3 Reasons Why Back to School Shopping is Not Your Friend

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The start of school is always guaranteed to be one of the worst few weeks of your year. Teen morale is so low during this time that it’s been known to actually hit the ocean floor, creating a number of minor but annoying tsunamis.

We all know why, don’t we? Waking up early. Doing homework. Losing freedom. The list goes on forever. Even worse, though, are the things that sneak up on you, like school pictures, new lockers, or back to school shopping.

Before we examine back to school shopping, it’s probably a good idea to define it first. This is important. 27% of all students think that back to school shopping is shopping that you do with your back facing towards the school. That is not correct, although it is an understandable misinterpretation. I know it’s obscure, but back to school shopping is actually shopping that you do when you are preparing to return to school for the year.

That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? That’s just normal shopping, right? Wrong.

The Deals

First of all, you’ve got the incredibly stressful back to school shopping sales. Every office supply place you know of has a back to school sale. Oftentimes every other store you know of is also having a back to school sale, including butchers, auto parts suppliers, and realtors.

You, as a smart consumer, will try to figure out which sale is the best. Finding the best sale is vital to your self-esteem, because having bragging rights of finding the best sale is better than achieving immortality. Plus, it’s better for your wallet, which means it’s better for your parents’ wallet.

But these sales are confusing. Office Depot might have a 6-pack of Ticonderoga pre-sharpened pencils marked down 60%, but Office Max has an 8-pack of Dixon pencils with extra-soft erasers on a buy-one-get-one-free sale. To complicate matters, your friends recommend Dixon, but Ticonderoga has emphasized its quality. Plus, the Ticonderoga pencils are .12 inch longer than the Dixon pencils. But the Dixon pencils have shiny blue foil while the Ticonderoga erasers are a dull green. But the Ticonderoga pencils are calling your name. But the Dixon pencils are singing your favorite song. But the Ticonderoga pencils are trying to shake your hand.

Pretty soon, you’ve got concerned salesmen swarming around you, asking you why you keep running in and out of their store to glance at their pencils. A nice salesman would offer you a towel to wipe up your sweat. They won’t do that.

If you’re not careful, one of them will point out the 12-pack of store-brand pencils that are 45% off. Then it starts again, and again, and again, for notebooks, folders, pens, scissors, even sticky notes. You will have done so much math calculating price-per-unit that you are guaranteed to fail your next math test.

The Navigation

American retail stores are really quite considerate, if you think about it. They understand that the average consumer wants to be able to quickly find what they need. So, the stores reorganize themselves every night after closing, to keep life interesting.

Usually, a major reorganization happens during back to school shopping. You’ll go to where the school supplies normally are, only to find a shelf of kitchen utensils that look like they are made for sculpting granite. You’ll go to the office chair section and find that it’s been taken over by construction paper.

Now, I’m not suggesting that they make the school supply area hard to find. Not at all. You’ll walk through those automatic doors and immediately break your nose on a makeshift cardboard shelf selling erasers. Then you’ll back up to your left and trip over a hand-sanitizer display. If you’re not careful, you’ll have to crawl your way out.

The People

The worst part of back to school shopping is the other shoppers. Most of the time, they’ll be moms or dads with elementary school kids. These are people to watch out for.

First of all, they speed around the store with a metal shopping cart and their head buried in their school supply list. If you value having intact hips, you’ll avoid these dangerous shopping cart drivers.

Secondly, they’ll grab what you need before you can get it, and it’ll turn out to be the last item of its kind. It doesn’t matter that it’s school supply shopping week; the store won’t be getting in another shipment until October 2016.

Most horribly, though, is that they will block the aisle. They will stand in front of every notebook in the store trying to find the one with the shark on the cover. You will try to go around them. They will move into your path because they need to search the next stack. You will to try to go around them the other way. Their kid will step in front of you. So you try to reach over the kid. The kid will violently sneeze on the notebook you were about to grab. You can’t win.

It doesn’t matter if you normally like to shop; school supply shopping is depressing, stressful, and horrible. There is only one thing that makes it worthwhile: the gum at the end of the checkout line.

If you’re more worried about your new school locker, you might want to check out “3 Ways to Break in Your New Locker,” published at this time last year. Want a personalized feel? Read on.

The Best Advice for Incoming High School Freshmen

A banner welcoming freshmen with a funny note. Can't see this picture? Contact us and we can troubleshoot.

