Photo by Jamie Taete, graphic work by Sam Taylor
This year, around 18.5 million Americans will live the undergraduate life. You poor fuckers. For many of last September's freshmen, there could be as much as $100,000 of debt to look forward to the moment they collect their diplomas and get that precious first glimpse down the barrel of graduate despair.
Those who have been students for a year or two now will be starting to realize that, beneath the tranquillizing veil of $3 pitchers and student discounts, their prospects are actually pretty horrible. While tuition increases at public and private school has been slowing down recently, reports show that net costs—what you and your parents pay after scholarships and grants—are at an all-time high.
So, these days you can add academic profiteering to all the usual troubles: deadlines, mono, freshmen 15, finding yourself, losing yourself, and Tinder dates over $5 bar pizzas. Then there's the legal-high Russian roulette the government is aiding by instantly banning any new substance to emerge from Hangzhou's chemical factories.
Here are some ideas that will help you sidestep those problems and improve your student life in 2014.
Speak to People You Wouldn't Normally Speak to
Before college, you're surrounded by half-people who aren't really proper people, in that they won't necessarily have bothered to develop their personalities or brains much beyond what their respective small-town mentalities demanded of them. And after college, you'll inevitably find yourself comfortably trapped in a peer group of people just like you, all sitting around expressing the same opinions to each other.
But at college, you can talk to a bunch of different people. People who don't drink alcohol, people whose parents didn't let them watch The Real Housewives, people who don't want to talk to you about Radiohead. A friend of mine once told me the only friend he made the whole time he was at school was a 32-year-old who worked in a video game store and commentated on roller derby matches in his spare time. Yes, he had beard dandruff,
After college, you're probably gonna migrate back to your social, racial, and cultural demographics—sad but true—so, in the name of education, talk to the different people. At least that way, in ten years' time, you might still have a few wild cards in your rolodex.
But Ignore Anyone Who Watches Disney Films
This one is crucial. Stay far, far away from anyone studying for a degree who still watches Disney films. In recent years, Disney films, the ones starring pre-leotard Miley Cyrus, not the cartoons, have made a land grab for the teenage coming-of-age experience, which is possibly the most malicious crime committed against youth culture in the last two decades.
Films like LOL and Camp Rock don't teach young people anything about themselves, they seek to normalize a depressing fantasy of young people as mundane semi-adults. They transplant dialogue from Grey's Anatomy into situations in which 21-year-old women playing 13-year-old girls dissect the emotional resonance of not smiling at hunky Cody in the hallway. They suck and they're nothing like an accurate reflection of any teenager in the world.
If you're gonna watch teen movies, watch good ones. Ones with obnoxious Jewish kids and fat guys who love porn: Superbad, Porky's, Risky Business. Those are the films that might tell you something about the perverted torpor of young life, as opposed to 90 minutes of good looking Mouseketeers learning about the value of friendship.
Photo by Kieran Cudlip
Try to avoid turning into a Porky's caricature and curb your innate fascination with traffic cones/the dorm's fire extinguishers/the nervous system of that really quiet kid in the room at the end of the hall. It's 2014, there must be more interesting ways to be a dickhead.
Play Creative Drinking Games
The internet is full of them: "Battleships," "Brain Damage," "Charlie Bit My Finger of White Lightning." The cyberworld is your oyster. Drinking games get you drunk quick, and being drunk quick means you spend less time actually tasting the off-brand vodka you bought with your parents' money and a crappy fake ID.
Don't Get Google Glass
Hey, douchebag, put those Kanye shutter shades away; 2014’s student eyewear is here. Available at some point this year, and likely to cost as little as $1,000 a pair, the latest development in wearable technology will allow you to look kind of lame in public while maintaining the student tradition of wearing non-prescription glasses.
Photo by Oz Katerji
Get a Job
I can't imagine it feels quite right to have a ton of money as a student. Can you imagine licking MDMA from the edge of a card that wasn’t ruining your credit rating? It must be very alienating. But in the US, four of five students (that's high school, community college, and college) work part-time while studying. They've got the right idea.
If you get a job now, you’ll be able to afford twice as many shitty deliveries from Amazon and better beer. Plus, it'll help in the long run; hold down your retail/hospitality gig after you graduate and you'll have an income and something to punctuate the hours spent trawling through job websites. Unlike your friends, whose only respite will center on microwaving potatoes three times a day and agonizing over everything they've done to find themselves in this position.
Don’t Watch Everything Available for Streaming
While it might be tempting to just sit in your room, get high, and watch box-sets for the majority of your week, that's not what college is about. Plus, you'll have plenty of time to have a crack at that lifestyle when you're an unemployed graduate. Soon, Netflix will be so ubiquitous that the only thing resembling a social life in halls will be the brief, obligatory moments of human acknowledgement in the dark hallways leading to the communal kitchen. And that's a problem.
I understand that, last year, if you hadn't binge-watched Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards your small-talk game would have been weak (and there's nothing but small talk at college, other than BIG TALK with people who really like their degrees, and that's even more annoying). But that's no reason to hand over three years of your life to endless TV shows about vampires, alcoholic police officers, and gangsters in fedoras. You're supposed to leave college with the knowledge that dropping another pill at sunrise isn't a good idea, not an obsessive command of Sopranos trivia.
Photo by Oscar Webb
Get a Good Degree
And then start studying another one. Or do postgraduate studies. Avoid the real world, where sarcasm is no longer charming and your degree in fashion journalism is only useful as kindling for a fire. My brother has been out of college for two years. Let me tell you what he told me, “The best way to have a better student life in 2014 is to do whatever it takes to have a student life in 2015.”