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Leaves are starting to turn, pumpkin spice lattes are back on the menu, Halloween decorations make their way onto shelves and porches, the thrift store has its costumes, and cooler nights now require thicker blankets. What does it all mean? Goodbye summer, hello September! They’re signs that fall is around the corner. For many, though, this also announces the inevitable yet exciting return to school.

For children, teens, young adults, and older ones, September usually marks their return to classes. It’s an exciting time — a time of new beginnings — but it can also be an anxious time. Perhaps you’re new and don’t know any other students. Perhaps the classes intimidate you, or the unknown teachers, or even the location. To help you, the school will likely have some kind of orientation and offer on-site help to alleviate some of all of your concerns. However, in my experience, this only addresses some issues and so much remains unknown.

This guide — A Student’s Survival Guide. Literally. — contains anecdotal evidence to help you better navigate those situations the other guides refuse to discuss or even acknowledge exist. You will find tips and suggestions to help you navigate through a variety of situations that will crop up in your educational journey. It is my hope that, should you heed these warnings, you will come out from student-hood alive and be able to enjoy your life. So, good luck and have a great year.

Section 1 – Bullying. The Big No-No.

Bullying and its effects on mental health have garnered increased attention recently. Rest assured that whatever educational institution you choose to attend, more likely than not you will encounter a zero-tolerance policy. For the administration of your school to keep track of all student interactions is practically impossible. However, such incidences are always witnessed by someone, and it could be you. If you do ever come across such an incident, you are encouraged to step in and defuse or even stop the situation. What you shouldn’t do is look on innocently, encouragingly, or even begin to partake in the activity. Be warned that the consequences of doing so could be, well, deadly.

Recall the events that took place in The Craft (1996) when Sarah (Robin Tunney, The Mentalist), Nancy (Fairuza Balk, Ray Donovan), Bonnie (Neve Campbell, Scream), and Rochelle (Rachel True, Half & Half) were bullied. Sure, nobody knew those girls were knee deep into witchcraft, but if you’re gonna be an ass to people, you need to be ready for that karma, that retribution. Heck, the events in Carrie (1976) should have been warning enough.

Of course, some of you might not heed these warnings, brushing them off as examples based in the fantastic. Let’s be honest, you don’t see people using telekinetic powers or witchcraft everyday. But All the Boys Love Mandy Lane (2006) isn’t super-natural, yet it provides a similar lesson. Emmet (Michael Welch, Z Nation) is mercilessly bullied and uses tangible weapons like knives and guns to exact his revenge. So, be good to your fellow students. Your life could very well depend on it.

Section 2 – School Trips? Choose carefully.

One of the perks of being at school is the various trips you can choose to participate in. Some are simple day trips, like to the local fair, the local museum, or an amusement park. Some are overnight ones, including ones abroad. You will find that there are numerous possibilities. You can join a club, a sports team, or a certain class. The opportunities are there. Just dig around. It’s a chance for you to get involved, meet new people, and travel. However, it is necessary to point out that care should be taken in unearthing these trips. In the end, you want to make sure you came back alive.

Taking a bus is a common way to travel. But with so many sickos out there, it’s advisable that a thorough background check be made on your driver. How would you feel if, like Jesse (Mark Patton, Family Possessions), you had Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) driving your bus like in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 (1985)? Scary thought, right? And while you’re at it, don’t forget to check out the itinerary.

Most roads are fairly safe to travel, and you wouldn’t think twice about any lurking dangers. However, you should question the chosen route if you notice there’s some traveling through isolated areas. Bucky (Billy Aaron Brown, 8 Simple Rules), Deaundre (Garikayi Mutambirwa, Clockstoppers), and their friends found out the hard way. It only took two flat tires, an inability to fix it themselves, and not getting the roadside assistance. Too bad they got stuck in the middle of the Creeper’s from Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003) feeding grounds. Best you avoid those areas.

Some trips require air travel, which can come with its own set of issues as well. Always be on the look out for signs of problems. When Alex (Devon Sawa, Casper) freaks out because of his vision in Final Destination (2000), it should have set off alarms for everyone, not just a few people. Now, I get that Death’s design is something that shouldn’t be trifled with, and you could argue that Death won out in the end, but it’s a warning sign nonetheless. Life isn’t easy, but the more chances you give yourself, the likelier you are to live a long life.

