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In which John gives advice to incoming college students on the topics of academics, personal relationships, drinking, road trips, and more.


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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank, it's question Tuesday (on Wednesday), the day that I answer real questions from real nerdfighters.

Hank, yesterday I sent out a tweet asking nerdfighters if they had any questions and they answered en masse, "Do you have any advice for nerdfighters starting their first year in college?" "I need advice about college!" "Any advice for kids starting college?" "What's the best way to get brain matter off my bludgeoning stick without leaving any DNA behind?" Right, so most of them were about college. Having both attended college and watched the movie "Animal House," I feel like college is one of my fields of expertise. And so far as I can tell there are five facets of the collegiate experience: academics, interpersonal relationships, binge drinking, road trips, and living on your own.

Alright, so let's take these in order. Number one, academics. I am going to tell you a secret.

Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you. In fact I would argue that it is not that difficult to skate by at most colleges.

That said, it turns out to be a huge mistake to ignore the academic facets of college. Partly because the point of life is to be able to engage as deeply as possible with the miracle of human consciousness and partly because there will come a day when you are thirty-five years old and you are writing a check every single month to pay off your student loans and it will be very helpful to you if you feel like that money bought something. Because my friends I am here to tell you that you do not have to be a college student to play beer pong.

So, study. And the only other piece of academic advice I'd give is to study broadly. I think it's really valuable to take classes in lots of different departments because you will be surprised how the classes you don't think you're interested in end up shaping your life.

For example, although I'm not a sciencey person, I took several biology classes in college, including one called AIDS, Ebola, and Emerging Viruses, and it is as a direct result of that class that today I am a hypochondriac. Number two, interpersonal relationships. So most people, when they start college, they're pretty worried about making friends.

So here's some advice: first, be nice to everyone, uh, also, just be calm. Like I don't know if this is true for anyone else but when I get into social situations where I feel uncomfortable I can be a little bit like "[crazy noise] Hello hello I'm John Green [crazy noise] I wanna be friends I wanna be friends I wanna be friends I can't hide it I can't hide it oh my God I wanna be friends with you so bad." And, uh, that's scary for people. Uh, a couple other things: never refer to kissing as "scoring," never refer to the ladies as "the ladies," and, uh, try not to pee or throw up on anyone else or their belongings.

I realize that's pretty base-level advice for those of us who are potty trained but you would be astonished how many people have difficulty following that advice during college. Which brings me to binge drinking. Sometimes it seems like there's only two kinds of college students these days, those who binge drink with alarming frequency and those who define themselves primarily in opposition to that binge drinking.

I would submit that neither of these worldviews is particularly attractive. I mean no one likes holier-than-thou judgmentalists but on the other hand no one likes to be vomited upon. (That's not true, John). Well it should be.

But let me encourage all college students to embrace identities that don't involve alcohol. Like, just join some clubs or something, there's so many clubs in college. That's something else I would say.

Join clubs! But not just one club. People who belong to just one club are super annoying.

Because they'll never shut up about their one club, like it's the only club that matters, like the only place that needs to be free is Tibet. I love you Tibet, it's nothing personal, I just also love Burma. Fourth: road trips.

Take them. And lastly, living on your own, except not really because you don't have to clean the toilets. I'm not gonna tell you that life in college is easy or give you any of the lies about how it'll be the best years of your life which it won't unless you have a terrible terrible life.

But the great thing about college is that it creates this weird in-between space where you're no longer a child but you also don't have to do a lot of the annoying things about being an adult, like cleaning your own toilets. Well, you do if you don't have a dorm room. Sorry for people who don't have dorm rooms, because now I'm just taunting you.

But this in-between space gives you, for the first time in your life, time, to pick what you wanna do. So you can read Foucault and talk about Foucault with some of the smartest people you'll ever meet. And you can also skip a biology test to drive to the Grand Canyon with a girl you met the day before [text across screen: although she will eventually dump you].

Don't let the freedom of that moment get by you. So that's my--oh, and one other thing. Don't get too excited about "The Fountainhead." Hank, I'll see you on Friday.