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Keeping the enthusiasm

IT DOESN'T get any better than first year. The enthusiasm. The new scenery. The new people. And best of all, no parents. It just doesn't get any more exciting. In just two years that enthusiasm will be gone; you'll be excited to get back to school and see your friends, but it's just not the same. Here are some tips to help prevent you from becoming a jaded upperclassman.

Ask any older friends you have for advice on courses. You always will find studying comes much more naturally when you are interested in a course. You'll also find that the professor makes all the difference. Resist the temptation to choose courses based solely on their descriptions. You have enough mandatory courses that will bore you thoroughly, so put in the extra effort to ask around and find the most interesting classes.

Some people say that there is no such thing as a stupid question. Unfortunately, they are lying. Stupid questions include, but are not limited to, questions asked during class about grades, grading scales, test dates (look at the syllabus), or anything that gives away the fact that you didn't do the reading. Keep your stupid questions to yourself. If you can't do that, talk to the teacher privately after class or via email. Even better, find one kid in the class who you don't know or care to know and ask him. That way, your secret is safe: Only he will know what an idiot you are, so you'll avoid embarrassing yourself in front of the whole class.

Professors do, however, thoroughly enjoy students who ask intelligent questions. Asking a question doesn't necessarily involve being a genius, or even doing the reading; it just requires a bit of common sense. Moreover, you will find that just a few intelligent questions will get you in the good graces of most professors and they will then write you recommendations, talk to you during office hours, and even answer your stupid questions about grades.

Setting expectations is always important and something that the University does poorly. Don't be surprised when you go into a test and you see someone cheat, because it's going to happen. And don't be surprised when you forget your ID and can't get into the AFC without paying, because your word -- or that of your friend with their ID -- isn't enough.

You might be given a take-home exam, but don't expect much more than that. The honor system runs buffet-style -- the administration selects when and where to employ it based on what's convenient. Similarly, you've probably heard about "student self-governance" by now. Take this with a grain of salt too. The administration has a habit of forgetting those words when something students care about is on the line.

As obvious as this may sound, try to get along with your suite/hall mates. It may seem like common sense, and most people don't get in any fights for the first couple of weeks, but I don't know anyone who didn't have at least one or two "dramas" in their suite or hall. Just remember that you're not on "Survivor" and you can't vote anyone off the hall.

That being said, as long as it's not you that's fighting, it's bound to be funny. For example, a war of sorts erupted in my suite first year when my roommate became sure that one of our suitemates had taken his shoes. Retaliation and a bitter battle ensued. Needless to say, his shoes turned up under a pile of my laundry a month later. Although the missing shoes incident was inadvertent, you could do well to manufacture some strife. Hide their shoes, wallet or anything else that's bound to get them upset; then, grab a camcorder and watch the saga unfold -- you may initially think that this is cruel and manipulative, but just make believe that you're producing an episode of "The Real World."

The one thing that I did much better during my second year was scheduling. You will stay up to play "Goldeneye." You will stay up to talk to that cute girl in the suite above you. You will stay up watching "Real World" marathons. In fact, you will probably stay up for just about any reason. This is all the more reason to attempt to fight the urge and set some sort of schedule. It doesn't have to be rigid, but having some sort of sleep schedule will make your life much easier and will prevent a lot of strange sicknesses.

(Nick Lawler is a rising third-year College student.)