If you're headed for college for the first time next month with visions of "Animal House" still dancing in your head - days and nights of booze and sex, toga parties and hilarious hijinks - Irv Brechner could pop that dream faster than a big fat F on your first midterm.
His more realistic picture of what you may find: hundreds of pages of often-tedious reading, frequent term papers, hours of study for grueling two- and three-hour final exams that count heavily toward your semester grade. Or, three to six times as much work as in most high schools.
It's not that Brechner is opposed to good times on campus. He's all for them. He met and dated his wife in college, was active on the student newspaper and literary magazine, played some basketball and seldom missed Sunday-afternoon touch football - "I had a blast."
But the good times, Brechner says, should take second place to your studies if you're going to make any kind of success out of four expensive years of higher education.
(The University of Maryland, for example, estimates that it will cost a Maryland undergraduate $3,628 for tuition, books, room and board and miscellaneous fees for the 1979-80 school year. The cost for out-of-state students is estimated at $5,387 for the year.)
Brechner's key to good times plus good grades: good use of time. Most students have only three or four hours of class a day, often finishing classwork before lunch. That gives them 12 hours, from noon to midnight, to study - far more than is needed, he says. But too many students fritter that time away, postponing their homework for a card game, a movie, a beer.
Brechner, 27, a 1973 magna cum laude graduate of Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J., earned an overall 3.5 grade average out of a possible 4. But he didn't start out all that well.
"I was very frustrated in my first semester because of all the things that hit you," he recalls, and his first-year average was only a 2.3. But through experience and suggestions from associates he developed study habits - some of them admittedly unorthodox - that pushed his gradepoint to the top.
After graduation he put those tips into a pamphlet that sold 20,000 copies. Titled "The College Survival Kit - 51 Proven Strategies for Success in Today's Competitive College World," it is being published this month as a Bantam paperback (90 pages, $2.95). Brechner now runs his own one-man ad agency and is the publisher of a bi-monthly magazine about retail stores in Essex County, N.J. And he is still in college, taking night courses at Seton Hall for a master's degree in business administration.
From the hundreds of letters he says he received from people who have read his pamphlet or heard him on talk shows, he estimates that 70 percent of its purchasers were parents.
His book is a serious one, with advice that some students may find difficult to follow. He suggests, for example, that you take time every day to copy over notes taken during class lectures. This may take 20 or more minutes per lecture, but it is worth the time, he says, because it reinforces what you've heard in class. When it comes time to study for an exam, you've got clean notes in your own words and you're already familiar with the material.
This, of course, means you've got to get out of bed and into the classroom. "The habitual class-cutter cannot expect good results," he writes.
Brechner is an advocate of underlining when you read and then going one step further: At the end of a chapter, he advises summarizing what you have underlined. Again it means at exam time you've got notes in your own words with which you are familiar.
Most students, when they face five final exams, study hard for the first exam and then cram for the rest. Brechner reversed the schedule, studying for the last exams first. This way, he was forced to give equal study time to all his exams. "I don't know why, but it works," he says.
Thus, the night before a big exam you should be able to relax, confident you know the material and blessedly free of the often self-defeating need of cramming through th night.
Brechner adds these additional tips:
Don't be overwhelmed when you first get on campus. Set priorities and don't let the work pile up.
If you must work to help pay your way through school, hold off at least for a semester until you adjust to the study workload. Afterward, he says, there's no reason you can't work 10 to 20 hours a week and still have a successful academic and social life.
Don't pick a roommate from your home town; find someone from some other part of the country. It's a part of the learning experience.
Make a monthly calendar of upcoming class assignments and social or other extracurricular activities. It's easier to fit everything in when you plan ahead.
Make an effort to know your professors and advisers; explore all the learning and career-counseling resources to you at your college.
Have some good old-fashioned fun. "No one should get the impression from the book I was a bookworm who spent 12 hours a day in the closet." CAPTION: Picture, Irv Brechner; by James A. Parcell