Monday, September 08, 2014

College advice from grandparents

In case the link breaks in the future, today's Luann comic features Luann receiving college advice from her grandparents. They are:

  1. Dress nicely. No torn jeans or sloppy shirts.
  2. Take Home Economics. It will serve you well.
  3. Type your reports on quality paper. This impresses.
  4. Join math club. Good boys are in math club.
  5. Have plenty of stamps and stationery for letter writing.
  6. Wear a watch to keep track of your classes.
  7. Read a newspaper every day.

Luann and her mom then make a comment about being out of touch.

Although some of these may be a bit out of date, I would say that most are pretty apt for today as well, perhaps with a bit of tweaking.

  1. Dressing nicely is always important. If you look like a mess, people will think everything else about you is messed up. Dress how you want when hanging out with friends, but always look nice when you are or are likely to be around people who can affect your future, like professors, employers and other similar people. The way you dress when going to class should not be the way you dress when you go out clubbing.
  2. Do colleges still have Home Economics courses? If not, they should. It is a bit disturbing how many people move out of their parents' homes and have no clue how to cook or clean or do laundry or otherwise survive without someone to do all the chores that every household needs to have done. When you first move out on your own, you will not have enough money to pay other people to do all this. You're far better off learning from your parents or at school than trying to figure it out when you have no choice.
  3. In these days of computers and laser printers, the whole concept of using bond paper and typewriters for school reports is pretty much over, but there are still plenty of ways to show that you care about the appearance of your work. Learn all the fiddly details about how to use your word processor software. Learn and apply some some basic typesetting/layout concepts. Make sure everything is spelled right and uses proper grammar. For paper selection use a relatively heavy stock (e.g. 20-24# high-brightness instead of the cheapest available.) Make sure your ink/toner isn't running out and that your printer is in good repair (streaks/smears and faded text will reflect badly on you.)

    You can get bond paper for modern printers. I wouldn't bother using it for homework assignments, but I would use it for resumés and term papers. For some important projects (e.g. a Masters thesis or other project of similar importance) you may actually be required to submit your report on acid-free bond paper, and maybe even a specific brand.

    For papers/reports, use a laser printer. If you don't have one of your own, then walk down to the computer lab and use one of the college's printers. You don't want to take a chance that water will spill on your paper after you've turned it in, causing the ink to run.

  4. Math club is not a bad idea. No social group is a guarantee of meeting good people, but you at least know that the people in math club are not there because it's "cool" or something bogus like that. Of course, if you yourself aren't good at math, then you probably won't care. There are other similar groups that are worth considering if you want to improve the odds of hanging out with decent people, most of which being academic or religious and not being the party-down-every-night kind.
  5. Yeah, nobody uses letters anymore. But do make a point of contacting friends and family back home on a regular basis. Phone, e-mail, FaceTime, etc. It's all good, but do make a point of doing it.

    For things that are really important, a nice hand-written letter on good quality stationery will still make an impression, even today.

  6. Wearing a watch is just as important today as then. It's far too easy to lose track of time, especially your first few months at college. I realize that computers and phones all have on-screen clocks, but the convenience of always being able to glance at your wrist to check the time is still important. (I'm aware that many people will strongly disagree with me on this one....)
  7. Newspapers probably don't matter much, but staying aware of the news in general is important. Find a few web sites that you trust and read them (or at least skim the headlines) every day.

And then some tips of my own, mostly IT-related, that I'd give new college students:

  1. Bring your own computer. Most people today will bring a computer and most colleges probably require them, but if they don't, get one anyway. These days, even the least expensive PC/Mac will be sufficient for your classwork. You don't want to have to spend your evenings in the computer center doing research and homework.
  2. Bring your own printer. These days, you can get a basic B&W laser printer for under $100 and a basic color laser printer for under $200. You will appreciate having it when you finish a term paper at 3:00am and don't have to walk across campus in the morning to print it.
  3. Surge suppressor. Get a good one. It's been my experience that college dorms have very bad power. Your equipment will last a lot longer if you use a good surge suppressor that incorporates a power filter.

    If have your own laser printer, put it on a separate surge suppressor from the rest of your equipment or plug it directly into the wall - it will dirty up the power and you don't want your other equipment to be affected.

  4. Microsoft Office. There are other office suites that are less expensive or even free, but this is one area I wouldn't go cheap. You will receive files in Office format and other programs may have problems trying to load them.
  5. Bring a security cable for your computer. Especially if it's a laptop. Tie it to your desk when you go out without it. Consider doing this for other stuff you bring (that laser printer, or your stereo.) Even if the equipment isn't expensive, consider how you will feel if it should walk off. Although college dorms are generally safe, stuff happens and you don't want to be the one it happens to.
  6. If your computer doesn't require a password to log-in, change that. Password-protect your account and disable auto-login. Consider encrypting your hard drive. Don't trust your roommates to respect your privacy or to leave your stuff alone.
  7. Bring two pairs of comfortable shoes. You will be doing a lot of walking around campus. And you will sometimes have to go out when your normal pair is soaking wet from a walk in the rain.
  8. Bring laundry stuff (basket, detergent, change for coin-op machines.) Even if you think you will be going home every weekend, you will soon realize that you won't want to. And you must have clean clothes. (See above about Home Ec. classes.) College dorms will have machines, but it will be up to you to use them.

What do you think? Any suggestions? Any pther tips?

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