(As always, click the image to enlarge it).

Now, before you all start thinking that I’m some cocky, conceited writer who slaps ‘best’ into random titles, I looked around to make sure that this was truly the best information.

The first website I got when googling “advice for high school freshmen” was a wikiHow page. On this wikiHow page were such precious nuggets of advice like “eat breakfast and lunch everyday,” “accept change,” and “be yourself.”

If you need to be told to eat your morning meals as you enter high school, then I want to know: what have you been doing for the first fourteen years of your life? And who doesn’t want to accept free change if someone’s handing it out? Use it to buy yourself breakfast.

As for the “be yourself,” well, who else are you going to be? You can’t just show up on the first day and expect that if you call yourself “Abraham Lincoln” people will compliment you on winning the Civil War and tell you to watch out for people named John. It doesn’t work that way, unless you’re some sort of alien-thing. Therefore, while that wikiHow page might be the best advice for incoming high school freshmen who are not human, my advice is best for humans.

Now that we’re all sure this advice is the best, it’s probably time for me (now an upperclassmen) to actually give you the advice. Whether you are an incoming freshman or not, I’m sure you’ll get something helpful out of this. Unless you are illiterate, of course, in which case, I’d like to congratulate you on making it this far.

The Fashion

One of the biggest concerns for people like girls and appearance-conscious guys* is the new set of fashion guidelines. No longer a dorky junior high student, you are probably worried that your suspenders, cufflinks, double-breasted vests, Spartan warrior costume (complete with fake spear), fedoras, shoulder-high socks, and brilliant cowlick comb over combinations won’t fit in.

*which, probability-wise, have a lesser chance of existing than aliens who know how to navigate wikiHow.

Well, here’s some advice: if you were made fun of wearing it in Junior High, you will probably get the same treatment in high school. Only it’ll be even worse, because you’ll be in high school for four years (instead of the 2-3 of middle school), where you will be stuck with a nickname like “suspenders dude,” “tall socks,” or “Frank.”

For girls, I have no idea (past the made-fun-of standard) what the fashion is. It is usually changing faster than you can look up the word “couture” in a dictionary, so if you’ve got clothes that won’t work right now, save them for a few minutes until they become hip.

For guys, as long as your fashion falls under all of the other advice in this guide, you can pull anything off with enough indifference and quiet confidence. You could wear spaghetti in your hair and marinara on your shirt, and as long as you walked around looking like you didn’t care (but knew) that you had an Italian meal splattered on yourself, you’ll be fine. If someone does approach you, and asks, “Dude, you know you’ve got some carbohydrates in your hair?” simply reply, “Yeah, so?”

Navigating the School

This will be your first year at school, so you probably won’t have any idea how to get anywhere.

As far as finding your classes goes, know that each school was designed so like subject classes are close together (such as all the math classrooms being in the same hall). However, there is always one exception because the school ran out of classrooms. Your class will be that exception, so if you have an English class next, look in the English hall last. It’s a brilliant system that never fails.

Room numbers tell you only what floor your classroom will be on; otherwise, they are useless. There are no signs pointing down halls with things like “201-215 →” printed on them, and it’s not unusual to pass room 217 only to see that the next room is 247.35a.

Finding the bathrooms will be most important, but it shouldn’t be too hard. Simply follow the sounds of running water. There’s a low chance that you’ll end up at a nearby river and get swept to your death, but that doesn’t happen too often, especially if you’re wearing spaghetti.

Dealing with Upperclassmen

There are many important things you need to remember about upperclassmen.

Boys are pretty easy to handle. First, they are stronger than you. Second, they want you to know that they are stronger than you. Thirdly, they are stronger than you. Basically, unless it is unavoidable, do not annoy nor bump into any upper-class boys.

Girls don’t necessarily have the strength advantage, but they are terrific at gossiping. Who hears that gossip? The boys. And remember, the upperclassmen are stronger than you.

Seriously, though, if you are really lost, or are directly approached, and cannot avoid talking to an upperclassmen, take precautions. Remain a safe distance away, and start every sentence you say with “I’d like to remind you that I’m mostly just bones and not very tasty sopleasedon’teatmepleaseplease.” They probably won’t hurt you.

(If you’ve done something to offend an upperclassman but they haven’t returned the favor yet, it might be a wise idea to keep that model spear you made when you were ‘supes chill’ in junior high school somewhere nearby, like in your pencil case).

