How not to fuck up your college years | Everything you need to know about surviving college

12 min read

In the movies, we observe a college graduate start their farewell speech with, “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, and it is no further from the truth as I am about to do something similar. Since this is my article, I will define college in my terms.


Tomato Tango

College is like a mixer-grinder; a tomato, when put into the mixer-grinder, turns into a paste and then into a gravy, ketchup or soup. Forgive me if I cannot think of any more varieties of items prepared from tomato paste, but the point, what if the tomato did not want to be a sauce? What if the tomato wanted to be a salad? I am sure tomato sauce has many uses, but hey, some people would die for a tomato salad, would they not? Just kidding, no one would.

This is a sort of “I wish I had done this during my time in college” article, much less a self-help one. Everything you are about to read is a message to my younger self, the confused and hedonist kid. Although his energy and courage were commendable, which surely has helped in various spheres of his life. He was a little too careless, a little impulsive and far too naïve.

Before we begin, let me establish me not knowing much relative to what I need to know and that I am telling people what to do is a little presumptuous but I believe that a lot of young people out there in self-damage mode might find a few things to step out of that negative spiral.

This knowledge might come handy to anyone in their initial college years, feeling overwhelmed with all the options and many paths that lay in front of them. This additionally goes out to all those who are in their senior years, possibly worn out and on the verge of smashing that fire alarm next to the dean’s office.


If you have not figured it out by now, the tomato is you. If you did, you get a free tomato salad, just let me know in the comments below. Anyway, unlike tomatoes, which after being turned into a sauce cannot return to being a tomato and make itself turn into a salad, human beings can. Meaning that if you are in a college studying the subject, you never wanted to be studying, now is the time, jump out of that mixer-grinder before it turns you into shreds trying to make ketchup out of you. Right now! Call mom, dad, uncle, Hagrid, whoever it is. Call them and inform them you do not want to be a tomato sauce.



A close friend of mine, (let’s call him Gunther for this article’s sake) dropped out of an engineering college after studying for five years, to start learning Zoology. He never performed as he had expected he would during his engineering college years and right now he is topping his class in Zoology and he is filled with more vigour than he was when he was studying engineering.

Mind you, this is not the cliched “Three Idiots” kind of story where the guy drops his college and goes on to pursue wildlife photography, even though it is accurate on so many levels. Gunther was a fairly bright kid in the class when he was in school yet somehow, it seemed that engineering just wasn’t cut out for him or vice versa.

Perhaps it is too late. Perhaps you are already a tomato paste and you are dragging your flowing ass to the class every day. Your breath smells of cheap rum and your eyes are drooping and there are many reasons you have droopy eyes. It might be drugs, it could be because of contemplating about your existence till 3 am, it could be from monitoring your kleptomaniac neighbours or thinking about how the number of subject backs you have is about to match up your age, or it could be the late-night parties, or it could be gaming.

You sit down to write your notes and your hands go about doodling the bat symbol, for you are the hero this college deserves but not the one it needs right now. So you doze off and have the professor shout into your ears.

“Get the hell out of my class,” he says.

You collect your blanket and mattress and drag your ass back to your room where you lie down and binge-watch “F.R.I.E.N.D.S” until midnight.

The Way We Learn

When Dwight Eisenhower was a child, his mother would often find him flipping through the military history books. Books were his appetite, more specifically, the ones that had to do with the Army. He would soon grow up to become the American Army General and attain the position of a five-star general serving as the Supreme Commander of Allied Expeditionary Force of Europe during World War II. He would often keep the copious amount of notes and books with himself most of the time, that would allow him to make big decisions and plan invasions during World War II.

During 1953, Eisenhower, the war hero of America became its President. Surprisingly, during his presidency, he could not diffuse the Cold War, failed to provide leadership in Civil Rights and infuriated other countries.

The people’s hero could not last long and was overthrown after two terms by Lyndon Johnson. After a few years, Lyndon Johnson suffered the same fate as that of Eisenhower and was soon replaced by John F. Kennedy.

It is indeed a concerning question, how a well-rounded people’s person such as Eisenhower could not perform as was expected of him? and why did his successor suffer the same fate?

When Eisenhower became the president of America, he started using a lot of press conferences as was done by the president before him, Harry Truman. He believed that press conferences would help him maintain a good relationship with the media as well as the people of his country.

During his years in the military days, he made sure that all the questions from the press were presented to him in writing half an hour before the conference started. And he nailed it. However, during his presidency, he didn’t do that and went on to face the interview like his previous predecessors D. Roosevelt and H. Truman without any notes. His predecessors were excellent listeners but he was not, and yet he chose to follow their footsteps.

The questions that were asked by the journalists went above his head. As for his successor, Lyndon Johnson destroyed his presidency by not knowing that he was a listener.

Eisenhower was a reader and he failed to realise that.

