Hello, students. Welcome to college.

By now, you've been inundated with literature from your institution of choice explaining how your new life as a mature adult is going to be, how to interact safely and responsibly with your fellow students, and how to navigate the city you've chosen to spend the next four to eight (to 20) years inhabiting. Here's a little free advice: Throw them all away--except the ones that come with coupons. While the grownups at UW or SCCC or PLU or SU or Whatever U you happen to be attending are capable of instructing you in the finer points of Russian literature, German philosophy, advanced calculus, and microbiology, it's a safe bet that they don't know a goddamn thing about getting along in the real world. If they did, they wouldn't be working at colleges, now would they? They'd be working at corporations--sexy, rich, and powerful corporations.

First things first: The newspaper you're holding in your hands is the single most valuable resource for your Seattle college career, aside from your mom's credit card. And unlike your mom's credit card, The Stranger will never try to control your life. We hit the streets every Wednesday afternoon, offering smart and useful news, arts criticism, and culture reporting, as well as the most extensive and informed calendar for movies and live music in town. In addition to the outstanding editorial content, we offer weekly promotions and events specifically designed to help you, the student, live a more interesting and affordable life. We hope and trust that you'll develop a relationship with The Stranger that'll carry you through your college years and beyond. Ask around and you'll discover that we're really the only newspaper in town that isn't ridiculous and stupid.

Now then: Heading off to college is probably the most significant thing you've ever done, including the day you made that bong in woodshop and convinced the teacher it was a bird feeder. Aside from the wealth of fascinating knowledge that will soon leave you gasping for air and damning the insufficiency of your paltry public high-school education, you'll also be exposed to a world of influences and stimuli you could only have dreamed of while living with your parents. And as we all know, with great stimulation comes great responsibility. One of the perils (and the pleasures) of experiencing so much freedom all at once is the opportunity to sample a little bit of everything, leaving behind you a breadcrumb trail of indulgent behavior, discarded identities, dirty dishes, and broken hearts--including your own. Which brings us to the theme of this special issue: Clean Up After Yourself.

At the risk of sounding like your moralistic, alcoholic uncle who votes Republican but secretly dreams of sleeping with teenagers, the most important part of growing up is learning the consequences of freedom. You can eat, drink, read, smoke, watch, and listen to whatever you like; you can masturbate as much as you like; you can fuck anyone who'll have you. But from here on out you have to take responsibility for your choices and your actions. Wanna drop your physics class eight weeks into the term? Go ahead--just make sure your lab partner has a chance to replace you. Feel like staying up all night drinking peppermint schnapps instead of writing that paper on Kantian ethics? Fine, just make sure you pass out on your own pillow and not your roommate's. Wanna drop acid? That's cool, just make sure you've lined someone up to babysit your freaked-out ass if you have a bad trip. Considering becoming a born-again Christian campus minister? Okay--well, actually no, not okay. Liberty has its limits.

Your job as a responsible citizen of the world is to clean up your own messes. As much as she might like to, your mother does not live here. You will be cleaning up after yourself from here on out. Forget about postmodern critical theory: If the only thing you learn in college is how to clean up the messes you make, then your parents' money and hard work will have been worth it.

So, welcome to Seattle and welcome to college, welcome to The Stranger's Back to School issue, and welcome to adulthood. Now clean up that mess.