At Street, we wear our influences and our college student misadventures on our sleeves. That’s why I’ll tell you straight up that the genesis for this article wasn’t fully original. It’s our version of The Cut’s “The New Rules,” which presents 140 etiquette guidelines for modern life post–COVID–19. The difference is our list was written with one specific group in mind: Penn’s graduating senior class. You might ask what business do a bunch of college students have giving other college students advice about the “real world?” To which I’d say you’re absolutely right, and…
And who better to get through to this notoriously unreachable demographic than a jury of their peers, passing sentence on the bad behavior we’ve witnessed, been on the receiving end of, and even—at our lowest moments—inflicted on each other. And though the advice of any one of us might be insufficient, together we represent a veritable think tank, a range of expertise broad enough to account for almost any scenario you’ll encounter out there. Or at least 69 of them, which is the final count because it’s equal to 34 times two plus one. Not for any other reason.
1. Bringing a hookup over to the studio apartment you share with two roommates is gonna be a much less appealing proposition.
You're now a little fish in a much larger dating pool that includes plenty of competition with higher–paying jobs and their own personal bedrooms. Don’t expect an offer of silently boning in your twin bed to stand out from the pack.
2. Stop normalizing talking stages!
In the words of a very wise woman: “I think like the biggest thing that like annoys me in like the whole dating world is like fucking talking stages, like that shit’s so annoying, like the whole like and just like the inconsistency in them—like I literally like hate that like so much … Just like the fact of like just you’re like … in like talking stages and it’s just like you’re like labeled that, and it’s like people like are considered like, you can’t like, you’re just like confused and like most of the time like the girl get like gets attached or something, and they like see it like it’s gonna gonna lead to a relationship and it’s always not.”
3. Delete Snapchat. It’s stupid.
The only reason for keeping the ghost app around is receiving horny snaps from guys you went to highschool with. You know—”I had a dream about you last night” or “Will you be home at all this summer?”
4. Find a drink you like that’s not your standard rum and coke, vodka and sprite—call it your fancy drink of choice.
When meeting people at bars, a Long Island iced tea won’t quite cut it.
5. There will be less sceney places to hunt for hook–ups.
I’m using “sceney places” here to mean any pre–planned event including a contingent of people you know semi–well, at least some of whom probably share your interest in having messy, inebriated sex afterwards.
6. Understand the nuances of ghosting ethics.
There’s nothing wrong with two people mutually deciding not to send follow–up texts after an underwhelming date, but if someone’s keeping the line of communication open while you’ve lost interest, you have a responsibility to let them off the hook.
7. In the words of my old choir director, articulate!
Couples of the world, talk to each other, I beg of you. Because if you don’t talk to each other, you end up talking to me, and I only have so much time.
8. You have to communicate in the bedroom, too.
I know we all have the fantasy of that guy who’ll wordlessly take charge in the bedroom and do everything perfectly, but let’s be honest. If you want to be choked, just say you want to be choked.
9. Try not to date friends of friends challenge … IMPOSSIBLE (1 hr version)
Yeah, I know they’re the easiest option, but it puts your mutual friend(s) in the awkward position of mediator, passing back and forth messages like you’re in middle school. This law is suspended for fucking friends of friends, so long as you…
10. Learn to exist cordially in the same room as a person you fucked, fucked over, or fought with.
We’re not asking you to be best friends, just to be polite. Plus, other people won’t want to date you if they think it’s an invitation for drama.
11. Don’t go to the orchestra with your recent ex.
Politeness can only take you so far.
12. Avoid becoming a boyfriend girl or a girlfriend boy at all costs.
If you stop hanging out with your friends after getting into a relationship, they will grow to resent you.
13. Stop being such a bitch (gender inclusive).
Some call it negging. Some call it being catty. Some (me) just call it a good time. Here’s the thing we all agree on: Nobody likes being on a date that feels more like being berated or, even worse, one of those kung fu movies where you emerge apparently unscathed only to begin gushing blood the minute after a fight. It’s easy to go power–mad when you’re in total control of the conversational dynamic, but let the flirting come first—not the other way around.
