Saturday, May 26, 2012

Top 10 things no one tells high school graduates.

Congratulations, class of 2012!  For those of you heading off to college next fall, you're going to be hearing and reading a lot of advice about things that you need to know to help sufficiently plan your future.  Unfortunately, no one is going to say anything about the really important stuff...until now.

1. After getting thrown into the air, graduate caps do come back to earth...and they hurt.

In nearly every graduation scene that is portrayed on television or in the movies, the act of throwing the graduate caps up into the air is accomplished one of two ways:

a.) A freeze frame shot of the caps while they are at the apex of their vertical flight.

b.) A steady shot that stays in the air after they have been thrown.

This has desensitized many 18-year-olds to one of the most terrifying post graduation experiences of all time.

If you go to a large high school like mine (or like Wando High School, whose graduation is this week), you will be in a room with hundreds of other departing seniors. Everyone will be primed and ready to throw their hats into the air, just like they have seen it done in various forms of media throughout their entire lives.

When the caps go up, everyone will cheer wildly. You will then have approximately one second of silence in which everyone realizes that these garments of success are all careening back down earth. After that, the screams and loud "THUNKS" of mortarboards crashing into your friends skulls will begin.

Some will try to duck, only to get stabbed in the back by one of the caps' unusually sharp ends. Others will stupidly continue to stare up into the sky, leaving their eyes vulnerable to aerial assault. Your best bet would be to simply stay standing straight up, look down, and cover your head.

If you don't believe me about this horrible experience, ask any of your friends or family that have been through a graduation ceremony themselves.  Their eyes will glaze over and they will mutter a vague phrase like "Oh yeah, I think something like that may have happened..."

Either they don't want to remember, or they suffered brain damage from multiple blows to the head and have truly forgotten.

2. Squirrels on college campuses have absolutely no fear of humans.

If your mom was like mine, she constantly warned you to stay away from squirrels due to the widely held (yet completely false) notion that they carry rabies. 

Staying away from those cute little buggers wasn't much a problem, however, due to the fact that they constantly ran away and scurried up a tree if you got within 10 feet of one of them.

Squirrels on college campuses, however, have become used to humans.  At first it's kind of cute; they sometimes will even run up to you and beg for food.  But after a while, it can get to be a little creepy.  Sometimes the same squirrel will follow you from one class to another. Other times, a group of squirrels will be in your path and refuse to move, putting you in the humiliating position of stepping aside for a small rodent.  
Or they sit next to you on a bench and just stare...

3. When you stop eating fruits and vegetables for three weeks, pooping will eventually feel like you are trying to pass an iron rod.

Two factors make eating right in college very difficult:

a.) Healthy food is often much more expensive than junk food.
b.) Junk food tastes awesome.

You will also discover that many events during your first two weeks of college provide lots of free food (which is also not terribly healthy). There is rarely a voice of reason to prohibit you from downing a dozen doughnuts in 1 hour or having a cheeseburger and fries every day for lunch.

While everyone has most likely heard of the dreaded "freshman 15," many people fail to mention the excruciating act of passing stools when your terrible diet also lacks sufficient fiber. It's a bit like sharp, jagged rocks exiting your butt that you must also willingly push through.

Any joke you've ever heard about someone busting a blood vessel while pooping will become very scary.

4. You will meet absolutely no new friends at the university planned social gatherings designed to help you meet new friends.

Be wary of any advertisement or announcement that begins with "Hey Students!" If it's university planned, than you will most likely find a lot of socially awkward people that either won't talk or will be all too eager to talk to you about their hometown and their high school's newspaper club.

Rest assured that you will later meet a lot of great people that you click with, but it will not be here.

5. Don't feel bad if you get homesick. At least half of your friends that keep raving about how much they love their first semester of college are totally lying.

When I first went off to college, there was no facebook, skype, or affordable cell phone plans; combine that with being 6 hours away from my beloved family and friends, and I was one very homesick kid. It didn't help that nearly everyone I did get to talk to (via the wonder of internet communication that was AOL instant messenger) seemed to be having the absolute time of their lives.

That all changed when the truth about one of my friends (we'll call him "Dave") was discovered by my mother. While Dave talked a huge game about how much partying/dating/drinking he was doing, my mom (who talked to his mom) knew the truth: He was calling home every night and talking to his mother until 1:00 AM about how much he missed high school.

