“Try Lots of Things in College” and Other Words of Wisdom





Sunday’s New York Times opinion section features short letters from adults to college students, in which the authors pretend they’re the sages behind “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen).” It’s teased as “Advice for freshmen from the people who actually grade their papers and lead their class discussions.” Which is really enticing for an 18-year-old, I bet! Some of their tips are cute. Fewer are insightful. But most of them are just Ph.D.s flaunting their wit. Below we pair their wisdom with some Runnin’ Scared originals.

Don’t know what classical music is all about? That’s bad. Don’t know who Lady Gaga is? That’s worse.

If you eat in the dining hall, always leave yourself ten minutes to use the bathroom before class. No one likes the kid who conspicuously misses ten minutes of class.

College is also a chance to learn new things about yourself.

Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you don’t.

Chances are, if you are taking the time to read this advice, you already have the quality necessary to undertake the intellectual challenges of a college education — a seriousness of purpose.

If you read the New York Times, smart girls will sleep with your roommate.

Explore the town you’re living in.

Explore the townies, too. They laugh at you more than you laugh at them.

In Virginia Woolf’s novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” characters are troubled and traumatized by their inability to maintain a proper “sense of proportion”; ordinary tasks — life itself, for one of the characters — become outsized and unmanageable.

This dude is a nerd.

Most important: research experience shows you how knowledge is produced.

But only if the job is paid.

Start by scheduling a few Internet-free hours each day, with your phone turned off.

So as to make sure you really have no friends.

(And remember, you’ll get more out of reading Derrida on Plato if you read Plato first.)

If you’re going to watch The Wire from the beginning, buy snacks every five episodes.

When you leave your room for class, leave the laptop behind.

The midterm is hard, the final is easy and you don’t have to do the reading.

Relax and enjoy the ride.

But trust me on the sunscreen.