, I threw $50 at four guy friend’s of mine and rented their huge walk-in closet in their summer sublet in IV.
We lived on McDonalds chicken nuggets and had huge wine tasting (drinking) parties. I could ride my bike to class and stumble home from the bar. It was an adventure.
Live somewhere wacky and cool for a few months. Unless you’re going to be some childless oddball writer/performer like me, when else in your life will it ever be OK to do this? You’ll be able to tell your friends about your cool encounters while they’re changing diapers.
Find a hang-over cure
I was 21 calling my 19 year old brother asking him for suicide methods and/or cures the morning of my first hangover. He didn’t hesitate. “Go to McDonalds. Get a Big & Tasty, super size, no mayo, and a Sprite. GO.”
Damned if he wasn’t right! I wondered how much trial and error it took him to come up with that exact combination. We lived across the street from both McDonalds AND Taco Bell. I shudder to think of the horrors he put himself through.
Freebirds was always jumping with lushes looking to gobble down deliciously greasy quesadillas to cure or stave off their hangovers. Grease if your friend. And I hear it’s the word. Give it a try!
Change your major
Don’t be afraid to change your major. Maybe you thought you wanted to be a doctor but taking O-Chem made you rethink your life. That’s what college is about! Finding out what you’re truly interested in focusing on.
I started out a Philosophy major. Then I discovered UCSB had a BFA Acting program, auditioned, and got in! I decided to drop Philosophy to focus on acting. At the end of my probationary sophomore year in the program I was voted off the island. (They cut people every quarter that first year) Fuckin’ bummer, man.
I wasn’t as dedicated to acting as I thought I’d be. And my professors could sense this. (Or our class had two distinct personalities and they cut everyone on one side out) I didn’t want to go to Broadway. I can’t sing. I wanted to do films, and the BFA is geared toward Theater.
So, via con dios, theater program! (I got cast as the lead in the one act festival after I got cut so SUCK IT). I picked Philosophy back up as my major, and it took me back. I never stopped loving it.
Joblessness is no longer just for philosophy majors; useful people are starting to feel the pinch.” — Kent Brockman, The Simpsons
Don’t be a doctor just because your dad wants you to, Neil. Don’t kill yourself, Carpe Diem and choose what YOU want.
This is YOUR college experience and YOUR life. Search out and take classes in things that interest you and you’ll figure out what you truly want to major in.
Because why the hell not? And it sounds super impressive. #ValidationNation
After picking my Philosophy major back up I looked into the requirements for both, and decided to also major in Theater Arts. I still loved acting, and getting cut from that program wasn’t going to stop me, and there were tons of fun film, theater, and play writing classes to take.
If you can’t cram in a double major, find a minor. Again, because why the hell not? You’re there paying hard earned money to get educated, why not get educated out the wazoo?
Have your Dad get disabled in the Vietnam war
OK, this only applies to me and a few others, but hear me out.
If you’re the child of a veteran who was permanently disabled, died, is MIA, or was a POW, you’re eligible for Chapter 35 Benefits which pay for your tuition. I overheard a girlfriend taking about this in high school, otherwise I never would have known it was a thing. Lucky me!
Not only was my tuition paid, but I got a fat government check every month. College was the best job I’ve ever had. I could have gone on to get my Masters degree, but after six years of college I was burnt out and eager to get to LA and my dreamy acting career. (Neither or which came to fruition) And the bennies ran out at age 26, along with my VA related healthcare.
Boo! *throws popcorn* Boo!
If you’re lucky, college won’t be the best years of your life. Who wants to peak that early? But it could be an amazing springboard and foundation to a much more interesting, creative, fearless life filled with magical opportunities you wouldn’t otherwise be privy to. And that’s way better than a few measly years.