For college freshman, the weeks preceding your first day are riddled with exhaustive Target trips, parents who think a lack of extra sheets or towels will result in your imminent death, and the steady realization that you have no fucking clue what you’re doing. In between figuring out how to not pay $1500 for textbooks and finding ways to pack your vodka and weed, you may forget a few things that most college packing lists keep on the down-low. Lucky for you, Internet Killed The Cat isn’t like most creative outlets (and whether that’s good or bad, we still don’t know). Keep reading to find out how to arrive at school with an arsenal of intangibles that’ll keep you alive, passing your classes, and best prepared to tackle whatever the fuck it is that college is supposed to be.
INTANGIBLE #1: YOUR DIGNITY
It’s one of the first weekends of the school year, and you wake up at 10:30 am in your dorm room bed. Your roommate is gone, her bed neatly made, and is probably off working out or studying or something else related to having your life together. Meanwhile, all the sheets have fallen off your bed, exposing your outfit of superhero boxer shorts and last night’s crop top, which smells like sweat and beer. You remember that you went to your first frat party last night; what you don’t remember is everything that happened after that 4th shot, including whether that dude you hooked up with was actually cute and how you got back to your dorm. As you grab a robe and stumble with your toothbrush to a communal bathroom, glitter eyeliner and black mascara crusted all over your face, it will hit you: life (and you) can be an utter piece of shit. In moments like these, buck up. Strut your hungover self with confidence, clean the party out of you, and then at least try to read a textbook. Reminding yourself that you’re a respectable human being matters just as much as buying the right shower caddy from Bed Bath & Beyond (and remembering to maybe hold off on the Absolut, next time).
INTANGIBLE #2: ABILITY TO INTRODUCE YOURSELF
With its abundance of people who know nothing about you, college is hailed as a fresh start. Every freshman nurtures the hope of showing up and impressing their “true selves” upon their peers, finally earning that cool reputation and social status yearned for (or, for you lucky bastards, achieved) in high school. There’s so much you’ll want to convey when you lock eyes with your fellow newbies and awkwardly shuffle towards each other to say hello; your killer taste in music, the fact that you know you’re gonna be better than math at them, or your impressive ability to take a bong hit. All this and more lead up to the moment where you open your mouth to a person for the very first time, unleashing the soul and essence of your being with one poetic, heartfelt line:
“Hey, I’m Anna and I’m from Arkansas!!”
As much as we’d like our first impressions to be based on who we are as people, get ready to be temporarily defined by your name, hometown, and potential major. You’re gonna need to be really comfy with this, because you’ll be spouting it dozens of times a day.
There are some gray areas when it comes to introductions. If I live in the suburbs, can I attempt the facade of being “from Chicago”? Can I make (bad) jokes when I introduce myself? Should I even be allowed to make jokes, period? And do I really have to confess to people that I’m spending $60,000 a year just to be a goddamn writing major?!
But hey, just remember— you’re Anna from fucking Arkansas, and yes, you are going to kill yourself and one day make bank by becoming an engineering major. Nice meeting you!
INTANGIBLE #3: MASTERY OF THE FRIEND-OFF
By the end of high school, our brains’ social filters had done some serious work. We figured out how to avoid those who’d talk you ear off for thirty minutes (when I asked you how you weekend was, I didn’t actually need the in-depth picture…), friends who were fun drunks versus not-so-fun drunks, and those who just sucked no matter what state of mind they were in. Here’s where another downside of the quasi-holy “fresh start” thing comes up: new people, new (and inexperienced) social filter. People can easily be deceptive, and by the time you realize how much of a psychotic bitch Cherry from D.C is, you’ll find yourself locked into your 4th coffee date with her. That’s why you’ll need to come into college with mastery of a highly important skill: the friend-off.
To clearly outline what a friend-off entails, I’m going to pull a definition from one of the finest sources of English vocabulary: Urban Dictionary. According to Urban,
Friend- off: When an acquaintance of yours starts to irritate you, particularly when they begin to act like your best friend as soon as you just met them. When you’ve had enough, you introduce them to another friend of yours who you think has a chance of getting along with them, in hopes that your friend will be more accepting of this person’s annoying behaviours than you are. A friend-off is successful when your acquaintance quickly attaches themselves to your friend rather than you. Thus, you have passed off your “friend” to another friend.
Essentially, you’re gifting one obnoxious friend to another. The friend-off is truly a versatile move; I’ve heard a story of two guys who each hated their roommates “friend-offing” their terrible roomies to each other. Get out there in the world, start building a friend lineup, and revise if you have to— the friend-off will be there waiting for you.
INTANGIBLE #4: EXPANSIVENESS
I’m not talking about welcoming the “freshman 15” with open arms (although feel free to do that— life’s too short not to eat tons of cookies and bacon mac n’ cheese). By expansiveness, I mean this: avoid making your college experience a bubble. I come from a high school where white affluence is the majority, and in many ways, my college experience will be far more diverse than where I’m coming from. But at the same time, my school, Johns Hopkins University, and most others can be an isolated sect of the world. The people I’m going to be immediately surrounded with for the next four years have been filtered out from the world. We all must possess a certain amount of academic focus, drive, and ability, dedication to extracurricular passions, and, even in spite of financial aid, a certain degree of socio economic leverage. While there’s nothing wrong with these facts, my college is by no means a realistic sample of the world. Even on a city campus, it’s easy to stay secluded mentally and physically within your institution’s walls, making college just another period of suburban-esque refuge.
Whether your college is out in the cornfields or nestled in a major city, there is always a world in and around it that expands past the mindset of your own. Dust off your basic-bitch white converse and head out into the world to meet these other people. Maybe it’s a local jazz musician who decided not to go to college, or the owner of that amazing Thai restaurant who grew up as a first-gen immigrant. Meet people at the grocery store. Mingle at coffee shops and diners. If you’re truly afraid of the whole “stranger danger” thing, then opportunities for an expansive social network still exist within your university. Employees (especially the non-academics) at your school will often have different life experiences than the students who populate it. Grad students can also be a good resource— and they have off-campus housing, which means hella better opportunities for partying. The point is, having a more diversified worldview means going past the sheltered walls of a university. It’s only 4 years until we get thrown back into the world— might as well get to know it now.
Whatever shit you ultimately show up to college with (yourself included), freshman year will work out if you take a breath, accept that things will be a bit of a clusterfuck, and remain adaptable. Go make friends, attempt to learn a thing or two, and enjoy the goddamn beauty of getting to eat Insomnia Cookies whenever you want. Life is short, and college is even shorter. Enjoy your next four years.