Special thanks to the many that contributed to this.
During high school, we'd get people from various colleges and universities to drop by our school and do presentations on how great they were. At the time I saw this as a great service. People cared about our future! They wanted us to get real jobs, and have a decent living. And so I'd sit there listening to all the great possibilities that awaited us once we escaped the dark dungeons of learning.
Even our Guidance Counselors, the most useless fucks in the entire school, would work hard at making sure that we'd get into college. I'm just wondering, for every student that applied, how much did he get back in commission?
The sad reality is that it was nothing more than a marketing scam, driving you to spend all your heard earned dollars (or to drown in debt) to take courses that were to make you more intelligent. Counselors would tell us that without university we'd never get to be astronauts or scientists. Like shit I am going to be. Of all the people I know from school, not one is an astronaut or some wacko scientist. In fact a few of them are in jail for drug trafficking or for beating up their girlfriends. But the point was, high school was a starting point to mold our brain and get us ready for this tough, demanding and affordable higher education that awaited us at the end of Grade 13.
Teachers in high school would often talk about the difference between high school and university. Apparently we couldn't fuck around anymore. Cheating would be impossible, writing book reviews based only on the little blurb on the back cover would no longer work, and any excuse we gave would easily be shot down by the professors who could figure out if we were telling a lie or the truth. Thinking about it afterwards, to me it sounded more like the teachers were insulting themselves. "Is this why you are an high school teacher? Because you can't tell if I am bullshitting you when I am writing this book report?" Which basically said either high school teachers didn't give a shit or they were half-assed morons.
In high school you didn't have to pay for books. That meant that not only could you vandalize them in any possible way, but that for sure, you were going to use them. I don't recall a single book in high school that we were not forced to drag around. High school books usually weigh a ton and are huge (minus the religion books. No, those books had enough pages to maybe allow you to wipe your ass once, twice if you were lucky). And boy, did we use our books. Every single book, as old as it was (my history book dated back to 1972) got plenty of use. Sure, the diagrams are off by 27 years and the population now counts ten more million people, but that's beside the point. Not one person remembers anything they learned in high school now, much less five minutes after class was over. So 1972 or 1992, it didn't really matter.
But college or university is different (College in my case). While at first you are mesmerized by the pretty look of the entire infrastructure, you start to soon realize that it's all a cover-up to the shit that's waiting to explode underneath. Starting from the office, you'll be faced with the biggest bunch of morons ever. Beside the fact that not one of them seems to know anything, they are the rudest assholes ever. Okay, I can understand that you are forced to put up with us, snotty little ungrateful bastards that we are, but how about showing some decency when facing us from behind the counter? We are after all spending a quazillion dollars to learn things by ourselves here, and we are the same snotty ungrateful bastards that pay for your salary.
And how about some decent equipment? Is it possible that there is not enough money running around to buy real computers to do our work on? My pre-Paleozoic computer sitting at home can do a better job running the same programs that apparent "state of the art" top-of-the-line Mac has a hard time chewing on. I'm not sure here who I am to blame. Maybe it's really Apple's fault their computers never have enough RAM to run a single program or that they crash each time you hit save. Or maybe it's the system administrators that do diddly-squat in their offices all day. And of course, any mention of these problems, the stock answer "new equipment is on their way" is what you generally hear back. Where I am going, some stuff has been "on it's way" for two years.
And let's not forget the people that teach the course. I could call them professors, but it seems to me that `instructors' describes them better. While there is the occasional understanding soul that sees effort and progress in a student, others just seem to enjoy the gigantic schlong between their legs that their position seems to create. Remember how in high school we'd be told "Life is not fair?". Here it's "It's the real world".
So here are my top 11 survival tips for College/University:
1) Don't buy the books. Besides costing more than a week's worth of your salary (you are usually paying 10% for the book and 90% for the copyright), they are damn useless. A professor will tell you over and over how crucial it is to have this book for the period of the semester. (This is called "marketing". One has to wonder if they get a cut of every book sold in their class). You will never use this book. Even if you are warned that you will be tested on some chapter, don't bother. Beside being boring and not having enough photographs that one can alter or write comments on, the material on which the paper is printed on isn't even good enough for a good wipe in case of emergencies. And usually, by next class, which is a week away, the professor will have forgotten that his course even included a book, much less reading Chapter 4.
2) Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Who ever said that such wonderful rules do not apply in other fields, in the real world? Same with College. If an assignment is due, check what you have done already. Chances are, all you have to do is rub off the date and hand it in with a big smile.
3) Let minimal requirements be your best friend: if the assignment calls for just a few specific things, and nothing more, just do those few, specific things. That's all that the instructor will look for, after having gone through a zillion identical assignments. It doesn't matter how pretty and shiny the whole thing is. This ain't kindergarten and you don't get a stamp with a smile that says "good work".
4) Make assignments as painless as possible, not just for you, but also for the instructor. They will be grateful. Show them in their face what your assignment is supposed to do or have. Don't let them have to waste time looking for it. This ensures that the instructor will find it, mark it, and go to the next one, without spending too much time wondering how you did it or why you did it, ensuring you a good mark. Any difficulty that causes them to start thinking will be an automatic mark deduction.
5) Don't complain. Nobody will listen to your complaining, unless the whole school goes into a revolt, burns the building down and hangs instructors by their testicles off a wooden pole in the courtyard. And even then they will argue against what you have to say. Besides, what you are complaining about will only affect the students of the semester that will follow. So why die bravely for a cause you will never see the light of and of which you will never gain any benefits other than a low mark and the reputaiton of a shit-disturber? Instead, in that useless class where the curriculum has yet to be touched (while the semester is almost over), use it as a chance to surf for porn, check your mail, or sleep.
6) If you are doing an indipendent project and halfway through it you find yourself making a drastic change, don't tell anyone, even if you are required to do so. Instead, create the project with the change you saw fit, and when the time to present/hand it in arrives, don't say anything. There is a good chance nobody will notice that it's not what you were originally doing. If they do, just explain how "it evolved", "it's visual rappresentation in a different perspective", and other big words, sprinkled with a healthy dosage of bullshit. If you are in scientific courses, where the above may not be appropriate, kindly explain how in your research you found how much _that something_ affects what you originally were doing and it could not have been left unmentioned. Unless you get a really anally retentive professor, chances are, you'll get away with it, since any argument will delay the other 500 students waiting in line to present/hand in/talk about their project.
7) If something has to be handed in, and you haven't done it, hand something in. Something, anything. It doesn't matter. For as bad as yours can be, someone else out there has done it worse, or not done it at all. You still get a passing grade and never the reputation of "doesn't do his assignments". It will help you pass if your mark is below passing grade when the instructor checks back to see if you at least put some effort into the class and notices that you never missed an assignment.
8) Try skipping a different class everytime. Since many instructors manage to fail to follow their curriculum at all, by the end of the year they have only one thing to calculate your mark on: attendance. So skip MacroBiology today and next time skip Marketing. This way you still get your day off, and of course, your marks.Observing other people skipping is also a good way to determine how good or bad a class is, permitting more than one average skip. If there are four students in Poetry Writing, but everyone shows up for Marketing, you know that for as swell the latter is, the former must be plenty worse and a few more skips will go by unnoticed. If everyone is doing it, is it really skipping?
9) Make friends. Another crucial survival tip, which ties back in with #8 may be to make friends (preferably lots of them). You'll be surprised at the generosity of your classmates when your ass is on the line. On your first day of class (if you don't know anyone), make it a point to get to know the people sitting around you. They also come in handy for when you skip class and need notes, or to form study groups, etc...
10) When doing a project, make sure that you use equipment at school, even if the one you have at home is 100% better. This will ensure that your project will work during your presentation, even if only for that particular machine on that particular day. Considering how everything will be blamed on you (it doesn't matter if the machine at school crashes every 5 seconds and can't run more than two applications at a time, if your life depended on it), it will always be your fault.
11) Course Kits: another shameless way to make money. Courses kits are nothing more than photocopied pages of "selected" text, bound together, that the co-ordinator of the course "seems" to believe are "appropriate" for your growing education. Purchasing them has only one advantage: the paper is not glossy and hence, ensures that a good, healthy, wiping can be accomplished without the mess that a regular book will do. The disadvantage is that, beside never using this, it can't even be sold to next semester students once you are done with it, since their version has already changed enough to make yours obsolete 10 minutes after you bought it.
So for now I'll just swallow my pride, finish the course to get my money's worth, and just hope on the idea that the diploma will look impressive to anyone who doesn't know about the course the day I go looking for a job.
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