Each May, Bwog invites outgoing seniors—campus leaders, academic stars, and other Columbians eager to answer the question, “Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese?”—to reminisce, voice their petty grievances, and give their advice to incoming first-years. Here are our favorites: the funniest, the truest, and the most useful.

The Academics

  • A good title on a paper will help you far more than you might realize.
  • Take classes that get you out of the classroom or out of your head.
  • Do most of your Lit Hum reading.
  • Butler = death.
  • Go to office hours; most professors want to interact with students and are incredibly personable.
  • Take classes whose ideologies/praxes vary radically
  • Complaining about your work will not get it done any faster. Also, no one wants to hear it.

The Social Stuff

  • Come to orientation with your claws out! Whatever you want, you had best stomp over people to get it (/sarcasm)! Or you could do what I did and take the backseat/spend your first semester in your room watching Arrested Development and eating mozzarella sticks. Wow. Still do that.
  • Try to have at least two or three different groups of friends, and especially look to avoid having only friends/suitemates within the student activity that absorbs most of your time. You’ll value the change of scene.
  • Surround yourself with people who know when you need to be challenged or supported.
  • Being quiet in a situation—social or academic—is not nearly as conspicuous as it feels.
  • Stop and Chat > Wave Hello > Awkward Ignore

The City

  • Get a bicycle and explore this town with the urgency of someone who’ll be permanently exiled from it any day now. Also, never agree to do an unpaid internship for more than 3 hours a week.
  • The 1 train splits from the 2 and 3 trains at 96th street (learned during orientation week freshman year).
  • Hopstop.com will get you around the city. Yep, 4 years in the city and I still use it.
  • Push yourself! I am, at heart, totally lame, and given the choice between a) going out and b) watching Battlestar Galactica in my pajamas I am always inclined to the latter. But one of my best memories is romping downtown with fellow then first-years, that at the time I didn’t even know, and getting cut in line at Misfits by Jessica Simpson (she is really short, by the way, and not that hot).

The School Spirit (!)

  • The Columbia Community is more than just the students and faculty. It’s the maintenance staff, security guards, street vendors, waiters/waitresses, managers, and bouncers.
  • Do some “Columbia” stuff before you leave, even if it’s cheesy – Pillow Fight, Backyard BBQ, Varsity Show, Orgo Night, etc.
  • Columbia has almost everything you want. The money, the books, the people who believe in you, the secret nooks—they’re all there, but you have to find them, especially the books. They’re all there, on ILL, Borrow Direct, or offsite.
  • You’re about to spend four years with a 24-hour library, teachers who do genuinely care about teaching you, a real college quad, a Core Education (and its SEAS and BC equivalents) that costs a ton of money to keep in place, and one of the smartest and most accomplished student bodies in the country. And it’s all in New York City. In short, to quote leader-of-all-redheads Conan O’Brien, “please don’t be cynical.”

The Life Lessons:

  • Never use the word “problematize.”
  • If your dorm is within wafting distance of JJ’s, close the window. Speaking of windows, you can use your sill as a refrigerator—but only between November and March and never for milk.
  • There is always an exception to the rule (be it Schrödinger’s equation or the housing lottery).
  • Skip Cubmail and go straight to Gmail
  • Sweatpants do not help anyone get laid.
  • If you believe you can do something, then do your best to do it. You may fail and, like me, find yourself stranded at a bus station in the middle of nowhere (twice). But everything will work out if you push hard enough and keep moving.
  • Free beer always draws a crowd.
  • Don’t stress. It’s a waste of energy. At the end of the day, it all gets done. A smile and a healthy dose of perspective will take you a long way. If not, there’s nothing that a couple good friends and a Heights Happy Hour can’t fix.
  • When I was a freshman, I asked two of the school’s outgoing journalistic luminaries a similar sort of question. Bari Weiss, now with the Wall Street Journal, said you should “never hedge, and stick up for what you believe in.” Avi Zenilman, formerly of the New Yorker, said “Screw that. Always hedge, you’re just a college student anyway.”
  • Don’t take anything personally. Just manipulate your insulter to get what you want.
  • Change all your declarative sentences to questions and they will award you a bachelor’s degree!

And When All Else, Fails, Remember:

  • You’re not going to figure it all out during your first semester. Or even your first year.
  • You don’t know how much you don’t know.
  • Don’t listen to anyone’s advice. And do your homework.