Now that Labor Day is just around the corner, so is the next school year. Or so I’ve heard. I’ve been graduated for four years now, and dates and times are the first things to go. I’ve also lost the ability to communicate with adolescents and to wake up a human after drinking all night, and gained a healthy respect for 11:00pm and an awareness that pajamas are not clothes. Trust me, no one regrets those transitions more than I do. (Except the understanding teenagers one. I was stuck in that one entirely too long, if you ask me.)

But one thing I haven’t yet forgotten about starting school is that it was never quite as much like Harry Potter as I was hoping / expecting. I don’t want to be weird, but there were almost no parallels at all, you guys. As if no one had even bothered to investigate my likes and dislikes and tailor an entire campus experience directly to me. ‘Disappointed’ is a good word. I mean I got my diploma and stuff, but I’ve never quite forgiven my college counselor for not sending me straight to Hogwarts.

So to prevent you from getting your hopes up and then having them dashed into tiny pieces the way I did, I’ve prepared a handy guide to help you through your first semester, highlighting the differences between Harry Potter’s first year and your first year. Enjoy.

1. There’s no Great Hall, aka no excuse to be agog over anything ever. NEVER BE AGOG. If you pause anywhere to admire something, a pack of juniors on their way to the dining hall will have already bowled you over.

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2. You have to enter campus usually via driveways and/or doors. Running at walls at top speed is ill-advised, although you’d be surprised by how many drunken frat guys I’ve seen do it.

3. Nope. In real school, there is nothing more important than books and cleverness. Nice try, Hermione.

4. Mostly you’ll have to settle for reading about your school’s notable graduates in books or on Wikipedia. It’s very unlikely that you’ll pass through a deceased alumnus roaming the halls, and even if you did YOU’D NEVER KNOW ABOUT IT.

5. You will shake the hand of the head of school maybe twice in your time there. Once when you first arrive, once when you graduate. You will never gaze into his kindly eyes or dive head first into his glistening bowl of memories.

6. There exists no sport in real life where you can sit down while flying around in a robe. Otherwise I would’ve goddamn lettered in it. Varsity Quidditch. In my effing dreams.

7. If you think your parents are gonna let you major in tea-drinking, you’ve got another Grim coming.

8. None of your books will ever attack you, have ‘pipes’ scrawled in the margin, OR TEACH YOU EFFING MAGIC. They will still be heavy, though.

9. If your dorm room has a four-post bed and a cozy common room with a fireplace, I’m coming to visit this weekend. Because mine had linoleum floors, a persistent smell of burned popcorn, and an inch of standing water in the winter months.

10. If you leave your studying to the last minute, good luck finding a Time Turner made for Muggles.

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11. When your parties turn into this, no house elf will appear to clean up after you. Nothing like trawling your living area for Solo cups while sweating out Keystone Ice.

12. College guys will have this opinion of themselves whether or not they’ve saved the wizarding world from Voldemort on multiple occasions. (They haven’t.)

13. You will probably never meet your campus’ groundskeeper, mostly because he never met your parents so he doesn’t care if you drop out or die at the hands of Death Eaters or whatever.

14. The things they’ll feed you. I shudder to think of it. Maybe half-decent beer if you’re lucky, but don’t bet on Chocolate Frogs.

15. Not as much as your first college hangover un-medicated by magic. And that I can promise you.

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