Welcome to the wonderful world of post-secondary

Why everything you’ve been told so far is a lie, and what you actually need to know

By Jacey Gibb, Assistant Editor

First off, I’d like to congratulate all of you!

By this point, you’re probably already sick of being coddled and lauded as being a recent addition to the pantheon of those who’ve made it past the purgatory of post-high school and into the realm of post-secondary. Apparently the generations being churned out by the education system these days are going to be some of the most highly educated our country has ever seen—so hang onto that special, unique-as-a-snowflake praise for as long as possible.

I thought I’d get the obligatory pat on the back out of the way at the start, because this coming of age shower of extolment has an expiration date attached to it. After a few weeks of classes, your mood will inevitably transition from eager for achievement to longing for Christmas vacation—I’m here to ensure that you make it that far.

But before we continue, do yourself a favour and mentally drop all of the “useful” tips and tricks you’ve previously eaten up about surviving your first year of post-secondary. Every time I encounter a writing targeted towards freshmen, it’s always full of the exact same points that are supposedly “essential” to having a successful existence in the world beyond grade 12: get eight hours of sleep every night, record all of your lectures so you can transcribe them later, spend at least a bajillion hours a week on homework. Sure, there are grains of reality lurking in these tips, but to be honest, the lists themselves were more than likely constructed by a concerned mom who’s sending her baby away for the first time.

While I’m not exactly a certified post-secondary connoisseur, I have made it to my third year with relative success. Add to that my ability to grow an exuberant amount of facial hair, and I think my credentials make me more than qualified to dish out advice. So sit down, shut up, use that book of college tips as a coaster or something, and get ready some grade-A advice.

First off, the last 18 years (or more, if you took time off to work/travel/find yourself) have been a lie. All those glossy interpretations of post-secondary found in films and television were mostly constructed by people who never went and were simply left to romanticize the idea of what higher education entails. There aren’t any Luke Wilson-style figures enrolled here at Douglas, working through a mid-life crisis and running an Animal House-esque frat house; nor is there a Van Wilder lurking the halls, waiting to take you under his wing and make you his protégé. Most of the students that fill the class rosters here are as boring as you are and will graduate/transfer without leaving behind any kind of legacy.

The solution to this buildup of expectations? Lower ’em. If you’re not expecting every week to be a booze-fuelled panty raid, then you won’t be disappointed when it isn’t.

The next topic we’re going to cover: sleep deprivation. Every student survival guide will tell you how important it is to get a minimum of eight hours of mattress time a night. I can tell you that this request is almost impossible. As much as I’m an advocate for sleep, until they add a few extra hours to the day, you’re going to have to learn to live with less.

“But Jacey, I’m a God damn princess and need my sleep. How can I make this abusive relationship with school work with my needs?”

I’d recommend finding periods throughout the day where it’s appropriate to negate everything else and doze off for a bit. Do you transit to school? Bam, that’s an extra 20-40 minutes of shut eye each day right there. I used to spend the morning commute cramming for the day’s irrelevant case study that I didn’t do, but now I treat my SkyTrain rides like they’re kindergarten nap time. Remember that a few minutes of sleep on the train can prevent an hour of sleep in the classroom.

Classroom etiquette is another huge thing that gets touched on, but is never really explored. Revelation alert: if you spend the whole class texting on your phone or awkwardly perusing Chatroulette on your laptop, you’re not going to learn anything. More importantly, that annoying clicking your fingers make while dancing across your phone’s keypad will make your fellow classmates want to eat your face off. Either save sexting your significant other for when it’s break or buy a touch screen phone and join us in the year 2012.

Being overtly friendly is another post-secondary tip that can sometimes backfire. Attaching yourself to the first classmate you lock eyes with isn’t always the best idea. While it’s pretty difficult to get to know people when you’re in a lecture setting, take the time to scope out likely acquaintances. Maybe they wear a band tee that you could get along with, or maybe they’re not on fire; whatever your standards are for friendship, don’t lower them just because you’re in a new setting. Also, it’s likely that about half of the class will disappear by the time the first exam rolls around, so don’t waste your time on getting to know Johnny-Flakealot.