Dealing with the Work Load

Don’t complain to your teachers, nor the upperclassmen, how much work you have. The teachers will give you more work. The upperclassmen? They’ll just tell you things like, “You have a 20-page paper due at the end of the week? Dude, I’ve got a 4,556 page paper due next class and it was assigned by email at 3:00AM this morning,” and scare you about the next 4 years of your life.

You can complain to other freshmen, especially as a conversation starter, if it gets tiring to keep talking about how awesome the upperclassmen are (but, as an upperclassman, I can say that it probably won’t).

Basically, you’ll be facing four years of the most work you’ve ever had to do in your life. But don’t even think about that. No, what you need to do is procrastinate like there’s no tomorrow. Literally, if there is no tomorrow, then if you don’t do the work today, you’ll never have to do it!

Sadly, the global calendar hasn’t bought in to this, but teens everywhere are working on it. Or at least, it’s at the top of their to-do list for when they stop procrastinating.

Lockers

Lockers are the one thing that will still intimidate you, even when you are a 400lb, 6′ 5″, senior with a voice deeper than a subwoofer. As such, they have been already covered on this blog: here’s how to break in your new locker, and here’s why lockers are not your friend (this one’s also illustrated, with 4 more pictures than normal).

As you finish this guide, and actually prepare to show up at high school, I want to leave you with one more piece of advice: read this blog. Or, at least, pretend to. It won’t make you rich, and it will keep you from getting your work done, but it should fulfill that gaping hole in your soul that your hormones create. Plus, we’ve covered and continue to cover just about everything you ever wanted to know about high school life (that’s PG-rated, of course. Yes, I know that means we only cover about 15% of high school life*).

Oh, you don’t have a gaping hole in your soul? Let me see that Roman spear real quick.

*Just joking, gullible freshmen. You don’t need to be that scared. The number’s closer to 35%.

Last year at this time, we took a break from the back-to-school craze and covered something equally as unpleasant (although it lasts for a much shorter amount of time): The Torturous Dental Examination. Want to know what really happens at the dentist? Well, you should, for the preservation of your mental health the next time you go.

How To Painlessly Transition Back into School Mode

A picture of someone rolling dice. Summer’s almost over. Or, depending on where you are, it is over. In that case, think of it this way: summer hasn’t started yet.

That means a number of things, such as the fact that you will have to go back to school, the stores near you will start trying to entice you to buy $567.99 mechanical pencils (that’s for a pack of 2, by the way, not 1, so it’s actually a great deal) by marking them down 15%, and your life will slowly get bleaker until your vision becomes black and white.

Since I have no control over the last two of those things, I’m going to deal with the first one. I have no control over that, either, of course, but this is supposed to be a clever, reasonable transition, and not some random tangent about how I have absolutely no control over your life.

(I also have no direct control over some of my vital organs, like my heart, liver, or intestine, which sort of scares me, although I guess that means I don’t have to worry about them revolting against me or anything like that.)

Anyways, let’s talk about the first thing in that list: going back to school.

For the past three months, you’ve been sleeping in, been eating whenever you feel like it, been going to the bathroom whenever you want, and been enjoying the freedom to eat while falling asleep in the bathroom. That’s all about to change, drastically.

School is about to run your life. Your mental condition, your physical condition, and your schedule will all be centered on this school thing. Thankfully, school is also unable to control your liver, intestine, or heart. They will remain independent democracies, autocracies, or organocracies (government by the organs, for the organs).

The Sleep Schedule

You’re about to go from more than enough sleep to so little sleep you’ll find that blinking twice right before you get to school will double your sleep time.

Obviously, you can’t just jump into a schedule like this cold turkey. I don’t even think turkeys can jump, especially if they are cold.

No, you need to prepare yourself. However, you can’t just decrease your sleep amount. That’s because you’d still be getting quality, relaxing, uninterrupted sleep.

What you need to do is to wake up a number of times each night, pretending to be totally freaked out about something school-related.

So, for your first day of transitioning-training, you could wake up at 4:00 AM and pretend to worry about your poetry analysis for English class. Increase the number of times and importance of the things you wake up worrying about until, for the few days right before school starts, you end up with a schedule like this (obviously, of course, your projects/worries will still be fictional, as school won’t have started yet. They should, however, be realistic, to best prepare yourself):

1:00 AM: Go to sleep.

