Hey there, [your name], you old horsethief, you! How was your summer? "Good?" Really? Because I usually get a different answer! No, it wouldn't be awkward if you had said anything other than "good," not awkward at all!

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, I'd like a few minutes alone with the first years. The rest of you put down your copy of the newspaper and leave the room.

Hi, first years. Congratulations; you made it. You did the essays; you nailed the interview; you submitted all the proper forms; you bravely endured your meningitis inoculations, judging by those Daffy Duck Band-Aids on your shoulders; and most impressively, you survived your pre-orientation trip without contracting cholera or getting mauled by bears, both common incidents the Office of Admissions accounts for in its acceptance/yield calculus.

And now, after securing a decent schedule, taking careful notes on "Animal House" and "PCU," and purchasing a T-shirt that has cleverly inserted the name of your school into the logo of a popular beer variety, you're ready to jump into the college experience headfirst, right?

No, you're not.

Sorry, Van Wilder. College isn't like it is in the movies. The difference? More ugly people. And the dialogue isn't as snappy. Also, you have to go to class.

College isn't much like high school, either. Remember how many activities in which you were required to participate for the sake of becoming "well-rounded?" Well, now that you're in college, you can be as boxy and uneven as you like. Want to sit around 13 hours a day watching "Flavor of Love" marathons on VH1? Be our guest! The Freshman Fifteen will find you well-rounded in ways that require far less effort and involve eating cookie dough and drinking stout ale. Take that, mandatory high school wellness class!

Of course there always are some first years who, for one reason or another, want to avoid the Freshman Fifteen. Wacky justifications abound, ranging from, "I need to stay in shape or I could lose my athletic scholarship," to "I want to appear attractive to the opposite sex," to "I've read that obesity is unhealthy." To appease you madcap "nutritionists," I've included a brief list of ways to avoid that infamous extra neck roll:

1) There is a fast food restaurant/trough on Bath Road called "Fat Boy." Its name is portentous: Eating there often can not only make you fat, but it can also make you a boy, rendering void your torturous puberty.

2) The beer belly is not a myth. And covering for your gut by telling people that you're pregnant is only slightly less embarrassing (or in the case of males, who must claim sympathetic pregnancy, infinitely more embarrassing). Temperance isn't just an unincorporated community of Monroe County, Michigan, you know!

3) Get your daily quota of fruit. "Froot" doesn't count.

4) Get regular exercise. If you don't have time to jog or play an intramural sport, take a few laps around the room during class blocks. You might consider taking classes that meet in Cleaveland 151 or on the second floor of Hubbard Hall.

5) If you're drinking heavy beer with a high caloric content, do jumping jacks between drinks. At worst, you'll burn off all the calories you absorb from each. At best, you'll puke it all up!

Inevitably, there will come a point when, in between bong rips in the basement of your affiliate house, you will decide that maybe you should make productive use of your downtime. You'll consider joining a club sports team, like Ultimate Frisbee. But a quick glance around the smoky cavern will reveal that you're already taking part in team practice. So perhaps a political organization might be more appropriate.

A word on campus politics:

What's convenient is that they more or less resemble national politics, only the suits are cheaper and the participants generally believe in what they're saying. Problem is that there are no procedural statutes keeping arguments civil, so the tenor of political debate is so shrill that sometimes only dogs can hear it.

Bowdoin is fortunate to have a student body that is engaged in public affairs and enthusiastic about its convictions. It is easy, however, to get seduced by the ease of reactionary politics and sanctimonious indignation. This is because nobody's going to criticize you for adopting such techniques. Well, no one except the people who disagree with you, but what do they know?

Issues are complex. Reflecting on your own convictions is difficult, time-consuming, and annoying, not to mention devastating to both your self-confidence and your self-esteem. It's tempting to kick back with a tasty brew, pop in a "South Park" DVD, and be content to say that you're on the side of angels and the other guys are jackasses.

But if you're serious about effecting positive change, then you're going to have to embrace the fact that you're a lot less qualified to speak to certain issues than you think you are. So choose something that you feel strongly about. Study up on it. Form an opinion. Understand why people disagree with you. Then proceed in whatever manner you judge most reasonable, appropriate, and constructive. If this rigorous standard seems inconvenient, I encourage you to stick to basement bong rips.

Of course, you get to do whatever you want. You're in college now, and college means freedom. So take this guidance to heart, or don't. The fact that you're reading this right now means that you're savvy enough to have survived an endless onslaught of excruciating name games and soul-crushing "ice-breakers," so maybe you don't need my help at all.

College is fleeting. Whatever course you choose, please take care to enjoy this, the first year of the rest of your lives.