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"Having taken a few classes at the university this year, I have glimpsed our future. And all I can say is...go back."
--Diane Court, "Say Anything"
Welcome, prospective members of the class of 2003, to Harvard's annual pre-frosh weekend. Over the course of the next three days, you will be inundated with advice regarding how best to decide where to attend school. What no one will tell you is that regardless of what you decide, come next September, the quality of your life is going to experience a precipitous decline.
At the time I was enrolled, I must confess that I was no fan of high school. Many of my classmates drove me nuts, much of the work was mind-numbing, and my inclinations towards independence sometimes chaffed against parental supervision. But what I didn't realize then, and what I have come to believe now, is that life only gets worse. Sure, college comes with its fair share of perks, but it also delivers a remarkably robust dose of crap. All things considered, high school, especially that second semester of senior year, is the top of the hill.
So, in the spirit of avuncular guidance that has descended on this campus, I offer my counsel--not on how to get the most out of pre-frosh weekend, but rather how to suck the marrow out of high school's final days. When you go back home, take time to appreciate:
Your schedule.Everyday, school starts at the same time, and it ends at the same time. In between the familiar bookends of the opening and closing bells, enjoy the serene repose of homerooms, lunch hours and free blocks.
Your teachers. Never again will it be so easy to exploit the favoritism of your instructors. At College the best relationship you can hope for lies somewhere between outright hostility and cool indifference. If Mr. Johnson wants to give you a hug after you've aced his calculus quiz, don't report him. Lap up the warmth.
Your grades. At this point your reputation is probably such that you could hand in your final history paper in haiku and still get an "A." Five, seven, five. Good luck.
Your extracurricular dominance. You were the only kid who consistently showed up to lay out the newspaper. That feat of journalistic genius earned you the position of "Editor-in-Chief." You may be a media mogul now, but next year you'll be covering zoning debates at the local city council. It'll be a while before "in-Chief" follows anything in your title, so enjoy it while you can.
Sports banquets. Whether they're at a local restaurant or catered in your high school gym, nothing beats these festivals of self-congratulation. With the coveted "Most Improved" and "Coach's Choice" awards up for grabs, on banquet night, anyone can come out a winner.
Yearbooks. These are the times to remember, and thankfully some perky girl from your class, her perky staff and a bitter middle-aged adviser have been working all year to preserve your fondest moments.
Your privacy. You've had your own room for most of your life. Next year you'll be sleeping three feet from your snoring, grunting roommate. If you're lucky, there will also be a snoring, grunting significant other, and maybe even some fur-lined handcuffs. Get ready to call "Loveline" and complain.
Your mother's cooking. Nothing beats Mom's homemade brisket and noodle kugel--or her honey-roasted ham, as the case may be.
Your laundry room. If there's one in your house, savor every wash. Soon you'll be trekking three miles through the snow just so you can get that pizza grease stain out of your khakis before throwing them in the industrial dryer that will shrink them beyond all recognition.
Your television. Watch as much TV as you can. I recommend re-runs of "The Cosby Show," "The Jeffersons," "Boy Meets World," and "Behind the Music." Next year you won't have time to enjoy such gems of the small screen and late at night, you'll find yourself missing the warm buzz of that cathode tube.
Your car. If you've got one, drive it everywhere. Having to rely on public transportation is like having to depend on Viagra. When you're in the mood to do something, it's no fun waiting for the train to pull up to the station. At home you can just hop in the driver's seat, pop on the radio and go.
Weekends. In college, given the absence of the aforementioned formal scholastic schedule, the weekends can sometimes blend into the rest of the week. There's no respect for the sanctity of the Lord's days, and instead of watching the third round of the Buick Open, you may actually find yourself being productive. So, while you still have the choice, do nothing on the weekends. "Lounge, lounge, lounge," should be your mantra.
The local beach, golf course or stadium. Every town has an idyllic spot where the youngsters go to commune with nature and break the law. In the next two months, you should litter yours with more bottle caps than Bert would know what to do with.
Your local diner/coffee shop. You've been there drunk, sober and every state in between. There's nothing quite like the feel of a Grand Slam breakfast on top of a stomach full of beer. Cherish your last few visits to your favorite haunt.
Last, but not least, your friends. If you're considering a school like Harvard, chances are you'll never be around normal people again. Talk to your friends, date your friends, if you have the opportunity, pick out an attractive one and propose marriage. The next few months constitute your last chance for healthy interpersonal interaction. Make the most of them.
I realize that much of this disquisition must sound like hollow nostalgia. And I'm sure that many of you are chomping at the bit, anxious to experience college living. You'll get that chance soon enough. But, in the meantime, if you find yourself feeling restless, remember: The grass isn't always greener. For instance, here at Harvard, it's teal. Noah D. Oppenheim '00 is a social studies concentrator in Adams House. His column appears on alternate Fridays.
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