Failing is actually succeeding
if it's a part of a diabolical plan
For my first column of this brave new year,
I thought I'd write something about what it means to attend our beloved
university, giving helpful
advice about how the average student (that's
you) can do his or her best here from the perspective of one with four
years and 10
semesters studential experience (that's
me). When I started working on this column, though, I came up with a number
of reasons why I
should do nothing of the kind.
First of all, if you read the Cougar Wednesday,
you've already seen a few columns chock-full of information and suggestions
from the likes
of Brandon Moeller and Matt "The Cat Master"
Caster. Brandon had already been working at the Cougar for some time when
I signed on
back somewhere deep in the mists of time
(or as I like to call it, Spring 2000), and Matthew ... well, Matthew's
the Cat Master. Who am I to
Second, and perhaps most important, advice
from someone who's taking an extra year to graduate, has no plan whatsoever
for his future
and really isn't a very good student (though
a wonderful, courteous, modest human being) probably isn't the best way
to guarantee your
success at any institution of higher learning,
let alone this particular one.
So there I was at five in the morning,
staring at the blank page and blinking cursor, wondering what exactly to
do. Write it anyway? No, that
would be silly. Write a real column about
something political? Nah, that'd take too much time, what with all the
research and reasoned
arguments and satire warning labels. Besides,
as my readers from last year (those who don't burst into profanity at the
mention of my
name) can tell you, that would be antithetical
to the very nature of my writing for The Daily Cougar.
Then I hit upon an idea: first, to write
a ridiculously long introduction (that's the first five paragraphs of this
column), and then, following the
advice of lots of important-type writing
folks, to write what I know. Thusly do I hereby present, with Miltonic
syntax abounding, some advice
for all of you about how not to succeed
in college (with or without really trying).
Let's face it, screwing up in college,
like getting a diploma, is something just about anyone (except your humble
narrator) can do. But
really screwing up -- screwing up at a
caliber usually referred to with vulgar words of a kind with which I will
not offend your sensitive eyes
-- that's a challenge.
By following my simple plan of one foul-up
a day, however, you too can be a total failure at this college thing, like
I nearly was. What was in
the past a complicated process is now
broken down for you into manageable steps, with instructions so simple
that even I can write them.
The first thing you should do (or should
have done, actually), is figure out at which times of the day you're most
aware, and at which you're
essentially a somnambulating zombie. Then
you have two options, and you'll have to do a bit of soul-searching to
figure out which is right
Either you can take that class at 8:30
in the morning and go (when you manage to get up in time) in full zombie
mode (with the exception of
those teaching certain introductory-level
classes who are used to it, professors seem to resent the awakeness-impaired
segment of their
tutelage), or you can sign up for the
5:30 p.m. choice instead, and spend class time (when you convince yourself
to go) thinking about how
much fun you could be having somewhere
else, doing whatever you think is fun (practicing alcoholism for your future
mid-life crisis, for
instance). For a special combo move sure
to devastate your GPA, sign up for both, preferably on the same day.
But I suppose it's too late for that now,
isn't it? So we'll move on to the next step, which you can start at any
point in the semester: not going
to class. I don't mean that you should
never go. This, although it seems like a sure path to success, is in fact
just the opposite, since nine
times out of 10 your professor will figure
you've dropped and removed you from the roll.
Instead, you should go about once every
two weeks, to make sure the professor knows you're still enrolled and haven't
been involved in
some phony accident at the plant. Make
sure he or she takes notice of you by asking questions whenever something
you don't understand
(and which was probably covered in a previous
class) is mentioned. If, by the end of your intro to calculus class, you're
Rechnung what, exactly, this "variable"
thing is that he's always going on about, you're doing just fine.
On the rare occasions you are in class,
make sure to set your cell phone's volume control on its highest level,
preferably with an annoying
ring (those of you with Nokias may wish
to consider "Charleston"). If someone calls you, make sure to answer the
phone and have the
conversation you normally would when others
aren't trying to learn around you. If you can't afford a cell phone, try
either purchasing one of
the fake-but-still-noisy kinds at Wal-Mart
or bringing your Discman to class. If you're really poor, I'll just point
out that every Daily Cougar
comes with a crossword puzzle and loud
rustley pages free in every issue.
"That's great," you're saying to yourselves
(I can hear your thoughts), "but what do I do with the rest of my time,
when I'm not supposed to
be in class?"
An important question, that, and one I'm
glad you asked. You see, even if, whether through lack of willpower or
some fluke of destiny, you
make it to most of your classes, the time
you spend outside of them still has the power to give your academic career
the full Lusitania
It goes without saying (as does almost
everything in this paper, since it's written rather than spoken) that you
should never make the
mistake of getting enough sleep. I've
already pointed out most professors' antipathy to somnolent students, so
that reason is covered, but
there are so many more reasons -- too
many, in fact, for me to list even one more. Sleep, as a prospective incompetent,
is your greatest
enemy. Remember, sleep is the mind killer.
Sleep is the little death that brings total oblivion.
As an added bonus, not sleeping will free
up more time for other activities. Some of these activities are scholastically
and should be avoided at all costs. Some
of them are neither healthful nor harmful (writing columns about nothing
for The Daily Cougar,
for instance, which is a great deal of
fun as well as fiscally rewarding). Some of them, however, are delightfully
Perhaps the most famous of these -- justifiably
so -- is drinking. Really, if you seek total collegiate failure, I can't
stress drinking enough.
Few other substances do so much with so
little (and I'd advocate them, but I've been told of a mystical "line"
where "satire" turns into
"potential lawsuit and federal investigation,"
and that I shouldn't cross it). Cheap beer and vodka particularly have
shown their effects on
generations of college attendees.
Conveniently for you, there is a bar (with
at least one friendly bartender) in the University Center. Assuming you're
21 (they will not sell
alcohol to minors), you can ensure that
you're drunk at virtually any time you're not driving somewhere (at which
point you'd better be
sober, because it's one thing to destroy
your own life, but quite another to destroy someone else's).
That's just the basics. There are many
other ways to mess up the semester. Most of them, however, require certain
people do not have (poisoning professors'
opinions of you by writing columns about what a bad student you are requires
that the Cougar
print your drivel), or are advanced techniques
suitable only for trained professionals (staying sick for months on end
can be dangerous to
However, even with the basic techniques
mentioned above, you should be able to make a complete mess out of at least
Before you go, though, I'd like to at least
approach seriousness for a moment and point out something that may help
make other people
happy, even if it doesn't help you (although
chaos theory would seem to dictate that it might).
Be nice to the UH staff. Those people that
you're finally getting to talk to after standing in line for hours on end,
or waking up for 7 a.m.
appointments with, are most likely not
the ones responsible for whatever's frustrating you. Odds are, in fact,
that they're more frustrated
than you are, since they've dealt with
that line and will continue doing so until they finally get to go home.
So be polite (or, if you can't
manage that, at least civil), and smile.
It's not their fault that they're overworked and underpaid.
I'd tell you whose fault it is, but They
might hurt me.
Salnave, a senior English and history major
who, if you're one of his professors, is actually a wonderful student and
a joy to have in your
class, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.