If you hadn’t been able to tell by the influx of over-protective mothers panic buying dehumidifiers and pepper spray at BHS, it’s that time of year again. The time when the finest young minds in Britain set off on the doomed intellectual odyssey that is university life.
It’s also the time of year when journalists who haven’t been to university since the days when you could get laid at an anti-nuclear march see fit to tell today’s students how to behave at university. Clearly, this is bullshit.
Despite a worrying large number of the VICE editorial staff failing to pick up our degrees, we can at least remember going to university in an era when "Skrillex" was a thing you had to have an opinion on. That's why we thought we’d be better placed to guide you through the pitfalls of the student condition. So, here it is...
THE VICE GUIDE TO STUDENT LIFE
A – ALCOHOL
Unfortunately, during the three magical years you spend "growing up" at university, you will realise that the only perk of higher education is the cheap alcohol. And then you will realise that actually, vomiting into your hair outside a "club" in the part of your university which smells like a swimming pool changing room, really isn’t a perk at all. Still, there’s literally nothing else to do. It's drink or hang out with the students whose religion prevents them from doing so.
BTW, if you believe that your new status as an intellectual means you're now above Vodkat and Just Juice, you may find yourself drinking something really pretentious, like absinthe. If you’re drinking absinthe because you like the fact that it gets you drunk and makes you puke green, then that’s just fine, but if you're doing it because the bottle fits real snug in the inside pocket of your velvet jacket and you think it makes girls more amenable to your card tricks, get ready to have everyone in your halls give you a wider berth than gainful employment.
B – BEING LATE
Don't worry, that snooze button isn't going to wear itself out. Have as much sleep as you like. University is great because, unlike school, neither your parents or your teachers can give you shit about missing every single morning lecture on your timetable because you can’t be bothered to get up. You're at university now; you've left them in the dust of reality. You move on your own time, because you’re an adult! A really lazy, really, really poor adult!
C – COOKING
This is a total fucking hassle. You have to go to the shop to buy the food, carry it back, take it out of the bags, put it away in cupboards, then you have to take it all out again when you want to eat the stuff. And even then you still need to get someone to teach you how to cook. There is only one beacon of hope in this hell of having to fend for yourself: sweet chilli sauce. Sure, it’s about 99 percent sugar and one percent chilli, but you can buy it in huge vats that last for months, it goes on everything and tastes amazing. Well worth the gut ulcer waiting for you when you hit 40.
D – DISSERTATION
This isn't fun and you'll have to come to terms with the fact that yours is going to suck. It'll be a crapper version of all those unreadable books you cribbed it from. Anyway, the best way to do it is to lock yourself in your room with your headphones, bang on a 55-minute Steve Reich instrumental and you'll begin to believe you're in a montage scene in a film about a clever person. Sleep is for suckers; if you're tired, drink some sugar-free Red Bull or scrounge some Adderall off one of the tweaky international students you pretend to like.
E – EGGS
As well as noodles and spaghetti, eggs are all that you fuckers will be eating for the next three years. You can’t make them in the microwave but you can throw them around your halls when you’re drunk (hilarious).
F – FOURTH YEARS
If you still want to apply for a master's at the end of your self-imposed stay in the gulag of education, it's for one of two reasons: Either because you’re going to dedicate your life to the subject you’ve taken (good reason, unless it's War Studies) or because you’re scared of being unemployed, having to move back in with your parents and not being known around town as "MKat Matt the Party Guy" any more.
There’s also the small problem of all sociable Fourth Years always being over-friendly white Rastafarians wearing clown pants. Spending time with these morons should convince you that doing another year of university is probably the worst idea you’ve ever had.
G – GETTING LAID
Apparently most people go to university to sleep with as many people as they possibly can. These people are amateurs. What you should aim for is one relatively serious partner each year. This will guarantee you unlimited, un-traumatising sex, double the spending money and the ability to coerce someone into writing your essays when it "all gets too much". Choosing this option will also leave you in good stead for when you graduate and want to be able to impress potential suitors by actually knowing how to have sex. An endless stream of abortive post-Oceana night grapples isn't going to turn you into the Don Juan of Denmark Hill.
H – HEALTH
A lot of students, especially the boys, are little wimps struggling to understand life away from the comfort of Mother’s bosom. This is why they don’t wash their bed sheets for a whole year. They sleep on gallons of dried cum, piss, vomit, spilled beer and tiny particles of Doritos, and are then surprised when they contract “fresher’s flu”. Listen, someone invented this thing called the internet a while ago and if you go to www.google.com and type in “healthy diet” you can probably stop all this happening. I’ll even do it FOR YOU.