So now that I’ve disregarded a bunch of what you previously knew about post-secondary, it’s time for some tips that are actually useful.

Start to like the cheap stuff. The days of sipping Stella at parties and leaving 15 per cent tips at restaurants are over—especially if you’ve decided to flee your parents’ basement. You’re about to realize that everything is expensive. There’s a reason that garbage like Kraft Dinner and ramen noodles are synonymous with broke college kids: despite having the nutritional value of cardboard, it’s cheap, easy to make, comes in bulk, and probably has a shelf life of 18 years. The perfect student food.

I also recommend getting really good at partying. Learn to hold your alcohol, don’t become a cancer-advocate whenever someone smokes around you, and learn to interact with strangers without turning into an awkward mess. I know it’s asking a lot, but I can guarantee that years from now, you won’t be looking back on that outstanding Sociology essay you wrote—it’ll be your so-bad-it-was-good debauchery stories that you tell at dinner parties. So get partying while the partying’s good, and you might as well not suck while doing it.

Unfortunately, binge drinking can leave your bank account feeling pretty hungover, so learn to party with the cheap stuff. That part I said about putting Stella behind you? I wasn’t referring to some high school sweetheart. It’s overpriced, not even that good, and is basically considered garbage in Europe—if Europeans don’t want to go near it, then you know it’s awful. Step outside of your suds comfort zone and try some different beers with a lower price tag. Expensive beer won’t taste any better when you’re throwing it up later, so you might as well be cost-effective.

As obvious as it sounds, you should start exploiting the heck out of stuff that’s free. “Blah blah blah, students are always poor, blah blah blah school’s expensive.” Well, I’m here to tell you that money can’t buy you love and that a comfortable amount of stuff in life can come at a cost of zero. Take advantage of these things.

Chances are you enrolled in the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) health and dental plan, either knowingly or you just didn’t know that you could opt out. Not a lot of people know this, but health care isn’t just for bullet wounds and Adderall prescriptions anymore. Douglas’ plan is actually phenomenal and covers things like massages and chiropractor visits. A back injury last spring caused me to visit the acupuncturist at the New West campus and I ended up getting treatment on a temperamental knee while I was at it. Best of all: the six $50 sessions were all covered by my plan.

In the war against things that cost money, the DSU is one of your biggest allies. They’re probably best known as a distributor of free swag, but they also make an effort to have free food days throughout the year. They also have free condoms for students for, you know, sex stuff, which is actually the perfect lead-in to my next point.

I hate to be the one who opens up a can of reality on you eager young folks, but you probably won’t be needing that jumbo pack of condoms that you bought yourself as a “graduation present.” Years of over-the-top college films would lead us to believe that simply attending class will result in receiving a wink and a matching phone number from the opposite sex; in reality, you’ll spend several weeks sitting awkwardly next to a potential love interest, forcing small talk and continuously “forgetting a pen” so you have to borrow one of theirs, until you finally work up the courage to add them on Facebook and find out they’re already in a relationship. Your dream scenario, am I right?

Instead, start looking for someone that you can actually see yourself in a relationship with. Looks are great, but finding someone that you can connect with and don’t want to punch in the face is also important. Going steady with someone is swell because you don’t have to struggle to find a date for those plus-one occasions, you get a regular supply of action, and you get to live in fear over whether or not they’re going to wake up one morning and realize that they can do better than you. The joys of modern romance!

So there you have it folks! Everything I’ve learned over the last two years of my life, summed up in a medium-length word count. You’ll quickly realize that any stress you’ve been feeling about what your days in post-secondary hold for you is mostly unwarranted, so just sit back, relax, and enjoy your stay at Douglas!