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Screwing Up is Not the Same as Flunking Out

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In this, the second in a series of blogs about screwing up, we make the distinction between screwing up and actually failing. These time-tested principles certainly serve well in college, however we encourage anyone to apply them in any of life's endeavors.

To begin with, don't be misled into the belief that screwing up is the same thing as flunking out. Flunking out is easy. Any moron with a number-two pencil can flunk out. All you have to do is sign up for your courses and not show up. It's all too simple. There's no challenge, no thrill, no excitement.

Screwing up, on the other hand, is full of excitement. Consider your college years to be a sort of ludicrous schoolboy adventure, a journey into a brave new world, a danger-filled safari through ivy-walled jungles lined with grading computers, academics, and other threatening creatures. Screwing up in college is one of the most uniquely exciting, vividly engaging experiences possible in one's lifetime. But it is not an easy task. For screwing up is not simply "copping out," but a dedicated way of life, a balanced interplay between science and art, a meticulous skill that requires years of commitment and discipline to master. And herein lies the intrinsic difference between the screw-up and the flunkout:

Flunking out is a short-lived phenomenon, whereas screwing-up is a process of time-released incompetence over the course of four or more years. It is a skill that can last a lifetime.

The whole idea is not to flunk out of college, but to remain in for as long as possible, striving to achieve just the bare minimum needed to keep yourself enrolled, completing just enough work to perpetuate a petty but noteworthy existence:

  • Days of fun and leisure
  • Nights of rock 'n' roll
  • Making the college campus your personal amusement park
  • Letting loose, wearing lamp shades, and simply partying your brains out while still handing in just enough submediocre, butt-kissing essays to keep your name off the probation list
  • Wild dancing to ear-crushing music
  • Crashing sorority mixers
  • Declaring racquetball as your major
  • Dusk-till-dawn Mardi Gras
  • Happy hour, anytime
  • Extravagant afternoon flings with coed freshmen
  • Frantic fraternity blowouts till all hours of the night
  • Every day a Sunday afternoon
  • Sleeping all you want
  • Technicolor dreams of crystal blue tropical waters, waves perfectly contoured to the shapes of surfboards
  • No schedule
  • No deadlines
  • No commitments
  • Simply hovering in limbo, relaxing on a four-year, all-expenses paid academic pleasure cruise to nowhere
Yet you must still remain both cynical and cautious enough to maintain the facade of "diligent honor student":
  • Proudly displaying a school emblem on your sweatshirts
  • Donning a bright, colorful book strap for all to see
  • Burdening your arms with books never to be opened just to keep with the "intellectual schoolboy" image
  • Briskly striding to class in sickeningly mismatched, preppy, argyle socks while humming the tune "Be True to Your School."

If you take this approach, your grade point average should eventually equilibrate somewhere around a 2.0, which is about halfway between "mediocre student" and "hopeless dropout."

Dropping out of school would invite the worst possible scenario, namely entering the real world. And as far as a screw-up is concerned, reality should be avoided at all costs. Your goal should be to stagnate, to remain sheltered within the ivy halls, tightly nuzzled against the mothering bosom of government approved student loans. Jerking around, goofing off, and honing the fine art of procrastination all can be cleverly cloaked within the guise of a "liberal" education, eventually diminishing your functional awareness to a state of complete mental masturbation, proudly shrouded and clouded by the ritualistic pomp and circumstance of this "rah-rah" mentality we call academia.

As should be quite apparent by now, following these simple guidelines will serve you well, not only through your college career, but well into actual adulthood. If you study corporate life as I have (by reading the Dilbert™ comic strip), you can see that screw-up principles can be seamlessly transferred from college career into a life-long corporate career. But remember, you have to master the game first. And what better place to prepare for the rest of your life than in college?

In our next blog we will begin to examine the Screw Up's arsenal of resources.

This blog was adapted from the book Party Thru College by Dennis Bruce. It is available through or at