Five Skills to Stay Sane and Survive College

Okay, let’s be honest and admit it: we women can get a little crazy at college. It happens. After all, there’s a lot to worry about. There’s always that one teacher who assigns a twelve-page essay on Renaissance existentialism when you’re already swamped. Many of us, in addition to schoolwork, have crappy jobs in retail or fast food service that could make anyone crazy. And as any female student can tell you, social pressure is at its peak in college living in a situation where you have to share a bedroom and shower with ten other girls tends to make incoming students feel a little paranoid about measuring up under scrutiny. As I said at the beginning, all these factors come together to make the average university girl subject to, to put it mildly, certain emotional fluctuations.

In the midst of all this estrogenic chaos, what are so many students are looking for in a female friend, girlfriend, or roommate? Simple: practicality. I’ve found that having a good cool head on your shoulders is the key to surviving college. Not only that, it can be the most appealing trait in a community where many people are conflicted, confused, or just plain crazy. After all, almost all women at the university level are smart, and most of them are pretty. A levelheaded woman who gets things taken care of without needing constant attention? Unusual, desirable, and oh-so-good to have around.

After some thought and reflection, I put together a list of the five most useful utilitarian skills a female student can have. As far as I’m concerned, these are essential for college life and beyond. Here goes:

1. A frequently applicable college skill is this: know how to cook. I promise you, the day will come when you are not only much too poor to go out to eat, but also sick to death of microwaved Ramen, microwaved Easy Mac, and everything your school cafeteria has to offer. Not only that, but a consistent diet of either greasy school pizza or diet bars and Slim-Fast, depending on your preference, is something less than conducive to good health. Even if you don’t have a stove in your room, many dorms have one in a common area. This sad, lonely stove is general a neglected creature and would appreciate your company. A hearty, tasty, and simple meal for three or four people can be made for under ten dollars. Get three friends to chip in two and a half dollars each, go to the grocery store, and make a night of it.

2. Every girl should know something about her car. A basic idea of how your engine works, which parts do what, and how to tell when something’s wrong. Personally, I’d say that the best place to start a vehicular education is learning to change a tire, for both practical and safety reasons. I hope that none of you every find yourselves with a flat tire on a desolate South Jersey highway at two in the morning in February I’ve been there, and it’s not an experience I care to repeat. However, should you find yourself in those circumstances, a twenty-minute tire change is vastly preferable to a two-hour walk in the dark through the slush on the shoulder to reach the nearest gas station.

3 It’s true: at college, your mother isn’t there to pick up after you. Therefore, being able to care for your own clothing is a must. It is a sad but real fact that sometimes you can’t spare six quarters to wash a load of clothing in the school laundry room. At times like these, it pays to know how to scrub and rinse your clothes in a bathtub or sink, hang them from your bunk to dry, and iron them on the floor. It saves you money, and a trip spent lugging your hamper around on rainy or lazy days. I’d also recommend learning to sew: many minor rips and tears occur on the seams and are easily fixable, and a basic sewing kit costs less than the average Amaretto Sour.

4. I know that dorms come with crappy furniture, but if you eventually relocate to an on or off campus apartment, you’re going to need furniture. “Assembly required” furniture. That means that you will need to be able to use tools. I’m not talking about an arc welder or anything; I mean really basic tools: hammer, screwdriver, Allen wrench, pliers. Those four should pretty much be all you need for most odd jobs, and hey, with a few nails, you can even make a serviceable bookshelf or end table. The use of tools is what separated Neanderthals from the animals; it seems like a good standard for a college girl.

5. Last but not least, a skill that many incoming students have probably had for years and that I learned when I was twenty: how to hook up a computer. I’m the first to admit to my weird love-hate relationship with technology, but on today’s campus being computer-savvy is an absolute necessity. You don’t have to like it, Heaven knows I don’t, but bite the bullet and make sure you can do it. I guarantee that you know a computer geek who would probably be thrilled at your interest and happy to teach you.

So that’s my list. Some girls have told me they think that 1 and 3 are too domestic and June Cleaver, that 2 and 4 are too butch, or that 5 is too nerdy. However, the single most important thing that I’ve learned to do in college is to quit caring what everyone else thinks. In fact, that is the most practical skill ever. Stay sane good readers, and I hope this list helps make the madness of college life a little more manageable.

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