John F. Kennedy, who is one of the much-acclaimed presidents of the United States of America knew that he was a reader and would often be found assembled with a group of brilliant writers.

It is crucial to understand one’s strengths and how one learns things.

Recently, my friend Gunther told me, ” I guess kids should go to college when they are 23 years old, they are more mature and know what is important.”

As far as I recall, he was a listener. Although he had a deep passion for science, engineering lectures are seldom very interesting. I say seldom because there are in fact, lecturers who make double integrations and Fourier series sound like Shakespeare but a majority of them lull you to sleep. In this scenario, if one does not know how they can perform well and what kind of a learner they are, it is gonna cost you – your life. When he studies Zoology, he finds those lectures interesting because he learns by listening.

The Blame Train

It could again be something entirely different. You might love your course but you wish that the teacher did not have an accent that could cause you momentary amnesia, you feel that the faculty members have a grudge against you and no matter how much good an answer you write; they find a way to make you feel like you did not prepare enough. You are tired of your parents constantly calling you and your teachers, constantly enquiring about your performance and you wish you didn’t have so many expectations you had to live to. You love your subject, but all this pressure makes you want to bunk your class and chug on that bottle of vodka.

You hate this. Every fibre in your body wants to leave this place, but you know that once you do, this place will cling like a shadow. Four years and a few more years added. It’s like you have been here all your life.

During the 18th century, the mortality rates of women during childbirth was rapidly rising and there was turmoil in the medical community. They tried to find the cause by coming up with theories, research and various solutions, all of which, were in vain. Until one of the doctors decided to revisit the solution that one of their colleague, Dr Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. had suggested thirty years ago – to wash their hands. The medical community ridiculed his claim as they believed transferring disease was impossible for the good medical hands.

They decided to sterilize their equipment and wash their hands before childbirth and surprisingly enough, the mortality rates of women went down.
Sometimes the cause of your troubles and sorrows is you. You are your problem.

You develop addictions. Even if you quit something, you’ll get addicted to another. It’s like you’re petting a monkey inside you that only just wants to get his fix. Sometimes you panic and it feels like the world has ended. Sometimes you feel you have always been so alone and lame. As the world keeps on slapping you in the butt to remind you to grow up then and again, you wonder if you were better off dead.

You sleep at 5 am and wake up at 8 am the same day and have to fight the biggest fight of your life. Do I ditch this class or do I not? It should always be not to ditch this class but half the time; It is always the contrary. Then the only way you can feel better is to yell, “Thhhuuuugggg Liiiffeee” and start crushing those herbs or pour some old monk down your sour gut. You have attended classes with no breakfast, without brushing, without changing for weeks, high, drunk, heartbroken, half asleep and even after all that, you are still here.

You have to realise that when you keep looking for the cause of your problems outside, you tend to overlook yourself. You have to take accountability for your actions. The only person getting in between you and where you want to be is you. Get out of your own way.

The adults would never understand us; we are a bunch of misfits in their eyes. We know that they could never feel the way we feel even if they tell us they have walked in our shoes during their time. This is the age to be young, to be stupid, to be brave and to be wild. However, don’t ignore that slight little voice that whispers in your ears when you are escaping from your problems. That slight nudge in your shoulders when you are cutting the herbs in your assignment paper, “Do not forget what you are here for?”

Understand who you are, not what someone tells you who you are.

We love to have people tell us what is right for us, what is wrong for us, even though we know the exact answer we need. There’s a certain calmness we feel when someone tells us what we must and how we must do. Peer pressure is so ninja, you might not even realize being caught up in it. There is no such thing as peer pressure; it is just ‘your turn’. Puff, puff, pass right? You must explore your boundaries, have fun because if you don’t have fun in college, there’s no way you will have fun when you are working and married and have to take your children to school. Have fun but do not forget what you are here for.

We can teach ourselves to be interested in something.

I know that your professors do not get the concept themselves and your grades would have been a whole better if they did not have that weird accent. Instead of being a grammar nazi and scrolling through your Instagram, write your god-damned notes. Please write those notes, no matter what and show up. Please show up for yourself and not for anyone else. No, you do not need an extra ten minutes of sleep. No, you need not wait until your hangover gets over. No, you need not finish that DOTA match, no matter how tempting it might be. No, you need not unwind after that uncomfortable moment you had with your crush. You are here for yourself and that matters. Get up. Dress up. Show up.

Treasure your friendships with life.

The good ones will want the best for you and would not want you to sacrifice anything to validate your friendship for them. The good ones wake you up if they wake up early, even though you should not depend. The good ones will remind you to take care of your health and focus on the bright side even though they look fragile and depressed themselves. The good ones will not set conditions on your friendship. Their support is valuable as is their criticism. Do not expect to find a good friend. Be one.