Lastly, and though this is rare, any government policies enacted to deal with unruly youths in recessionary times should be kept in mind when planning to go on a school trip. It’s strongly advised that in such an advent, you ask for confirmation of not only travel arrangements — including bus fares or airfares — but also of hotel reservations and so on. If Shuya (Tatsuya Fujiwara, Guardian of the Spirit) and his classmates had been more diligent, they wouldn’t have ended up on an island having to battle one another to the death (Battle Royale, 2000). Let’s be honest, there are better ways to enjoy a vacation than having to kill your friends and classmates.

Sometimes, for various reason, you may find yourself unable to go on a trip, choosing to remain behind. It’s no big deal as many schools have the support in place to allow you to stay. It’s certainly an option, but once again, be diligent. Know the staff and their background, and for your sake, chekc the date. John (Josh Hartnett, Penny Dreadful), really tried to make the best of a weekend with his friends (and girlfriend) while everyone was away (Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later 1998). There was food, there were flowers, there were candles, all the ingredients for a romantic weekend. But it was all ruined because of one guy. But seriously, John’s mom was the headmistress, Laurie (Jamie Lee Curtis), her brother was Michael Myers and it was Halloween weekend. A more obvious foreshadowing of things to go south, there could not be. Don’t be that John.

The last thing I want to do is to frighten you and avoid partaking in these trips. Many students have participated in school trips, without the unfortunate side effect of death. With proper planning and scrutiny, most of them can be quite enjoyable.

Section 3 – Don’t be a dick. Avoid disciplinary measures. Or else…

Teachers and professors don’t really want to deal with crappy behavior. Sure, they’ll put up with a little deviancy, but anything repetitive, anything disruptive, or anything extreme, they really don’t like. So, if you want to stay in the staff’s good books, just behave. Sounds pretty easy, right? What’s the worse that could happen?

Nobody expects you to be a saint. However, being an ass won’t do you any good, either. In fact, the more you deviate from the norm, the more likely you might get in real trouble. And sometimes, the school’s administration might not take kindly to your behavior, going so far as to take radical steps to improve the situation. Take it from Steve (James Marsden, Westworld), Rachel (Katie Holmes), and Lindsay (Katharine Isabelle, Hannibal) who left Cradle Bay in a hurry (Disturbing Behavior, 1998).

Stepping out of line there meant you were likely going to go through a pretty radical behavior modification process. It wasn’t perfect by any means. The Blue Ribbons had their share of behavioral issues. Nevertheless, if you want to avoid a complete mind-fuck, it’s wise to toe the line and follow the rules of the school.

Of course, there is always that favorite of punishments: detention. Glorified in The Breakfast Club (1985), it’s really meant to be a punishment, not a place to hook up. This romanticized version is complete fiction. In fact, the opposite is true. Some of the students in detention can be dangerous deviants, including killers. Riley (Shanley Caswell, Haunting on Fraternity Row) really missed an opportunity to unmask a killer while in detention (Detention, 2011). It almost cost the Detention Club their lives. Thankfully, she had the ability to travel back in time. However, given it would be unlikely for you to do the same if faced with a killer in detention, it’s simply best that you try to avoid it.

Section 4 – Holidays? We got you covered.

Thanksgiving. Christmas. Spring Break. Easter. Lots of holidays to go around. Have you thought about what to do? Don’t fret, as you do have options. One obvious choice is to go home and visit your family. Fun, right? Sure, unless they’re like Brad’s (Vince Vaughn) brothers (Four Christmases, 2008). In that case, you may want to consider an alternate possibility. You could go somewhere with your friends, an option that is already popular for Spring Break.

Blue waters, hot sun, and beaches. What’s not to like? These are the preferred destinations for many Springbreakers. Clearly, you’ll check out the hotels and what’s included in their packages, the locale, the beaches, and nearby activities, as well as the night life. However, a little research on the geological formations of the area is encouraged. You never know what dangers lurk in underground lakes, just waiting to be released. One can only imagine how many students would have survived had they avoided Lake Victoria and its brutal piranha outbreak (Piranha 3D). Of course, that’s not the only thing that can go wrong.