I – INSANITY
There is a lot of insanity at university. Out of you and your friends at least two of you are destined to repeat a year for "health reasons" (i.e. you freaked out and locked yourself in your room for six weeks eating digestives and ketamine). Second year is particularly bad for this, as you’re faced with the realisation that you pissed away your first year and now, all of a sudden, you’ve got to start getting yourself together or the whole thing will be a gigantic waste and your parents will hate you. This is where the weak-minded and the drug addicts start to wobble. These people need your help, but ultimately your help is crap because you're drunk all day, every day. You should probably force them to quit university, re-think everything and return to real life without a history of attempted suicide.
J – JOIN A BAND
Hey, did you know that loads of bands met at university? You probably did, because the first thing you see when you walk into any student union is a notice board plastered with misspelled requests for drummers to join a band which sounds like "Crazy Titch jamming with Roxy Music" or "Girl Unit being read his last rites by Neil Tennant" or "a funk rock Joy Division". Still, on the off chance that you don’t suck, this might be your golden ticket out of here, so persist. University is still one of those places where saying you’re in a band will guarantee you fumbles with hot chicks who like poetry. How can you resist? Well maybe because 90 percent of bands crumble after three or four years in a mess of broken dreams, treachery and young sociopaths with tits. Good luck!
K – KEEP UP
Unless you’re doing one of those courses that only rich dossers do, like History of Art or Anthropology, you’ll have to do some work at some point. Sure, you can skip four or five lectures a week, and go out drinking pretty much every night until 2AM, but if you don’t at least try to get some of the lecture notes, you’ll end up back in your shitty hometown a hell of a lot quicker than you think.
L – LYING
According to people in their thirties, one of the greatest/weirdest things about going off to university used to be the option of suddenly creating a whole new identity for yourself. Unfortunately everyone has Facebook these days, so be subtle. Or just start a whole new Facebook page if you can be bothered. Or just take drugs and wear caps and repeat everything you read on this website.
M – MONEY
Even if you’re thriftier than a person who recycles their own toilet paper, you can expect to be in AT LEAST £27,000 worth of solid gold debt by the time you graduate (and that’s if you can somehow get your parents to pay all your rent). Otherwise you’re looking at a grand total of £39,000, so um, good luck paying that back, ever. Unless your parents are oligarchs or social media barons, and you can afford to have that debt hanging over you for about 40 years, ask yourself this question: Is that three-year course in 3D Digital Design really worth the lifetime of repayments? What are you actually going to be qualified for?
Unfortunately in most cases you leave with the competence of the second-favourite intern at a computer games magazine. Don’t let your sixth form push you into higher education to bump up their statistics. Think about it.
N – NAME TAGS
Anybody who labels their food deserves to have their food stolen. In fact, the people who moan and bitch about their housemates stealing things like quarter pints of milk and a portion of frozen peas are pretty much the only people who have their food nicked. Coincidence?
O – OXBRIDGE
If you go here, basically none of these pointers will apply to you. You are rich enough to afford your fees, intelligent enough to pay attention in lectures and of a high enough social milieu that, even if you have thick, course hair all over your body, you’ll probably end up marrying a minor royal or a supermodel poet. You're going to work really, really hard and then, when you leave, you're going to find yourself stuck in the same economic crisis as the rest of us, unable to find work. Enjoy getting sneered at by every hiring employer who didn't go to Boatrace Uni.
P – PARTYING
If you’re going to bother throwing a party, it’s because you want people to like you; so you might as well be as generous as possible. People never forget great parties, so this night alone could cement your reputation for the next three years. Planning is everything. You need booze, you need a hard guy on the door and you need enough coke to keep the hard guy happy and aggressive. If you’re tight and don’t want to splash out too much, go visit a cash and carry and pick up the cheapest, strongest shit you can find. A good way to disguise the fact that it is surgical spirit is to dump it in a fun-coloured party punch. PS: Don’t forget that sometimes the guys who turn up off the street, drink all your alcohol, hassle the girls and leave hours after everybody else, can really save a party.
Q – QUALITY DRUGS
You won’t get them. Amazingly, the amount of dropouts who stick around in their university towns selling MDMA cut with Daz to students seem to completely outnumber the cool, generous drug dealers you were expecting to find there. Weird, right?
R – RESULTS
Don’t worry so much. A 2:1 is the most common grade. Nobody gets firsts except weird brainiacs or Chinese people. This looks great on graduation day but understand that straight A students have endured years of overbearing parents, endless maths tests and educational toys for Christmas presents. The men get to 32 and spend thousands on rare Star Wars figures because they never had them when they were young. The women get huge dildo collections and turn into sexually voracious, piss-drinking slatterns. AKA good six-month girlfriend material, if you can handle the suicide attempts.
