- COVER ILLUSTRATION: JUSTIN ROSE
When MT editorial intern Ally Levise suggested a college bucket list, we put the word out on Facebook, on Twitter and to our staffers and interns — and one of our sister papers, The San Antonio Current, did the same. A sampling of the resulting insights — sometimes serious, sometimes not, sometimes contradictory — should help ensure you undergrads get the most out of the experience.
Pranks When we graduate from college, we're supposed to be sober, serious adults. So what better excuse right now to release a painted pig in a building? Or to put 100 pink flamingos on the dean's lawn? Be creative, and remember: Don't get caught.
Start the next campus craze — Our post-collegiate research department identifies goldfish-swallowing in the 1930s (210 is claimed as a record), panty raids (supposedly beginning at the University of Michigan) and phone-booth stuffing in the 1950s, piano-smashing in the 1960s and streaking in the 1970s. There the fad tradition pretty much dies. But you, dear collegiate reader, can revive it.
Organize a flash mob But make it a flash mob for good, not evil.
Posters — This is the last time in your life when you can put posters on the wall without being accused of regressing. We suggest something tasteful, such as W.C. Fields or some symphony in blacklight from a resale shop.
Go vegetarian/vegan Not only can you enjoy all the college-age self-righteousness of a vegan diet, it dovetails neatly with the "picky eater" phase you don't want to age out of quite yet. Note that limited income often creates the hybrid McVegetarian who subsists on ramen and fishwiches.
Experience the dorm cafeteria Including on "mystery meat" day. Unless you're following the advice above.
Road trip! Normally, this means getting in your friends' worst, smallest car, packing it to the gills with things you will not need, and then breaking down on the highway just far enough from home to necessitate calling Mom and Dad for a wire from Western Union.
Declare your independence For the majority of college students, you are still reliant upon Mom and Dad for almost everything: tuition, books, clothing, food budget, credit cards, pocket money, meals when they roll into town or when you go back home. But don't let reality stand in the way of a pose of absolute independence. Practice phrases such as "I am my own master" and "Honey Badger don't care." Repeat as necessary until everyone believes you — and you almost believe yourself.
Sexual experiments Probably 90 percent of the guys who "come out" in college are going to be gay for the rest of their lives. It's a little trickier with the girls, hence the slang term "LUG" (lesbian until graduation). Our Facebook friends' advice includes the following: "Group sex. LOL," "Have causal sex in the parking lot (preferably in a car) after an evening class," and "Ménage à trois, or orgy."
Become insanely political Whether you're left-wing or right-wing, or just want to pick some pet issue to be fanatical about (animals, fur, green energy), this is the time to carry a placard and engage in the competitive sport of consciousness-raising.
Protest something "For a lot of people, the college experience will present at least one opportunity to organize, gather and protest the hell out of something," explains Facebook poster Bob Wilkins. "Student pay, tuition, cafeteria food quality, the firing of some radical yet radically popular prof ..."
Add jail to your résumé Wilkins continues: "It's probably the one time you could get arrested and put it in your résumé. For instance, you're applying for a writing job on the Daily Show : 'Yes, sir, when I was 20 I was arrested on campus while protesting the G8 Conference ... and/or the next year protesting Big Pharma ... and my senior year I organized and led a March against the latest reauthorization of the Patriot Act.'"
Get drunk with a professor you admire And for a trifecta of advice from Wilkins: "It's important. I don't know why exactly ... I'll think about that more ... but I got drunk on more than one occasion with a few professors and got better grades in their classes, not because we shared some stories and got to know each other, but because I started doing better work in their classes. I'm just realizing this as I type ... huh ... how about that ... there's something there ... the point here is to get to know them outside the classroom. Meet for office hours ... but ask if they can meet at a coffee shop instead."
Find a role model One Facebook friend opines that you should "find a professor who is a shining example of how you can defy the odds with hard work. My sociology teacher at university was born blind."
Read, read, read Fall madly in love with a writer who died before your parents were born.
