Wednesday, June 06, 2007


A few weeks ago, in the Gwinnett section of the AJC, a graduating senior from UGA offered a column of her advice to graduating high school seniors. This proved two things: 1) the high school-college transition is about the same level of "complete paradigm shift" no matter where you're leaving from or going to, and 2) people from UGA actually can do at least a few things well. I have my own spin on this, in part inspired by the recent high school graduation of many of my friends, and in part by things I miss from back in the States.

To begin, enjoy your high school graduation. Yeah, I know that's a couple weeks late (but hopefully not too many dollars short)--maybe make some internal conversions to past tense or something. Two years ago at this time of year, I started to run out of sheet cake from my own graduation... hopefully you still have some left. This is almost certainly the biggest event of your life to this point. Aside from your birth (which I'll wager you don't remember too well) and perhaps a handful of religiously significant occasions, this is the one time where so much attention has been focused on you. High party concentration, lots of generous relatives, and the chance to see all those people one last time is sure to be memorable.

Advice for graduating seniors regarding the summer:

First and foremost, appreciate your hometown. You know that "barely a step above ghetto" movie theater downtown? The one where at any given time for the past five years, you had a decent shot of knowing at least somebody working there; the same one where sneaking into movies wasn't even worth the challenge because it was so easy? As strange as it sounds, you're going to miss it. Because, wait, that was also the place where you had your first real date. The place where your friend famously smuggled in a pound bag of ginger snaps and a quart of milk. Heck, for its sort of crapped out condition now, you remember when it was built when you were just a kid.

You also, of course, know that Steak and Shake right next door to it; the only place in miles (besides any one of seven Waffle Houses) that you can get any food after your 9:30 movie finishes; the one where you actually started to get to know the waitress because it seemed there were only ever two people working there at midnight. Remember that Steak and Shake well.

Maybe you've taken an interest in local politics, maybe not. Maybe you use your county parks, and maybe you don't. Maybe you care about local events, new businesses, fairs, and hometown doings, and maybe you couldn't care less. Chances are, though, your little corner of the world means at least something to you, and you might be surprised at how much you miss it in the fall.

Appreciate your car, too. As a graduating high school senior, there's a good chance that you at least have access to a car. By "have access to" I don't necessarily mean your name is on the title. You may or may not be the primary driver. But to get to any given place at any given time, there's at least a decent chance you can procure some manner of motor vehicle. That's not necessarily going to be the case in college. On some campuses, parking is so abundant, affordable, and convenient that there's practically no reason not to bring your car. At others--my own Georgia Institute of Technology among them--it's damn expensive to get a space that might be a half mile walk from your dorm room anyway.

Therefore, the corollary to "appreciate your car" becomes "get used to walking." Things are surprisingly far away when you start having to hoof it over there on your own. Oh, sure, you can rely on your college's bus/shuttle/trolley/generalized people mover system, but it turns out that one Immutable Law of College is your college's public transportation is never effective. Maybe it's inefficient, maybe it doesn't go the places you need it to, maybe it's overcrowded, maybe it's on the unsanitary side. Probably, it's some combination of the above to which any given college student can add his own bdelygmia.

This summer, watch what you eat. Dietarily, I recommend eating less popcorn and fewer Pop-Tarts, cutting back on macaroni and cheese by at least half, and avoiding ramen entirely. No, this blog hasn't turned into Health Food Lovers Anonymous. But you will eat more of those foods in college than you ever thought possible. "Wait, Easy Mac and ramen, that's a total college kid stereotype!" Well, yes, it is. It also happens to be entirely true. The girl who wrote the article in the AJC suggests "Eat your mom's cooking. You will miss it. A lot." That's excellent advice too.

While you're busy eating your mom's cooking, do as little as possible this summer. Okay, I don't actually mean that. A better phrasing might be "do as little as possible that you don't want to do." Specifically, don't be in any sort of hurry to get a job. If you genuinely like working, sure, keep your job. If financially you need it to support your Out of State habit, that's acceptable. But between summer internships, summer classes, study abroad programs, and finding yourself by backpacking from Dar es Salaam to Nairobi, you're going to be awfully busy during your college summers. After you graduate from college, let's face it, there's not going to be any summer discretionary time anyway.

Finally, have fun preparing for college. Take advantage of any parental offers to buy anything for you, whether it be dorm furnishings, food, clothing, books, or whatever. As that AJC article pointed out, this is going to be the last time until your wedding that your parents are going to be so willing to spend money on you. And that's probably a long way away.

Now a few things not be to be so nostalgic about:

Forget high school sports. Maybe not entirely--it can be a lot of fun to go back and see a football game. If you went to a Shiloh-style high school, you can relive the good old days of having about a 3 in 4 chance of watching your team lose. You're probably thinking "but I like high school football! I always had fun there." Probably. Once you've been to a college football game, though, this will make perfect sense. From the scent of frat-boy flasks being broken out in the first quarter to their drunken dates asking you what inning it is; from screaming your lungs out with friends to "instant social program" with the residents; from devastating defeats to thrilling last-minute comebacks, there are reasons why the football game is the premier college entertainment. And aside from trying to predict whether your team will lose by four or five touchdowns, high school football doesn't hold a candle to it.

Bid a good riddance to high school drama. (This isn't about theatrical productions, but those are probably better in college than in high school too.) Oh, that's not to say that drama doesn't exist in college--quite the contrary. It's just better drama. Often, high school drama isn't all that far removed from "Do you like me? Check yes or no." College drama, on the other hand, isn't too far removed from that guy you've known since he was 13 getting married. Of all the things to leave behind from high school, being that 15 year old emo kid who spends the night with friends talking about which girls you love and how you;re never going to get any of them... that's a good one to forget.

In the fall, look forward to a sort of companion piece to this one, which will be a discussion of what to do once you're actually in college. For now, enjoy the summer... you'll miss them.

Currently listening: "Jenny Was a Friend of Mine," the Killers


Andrew said...

Gotta say, Ivan and the Ginger Snaps might be a good band name. I'm going to rework my blog today. Wish me luck.

Matt Pavlovich said...

Quite true. Among other good band names recently encountered: Logical Phobia; Retroactive Champagne; Further Consideration.

Good luck with the blog revamp. I'll promote it to whatever degree I'm able.