How to Make a Bad Impression
It’s almost two months into the new school year, so by now we’ve probably all had our fair share of good and bad first impressions. Unfortunately, with class sizes over 1,500 students, combined with other class years and professors, the social ordeal that is meeting new people at Harvard never ends. So what do you say after you introduce yourself with your name, dorm/House, year, and concentration? More importantly, what do you not do?
At a Party
It’s a Saturday night and you’re ready to unwind after a crazy week of midterms and psets. You’ve made plans to meet some friends, and then hit the quad to dance your problems away. Now comes the real question: how much do you have to drink? Harvard’s Alcohol Proof would of course tell you that your optimal buzz is reached with a whopping BAC of zero (argument being, who needs alcohol to have fun?), but in case you decide to raise that BAC up by a few points, just remember that puking on the dance floor isn't particularly a turn on. Worse yet, you don't want to be known as the kid who drank so much that you needed a visit from our friends at HUPD/Mt. Auburn. You definitely won’t remember that night, but everyone who saw you getting lifted into the ambulance will.
In your House/Dorm
Everyone always talks about how you get to know people really well when you live in close quarters with them. Naturally, this puts a lot of pressure on your roommates’ and entryway mates’ first impressions of you. Getting locked out of your dorm post shower, phoneless, dripping all over the hallway floor, and running into your hallway crush (or anyone for that matter) is probably your worst nightmare. You might be reading this and thinking, ‘This will never be me’ or ‘I have an ensuite bathroom - I'm immune,’ but we're here to tell you that you're wrong. It’s inevitable that this will happen to you at some point during your four years at Harvard, so listen up. When it does happen, we’d recommend perusing the hallways of your dorm fake laughing at yourself (because we all know you're dying inside) while you look for someone in your building to call HUPD for you. Definitely do not leave the building, and try not to wander around knocking on the doors of entryway-mates of the opposite gender. Most importantly, don’t drop your towel.
In the D-halls
If you’re a freshman, going into the Berg alone can be an intimidating concept. You get your tray, load up with food, and don’t see anyone you know in the lunch lines. Walking out to the tables, you see a familiar face, but you don’t remember his name, or how you know him, and it's just too late in the year to ask. Do you approach him? Wave? Pretend you didn't see him?
Do not do what we’ve all done and address him by what you think his name might be. Odds are, you’re going to be wrong, and will go on to realize that you don’t know this person after all. But at that point, you’re getting confused looks and have to explain why you thought you knew him and why you thought his name was Chris (some guy you sat next to at breakfast two weeks ago?). You’ll suffer through an awkward meal and by the end, you’ll just wish you never bump into not-Chris again.
Other Recipes for a D-hall Disaster:
Trying to eat spaghetti with meat sauce while wearing a white shirt. Your new friends will be more preoccupied watching the stains accumulate across your clothing than in listening to your side of the generic conversation.
Dropping your tray full of food. There’s always at least one kid to do it every semester…
Losing in an “odds are” game and agreeing to throw a banana as high as you can over your head. We guarantee that there will be at least one person (who unfortunately decided to sit two tables behind you) who won’t find the situation as funny as your friends do.
In a Professional Setting (internship/job search)
The limp, clammy handshake definitely goes down in the books as the worst first impression you could ever give (okay, maybe there have been worse, but this one is up there for sure). Your employers want to hire someone with authority and confidence. They do not want to be greeted with a hand that feels like a dead fish. Enough said.
Putting odd accomplishments and hobbies on your resume, like your summer working as a taxidermist or the fact that you’re proficient in ESP, is another no-no. We know Harvard students pursue all sorts of activities, but not all of them need to be known to your prospective employer.
At this point we have probably surfaced all of your worst nightmares and, trust us, they're even worse when they become reality. We’d tell you not to be that guy, but it’s inevitable–you will be. No matter what happens, keep putting yourself out there, because in the end, a bad impression is better than no impression... right?