by Jake Nelson

A piping-hot roasted-game-hen "Welcome!" to all new and returning Cornish students. Congratulations on going to art school in defiance of practical sense and your parents' wishes. Congratulations on getting into the same school that Brendan Fraser, star of Dudley Do-Right, went to. And congratulations on your new campus, unless you're a student of music or dance, in which case you're still quarantined on Capitol Hill.

As you adjust and make friends with new classmates, remember art schools have an unusually high dropout rate, so most of those friends will disappear. This just means more attention for you and less debt for them. My years at Cornish left me wracked with debt, although they also gave me some firsthand knowledge about the place, all of which is now at your disposal. I hope the kernels of wisdom I gleaned from my years there will help you make it through the next four years.

HOUSING Cornish provides no student housing, and you are damn lucky. Imagine sharing a dormitory with the 699 people you see every day at school. Get an apartment with someone who has the same tolerance for drug use and filth that you do. Everything else will fall into place. Occasionally, a student decides to sleep in his Nova, as he can stretch out all the way in the backseat. This inevitably leads to hygienic probation--see below.

FINANCES Obviously, it is unlikely that you will ever pay off your loans doing anything remotely related to the blissful path you are currently following (graphic design excepted). Borrow only as much as you absolutely need. If you are temped to strip or do web porn, remember that the more money you make doing these things, the harder it will be to quit doing them after graduation.

RELATIONSHIPS Here's the Cornish Rule: Married students will divorce, the engaged will cheat, and the single will get mono. After three matriculated semesters at Cornish, 100 percent of the students have had intercourse with both genders, though some don't remember it until years later.

Failed relationships are prime fodder for class projects. When presented with the opportunity to sleep with a classmate, ask yourself if you could objectively critique his or her forthcoming short film about what an asshole you are.

Faculty/student fraternization, though institutionally forbidden, remains a part of the relationship continuum. Be tidy.

HYGIENE Hygienic probation is similar to academic probation. Most common in the theater department, hygienic probation is imposed upon a student when his or her odor becomes an obstacle to classroom work.

Though patchouli most often sullies dancing and acting students, Cornish employs instructors who wear the amazingly filthy scent. If you've never encountered it before, it is not sophisticated; it is smelly. If you have worn it since high school, it is time to restrict it to the summer Phish tour.

Smoking cigarettes makes you stink and wastes money that could be better spent on alcohol and marijuana.

ACADEMICS A couple of basic tips for each major:

--Take scenic painting and Jim Koss' books class.

--A note to the women: There have been huge advances in disposable-razor technology. A note to the men: You are both great guys. Have a super year.

--Take art classes and Jim Koss' books class.

--I had an English class with a girl who lamented daily the fact that both classical and jazz vocal music were offered, but not adult contemporary. "You know, like Celine Dion," she'd say. Do not be like this girl. Ever.

Performance Production
--Take other classes. Learn about art; it rarely appears on stage. And treasure Karen Gjelsteen (scenic design).

--Remember, rehearse in private, perform in public. Put your shoes and socks back on. Your best friend will give you scabies. And shut up.

Jake Nelson graduated from Cornish in 2000.