14. After a date, don’t debrief everything with your friends right away.
I know your monkey brain wants immediate feedback on a potential mate, but give yourself some time to process and form your own opinions first.
15. Never assume that a man has given conscious thought to a decision when he could've given no thought to that decision.
Chances are, he hasn’t. This will do wonders for the amount of time that you invest into trying to read between the lines of his late night “u up?” texts.
16. Post–nut clarity is a helluva drug.
Guys: Resist the urge to up and bolt immediately after you finish. Try waiting a few minutes to reach a more settled mental state instead. For the people that love them—if a man’s attitude or interest seems to flip on a dime after sex, don’t beat yourself up thinking it has anything to do with you personally.
17. What feels like an eternity in “waiting for a hot person to text me back” time feels like nothing to the person you’re waiting to hear back from.
If you feel strongly about consistent and timely responses, that needs to start with you I fear.
18. Class crushes are different from work crushes.
Work crushes are higher risk, higher reward. Acting on them can lead to much more, but can also majorly screw up the vibes at your job. Weigh your options accordingly.
19. Sleeping up the corporate ladder sounds really hot in theory; is only messy in practice.
Just take this one on faith and don’t ask me to elaborate. Suffice to say, we don’t all get to be Sutton and Richard.
20. Find out if someone is taken before investing a lot of time (say, a year) into crushing on them.
This is courtesy of one of our section editors, but I won’t say which! Not to protect their anonymity; just because it could absolutely apply to more than one of them.
21. In an ideal world we’d age out of our unattainable crushes, but don’t hold yourself to that standard.
If I could have any superpower, it would be to never pine after a straight man again. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that’s happening any time soon, so I’ve chosen to stop beating myself up over it, and for your own sanity I advise that you do the same.
22. Straight people: don’t tell your gay friends you wish you were gay.
You’re actually totally right—just not allowed to say it. Sorry <3
23. Brush and floss twice a day.
Not in the way where you tell your dentist you do when really you brush once daily and floss every other day. Did you know they can also tell if you’ve given head?
1. The hierarchy of frats and sororities doesn’t mean anything out there in the real world … mostly.
That said, if some LinkedIn stalking turns up that a recruiter or hiring manager was also a member of the honorable brotherhood of Alpha Delta Pi, don’t hesitate to play that up.
2. Getting fewer hours of sleep isn’t an accomplishment.
Stop wearing those eye bags like a badge of pride, and start getting a full eight hours on the regular. Your coworkers are worrying about you!
Ed. note: This does not apply to graduates entering the computer science field. Check your blue light glasses at the door, and thanks for inventing the internet—I’m a huge fan of your work.
3. Take some data science courses before it’s too late.
I don’t like it any more than you do, but knowing at least one coding language (or at the very least being Microsoft Excel–literate) is a clutch skill to break out in an interview.
4. Snakiness is a two–way street.
Penn is big enough that burning one bridge won’t close off every opportunity to you, but word can (and will) get around quickly out there. Not to mention, stepping on necks to get where you want to be gives others the license to do the same to you. Lift as you climb besties!
5. Don’t air all of your personal information (and especially personal beef) on social media.
I know as Gen Z we’re all sort of chill with existing in the panopticon, but being overexposed online is rarely, if ever, a good look.
6. Competition isn’t always the answer.
I know it’s hard to internalize, considering we’ve been taught the exact opposite lesson by Penn and probably before coming here. But there are enough seats at the table. As Al Gore once said, "There's an old African proverb that I made up. ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’ We need to go far, quickly."
