All things considered, the Age of Shitty Advice dawned pretty gradually. It began a few days after every high school senior’s D-Day and ended, well, never, considering that my parents still call me up to make sure I’m eating yogurt and doing sit-ups. At Princeton Preview last April, I was already being approached with benign, esoteric, exclamatory bits of guidance: “Never wear your keys on a lanyard! Don’t forget to send your deposit in by May 1st!” Neither of these was very useful to me, as Princeton had just adopted keyless locks for the coming semester and had never even asked for a deposit. It seemed, however, that the advice just kept getting worse with each passing day. And, so those who offered it may be ashamed and those who have not received it may make sure they never do, I present the shittiest advice I’ve gotten—so far—in my freshman year of college:
“Bring a Blender!”
A friend’s dad insisted to me that I would absolutely be a social pariah and suffer from crippling loneliness, if I didn’t invest in a blender for my freshman year. Apparently the way to go was to bribe people into friendships with fresh strawberry-kiwi smoothies. I’m pretty sure now that if I had brought a blender, I would have been baptized with some moniker that I’d spend the next four years hopelessly trying the get rid of: “Blender Girl” (or more likely, “Blender Girl Who Poisoned Me That One Time With Her Attempt at a Home-Made Beverage”).
“Always Keep Your Door Open!”
This would probably have been really good advice—Meeting new people! More friends! More friends to call me “Blender Girl”!—if I lived in any residential college other than Whitman. Here, the doors weigh three thousand pounds and are made of imported gabled ironwood. Propping a garbage can in the doorway gives you three inches of space (decreasing at a rate of .5 in/sec under those aforementioned three thousand pounds), a thin sliver, through which you might converse with friendly wandering freshman—and afterwards, a weirdly bent and warped garbage can. Also, possibly, a red-hot fine from our friends at Fire Safety. Sometimes, someone tries to hop into the room over whatever is acting as a doorstop and the garbage nearly snaps out of place and the poor freshman—a future friend— is nearly crushed under the weight of that three-thousand pound door and his own damn enthusiasm.
Every upperclassman I’ve ever met from Princeton has told me to do OA. An eye-opening and jarring look at nature! More friends! Friendships to last a lifetime! No previous experience necessary! For someone whose daily dose of the great outdoors at home was the ten-second walk from my air-conditioned house to my air-conditioned car, OA was not something that appealed to me. But the testimonials were overwhelming. Apparently, OA was a transformative and magical experience. I’m now convinced that those testimonials were some sort of schadenfreudian If-I-had-to-suffer-you-better-have-to-too deal, not unlike fraternity hazing. I made some great friends on OA, but the common denominator was mutual agony. No one mentioned that the backpack would be taller than me and that I’d be carrying it for six miles each day on rocky uphill terrain. Seriously, guys, a little honesty next time?
“Don’t tell people you go to Princeton!”
Don’t tell people you go to Princeton unless you want them to think you’re a grade-A douchebag. If you’re a girl, don’t tell any guy you’re interested in where you’re going unless you never want to hear from him again. You know what? This is actually possibly the worst advice I’ve ever heard. I’m happy at Princeton (at least, I have been for this last month sans examinations of any kind), and I feel like it’s almost presumptuous to think that everyone stands in awe of an Ivy label. I’m not going to do that dodgy “I go to school in New Jersey”—“Oh no, not Rutgers”—“Nope, not TCNJ either” thing under the probably-false assumption that whomever I’m talking to can’t handle the name of a college.
Moral of the story: sometimes, people are dumb and give you shitty advice. There’s a lot of advice I’m glad I got (“The Street is dead on Fridays; don’t even bother.”), some advice that I guess would be good if it weren’t so nebulous (“Go to office hours! Ask professors interesting things!”), and advice that I really wish I had gotten instead of a shortlist of the best brands of blender (“For an alarm to work, you need to make sure the volume is on.”). I guess in the end, freshman year is something you get through on a steep learning curve, the benefit of retrospect, and a little bitterness towards the sages.