Study abroad You can earn your degree and develop a better understanding of other cultures while having international adventures. Don't forget those liberal European drinking ages!
Learn a foreign language Which may help with the above. And vice versa.
Study Detroit Especially if the city hasn't been part of your experience heretofore. University of Michigan has a Semester in Detroit program. Marygrove has its Institute for Detroit Studies to promote interdisciplinary study of the city. Thomas Sugrue's The Origins of the Urban Crisis, an essential look at Detroit, is now one of the key texts of urban studies, but a number of other oft-used texts are rooted in the D. Look for courses that use them.
Take advantage of free stuff OK, so it's not really free when you think about it. You're paying tuition to have access to things like a gym, tutoring services, events on campus, etc. You might as well partake and get as much out of the experience as possible. And besides the free stuff, don't forget to work your student ID for discounts where you can.
Write a novel, fast Garrison Keillor once noted that the older you get, the less praise you get for just doing anything. He said something like: You may hear "Pretty good drawing for an 8-year-old," but that turn of phrase grows ever-rarer with time. Maybe you'll hear "pretty good poem for a junior high student." But not for long after. Junior year is probably the last time you'll hear "pretty good" just for finishing your novel.
Community service You're going to be really busy studying (or nursing hangovers), but it's worthwhile to devote some time to helping others. Planting trees or volunteering at the soup kitchen will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, and it looks really great on your résumé. Especially when you weren't ordered to be a good guy or girl by a judge. ("Mandatory volunteerism" doesn't count.)
Body art Your future professional life will be characterized by slacks in neutral tones and starchy collared shirts, so get some tattoos or piercings (or both) and show them off before you sign up for a 9-to-5 with a dress code. It's debatable whether or not a spiky purple Mohawk is appropriate in the workplace, but you can most likely get away with it during undergrad. (Reminder: Tattooing spider patterns on your face, love and hate across your knuckles, or the name of this week's beloved across your neck are a wee bit more serious than "Go Tigers" across an ass cheek.)
Develop a caffeine addiction Inevitably there will be long, lonely, all-night cram sessions followed by 8 a.m. exams, and you can be sure that one loyal friend will be there to support you — caffeine.
Get yourself an internship Muster some ambition and apply for an internship. It will probably be a lot of work for literally no money, but the job experience is invaluable and you'll meet people and do things that could help you on your way to achieving whatever career goals you might have. (Hint: Do not send a cover letter like this one: "As an inspiring journalist, I would love to be able to work, learn and corporate with Metro Times... . )
Take a random class — Yes, college is about getting a degree and ultimately landing a job, but there's a crazy rumor going around that it's also meant to be a time of personal development. When your schedule allows, don't be afraid to take a class in something that interests you. Though it may seem superfluous, "Study of Harry Potter" will probably prove to be more fun and memorable than Chem102. (Unless you're already a popular culture major, in which case, go for the Chem.) As one Facebooker adds on this popular piece of advice: "You'll learn to respect people with different skills."
Take a drama class if you're a business major Continuing on the theme above, we've heard the suggestion that an acting class gives the aspiring business wizard an advantage over the drones who've focused solely on ROI and Ponzi schemes ... oops, we mean "cutting edge financial instruments." Remember, sincerity is the most important thing in the world. Once you can fake that, you've got it made.
Try not to get fat Granted, it's difficult to conjure up a nutritious meal when your most sophisticated kitchen appliance is a microwave. But take heed, the "freshman 15" is no myth. Vending machine cheese doodles will conspire against your buns and thighs. Hit the on-campus gym every once in a while and do what you can to stay fit.
Keep in touch with the folks now that you're out from under their parental yoke, admit it; you sort of miss the 'rents. Take a minute to call and check in with them — and Mom will be so happy she'll get all misty-eyed.
Drugs College is this weird time and place where lots of things are inexplicably socially acceptable that usually wouldn't be. We're just saying ... if you experimented with some psychedelics or something, we wouldn't hold it against you. But if it does go badly, don't hold it against us. Some Facebook friends suggest specific inebriants, including psilocybin mushrooms and marijuana.