More often than not, we act like feeders of somebody’s care and affection and treat them like shit. We boast in our social media about how unconditional love is the destination to reach out for and pass around a few stolen lines from quotes about unrequited love from Pinterest and Tumblr, but we turn a blind eye towards the ones who shower us with endless love and compassion every day. No, I am not talking about any spooky father figure up in the heavens; I am talking about real human beings who you take for granted and treat them like pieces of shit. Look around, you may never have noticed. Be grateful.

Mind over Mattress.

The most important decision of your life is to get out of your bed. In video games, the boss villain shows up at the end of all those time-consuming levels. However, in life, the boss villain shows up at the start of the day and his name is “get up early”. I know, I know it does not sound like that much of work but sometimes it is harder than you might think and no amount of motivation will get you moving. However, if you can wake up two hours before your first class, you have slain the boss villain and you keep the rock rolling throughout the day. Break up with your bed the first thing in the morning and focus on the most important tasks of your day and do not come back to it until the end of the day.

You are not your thoughts.

Remember that classic dialogue delivered by Rachel in The Dark Knight series which threw away the Batman himself?

“It is not who you are underneath; it is what you do that defines you.”

Alternatively, rephrasing it in simple terms, “you are not what you think you will do, you are what you do.”

Words speak louder than thoughts, but actions speak louder than words. So action is the real deal. Everything you think you do, everything you think you are, everything you think you aspire to be is all bullshit. Two things are free of cost that make you feel you matter in this world, masturbation and talking.

Everything you say you will do, everything you say that you are, everything you say what you aspire to be, is again, bullshit. However, everything you do is who you are, and defines the true nature of your significance.

I love to think. If it came down to it, I would spend weeks just thinking about the beauty of the future and the wonderful memories of the past. Ah, how relaxing it is to spend all your time relaxing on the bed, thinking, wishing, wanting.

However, as often as it may seem, we soon become sick and tired of all the pleasant memories and suddenly it is time for those gut-wrenching awful memories that choke us down to the pit. Now even if you want to get rid of it all, you’re addicted to dreaming, thinking, wishing, hoping, and it becomes one hell of a task to climb your way back. Then we want something to distract us, our handy dandy smartphones. The addiction to quick fixes is a common phenomenon, but our generation overdoes it. Please welcome, “Instant Gratification”.

Young Sushil Kumar entered the wrestling arena at age 14 with the will to become the best wrestler in the world. Little did he know, things weren’t as simple as he had expected to be. For several days, he was matched with bigger and better wrestlers and they would pin him down to the point of exhaustion. The sheer will which brought him into the arena would break him down when he found himself, clutched between the inner thigh and the biceps of his opponent. He struggled to find his breath and kicked hard in the air, all of which failed and found himself passing out on the mattress.

After asking his coach about how he should get out of such a submission, he got a surprising answer – one should not try to get out of the submission, one should try to find some space. He was suddenly exposed to the strategy that was used by the athletes of all sports worldwide, “The Process”.

When one tries to struggle to come out of the submission, they exhaust their energy, strength and soon enough – they pass out. Firstly, you don’t panic because you want to conserve your energy. The trick isn’t to get out of the submission, the trick is to create a little space by moving your neck or putting a hand or an arm between, or turning to the side – so that there is room to breathe. Then you’ll slowly try to get to your side and find some leverage. From that point, you can slowly start to get out of the hold – trap a leg, buck with hips, grab an arm.

We need simpler goals. Easy and better. Instead of cleaning the entire building, focus on making your bed and then wipe the floor. The snowball effect will cause you to jump on to the other tasks, and soon, you will have the whole building clean. Have one big task to complete every day. Just one. Nothing more.

Hacks I have learned:

  1. Do not download notes from the internet, collect class materials. You can reinforce your learning with the Internet, but your class notes should be the pillar study material.
  2. Most students fail because they are non-existent to the teacher. They never ask questions; they never show up in their chamber; they do not come to class and they are transparent. Do not be transparent; make your existence noticed to the teacher. Not as a bad one though.
  3. Nothing’s better than your notes. This was the hardest for me to accept, but if you could have your notes, you will almost definitely perform well. Unless you do not understand your handwriting.
  4. Lecture over leisure. Ditch your friends for the time being and focus on the lecture; you can kiss their butts after class.
  5. If you are a math or an engineering student, your calculator is your wand. Be careful about which one you buy and know how to use it.

Sushil Kumar bagged one bronze and one silver medal for wrestling in Beijing 2008 Olympics. In Commonwealth Games 2010, he beat an opponent in just nine seconds and won five gold medals.

Being trapped is just a position, not a fate.

2 thoughts on “How not to fuck up your college years | Everything you need to know about surviving college

  1. I just kept on reading this. Thankyou for such a beautiful article. It will help me a lot through my college days. Before starting college I wasb just searching the book for some inspiration but what I didn’t get there is something that’s here. Keep writing bro, you just inspired one junior of yours.

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