When Olivia (Lucy Hale, Life Sentence) and her friends travel to Mexico for their last Spring Break together, it seems that nothing could go wrong. And for the most part, nothing did. But playing a game of truth or dare in an old run-down mission with a stranger was a mistake. Oh, you’ll find that Markie (Violett Beane, The Flash) and Olivia have found a way to extend their life, but the resulting trail of dead students is a bit of a buzzkill. If Olivia had only stuck to her original plan — a week with Habitat for Humanity — this could have been avoided. In any case, beware of strangers inviting you to isolated places to play high school games. Maybe your parents just might have been on to something about strangers, right?

Ultimately, you should enjoy the few holidays you have. Then again, you should also aim to stay alive. I am only suggesting that with thorough research, background checks, and due diligence, you should be able to increase your chances of coming back alive and eventually graduate. Who doesn’t want that?

Section 5 – Part-time jobs. Anything but babysitting.

Going through school can be financially straining. After working full-time hours during the summer, many of you will be looking to offset some of the strain by getting a part-time job during the school year. It won’t make you rich, but it will help with clothes and some school supplies. It also helps with those times you want to go out with friends to a movie, a pub, or restaurant. With possibilities ranging from retail to fast food, finding a job won’t be difficult. However, I would suggest you avoid the most dangerous of part-time jobs, the one with the lowest survival rate: that of babysitting.

It is understandable that you will be enticed with the promise of rewards and easy work. You get access to free food, you get to play with kids, you get to watch television while they sleep, and you get paid while doing your homework, among other things. But you’re also alone. And, well, that makes you a target. But if you have no other choice to take a babysitting job, I would make a few suggestions.

Beware of calls or text messages asking if you’ve checked the children (When a Stranger Calls, 2006). FYI, if that happens, the killer is already in the house, so good luck with that. Calling the police may or may not lead to immediate help. In the end, you might be stuck having to choose your life or the life of the children. Not a predicament you want to find yourself in. Nor is one whereby you might be babysitting for satanists.

Samantha (Jocelin Donahue, I Trapped the Devil) was only looking to make a bit of money for college. And she didn’t do anything wrong in seeking out the babysitting job. Look at what happened to her? After being used in a satanic ritual, she’s now the mother of what’s presumed to be a demon, if not Satan himself. That’s unfortunate for a promising college student. It is for the above reasons that you should absolutely avoid part-time work in babysitting.

Section 6 – Faculty. Friend or foe?

One of the more important parts of your educational journey will inevitably involve the faculty. Teachers, academic advisors, and support staff, you will appreciate their support and help along the way. Whether teaching or providing advice, make sure you connect with the staff. If you’re in a dilemma about whether or not to be the teacher’s pet to ensure a solid recommendation, it is to your advantage to try to connect. Well, there are some exceptions where this may not, in fact, be true. If various staff members are possessed by an alien entity (The Faculty, 1998), interacting with them won’t do you any good. Luckily, this doesn’t appear to happen very often — one hopes — so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern.

The bigger and more likely problems involve secret back stories. Teachers or staff members with dark secrets or mysterious pasts are the ones you need to be watching and avoiding if possible. Look for clues or out-of-the ordinary incidents. If students begin to die and it turns out they are all virgins, it’s a red flag (Cherry Falls, 2000). Jody (Brittany Murphy, Clueless) clearly had the inside track on solving the mystery behind the murders in Cherry Falls and could have undertaken a different course of action to escape the killer. Yet, she chose to ignore the obvious signs and almost paid for it with her life. Too bad the same can’t be said of many of her friends. Be aware of revenge motifs. It might just save your life.

The toughest situation is when teachers have no secret past, no hidden revenge motives, and are, in fact, very popular with students. In these cases, well, you just might be shit out of luck. Students adored and respected their teacher Seiji Hasumi (Hideaki Itō) when he joined the teaching staff (Lesson of the Evil, 2012). Were they ever surprised when it turned out he’s actually a sociopath who has a dark penchant for murder! Nobody could believe, not even the police, until he made a slight self-incriminating mistake. But by that time, it was too late for all but two students. Though there was no way to know Hasumi’s murderous tendencies, just be aware that not every teacher is balanced. Don’t be too eager to trust them, especially if students or staff begin to turn up dead, inexplicably.

Please, don’t let these stories frighten you. There are plenty of examples of good teachers who aren’t out to kill you. But, as a safety precaution, you might want to carry a can of pepper spray as well as always know two ways out of any room in which you may find yourself. Do this, and you should be golden.