S – SELF-DEFENCE
Unless you've been parachuted in to one of those sterile city centre student accommodation places inhabited by kids who use their parent's diplomatic immunity to get away with illegal parking, at some point in your university life you will end up living in an area that hates you. You're richer, you're louder, you've taken over every club in the town and you don't pay council tax – would you like you? No, you'd burgle you, and so will they. Making your house look as unattractive as possible (despite the fact that it’s overflowing with Game of Thrones boxsets and MacBooks) is key. Think of it this way, would you pick up a £20 note if it was covered in dog shit? Well you would, because you’re a student, but everyone else wouldn’t.
T – TEACHERS
Fucking teachers at university is way less fun that fucking teachers at school. It’s less illegal, less kinky and more likely that the guy will legit fall in love with you. And there's nothing more tedious than playing a bit part in some older guy's Nabakovian psychodrama. Well, unless you land a semester with one of my old lecturers, who took two of my best looking female classmates back to his flat after class one day, got them high on cocaine and fucked both of them at once. Sounds cool, right? Except your tutorials are going to become so disgustingly awkward that you’ll have to either drop out, or keep fucking him all term to guarantee he doesn’t give you a spiteful grade.
U – USE A CONDOM
You know what really isn’t hard to get? Chlamydia. If you haven’t, go get checked – it’s super easy to cure but, left untreated, can kind of fuck your life up quite a lot. Not to freak you out or anything. Another reason to use a cap is because getting knocked up or knocking someone else up during university is a massive fucking bummer. For some reason there’s always one girl per year who gets pregnant and decides to keep it, (possibly/probably) ruining her life forever. Having to quit in your third year of university to have a baby is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. You have two years of debt, no degree, no job and a lifetime supply of anti-depressants. Totally unawesome. Much like gonorrhoea, which is making a big comeback these days. So just wear a condom, K?
V – VIRGINS
Some people make it to university with their chastity intact. Their purity won't last long, but try not to get directly involved with any of these doomed virgins unless you think you might want to marry them. Taking some random person’s virginity at a party is a no-no. Even if it doesn’t haunt you for the rest of your life, which it almost definitely will, no one wants to think back to their first time and remember being painfully penetrated on a toilet seat as a dozen or so people dressed as Smurfs stood outside making monkey noises and throwing condoms at the door.
W – WANKING
You aren’t going to be doing as much of this as you were before. You'll no longer be silently trying to crack one off while your mum talks about conifers on the phone next door, but unless you look like Harry Styles, you’re still going to be doing some of it. You won’t be doing as much as the Greek kid in the room next door, whose paltry overseas student loan barely affords him the privilege of food, let alone drinks for girls, but believe us, your wanking days aren’t over. Not by a long shot. University isn’t the free love environment you hoped for; you’ve still got plenty of lonely Tuesday nights with only Kleenex and ultra fast broadband to keep you warm.
X – XANAX / VYVANSE / RITALIN / ADDERALL
These are all good as long as you don’t get too into them and end up like Heath Ledger or doing what some guy in my class did and writing your own name repeatedly on all your exam papers so you end up having to re-take the year anyway. If you don’t mind being glassy eyed and socially awkward for a few months, pump yourself full of these and hit the books. Once it all blows over, you’ll have the moderate grades you deserve, and a minor drug problem to boot. This is the stuff of which dreams are made.
Y – YOUR OWN WORK
Is overrated. As much as your professors would have you believe it’s a jailable offence, plagiarism is really not a big deal. Lecturers will try to scare you at the beginning of each school year with a slideshow about the top secret Google-like programme which sifts through every essay ever written and detects all your references. As much as they wish this actually existed, if you’re not an idiot and you re-arrange or re-phrase whatever you’re ripping off, you’re A-OK.
Z – ZERO PROSPECTS
What do you think this is, the 70s? That dream is long gone, my friend. If you’ve enrolled for any other reason than to have three years of semi-fun before you enter the big wide world, cold, naked and alone, then you’ve been sadly misinformed. We don’t have prospects in this country in the same way we don’t have Concorde any more, the sooner everybody realises this the happier we’ll all be. Collect your benefits and start selling drugs, sponge off your parents and blame the “socio-economic climate” for your lethargy, or go abroad. Because there are people in America on Death Row who have more career opportunities than you.
Is university still just a twinkle in your eye? Congratulations, you get to read The VICE Guide to School.
Alternatively, check out some of these other guides we've written to help you navigate life's treacherous grey areas: