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College secrets revealed: Pay attention first years

Well, summer is coming to an end. Months of carefree frolicking, staying out all night and working an incredibly boring, meaningless job so that you can have enough spare money to afford midnight pizza deliveries at college are almost over.

It is time to get ready to leave the comfort of your home to become a part of something much bigger, encompassing several miles and thousands of students, although your actual dorm room may be no larger than a big screen TV.

I'm sure many questions are running through your head. You may be thinking, "Will I meet a lot of new and exciting people? And if so, will many of them spit when they talk? Is it true that I have to wear a tie to football games, even though I'm a girl? Which food plan should I get? I'll never get a second chance to make a first impression, but what if I forget to take my shower cap off on move-in day? Is there a club team for Jell-O wrestling?"

Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down for a minute. Because I went through this unavoidable pandemonium last year, I think I can answer some of your questions. First of all, make sure to bring an umbrella because many of the people you meet will spit when they talk or when you talk. Secondly, it is tradition to wear semi-formal dress to football games, but traditions are made to be broken. Or is that rules? The food plan choice is up to you, but you probably do not want to get unlimited meals unless you consume more than an African elephant with a tapeworm at Thanksgiving dinner.

The Jell-O wrestling question takes a little more explaining. (The intensity of any Jell-O question is a lot to handle.) I think we all know that Jell-O wrestling has become increasingly popular since the invention of Jell-O. Before that time, everybody just stood around asking, "What's Jell-O?" Despite the overwhelming popularity of the sport, there is no club team for it at the University. I know this may be disappointing to many of you, but don't run off to see if Virginia Tech will still accept you just yet. The beauty of the clubs at U.Va. is that there is something for everybody, and if there isn't something for you, then it's possible to start your own club. So if you want to start a Jell-O wrestling revolution on Grounds, don't throw in your Jell-O soaked towel. Make it happen.

You might have noticed that in the last paragraph I said, "Grounds" instead of "campus." This is one of the many U.Va. traditions that makes as much sense as a one-legged soccer player but nonetheless defines us.

Everybody at U.Va. also avoids referring to anyone as a "freshman, sophomore," etc. Instead we say, "first year, second year, eighth year, etc." I'm not quite sure what will happen to you if you do say "freshman," but I hear it's worse than most medieval punishments. We must follow these traditions because Thomas Jefferson wants it this way, and he's a very old man now (256), so we should be nice to him.

Now that I've finished answering your crazy questions, I'm going to answer some questions that you probably should have asked but didn't.

"What's that smell?"

You will find when you get to college that everything in the dorms has some kind of funk to it. This often includes your roommate. The key to fighting the various odors is to bring some excellent air freshener. A spray can of air freshener may be the most important piece of equipment you will own at college because it's not easy to live with the smell of ancient Chinese food that you know is buried somewhere in the room but would take a team of archeologists to find. You also may want to find a way to hook an intravenous supply of air freshener up to your roommate.

"What's that penetratingly painful noise?"

It's quite possible that when you ask this question, your roommate will respond, "It's the band Korn." Or if you like Korn, then your roommate will probably be blasting a John Tesh album. The point is that there is a good chance that you will be hearing a lot of music that sounds slightly worse than a dentist's drill. So you should bring earphones in order to a get little bit of quiet or so that your roommate can borrow them and listen to his or her noises of death by him or herself.

"What's that searing pain in my leg?"

Don't think that move-in day will be easy. Instead, think of it as preparation for an apocalyptic scare in which everybody needs to get furniture up several flights of stairs before the end of the world. My best advice: pack the sharper objects, such as pencils and Ginsu knives, at the bottom of your crates because when you're carrying those 50 pound crates or boxes, the mechanical pencils will always find a way to dig into your flesh.

"Why has everybody in my Psyc 101 class never heard of Psyc 101?"

Over the course of this summer, you have probably gotten your schedule for this coming semester. Well, the schedule you've obtained has about as much to do with your actual schedule as a map of Disney World. What I'm trying to say is that everybody's schedules change a lot when they get to school. So if you weren't able to get into "Eating Utensils of the Western World" because it filled up too quickly, there's still a chance you could get into it when you arrive. There are also occasional scheduling errors during which you will find yourself in a class that you didn't think existed, much less was on your schedule. Hang in there; you'll figure it out.

Well, those are my most important pieces of advice for now. If I get a chance some other time, maybe I'll tell you why you should bring every pair of underwear you've ever owned and a laminating machine. Beginning college may make you feel frightened, insecure and apprehensive, but that all changes the second your parents drive away. This can be the most fun you've had in your life, but there's also a minute chance you might learn something. With careful planning and hard work, you can make sure that never happens!


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