The Table Theory Guide for the Cornell University Class of 2017

So, I was reading some stuff about my alma mater and got all nostalgic. Then I went on Reddit thinking I was going to write a short little thing about my own experiences 10 years ago first setting foot on campus. What was supposed to be a 5 minute stream of consciousness deal turned into a 30 minute rendition of what a drunken half-brother of Chuck Palahniuk would say, according to my imagination.

It's like this, but with more snow and tears. Of joy. Ahem.

It’s like this, but with more snow and tears. Of joy. Ahem.

A lot of this will sound obvious. Well, fuck you, because I didn’t know this shit as a 17 year old straight-laced tightwad nerd who was getting his first taste of freedom.

(For reference, I’m now a 27 year old tightwad nerd… though much less straight laced and probably a little drunk).


  • Get used to not being the smartest person in the room. It’s okay. It just means that, gasp, you have something to learn.
  • Ask for help if you need it. Seriously. Don’t be an asshole like I was and think “it’s weak to ask for help because I never needed it in HS.”
  • Go to class. Every single fucking class. And study. Most of the stress people end up having is from not doing well. The stress of studying is easy in comparison.
  • Find out what kind of worker you are: I’m only effective with lots of structure and scheduling, and deadlines to keep me on track. I didn’t learn that until after I made a really stupid, lazy roster. Take the first semester to learn how to be effective, and apply it the rest of your 4 years.
  • Be smart about how much you can reasonably handle per semester. Yes, you’re a full time student, but you need time to unwind, too.
  • If you are a gamer, your room is the WORST place to study. Go outside, or to a library, or to CTB, or anywhere. Just not in front of your computer and its sweet, sweet Counterstrike.
  • Learn to swim over the summer if you don’t know already. CU actually has really fun gym class options, and it sucks to have to spend a semester learning how to swim when you can be rock climbing/pistol shooting/archery-ing/riding horses instead.

Social Stuff

  • At orientation, you’ll meet lots of people. It’s exciting. One of them may even touch your boner (or lady boner). So, be friendly – but also be realistic. Finding people you click with takes effort, so yes, you have to put your best foot forward and get out there, but that doesn’t mean latching onto the first person who tolerates you. Be upbeat, have something to offer everyone, and really feel people out from the perspective of whether you really enjoy spending your time with them.
  • Talk to everyone. You don’t have to be best friends with everyone, but introduce yourself. Ask them about what they like. Listen. You’re going to meet people from places you’ve never been who grew up in ways you never did. Learn and, when possible, have fun with them.
  • Start a dinner group. Even just two people. It’s therapeutic.
  • DO NOT HAVE YOUR FIRST DRUNKEN EXPERIENCE WITH PEOPLE YOU HAVEN’T KNOWN LONG ENOUGH TO TRUST WITH YOUR LIFE. Teenagers have no fucking clue on how to take care of a drunk. So, yeah, have a drink or two, but don’t give into shot pressure if you know you suck at drinking (or have no idea how much you can drink). Also, medical amnesty – if you pass out, call the fucking EMTs. People die when they ignore this.
  • When you first throw up and get your first hangover, don’t be the dick who says “I’m never drinking again.” Just suck it up, drink some gatorade, brush your teeth and walk it off. Your liver will be taking much more punishment in the next four years.
  • I found that the best way to meet people I clicked with was through activities – so make sure you check out the club fairs, and try a lot of things out the first couple weeks. After that, stick around for what ACTIVITY you enjoy most. Trust me, you’ll build much stronger friendships if you follow your passion, rather than just joining something because the people seem cool to you.
  • On that note, join the ballroom dance team cough cough.

Dorms and Roommates

  • Good boundaries are key, and unless you both grew up responsible enough to never need your parents to clean up after you, you have shitty boundaries. No problem, but always remember that in any dispute, you might be the asshole in that scenario.
  • Be a person of your word. Be prepared to split chores, and even do some things that you dislike, because your roommate will also be doing things he or she dislikes. It beats being passive aggressive and hating the hours you have to spend in your room because you’re not allowed to sleep anywhere else.
  • That said, even when your roommate situation is great, less time in your room is best for everyone who lives there.
  • Sexile is not completely off-limits as long as you call ahead, and make it worth your roommate’s while. He or she will be doing you a solid, so either be prepared to reciprocate in some way or don’t do it.
  • It’s not where you live, it’s what you make of it. I know more people who are still friends/in touch from Donlon 6 today than from any other dorm I’ve ever heard of.
  • On that note, just because you’re living in the same building as someone doesn’t make it more likely for you to end up as good friends. Hang around people because you like them not because it’s easy.
  • If you piss on the seat, clean it, or vigilante justice IS warranted.


  • This is for guys and girls. Don’t rush into or out of relationships. College is a different ball field, yes, but that doesn’t mean you should just go all in or all out. This is one of the few times in your life when it’s really completely cool to just be unattached – where no one will be in your business and making you feel like an asshole or a slut for dating lots of people (okay, some people may still do that. But, none of them is writing you a paycheck, so fuck ’em). At the same time, don’t just bail on a good situation just because you can. You’ll stunt your growth in relationships in either extreme.
  • For the love of god, people, if someone wants to spend time with you, they will make it as easy as possible. If you have to call someone 5 times for them to even answer, they don’t wanna hang out with you, holmes. Sorry.
  • Nice clothes (non-college bum couture) goes a pretty long way in making you noticeable.
  • Never, ever date someone just because the sex is good. Make that person a FWB. And don’t be ashamed of that arrangement. It’s actually kind of awesome.
  • If you’re a virgin, it’s cool. Lots of people willing to let you practice your beliefs.
  • If you want to stay a virgin, that’s cool too. There are lots of people who are doing the same thing.

Cornelliana that I personally really loved

  • Go to your corny floor events. Go to the corny dances. Go to all of the things, at least to stop by and see it. You’ll miss it after you’ve graduated.
  • There’s so much good food everywhere that most college kids don’t get to enjoy. Make sure you try a bunch – Appel brunches, house dinners, restaurants in the commons and in collegetown… go nuts!
  • Seriously: Cornell DanceSport and Ballroom Dance Club. It changed my life.
  • Go gorge jumping. There’s only a short period of time when it’s actually warm enough on campus to do. Make sure you a) know how to swim, and b) are with someone who knows how to get to the jump points.
  • You gotta go to at least ONE frat party. I’m a party animal, and even then frat parties weren’t my thing (too many people I didn’t know) – but I never would have known that and then learned to throw my own parties if I didn’t try one.
  • Risley is pretty fuckin’ cool. If they still have it, ask about pool. Or a Balch run. Also, go to at least one Rocky Horror picture show.
  • Cornell cinema regularly shows films that you might never see anywhere else unless you go indie film hunting. Check it out.
  • Buy an article of Cornell clothing. There are so many of us in the world that I’m always surprised by how much Cornell gear I see out there – instant connection.
  • Slope Day. Forever and always.

Other Thoughts

  • Ithaca ruins shoes. Bring sturdy snow boots. That’s all you’ll hear me say about the weather.

Here’s to you, class of 2017. May you come out on top and bring the world to its knees. Ahem.

– V

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