A Movie Guide to Surviving College

Clarisse Loughrey

This week sees the return of one of our favourite onscreen bromances, as Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reteam for another fist-bumping cinematic adventure, in a sequel that somehow magically manages to be as unmanageably hysterical as the first, whether by divine miracle or simply the deft direction of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. 22 Jump Street sees Jenko (Tatum) and Schmidt (Hill) move on from dressing up as Peter Pan and putting their fingers in each other’s mouths to the world of college – and unsurprisingly they make a huge mess of it. They might have done well to take a couple of tips from cinematic outings of the past and take this wise advice on making it through college in one piece. 

...everything you can to stand out on your application à la Legally Blonde (Robert Luketic, 2001)

First things first. You actually have to get into college, and if you’re aiming for one of those fancy Ivy Leaguers, it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Get ready to put some extra footwork in. To Elle Woods, that clearly translated to a bikini-heavy video essay, but who knows what could sway that stingy admissions department. Maybe some delicate origami swans, or maybe a very intimate knowledge of their past credit and criminal history.

...be afraid to be a smart-ass à la Good Will Hunting (Gus Van Sant, 1997)

In school you’d be pushed into the lockers and called a nerd, in the workplace your boss would resent you and find any excuse to accuse you of stealing stationary. So if you’re going to be a smart-ass, college is absolutely your time to shine. I mean, considering the entire institution is built around the concept of everyone convincing themselves they’re of the intellectual mettle to question the philosophies of David Hume, pretension is but a sign you’re fitting in.

So, I’m pretty sure Mr. Modest-Pants Will (Matt Damon) had it entirely wrong, as knowing the solution to one of the world’s most difficult maths conundrums means the last thing you should do is keep quiet about it and solve it on the down-low like some kind of nerd ninja. Dude, film it on your iPhone and put it on your social justice Tumblr. Talk about it very loudly to the baristas at Starbucks or to your mates in the quiet study area of the library. Hire the Folk Music Club to write an epic ballad of your achievements, because god knows they won’t have much else to do with their time. The rule of college is: brag now or forever hold your peace.

...your research before moving into any new digs à la Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980)

It’s an entirely new city. You don’t know the area and you certainly don’t know where your local witch coven is. Do you really want to waste your entire collegiate career like poor, old Mark Elliot (Leigh McCloskey) and spend it investigating a series of mysterious killings in your building? No, no you don’t. Do your research. 

...involve animals in your frat pranks à la Animal House (John Landis, 1978)

Yes, I understand. At one point or another, the honour of your sacred fraternity will be violated by a bunch of jocks in polo shirts. And in that moment, a man like D-Day (Bruce McGill) would be absolutely right to invoke that ancient proverb of “don’t get mad, get even”. However, there’s no need to involve our friends from the animal kingdom in this, absolutely no need. For one, they understand neither the concept of cold-blooded revenge, nor the idea of a light-hearted prank. They’re animals, and neither of those things involve food or belly rubs. Secondly, it’s statistically certain that 74 percent of pranks will go disastrously wrong (I’ve done extensive research, trust me). And who’s first in the firing line (sometimes literally)? Fluffles the Bunny of Mr. Neigh-Neigh the Horse. 

...start a band à la Revenge of the Nerds (Jeff Kanew, 1984)

With such a collective hive of minds pulsating with creativity, ambition, and idealism, college is the perfect time to pick up the nearest guitar and start a band. And by band, I don’t mean a collection of men who haven’t showered for three days playing soulful mash-ups of Oasis and Jay-Z. Because that isn’t a band, that’s a living abomination. 

get involved in student politics à la Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1970)

College is a carefree time of political idealism, where the sheltered haven of student life means you can create among your fellow students a full vision of utopian existence, without ever acknowledging the irony that your Anarchy Society holds its meekly meetings at the local Nandos. So join the debating club, run for student government, hand out flyers, sign petitions. Get involved now before the burden of adulthood strips away every ounce of your enthusiasm for change in a never-ending landside of taxes, bills, and responsibilities. That said, definitely don’t shoot a policeman or steal a plane. I think that’s what one would consider as going “too far”. 

...get too attached  à la Like Crazy (Drake Doremus, 2011)

Whether you’re across an ocean in a land of abundant Twinkies or just somewhere that isn’t your parents’ house, it won’t take you long to discover that college can be paradise. Somewhere between sleeping in until three in the afternoon, never taking off your pyjamas, and losing the ability to discern what is reality and what is Mario Kart, you’ve got the potential to find true undiluted joy. But, like all great things, college comes to a close; and whether you’re on a year abroad or a full eight-year course learning medicine, your time is guaranteed to go quicker than you can say the words “but I never had a chance to perform at slam poetry night”. As much as college is all about carefree abandon, it would almost be beneficial if everyone carried around a collegiate memento mori to remind them that the dawn of unemployment slowly rises behind them. It’d be bad enough ending up like the doomed lovers of Like Crazy, ripped apart and sent halfway across the world when college ends, but it could be so much worse: you could refuse to graduate and end up like Van Wilder. Don’t let Ryan Reynolds’ handsome face deceive you. No one wants to be Van Wilder. 

...learn how to deal with conflict (through song) à la School Daze (Spike Lee, 1988)

Spend enough time with the musical theatre society and you’ll soon learn that the only efficient way to solve fundamental disagreements is with a strong medley and some high kicks.  

...theme your house party around the Apocalypse à la The Rules of Attraction (Roger Avary, 2002)

Costume parties are basically the only reason that college exists in the first place, and there’s plenty of pressure on any would-be hosts to supply a theme that’s both inventive yet easily interpretable. Which puts “Dinosaurs of the Cretaceous Period”, “Major Aluminium Manufacturers”, and “The Collected Works of Lucian Freud” as themes as warrant an immediate veto. You can add to that the entire concept behind planning a party around “The End of the World” and then not expecting disastrous events and heavy monologuing to occur. 

...party hard à la Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman, 2011)

If you want to invent a dance craze, you invent a dance craze.

Follow Clarisse on Twitter: @clarisselou

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