Section 7 – Friends. Friends. Friends. What’s a Little Murder Among Friends?

What would school be like if you didn’t have friends? Whether you’re new at a school and have to start from scratch, or returning and just meeting up with old ones, they play an important role in your lives. You share classes with them, with their successes and failures. You go out on the town to laugh, eat, and drink. And most lasting is that you create and share stories. All these experiences are important, and some of the bonds you’ve created will last a lifetime. Or until death literally does you part. Here are a few pointers on how to ensure this happens due to old age and not because of murder.

We’ve all been there. A night out with some friends at a bar or pub, enjoying drink after drink. Sometimes, the night ends quietly, but not always. You might find yourself table dancing, streaking down the main road, or even stealing a tiger from some famous person’s house. Though most of your silliness will be harmless, sometimes, it gets out of control. Under no circumstances should you get behind the wheel of a car, which is seriously frowned upon. The last thing you want is to hit someone and then have to get rid of the evidence. It’s been done and doesn’t work. You’ll only end up having a mysterious person with a fish hook run after you and your friends, killing you one by one (I Know What You Did Last Summer, 1997). The message is clear: if you want to keep your friends alive, don’t drink and drive.

Sometimes, you may lose friends even though none of you did anything bad. Sometimes, it’s because of your parents. Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) and her friends had a pretty good life. They enjoyed their friendship, their time at school, and life in general. Weren’t they confused when, out of the blue, their nightmares actually began trying to kill them (A Nightmare on Elm Street, 1984). And succeeded! Lo and behold, it turns out that, years back, this set of parents had taken justice into their own hands. Some mistrial allowed a child molester to go free, and they decided to trap him and burn him alive. Now that’s a story few parents can brag about.

The best thing you can do if you find yourself in this situation is to search for the truth. You can likely discount it coming from your parents as they probably entered some pact to keep it secret. I suggest looking around the house for paraphernalia of the killings. The wood furnace is a good place to start. I won’t mislead you that, in all of the scenarios in this guide, this is the likeliest one to end poorly for you.

Lastly, if fellow students begin to die, you might want to re-evaluate the friends you do have. How long have you known them? What about their parents? Have they done or experienced some tragedy? Do their children — your friends — harbor some anger or some hatred that necessitates revenge due to this tragedy? Sidney Prescott (Neve Campbell) refused to acknowledge that her mother had had at least one affair (Scream, 1996). This lack of knowing those closest, including her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich, Riverdale), allowed the murders to happen.

You need friends, and you will have them. However, if people start to die, especially if they are part of your inner circle of friends, don’t be so quick to discount the possibility that one of them might be the killer. If you suspect one, don’t confront them. Either go to the police or hide.

Section 8 – Social media. To Like or Not to Like?

Fun times, those social media accounts. Needing to check what your friends, your groups, your favorite athletes, and other celebrities are doing. It’s fun and, just like you befriend people in your real life, so too you will befriend them online. You’ll be surprised at the number of people who will ask to join your e-circle of friends. As with real life, a few words of caution.

First, make sure you remain grounded. You don’t need to be the next YouTuber. You don’t need to have the most likes. Though the allure is there and the more you are liked, the more intoxicating it can become, there is the danger of addiction. Even if you are working on building your brand as part of an eventual career path, try to stay reasonable. Whatever you do, don’t create fake situations to fit your online narrative.

Sadie (Brianna Hildebrand, Deadpool) and McKayla (Alexandra Shipp, X-Men: Apocalypse) went to extremes to increase the number of views and likes of their real-life tragedy blog. It worked too, through meticulous planning and incredible luck. However, and let’s be very clear about this, murdering for the sake of creating new content on a blog is not encouraged. And don’t let the fact that they seemingly get away with it be an encouragement to emulate their behaviors. Murder is illegal and carries harsh penalties with it. Keep your social media presence aspirations under control. Don’t be a douche. #noTragedyGirlRepeat

Another issue to keep in mind is that, just like bullying isn’t tolerated, neither is cyber bullying. But it is there, it offers anonymity, and it spreads for beyond the boundaries of the school you attend. Aside from your institution’s various rules and punishments, beware of unexplained retribution if you were to be a cyberbully. Blaire (Shelley Hennig, Ouija) thought it was funny to upload the video of Laura’s (Heather Sossaman) embarrassing moment at the party (Unfriended, 2014). Laura wasn’t laughing and, humiliated, took her own life. But the story doesn’t end there.