But don't be frivolous Regarding the drug stuff, and sex stuff and some of the other advice here, Facebook respondent Moor Phe Us rants: "Join a fraternity; a ménage à trois; an orgy?! ... Frivolous nonsense. And you wonder why the world is a hell! The reason the New World Order cabal can even exist is because people are stupid! They're so busy skipping class to engage in public drunkenness, or swallowing goldfish or having wanton uncontrollable sexual encounters to even notice that they're being victimized. ... You all deserve whatever fate awaits you."
Create If you've always had an interest in crafting, photography, music or anything else of the creative ilk, this is a great time to try it out. Odds are there will be people around who share your interest and will be able to help or encourage you. More and more college students supplement a meager income by making and selling things on sites such as etsy.com.
Join a club Most schools have something for everyone. It's a great way to meet people and it'll be comforting to know that others share your nerd passion for anime, squirrel-watching, intramural ping-pong or the kind of creative endeavors suggested in the previous item. Clubs are also a way to learn about working in groups and taking a leadership role. (Yes, playing well with others does serve you later in life.) Be the president of something.
Network Because years from now you might walk into a job interview "and find yourself sitting across from that guy who always wore socks with sandals in your psychology class."
Find your BFFs Not exactly the same as the above. Make sure you know the difference.
Join a sorority or fraternity Well, not that we did. But they're networking taken to the nth degree. "Even if you don't get in, at least it is a fun experience to try," a Facebook friend advises. Depends on your idea of fun. Another suggestion: "a few frat parties for the free beer and complete craziness."
Get a job "Even if it's only for the few weeks and the employee discount." (And if it's only for that, you can give the check to charity or your more numerous classmates who're slaving for the bread.)
Dress for success, but not just yet Go to class in your PJs — while you can.
Walk campus in the wee hours "To see stray cats and ghosts."
Start a company You've seen The Social Network, right? On a similar note, the idea for what became Fed Ex was first conceived by its founder, Frederick Smith, for an economics assignment at Yale, although he didn't put the idea into action until years later. Google began as a Stanford research project by founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Get your grammar act together Your/you're. Its/It's. Are/Our. You may seek casual sex, but probably not causal sex (as one Facebook friend scolded another). Edit Yourself by Bruce Ross-Larson is but one of dozens of manuals that'll help if none of your classes have. Remember, you can't carry your diploma with you all the time. Know the stuff that people expect from a college grad.
Disassemble a car "Then re-assemble it inside of someone's dorm while they are away at home!"
Remember your homework With all of those distracting extra-curriculars vying for your attention, it's easy to forget that you're there to learn some stuff. But you did just spend $98 on that calculus textbook so you might as well make use of it. Tuition only becomes more burdensome when you have to pay double because you failed your classes.
Plot your entry into the Guinness Book of World Records If it's a group activity, you'll never have a more promising pool of of potential co-conspirators waiting to join your quest.
Register to vote And follow up by voting.
Buy a really, really dumb Detroit-made automobile "For $500 or less."
Wake up in another country "Without a clue as to how you got there."
Fire a rocket-propelled grenade "In a safe environment, of course."
Move off campus — And learn to take care of yourself.
Learn to cook As an important part of the above. Moving off campus opens up whole new horizons in cooking, beyond boxed meals and microwave-ready provisions. Learn to sauté, poach, roast and fricassee.
Get to know people different from yourself They may be easier to find than before, or after.
Beer pong "Don't just play. Learn to dominate."
Volunteer for research You can pick up pocket change and, who knows, maybe say, "She never would have gotten that Nobel Prize without me."
Acquire a master key "To everything on campus." Better yet, the universe. (And be the next Stephen Hawking.)
Watch Animal House One of our colleagues considers it a documentary of his college days. See if it is for you.
Make the dean's list At least once. If you're generally a fuck-up, it's nice to prove the problem really is your attitude, not your ability.
Graduate Put all this behind you. Begin dispensing unsolicited advice to undergrads.