Fresh advice

If you could sit down with someone who was about to go off to college, what advice would you give them? That’s the question put to four of our writers, and here are their responses. Then again, what do we know? Most of us majored in journalism.

Ask yourself, “Is college necessary?” The recession seems to have reduced the value of a college degree. In one year, people saying a college degree is a good investment dropped 16 percentage points in Wall Street Journal surveys—from 80.9 to 63.5 percent. The piece of paper still likely guarantees higher earnings, but some are asking the question Time magazine asked: “But does that mean that we should help more kids go to college—or that we should make it easier for people who didn’t go to college to make a living?” The magazine reports that most people in their 20s with college degrees end up in jobs that don’t require them.—D.M.

Break up with your high school sweetheart. Sure, there are rare exceptions, but it’s probably going to happen sooner or later. Why waste time, heartache and missed opportunities now? —K.K.

Ride a bike. Every day at UNR you’ll hear somebody complain about parking. There will be bitching about the high fees for parking permits—fees for every area got bumped up $25 this year. There will be griping about parking tickets for parking in the wrong zone at the wrong time or at an expired meter—the university’s hard up for cash, so the meter readers are extraordinarily diligent and uncompromising. And there will be whining about how all the choice spots near campus were occupied that morning. Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid these and the myriad other irritants associated with parking near campus: Ride a bike to school. While others bitch and moan, you’ll sit comfortably, knowing that your trusty steed is locked up right outside the building. Plus, there’s saving the environment, getting fit, and all that other stuff.

You’re supposed to register your bike with the university’s Parking and Transportation Services Department, but unlike registering a car, bicycle registration is free. —B.B.

Take advantage of free/discounted stuff. Your student ID is your gateway not just to class, but also to discounted and free performances, movies and sports games. You’ll have to wait another 40-something years, until you’re a senior citizen, for that kind of VIP treatment. —K.K.

Watch for predators. No, not that kind. Watch for the booze and credit card companies. They prey on college campuses. Bulletin boards will have credit card application sleeves all over campus, and there’s usually a whole beer culture set up and waiting when you arrive. Credit card companies have many techniques for getting students to sign on the dotted line, run up big balances and make interest payments for the rest of their lives. Going crazy as a college student is normal, but there are those ready to exploit that craziness.—D.M.

Wear flip flops in the dorm and gym showers. Trust us on this one. —K.K.

Pay attention to the signs. Throughout the semester, you’ll be exposed to hundreds of signs and posters on campus and people handing out flyers, whose only purpose is to get the word out for something. It may be rallying students for athletic games or upcoming elections, while others are an open invitation to a free meal, movie screening, open mic or concert. And as your first year as an independent young adult begins, these social events are created with you and your peers in mind—to provide an opportunity for strangers to become friends and circles to be built. Plus, many of these events will help pinch pennies on occasion. —D.H.

Majors aren’t that big of a deal. In real life, you will learn that theater majors end up in law enforcement, and biology majors are investment execs. Unless the major comes with some necessary technical skills, no one really cares what you majored in. By one survey, only 42 percent of companies look for particular majors—and that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t hire outside the majors they seek. There is some evidence that choosing a major that doesn’t really suit a person’s genuine interests is a prescription for burnout in the workplace.—D.M.

Expect a little drama. When you leave home for the first time, you’re bound to indulge in a variety of behaviors you’d never attempt while living with mom and dad. You’re not in high school anymore. You get to start fresh. You can be whomever you want to be. The outward representation of this might come in several forms. Some common ones people do, often during the first few weeks: Get tattoos. Start having more sex—“more” potentially meaning any at all. Start having different types of sex. Start drinking (and yes, if you’re under 21, you’re not supposed to do this, but we’ll go out on a limb and figure you will find a party that will offer you that ubiquitous red plastic cup). Eat differently—you may decide to become vegetarian or vegan or pescarian or pizza-arian. And while you’re doing all of this “figuring out who I want to be” stuff, there will be tears, and eye-rolling, and yelling, and hugs. If you play it right, it may all be worth it. —K.K.

Get to know the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, or ASUN. One of the best resources available to you is the undergraduates’ student government. It’s in the Joe Crowley Student Union and is the go-to source for information on all undergraduate clubs on campus. Friend them on Facebook for info on many of the events they host. For example, Welcome Week begins Sunday, Aug. 28, with events going on every day until the following Sunday. The week-long function includes free food, a free movie showing, and a personal favorite, a concert by hip-hop artist Macklemore, just to name a few. So pay attention, because there should be no reason your ass is sitting at home on any given Friday night. —D.H.

Eat right. You’re not getting served at the family dinner table anymore, and you’re probably not used to cooking. Much can be made in a hot pot in the dorm room—ramen noodles, mac and cheese, instant—gag—mashed potatoes. Try not to live off of this alone. You need protein, you need vegetables and fruits. Don’t just fill yourself; feed yourself. —K.K.

Think twice about journalism. After Woodstein made reporting sexy in the 1970s, there was a lot of talk about j-schools experiencing a glut (some researchers called that an urban myth). Before joining that glut, consider this: Huge numbers of journalists bail out of the profession before they reach 40 and start new careers, either moving into media management, public relations, politics or unrelated fields. The pay is bad and getting worse, and newsrooms are seeing staff shrink, increasing the workload on those who remain. Think about this: A lot of journalists are relieved when their children choose other callings.—D.M.

Get a job. Not only can you earn some needed cash, but working at a coffee shop or bookstore or pizza parlor or whatever can actually be kind of fun when you’re in college. Make friends, and maybe get some free coffee/books/pizza along the way. Who knows, it may also help fuel an entrepreneurial knack you didn’t know you had. —K.K.

Take advantage of your spring breaks. The chances of you getting weeks off a couple of times a year—plus a summer break!—are very slim, and certainly more difficult, after leaving college. If you can’t afford a far-flung spring break, get some friends together and do something. Just a few of the great places you can reach within an 8-hour drive from Reno: Black Rock Desert, Great Basin National Park, San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland. Take this time to explore and create an unforgettable week for yourself. —K.K.

Screw extracurriculars. Ask someone in the working world how often s/he has been asked about extracurriculars in job interviews. They expect medical students to have had an exposure to hospitals and journalists to have written for the school paper, but clubs? Nyet. No one cares about them. It’s more of a consideration for high school students. Join campus groups if you wish, but do it because you want to, not because it will help you in the job world. —D.M.

Take some fun classes, but don’t let your requirements slip. As much fun as college can be, you will want to leave here someday. Spare yourself a lot of money and shoot for four years. —K.K.

Study abroad. Sure, college is an exciting place. The UNR campus has some beautiful features—the quad in the late afternoon or early morning can seem a magical place—and there are a lot of good-looking, interesting people walking around just waiting for you to pry their brains/clothes.

But do you know what’s even more beautiful, magical and exciting than the UNR campus? Spain. Chile. Thailand. New Zealand. Korea. Japan. London. Prague. Copenhagen.

Those are just some of the many plum destinations ripe for the plucking by UNR students through the University Studies Abroad Consortium. As shiny and new—or not—as the university might appear to you incoming freshmen, go ahead and start planning now to spend a semester or two abroad during your sophomore and/or junior years. Whatever excuses you can conjure not to travel abroad pale in comparison to the value of going to someplace exotic, absorbing the culture, the food and the language, and meeting people from other countries and students from other schools. And here’s a lesson every college student should learn: The best way to earn that foreign language credit is to seduce a native speaker. —B.B.