Blaire and her friends quickly found out that sometimes, karma comes from beyond the grave to exact restitution. Think about that. If this happens to you, how do you expect to fight a supernatural entity? I’ll let you in on a little secret: you can’t. So, it’s best that you refrain from humiliating people on the internet. Your journey as a student, and human for that matter, may be cut short.

Section 9 – The rites. The parties. The memories. The Kills.

As a student, you will undoubtedly come across situations that require celebrations. Aside from birthdays or minor milestones, some events will be more extravagant, necessitating a bit more preparation and maybe even formal wear. These include graduations, semi-formal dances, and proms, among others. You are encouraged to attend as they will be fun and generate memories. Here are a few tips to keep in mind (and keep you alive) before venturing out.

First, ask yourself if you’ve ever been involved in a prank gone wrong. Did it cause irreparable psychological damage to someone? If you’ve answered yes, you might want to reconsider your attendance. Alana (Jamie Lee Curtis), Ed (Howard Busgang), and their friends never thought twice about their past actions when boarding the train for a New Year’s Eve party (Terror Train, 1980). Sure, having a fraternity pledge believe he’s about to make out with a nice-looking girl, but ends up doing so with a cadaver might seem funny at the time, but who had the last laugh on that one, eh? A few laughs, and they end up dead. Keep that in mind if you find yourself in similar situations.

Are you thinking of attending prom? It’s likely your first real Cinderella-type ball where you can dress up and enjoy a night of eating, dancing, and drinking. The music, the decorations, the friendship — it will feel like a fairy tale. A few things could ruin such a night. For example, if you or one of your friends become ridiculously intoxicated and have to be taken care of. That’s a burden nobody wants. And let’s not underestimate the downer of death by murder. Not fun. At all. So, before attending, ask yourself if there are clues indicating murder is afoot.

I will repeat it again: you need to know who your friends are. Did they accidentally push someone from a window and kill them when they were young (Prom Night, 1980)? Did their parents get killed by an obsessed teacher (Prom Night, 2008)? Just dig around. These kinds of events always leave a trace. In these days of everything on the internet, diligent research might save your life.

Lastly, a word about reunions. Years after graduating, you might get a notification of an upcoming reunion. Even though years since the end of your student life have passed, remember that this celebration recreates the student environment, even if only for a night. They are fun, as it allows you to catch up with old acquaintances. Although, don’t expect everyone to be truthful about their adult life. A game to outdo one another often takes place. Nonetheless, you should attend.

There is no need to worry about revenge killings at these events. 15, 20, or even 25 years is a long time. Usually, those with revenge on their minds have either carried out their plans, have forgotten about getting revenge, or have passed on. However, have you considered any local supernatural legends? Though you may be safe from knife- or axe-wielding killers, what about the jaws and tusks of death? It is unfortunate that Sabrina (Kacey Rohl, Arrow) or her ex-classmates did not read this guide. Otherwise, they may have looked into the legend of their school mascot and have stopped a massacre (Killer High, 2018).

Section 10 – Ruts and Routines and Time Loops, Oh My!

One last word on the life of a student. You may find on some days that your life has become routine and quite repetitive. This is normal. Essentially, a student wakes up, takes care of some toiletries, goes to class, goes back to their home, and completes homework or assignments. Sprinkled in between are meals and social events. It shouldn’t be worrisome if you feel that school is like Groundhog Day. It happens. However, should you experience more life-like and terrifying repetitions, like dying over and over again as in Happy Death Day (2017), then it is quite possible that you are stuck in some kind of temporal loop. If this is the case, it is important that you figure out the reason and take appropriate steps to exit the time loop.

It should be noted that, while you get to repeat, literally, the same day, do not try to change things. The consequences of messing with the time continuum cannot be properly evaluated. Instead, focus on stopping it before it’s too late and you actually die.

Section 11 – Conclusion. Dare to Survive.

Being a student is not easy. There will be many moments of fun as you journey from preschool to the end of college, which may or may not include graduate studies. But that journey is treacherous. At every step, there is the possibility that you are killed for a multitude of reasons. However, a prudent approach to situations and following the tips and suggestions included in this guide should maximize your chances of survival. So, seize the day, learn away, and live to a ripe, old age.

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Sidney Morgan
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