Whether you’re making that first back-from-college impression or solidifying your image before entering the work world, presenting your college self to those high school buddies over the holidays can be tricky. And although pretending like you don’t care is a great tactic in achieving a certain post-high school status, Daily Arts knows you do. So take out your TrapperKeeper and start taking notes, because that high school crush (or nemesis) is bound to be barging back into your life in just a few days.

Changing your image altogether isn’t recommended. It’s much easier to magnify or tweak your high school self so as not to startle your high school friends. If you try to do a complete 180, it will most likely backfire – forcing your friends to either call you out on it, or talk shit about you.

For example, it’s easy to go from chilled-out-high school kid to guitar-playing-pot-smoking-college philosopher, as long as you have the goods to back it up. Case in point: If you claim you and your college friends “blaze all the time,” it looks pretty bad if you can’t light up without burning your eyelashes, or if you can only strum an A chord on that brand-new Martin lying on your bed.

If it’s the “intriguingly smart and studious” look you’re after, start dropping words like “dissertation” and “thesis” early on. You don’t have to go into a full explanation, of course, as long as you stick to obscure topics (i.e. Nigerian film, the economic stability of Latvia, etc.). Start conversations with sentences like “There’s a scholarship program in Cambridge I’m applying for . ” or “Have you read Orwell’s ‘Politics in the English Language’ recently?” Beware: If you go too far with the pretension, someone might just ask to see the first few pages of that dissertation.

Or maybe it’s the “guy-who-knows-everyone” image you’d like to bring home. This one is relatively simple – colorful flyers, scattered to-do lists and a constantly ringing phone are the essentials. And be sure your many clubs/organizations have functioning websites for when your skeptical friends Google your name.

If you did join a fraternity or sorority while at school, avoid using Greek jargon like “brotherhood” and referring to your new friends as “sisters.” Don’t ask “what house” your friends live in. The tactic will only backfire, leading your high school friends to think you’re totally brainwashed and have lost your identity amid deafening sorority chants and brain-cell-killing fraternity hazing.

Don’t underestimate the power of a new look. For girls, a random change of hair color, length or even the sudden appearance of bangs can scream “I’m four months older and lovin’ it!” And wear those cute Urban Outfitters hats you were too self-conscious to wear in high school. Nothing says “College has changed me” like a taupe paper-boy hat cocked to the side. And boys, two words: facial hair. If you can grow it, scruff it up this winter break – the five-o’clock-shadow does double duty, saying both “I’m old enough to grow facial hair” and “I didn’t care enough about you high school kids to shave it.”

Drink responsibly while at home. Nothing says uncool like a college kid who can’t handle his liquor. Your high school friends will immediately infer that you never drink at college, never go out and have no friends.

And what about that old high school crush? Well, you have two options: 1) Ignore them. This way they’ll figure you’ve gotten yours during college, and have completely forgotten about that time behind the old oak tree. The snuff could switch your crush from unattainable to in-the-bag. 2) Be bold. Walk right up to that cutie from 10th grade biology and fearlessly hit on him like a pro. This tactic says “I’ve hooked up with a lot of drunk frat boys in the last four months, and now, I know a thing or two.”

So go home and dazzle your high school friends with these helpful tips. Leave them behind in January saying, “Wow, (your name here) has really changed/grown up/gotten hotter in college.” Good luck.

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