Thanks to movies and television (again), many of us have been conditioned to believe that the undergraduate college experience has be the best 4 years of our lives from Day 1 or our lives will be forever unfulfilled. The truth is, some people may take a while to adjust, some may not have found a school/major that is the right fit for them, and some may not enjoy the structure and lifestyle of college all together. College can be an incredible experience, but that doesn't mean other future possibilities and adventures won't be even better.

"Yes!  I'm almost done with my 'Student Loan Debt' adventure!"

As my freshman year continued on, I truly began to enjoy myself. I also heard from/about more and more friends admitting that their first semester was mostly spent sulking in their rooms or considering dropping out of school all together. At the end of the year, there actually were a lot people I knew that went to college and had a complete blast from Day 1...and an equal number that hated it at first.

6. The first time you get sick at school (and can't have your family take care of you) is going to royally suck.


I'll never forget the first day at college that I woke up and felt truly ill. Being a freshmen, I didn't own a thermometer; Mom had always had one if I needed it.

I felt my forehead and noticed that it was very hot and that I was sweating profusely. The fact that my first college dorm did not have air conditioning, however, made any self diagnoses of a fever a bit difficult. So I did what any responsible new adult would do: I called my mom and asked if I should not go to class that day.

Like many of you, my normally very nurturing and slightly overprotective mother was astonished that I was acting like such a wimp. She said it was a decision that I had to make. I initially decided to go to class that day, but ended up missing it anyway due to a terrible bout of "iron poop" that was likely caused by eating macaroni and cheese for 4 straight meals.

7. Credit card companies are insanely aggressive when dealing with college freshmen.


I was very fortunate that I had a father that taught me the dangers of credit card abuse and how to manage money. To me, a credit card was simply a way to pay for things without carrying cash, keep better track of what I was spending, and maybe get some reward bonuses for stuff I was already going to buy.

When I first arrived on campus, I received a phone call from a very nice sounding lady offering me the chance to open a credit card. When I informed her that this was a decision I should consult with my parents about, she pressed on, informing me that I was an adult and could make this decision for myself.

I then proceeded to deal with her like I do all telemarketers: I asked her to give me the pitch again, but this time in a seductive voice and using dirty words while I breathed heavily. She hung up, but others continued to call, along with pushy card company representatives putting up booths at the student center, dining area, and outside the classroom buildings.

Here's a hint: They aren't interested in helping you create a credit history. They want to get you now while your parents are away and you may be more willing to use a card irresponsibly and rack up some of that sweet interest/revenue producing credit card debt. Don't take the bait.

8. The college parties you see in the movies very rarely happen. A typical "party" will instead consist a lot of people standing around in a dimly lit house/back yard and drinking terrible beer.

You will also notice a copious amount of Christmas lights (in August and September) along with large groups of people sitting.

Guys, there will always be one girl going nuts and trying to get everyone to dance. DO NOT take her up on the offer unless you want to listen to her drunkenly cry about her ex-boyfriend for the next 3 hours.

9. University parking police are soulless, terrible people that will do everything in their power to make your life miserable.

Here is how it works: The school will sell more parking passes than they have spaces to give to students. After students scramble to find a place to park their vehicles, they send their head hunters out to give tickets and create huge amounts of revenue for the school.

Don't for one second listen to claims from these people that they are "just doing their jobs." I had a friend who was a parking enforcement agent; they love their work and try every dirty trick in the book. This includes hiding in bushes, ticketing before meters run out, conveniently ignoring obscured 'No Parking' signs, and painting new 'No Parking' curbs and towing the cars that have already been there.

Try your best to avoid parking illegally, but if you get caught and have to pay a fine, pay them in pennies. 

10. There will be people with easy majors that never seem to go to class and have all the free time in the world. Do not envy them.


These people seem to have it all; no homework (or "studying" as it is redefined in college for some reason), lots of free time, and an easy pass to a college degree.

I know some of these people. They ended up with terrible jobs and living with their parents well into their 30's. A degree is just like a cover charge to a great club; it lets you get in, but it won't help you dance any better.

Your future depends on your ability and willingness to work hard along with networking and a little luck. Get the coveted piece of paper known as a diploma, but realize that no job will magically appear because of it. If you've made it this far, than you have shown that you can complete tasks and see things through. Now it's time to go out there and start making your own path.

...oh yeah, and don't forget 
to wear flip flops in the dorm showers.

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