7. Know who you can talk shit to, and who you can talk shit to them about.
The art of bitching is a storied one, but striking the delicate balance between the necessary venting of frustrations and creating a toxic work environment can be tricky. Make sure you know exactly who to count on not to spill. Alternatively…
8. Complain about work to people you don’t work with.
Obviously don’t make your friends/significant others into your personal HR department, but there’s no safer void for your grievances than someone who has no investment in the situation whatsoever.
9. Being in a consulting club doesn’t make you a real consultant.
Self–explanatory, but let me take this opportunity to ask: What are consultants? And more importantly, does the world need more of them?
10. Your job isn’t like class, part one.
By which I mean, you actually have to show up.
11. Your job isn’t like class, part two.
TAs can be your bestie, but your boss shouldn’t be.
13. Your job isn’t like class, part three.
Most of your classes will have something to do with your major. Your job probably won’t.
14. All cover letters are kind of bad—yours just has to be bad in the right way.
The key word here is legibility. Anyone—be they human or AI—who’s reading your job application should be able to extrapolate whatever you want them to take away with minimal effort. AKA bullet points are your friend!
15. The best way to approach an interview is with the goal of having fun.
That energy will be contagious, and giving someone a general warm and fuzzy feeling is way more valuable than any qualification.
16. Pick your de–facto email signoff and stick to it.
Unless you’re a high school theater director, “cheers” is not an appropriate choice.
17. Don’t partake in Jerry slander, lest you be chosen as the new Jerry.
See Parks and Recreation, season five, episode 20 for more on this.
18. If you have a job that’s hard to explain to people, don’t get frustrated when people ask you to explain what you do.
Here’s lookin’ at you, quant.
19. When possible, nepotize Penn students into internships.
This is a controversial one, so bear with me. We all know how hard the hunt for summer opportunities can be, and by that same token the feeling of relief when you discover that you went to the same school as someone at the company where you want to work. If you’re graduating directly into a job, there’s a good chance that a Penn alum helped you out to get where you are. Pay it forward when you’re in their shoes.
20. You should probably be saving at least some of your disposable income each month.
On the upside, you might also die tomorrow, so if buying something for yourself or someone else is going to make you happier, I say go for it.
21. Your first job isn’t your forever job.
What matters is that you’re making money (for rent and groceries and such), developing skills, and forming strong relationships with your superiors. When the positions you want open up—and they will open up sooner or later—you’ll have the security and experience to make you a strong applicant.
22. Don’t give back to Penn after you graduate.
They’ve already taken enough of your money. I don’t care that you’re making seven figures—donate it to charity instead. And if you’re concerned about your future children attending your alma mater, take it from me as a legacy student whose dad never gave a cent to the University and still got in with a B– in AP Physics—they’ll be just fine.
23. It’s never too late to change your path.
Think about all the people who knew what they were going to do from a young age and stuck to it: Richard Nixon, Genghis Khan, Elizabeth Holmes. Not great company to be in, is it?
1. Meeting friends will get much, much harder … prepare yourself accordingly.
Join an adult dodgeball league! Take up crocheting! Pretend you have a rare neurodegenerative disease and go to a support group (this is actually just the plot of Fight Club). What’s critical is that work isn’t your only place to meet new people.
2. Use astrology as a litmus test—it’s a good way to feel out when people take themselves too seriously.
Yeah, it’s probably bullshit, but don’t tell me I’m not giving Scorpio sun, Gemini moon, Gemini rising to a T.
3. Your major is no longer one of the first five facts to introduce about yourself.
Try your big three instead!
4. As above, no one cares about your dual degree.
They’ll probably care more about your favorite sex position.
5. Be intentional and enthusiastic about the media you consume.
Read books, watch movies, and listen to music. You’ll find that many of the more senior people you encounter, including the ones you’ll have to network with, prefer talking about art to talking about their jobs.
6. Learn all of the ways to chop an onion.
The easiest way to make the meals you cook more impressive (and more delicious!) is with a base of onions, garlic, and olive oil. This is especially true for pasta. And chances are you’ll be eating a lot of pasta.
