But more realistically, just make college last as long as possible. Because the brutal truth is that you’ll never again have as much uninterrupted access to your friends/beer/freedom in general. To prolong responsibility, here are a few suggestions.
Change your major
This is a fairly basic way to begin your extended tenure as an undergrad, but it’s a good one nonetheless, especially if you switch from something like physics, to say, art history. The change in course prerequisites and the signatures needed to transfer from one department to another are enough to keep you in the classroom for at least an extra semester or two. Now before you head to the registrar’s office, there are a few things to consider. The goal here is to include a broader scope of interests and activities in the college years so that the length of such blessed time is longer. If you think the chances of pure, unadulterated intellectual stimulation are more available after college, think again. Unless you’re heading straight into a master’s program, you can expect to spend a good chunk of your early 20s parked in front of a computer doing data entry or the like for eight hours a day. A simple way to delay such drudgery is to be honest about what you actually find interesting. Yes, pre-med is admirable. As is pre-law, and pre-vet, and pre-dentistry and whatever other pre-paths your university offers. But exercise caution with these pre-determinations. The regimented classes and the order in which they should be taken are so calculated you’ll be on the fast track to a diploma. It’s fantastic if biomedical engineering is what you’ve wanted to do since you were 9 and now that you’re 21 you want to do it even more. By all means, go ahead—but if you have even the teeniest, tiniest curiosity about what it might be like to develop black-and-white prints in your own basement darkroom, take a photography seminar. Take several. Don’t ignore it altogether just because it’s not on the registration course slip you signed when you were 18.
Speaking of registration, one surefire way to guarantee you another spot in next year’s yearbook is to misread the graduation requirements “accidentally.” You might be so busy with the course load for your new and enthralling major that you forgot all about that second P.E. credit needed to walk on time. An academic advisor will notice this and advise you to enroll immediately in summer school, but what a perfect time to cleverly suggest forgoing the summer and simply returning in the fall? Summer in Nashville is too hot for excessive physical activity, and anyway, you’ll want to be working to help finance the extra classes you’re starting in August. For those of you about to argue that if you’re going to have to work to pay for more time in school, then why not just graduate on time, consider that the jobs you get away with while still in college are much more interesting than the jobs you may feel obligated to take after you’ve graduated. Guilt changes everything. What was excusable as a summer position when you were in school is not nearly as cute when you have nowhere to go in the fall.
Leave the country
If you cross the pond, you’ll eventually come back, because the point is to remain in college. You can arrange for a more permanent sojourn later, once you’ve been assigned to a soulless cubicle. Withdrawing for a semester, or even a year, to spend time abroad is by far the easiest excuse to validate in your bid to postpone convocation. You want to see the world. You want to broaden your perspective. You want to experience life outside the college bubble. (And once you do all these things, you want to come back.) When justifying the upcoming term of absence to the dean, and more importantly, to your parents, be sure to mention how it will “ultimately serve the betterment of your education,” because time off allows for the “renewal and reawakening of your academic passions.” Finding work/volunteer/cultural opportunities abroad is fairly easy. Start by Googling “spend a semester….” Or check out ccusa.com . It’s a sort of adventure specialist association, placing people internationally in camp and outdoor programs. Worldteach.org and CrossCulturalSolutions.org are other worthwhile websites for investigating teaching and volunteer opportunities in foreign countries. And both suggest ways to get community funding for your trip so that you won’t be spending any extra money than if you were in school that semester. If in doubt about what a prolonged absence will do to your academic reputation, speak to the head of your major’s department and see if you can negotiate a thesis for your time away; as in, you’ll write one on your cultural explorations relevant to a particular theme or subject previously agreed upon.
Get a job
Not the kind you’ll be offered once you graduate (if you’re even offered one at all), but more along the lines of an internship. Some may argue that it’s possible both to intern and attend class at the same time. And they may be right. But they’ll also be jealous when you’ve got a blissful year of job-free college left and they’ve got 12 months of college-free office space. Depending on your university, there are a number of ways to spend a semester interning, and though the websites claim the internships are typically done while enrolled at the college, not all of the postings mandate that you must be enrolled. Or you could get a regular job—maybe a position involving physical labor that clears your head of all the frat party fog and “renews and reawakens your academic passions.”
And if you still aren’t sold, and are smirking to yourself because you’ve got another year-and-half-left and you think that’s all you need, rent St. Elmo’s Fire. Then rent Van Wilder. You’ll see…