1:05 AM: Wake up wondering if you remembered to email your group your video about the life cycle of a bean plant.

1:06 AM: Worry that your bean plant container might have fallen over in a gust of wind during the night.

1:07 AM: Worry about the SAT as a general, hazy horror. Eventually fall back to sleep.

1:11 AM: Awaken worrying specifically about the vocabulary section of the SAT.

1:12 AM: Stress over the fact that your bean plant assignment is due tomorrow.

1:14 AM: Wonder if you remembered to email your bean plant video to your group members.

1:15 AM: Fall back to sleep.

1:32 AM: Wake up worrying that some obscure part of the bean plant’s biology will be a word on the vocabulary section of the SAT.

1:33 AM: Wonder if you remembered to email your group members your video about the SAT vocabulary section.

1:34 AM: Stress out because you realize you are so tired and overworked that you were worrying about emailing your group a video about the SAT instead of a video about bean plants.

1:35 AM: Did you email the bean plant video? What if your group members were already asleep?

1:37 AM: Or, what if your SAT vocabulary score is a negative number?

1:38 AM: Worry that colleges will find out about your probably-failed bean plant project and probably-achieved negative SAT score and never accept you, at any college.

1:40 AM: Fall back to sleep.

2:01 AM: Wake up after hearing a noise in the night. Oh god, what if it was your bean plant container blowing over? Or colleges dropping preemptive rejection letters on your doorstep through an air-drop? Or your angry group members trying to break in and punish you for forgetting to email that video?

2:03 AM: Fall asleep, hiding under the sheets.

(Repeat until about 6:00 AM).

The Food Schedule

This is slightly easier to transition into, because schools know that while you can survive up to nine months with minimal breaks on blinks, you can’t make it nine months without food.

Therefore, you really just need to get used to only eating at lunchtime. This sounds easy, but it is still a challenge. After all, you must cut out your after breakfast snack, your early morning snack, your mid-morning snack, your dessert for your mid-morning snack, your late morning snack, your last snack before you really eat lunch, and the bites you nibble while making lunch.

Easy ways to avoid constant snacking include occupying yourself with other things, such as your hunger; keeping your mind off food, by doing something like reading a recipe book; and drinking lots of water to fill your stomach. However, you probably shouldn’t drink too much water, because of something called:

The Bathroom Schedule

Bathrooms are also one of those things schools figure that you really need to make it until next summer. However, they limit the time you can go to the bathroom, which is vastly different from your summer schedule.

Over the summer, since you can use the bathroom whenever you want, you might use it once or twice a month*. During school, though, because you are only allowed to use it at certain times, you feel a slight need to use it at least every other break, just in case, leading to 4,558 trips to the bathroom a day.

*This is a gross exaggeration; do not try to only use the bathroom once or twice a month. However, it is not a gross gross exaggeration. That would be something like “you only go to the bathroom once or twice a month for 6 hours at a time, nonstop, as everything leaves your body faster than a skydiver leaving a plane with a bad song playing on it’s stereo.”

To adequately prepare yourself, you should roll a die twice right after you wake up in the morning (at 6:00 AM, after a terrible night’s sleep). You’ll have time to do it when you’d normally be eating your early morning snack. Then, take the two numbers and place them next to each other.

So, if you rolled a 3 and a 5, this means you must limit yourself to using the bathroom during times of :35, like 9:35. If you roll one 6, make it the second number. If you roll two sixes, that’s just too bad. Looks like your bathrooms are fictionally out of order for the entire day.

Looking back at these things, you might want to laugh. Waking up and pretending to worry? Not eating your 6 vital morning snacks? Rolling dice to see when you can use the bathroom?

You can laugh, but there’s really no reason to. After all, school starts soon. And these actions are as small as your brain when compared the large changes that school will bring. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go negotiate with my heart and intestine for another eight months of mutual cooperation.

Last year at this time we covered the terror known as athletic clearance with “Are You Athletically Cleared?” If you are alive, and are not bleeding, throwing up, or getting married right now, I strongly suggest you read it.

Also, I’ve got a few questions for you guys as we head back into the school year (feel free to reply in the comments or by emailing us):

1) Would you rather see a long post 1-2 times a week, or a shorter post 2-3 times a week? If shorter, how short?

