by Brendan Kiley

Some say high school is the best era of a young American's life--and they're imbeciles. Abandoning home and the well-organized drudgery of primary education is blissful liberation. That freedom, however, can get ugly. I should know. Besides being the proud owner of undergraduate and graduate degrees, I was once a Resident Advisor (RA) in the UW dorms. During my tenure, I saw my share of high crimes, misdemeanors, and affronts to common decency--and perpetrated more than a few of them myself.

My hard-won expertise is now at your service to fill the pointed silences left by official student handbooks.

Start in the dorms.
While the Greek system offers a just-add-water social scene, agreeing to be friends with dozens of people you've never met can become a sinkhole of unwanted social obligations. Renting apartments leaves you harried and poorer than you'd think--and you have to shop, cook, and clean the bathroom.

Don't flaunt your sins.
It's easy for a tolerant RA to ignore a hallway with a faint whiff of marijuana, but normally slothful RAs are forced to take action if other residents complain. Getting stoned in your room is simple: Put a towel under the door, exhale out the window, and invest in a small fan and some air freshener. (Remember, incense is also contraband.)

Be civil.
One night, I had to respond to a noise complaint. The drunks had their door open, music blasting, the host of the party mock-surfing on his desk with a bottle of Captain Morgan. After asking him to cool it and shutting the door to let the rest of us sleep, he started shouting: "You're bumming my stone, you power-tripping asshole!" So I did what any petty, insulted 20-year-old would do--I threw the book at him. Being a mere RA, it was more day planner than dictionary, but I made sure he spent the next few Saturdays making educational posters about alcohol poisoning and our upcoming outing to TheatreSports.

Aim for the toilet.
The RAs privately dubbed one resident "Jackson" for his habit of leaving Pollock-like compositions in liquid biology on the wall. We hated him.

When it comes to sex, no one wants to know about it.
If you lack sheer animal magnetism, hone your skills in conversation and oral sex--those talents are always in demand.

Do your damn homework.
Keeping up with classes not only makes you a better, more attractive human, it creates a stable core of productive behavior that will naturally keep the partying in check and benefit you later in life.

Take classes that look interesting but lie outside what you think you want to major in. The world is groaning with dreary specialists--being a liberally educated person makes you smarter, and more virtuous.

Don't be afraid of "asshole" professors.
Brilliant academic minds are sometimes intolerant of frivolity. On the other hand, inferior minds often affect gruffness and disdain to mask their inability to answer intelligent questions. If you have concerns about a professor, weasel your way into a brief conversation, then trust your gut.

Study abroad at all costs.
After meeting all manner of globetrotting morons, I no longer believe that travel is its own reward. There seems to be something magically edifying, however, about negotiating everyday life in another language and studying in a radically different atmosphere. I can't explain the phenomenon, but I've seen it work miracles on a parade of fools, including me.

If you want to graduate, don't take time off.
People who leave school take up truck-stop waitressing, rodeo clowning, and other terribly romantic occupations--and almost always find it difficult to return.

Challenge yourself.
Pursuing easy A's is like drinking nonalcoholic beer--all the expense and none of the benefits.

Brendan Kiley graduated from UW in 1999.