Lesson 1: Never buy used books: According to the College Board, the national average for the cost of books for the 2009-2010 school year was $1,122, a price that would strain even the most gilded of coffers. To combat this, most students buy books used. Used books are cheaper, the pages are worn so they make for better pillows, and they have the added benefit of having all of the important stuff already underlined. But, as millionaire freshman Thornton Melon points out, what if the person who owned the book before was an idiot? He or she may have thought highlighting all of the unimportant sentences would make the important stuff stand out more, or maybe they just cut out all of the pictures to make flash cards. Or maybe the owner studied while on the john. Do you really want to pass out into the open face of a book that spent the bulk of the previous semester sitting on the floor of some asshole’s disgusting frat house bathroom?
Thornton Melon: Hey! What's with the used books?
Jason Melon: Well, what's wrong with used books?
Thornton Melon: They've already been read!
Lesson 2: Your dorm is your palace
Most dorm rooms are cinderblock walled pits of gloom. Over-encumbered schools are known to cram three, sometimes four, strangers into these 228 square feet rooms, and fully ignore the likely outcome that the only product of these arrangements will be the roommates’ intense, burning hatred of one-another. It’s also a safe bet that no member of the opposite sex will want to spend much time in your light-deprived, sparsely decorated hovel. So do your best to class up the place a bit, work a comfortable couch in there somewhere or knock out a wall or two, buy out an entire hallway and install a hot tub. Throw a party and invite Oingo Boingo to play--it’ll be great.
Lesson 3: Never read
College requires a lot of reading, and none of it is particularly exciting or easy. You know that one class whose reading list consists of Batman comic books and American Psycho? You are never going to get into that class. It’s much more likely that you are going to have to slog through dry lab reports and Henry James novels. You ever read a Henry James novel? It’s not fun. So instead of reading all hundredish pages of The Turn of the Screw, watch 1961’s The Innocents instead. Significantly more fun; and you get the gist of what James wrote, basically. More or less. Whatever.
Thornton Melon: Read? Who has time? I see the movie. I'm in and out in two hours.
Lesson 4: Never do your own work
If there’s one thing that Thornton Melon learned in the cut-throat world of plus-sized fashion, it’s that a good executive knows how to delegate authority. If watching the movie won’t cut it for a term paper, consider hiring out the work to someone else. Most schools are brimming with articulate, literary blowhards, so shedding these pesky responsibilities off to someone who knows what they’re doing will land you a good grade and save you from ever having to go to the library or potentially learning anything. Just be wary of who you hire out for the job:
Lesson 5: Correct your professors all the time
How are you supposed to learn anything if your professors don’t know what they’re talking about? That’s why it’s your duty to speak up from the back of the class and point out how wrong these stuffed-shirt tenure-sucking know-nothings are. Those who can’t do, teach, am I right?
Lesson 6: Drink! Drink! Drink!
While Rodney Dangerfield was a notorious pothead in real life, his character in Back to School is more of a light beer man--happy to kick back a few dozen brews while enjoying a gigantic sandwich. So when Thornton gets to college, his drinking habits already fall in line with university standards.
Thornton Melon: Bring us a pitcher of beer every seven minutes until somebody passes out. And then bring one every ten minutes.
Lesson 7: Never do your own fighting
After doing all of that drinking, you’re probably going to get pretty fired up. To ward off the potential for any physical conflict, find yourself a gruff looking man that looks like he might have ties to the mafia and hire him to act as your muscle. Then if some football player wants to punch you in the face for suggesting that his sport of choice is a crypto-fascist metaphor for nuclear war, you can talk tough knowing that your hired hand will be there to break the guy’s fingers.
Thornton Melon: Oh, no, no. I never get physical. I just get upset. And when I get upset, HE gets physical.
Lesson 8:Study just enough to pass
Try as you might, sometimes you’re going to have to break down and actually learn something while you’re in college. So when the time comes for a big oral examination that you can’t easily fake, do just enough work to keep you from getting kicked out of school. When Thornton gets forced to prove that he isn’t actually the giant cheater that he is, he breaks down and does some studying for a few nights. If you get stressed out by the whole process, have someone read to you while you get a massage, or if you get too tired, try reading in the shower while drinking a cup of coffee. If everything works out, and you happen to sleep with your English professor, you should manage to get straight D’s and one A for the semester.
Lesson 9: Never graduate
Don’t you read the news? Life becomes horrible after you graduate. Do you know what awaits you once you earn that degree? Unemployment followed by a crushing sense of disillusionment. 20-somethings are such developmentally arrested losers that the New York Times invented a new term for it: “emerging adulthood,” which, loosely translated, means “living at home after you graduate and applying for 50 jobs a week for two years.” So take your time going through school, and then when you’re finished, consider getting a couple more degrees. Don’t worry about the unemployment rate for post-graduate degree holders being at an all time high, by the time you’ve gotten a PhD, the economy will have worked itself out and everyone will want to hire you. Right?
Thornton Melon: To all of you graduates, as you go off into the world, my advice to you is: don't go! It's rough out there, move back with your parents! Let them worry about it!
Photo Credits: All images copyright Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1986