7. Trader Joe’s won’t be a trolley ride away forever.
I’m not even prepared for this one yet, which hardly puts me in a position to give advice. Just start coming to terms with it now. I’ll be doing the same.
8. Choose a problematic fave to drunkenly defend at any opportunity.
Dibs on Alison Roman. Gwyneth Paltrow is no longer eligible because she’s innocent, you hear me!
9. Speaking of getting drunk, don’t be the one to make your friends hold your hair back.
It wasn’t a cute look in college, and it certainly isn’t now.
10. That said, always be the friend that’ll hold back the hair.
Human scrunchies, keep fighting the good fight. There’s a special place reserved for you in the afterlife.
11. For god’s sake, no more BORGs.
They say it’s not alcoholism until you graduate. Y’all … this behavior was never not a drinking problem.
12. If you mention Sink or Swim, don’t be surprised if people think you need a lifeguard.
In other words, find a new place to roll.
13. If you offer to get lunch with someone, they’re gonna think you actually mean it, and may even ~shudder~ try to schedule something on the spot.
Same goes for grabbing coffee, which out in the real world means actually grabbing coffee.
14. You’re in charge of filling your own free time now.
Prepare for the fact that every weekend won’t be a buffet of a cappella shows, dance troupe revues, and stand up comedy sets, all featuring friends that you should probably be going out to support. On the plus side, you’ll be able to discover what kinds of entertainment you genuinely enjoy, instead of whatever’s foisted upon you through social obligation.
15. Also, make time for yourself.
There’s a difference between working hard and being overcommitted; one will be rewarded, the other will only burn you out.
16. Turn on auto–caps for text messages.
Neat communication is one of the hallmarks of adulthood. This is the same reason you should have a dedicated email signature and especially set up your voicemail box.
17. The golden rule: Treat humanities majors the way you’d want to be treated if you were a humanities major.
There are like two to three responses you’ll get to telling someone you’re a humanities major (not that I would know—I’m technically a STEM baddie). The dubious “What do you even do with a degree in that?” The overly enthusiastic “Oh my gosh, that’s what I studied too! It’s so rare to find someone else who studied archaeological futurism.” For the rest of us, stick to a simple, “That’s pretty interesting, and I bet it’s definitely applicable to your career field of choice.”
18. It’s time to exit the womb of your political and ideological echo chambers, and no, this isn’t me being some capitalist–bootlicking classical liberal.
You’re going to encounter people whose stances on the “dinner party no–no topics” (religion and politics, mostly) differ from your own. A little friendly debate can be fun, but in most cases I recommend taking a de facto stance of passive tolerance. Of course, being generally gracious is vastly more important than putting up with someone’s particular beliefs. If you or your identity has been disrespected, it’s your full prerogative to cut that person out of your life. And ask around before taking this to a higher–up or HR department—chances are you’re not the only one who’s felt this way.
19. Call your friends.
They miss you. I know it feels like they don’t, but think about it this way: You probably miss them too, even if you’re not making the time to get in touch.
20. Don’t come back to campus for Patty’s darties.
Beyoncé famously asked, “What’s worse, looking jealous or crazy?” To the guys who party at their old frats for any event other than homecoming, I want to know what’s worse, looking desperate or creepy?
21. For recent grads: Avoid wearing Penn merch at the airport.
It’s fine once you don’t look like a student again, but your early twenties is too young to already be reliving your glory days.
22. It’s not worth it to live in Manhattan.
Branch out to Brooklyn, you cowards!
23. For Penn graduates, our “real world” isn’t that real at all.
The majority of Ivy League students have had a very unique life journey up to this point, and many of you will be cushioned from any significant blows to your life or career moving forward. This means you’ll be able to speak the language of the elite, for better or worse, but always remember that the world you’re walking into is very different from the one perceived, lived, loved, and hated by most.