2) Can you see the pictures that accompany the posts? I received a note from one reader that they were having trouble doing so, and I’d hate it for you to be missing out. If you are having troubles, email me and we can try to work it out. (There’s no need for this if you can see the pictures, just if you’re having a problem).

The Only Guide to Class Syllabi that You’ll Ever Need

An Old Syllabus from the 1400sBecause school is a cycle of never-ending work, you know that finals (AHHH!), or Rowndiau Terfynol, don’t mean you’ve finally reached the end.

You can think of it this way: every semester, you learn a little more, which you are then tested on in the final. Finals are also cumulative (for instance, you need 4th grade math, such as addition, to be able to do well on your high school math finals). Therefore, every finals test week is harder than the one before.

It becomes an unfathomable amount of material, to the point where you know enough information about science, math, English, and history that you can answer any question asked about these things. Your answer is almost always correct (meaning factual), as you reply: “Oh yeah. I remember now. We definitely learned that. But I forgot it.”

You would think this sheer amount of information would become impossible to learn, but just as you reach that point, you get spit out into the real world, where you don’t need any of the information you stuffed your brain with. Then you can answer any questions with: “What do you think I am? A student? I don’t need to know that in the real world.” (This particular example being a response to: what will you bring to our company?).

However, in high school, the days after mid-year finals bring a few new classes. In these classes, after you’ve determined how un-cool everybody else in the class is, you will be handed something called a “Syllabus” from the teacher.

The word “syllabus” originated in 1957, when one teacher, frustrated by constantly having to explain her policies, passed out a sheet of paper with her policies on them. Her students, of course, thought this was a ridiculous idea at the time, and called that teacher a “Silly Bus” behind her back (1957 slang meaning something like a clown, dork, or dweeb. This phrase is considered to have given birth to the current phrase “Silly Goose,” because the old phrase was not environmentally friendly enough to make it in the 2000s-buses pollute).

Now, though, you probably could care less about the name of the paper your teacher just handed you, and more about what the paper actually means. Here’s how you should decipher it:

Headings

Most syllabi are organized by heading to make them easier to decipher. Scan all of the headings immediately to make sure there is nothing too unnerving. For instance, it might go: Academic Expectations, Late Work Policies, Situations Involving the Guillotine, etc. You should be immediately alarmed and worried. I mean, academic expectations? You have to be academic? Maybe there was some mistake.

Grading Scale

Teachers often put their grading scale on the back of the syllabus. It usually has a bunch of percentage intervals and the letter grade they correspond to, such as “90-100%=A.” You need to study this carefully, and then figure out what grades you will need to spell out your name on your report card at the end of the year. If your name is Zeezee, than you’ve got an easy semester, as opposed to someone named Aaron.

Contact Information

Your teachers probably also put a way to contact them on the syllabus, whether by email, phone, or the times they are available at school. This contact information is vital. You need to commit it to memory and know it as well as your own. Then, the next time someone you dislike asks you for your contact info, you can give them the teacher’s instead.

Look for Small Print

Some teachers have had minor legal training, or may be related to lawyers of some kind. Just to be safe, you should read the whole syllabus, checking for any unusual demands. If you see something like: “Students shall then place their unmarked paper bags containing well-circulated twenty-dollar bills next to the statue between one and two AM on the first Friday of every month,” you should be slightly concerned. Before signing the bottom, check with your teacher to figure out how much money you’ll need to leave if you only want a letter grade that is present in your name, and not just an A.

Take Advantage of the Loopholes

Teachers have gotten pretty slick with their syllabi, often including all possible offenses under “Students may NOT:”, including chewing gum, arriving late, sleeping or eating in class, using your phone, and building a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of the staples and tape present on the teacher’s desk.

However, this often leaves a lot of room for possible liberties of the students. For example, you can ‘taste,’ gum, just not chew it (so you can leave it in your mouth and chew it when the teacher isn’t looking). You can use someone else’s phone, just not your own. You can build a scale model of the Empire State building, just not the Eiffel Tower. You can even build a scale model of the Eiffel Tower using just tacks and paperclips from the teacher’s desk.

While there may be other things present on the syllabus, these are all of the major points. I just hope no teachers read this blog, or you/I might end up with a syllabus so teen-proof, so strict, and so all-around solid that when we are asked “What will you bring to our company?” we reply “I may not speak out of turn.”