A democracy functions best when its citizens
are educated. We all know this. As our young
people are now weeks into the school year —
with new friends made and serious work starting
in the classroom — it's time for some encouragement.
This columnist, a 42-year-old who went to Northwestern
University in Evanston, Ill., from 1987 to 1991
with an early generation home computer and made
it through without a cell phone, may not be
the right person to dispense advice to kids
about their first weeks of college.
But, then again, some may find this useful.
Technology changes. Human nature doesn't.
After a few weeks of college many students and
their parents really start discussions about
the adjustment, so the timing of this column
may be just about right.
Top 10 keys to college
1. Getting to class is key. This sounds like
some of that "Just say no" advice
— so obvious that it isn't worth mentioning.
But it is.
If you do show up for all your classes or have
a solid attendance record, you will be leaps
and bounds ahead of your peers in the classroom.
Many of them will skip class routinely.
A complete set of notes is worth its weight
in gold. And simply copying someone else's work
won't cut it. We all take notes and organize
them in different ways only we best understand.
What's more, many professors are arrogant, and
they will test you on their interpretations
of American history, for example. They are more
likely to test on what they say than the assigned
2. Be social. College is as much about making
friends and learning from them as it is the
books and notes. Simply put, the more people
you know, the more enjoyable college will be.
Don't get bogged down with just one group. It's
fine to be involved in a fraternity, as I was,
or a sorority. (Full disclosure: my fraternity,
Sigma Alpha Epsilon, was thrown off campus a
few years after I graduated. We have since been
reinstated.) But don't limit your social group
to just that.
From a purely professional standpoint, the
people you meet in college in the next few years
may become trusted and valued associates, clients
or even employers.
These college bonds and friendships are forged
in social settings, not the libraries or classrooms.
Spending all your time buried in the books is
not just unhealthy, it's a bad career move,
3. Know the school's "drop-add" policy.
This isn't something to be abused.
But as a new student you may get into a class
you can't handle or land an eccentric professor.
Don't let it drag your grade-point average down,
particularly if you plan to attend graduate
school or law school or medical school. Drop
4. Use a professor's office hours. In other
professions in the real world, it would be considered
"bootlicking" to go to your boss and
ask questions just for the sake of asking questions.
But on college campuses, it is often the only
way you can get to professors.
If you don't have any legitimate questions,
tell the professor what your "study strategy"
is for the course and ask if you are "emphasizing
the right things."
Having a professor as a reference is important
when you're looking for that first job. Many
of them have connections in their respective
5. Read a newspaper every day. A professor
I had at Northwestern University said every
student should read The Chicago Tribune and
The New York Times every day. That's pretty
What he's basically saying is "keep up
with current events." It helps to put what
you are learning in the classroom into perspective.
6. Get to know the janitors, cooks and behind-the-scenes
personnel. These people are often some of the
most knowledgeable about what is really happening
on the campus or in a particular building.
Plus, knowing them can make your day more enjoyable
when you leave the dorm in the morning and get
a "hello" or a smile.
These people will appreciate your efforts because
so many college students look down upon them.
7. Women should always travel with friends
to parties. On the college-campus party landscape,
women can be in an especially vulnerable position.
This goes for universities and small colleges
If you doubt this, ask the directors at the
women's centers on campuses how many calls they
get each year about date rapes.
When a young woman leaves her group of friends
and goes it alone at a fraternity party, a dorm
bash or an off-campus gathering, she is at the
greatest risk of becoming a victim.
Remember, perpetrators generally aren't the
guys who pop out from behind trees in the night.
They are friends or acquaintances.
8. Never, ever attend a progressive drinking
party or mix your drinks. Whether it involves
alcohol or sex outside of marriage, the best
advice is clearly abstinence.
But officials can't get that to work even at
Brigham Young University.
Alcohol is a part of college life.
It is particularly troublesome for inexperienced
drinkers who get caught up in a party environment
for the first time. Stick to a beer or two and
pace yourself. Don't do shots or mix beer and
liquor, and always eat first.
9. Stay on campus over the weekend. Have you
ever heard the term "Johnny Run Home?"
That's what some people call those students
who are always going home to mom and dad on
Of course, that's a good way to stay out of
trouble. But cut the cord already.
10. Drop your hometown honey. Based on a more
than a decade of reaction to this column, this
advice is either the best or the worst provided
here. If you have a high school girlfriend/boyfriend,
then it's time for the dumping to begin. The
last thing you need as you start your collegiate
life is all those phone calls to some girl you
took to the prom.
A friend of mine had such trouble with his hometown
honey, that he failed a bunch of tests early
in his freshman year, digging himself a hole
academically from the start. CV
Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation Iowa
newspaperman who writes for The Carroll Daily
Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.
on the Facebook crack
By Sean Cirone
Editor's note: Stand-up comedian Sean Cirone
attempted to kick the Facebook habit and wrote
a humorous story for us that detailed his struggles
in our July 21, 2011, issue. This commentary
is a follow-up to that story.
The doves have returned smelling like nicotine,
and my Facebook abandonment experiment has run
its course. Did I miss it, one asks? Like a
trucker craves Sudafed, I did.
Within days of my Napoleonic exile, I found
new shitty employment, met a lady friend with
a clean bill of mental health and even started
yoga. Yes, yoga. The only reason a man should
partake in this aerobic equation of water boarding
would be if he is trying to master that nifty
trick Ron Jeremy used to be able to perform
on himself. Besides that, the only thing I can
say about yoga is the phrase "Stick your
head up your ass" probably originated from
a past participant.
I filled a lot of the time I used to spend on
Facebook reading, cleaning and purchasing losing
lottery tickets. Currency and financial stability,
that's for the rich, I say. Depression, hacking
blood and engaging in destructive self habits
are my five-year plan.
Another regrettable decision during my Facebook
reprieve was mentioning to my mother how I had
free time and could help her with housework.
See, when one throws out false offers, one expects
the reply to be "no problem" or "it's
OK" or maybe "thanks for asking."
Not with my mom. Before the last syllable rolled
off my tongue, her Irish came out, and the next
thing you know I'm a genetically-related, indentured
servant. I kid, I kid. All I did was paint one
yard decoration, oh and dig a hole and fill
it with stones, and weed her garden, and move
bricks heavier than gravity. Oh, yeah, and paint
a storage shed the size of a fallout shelter.
I would have done more, but the testicular physical
therapy is dragging on longer then anticipated.
On visiting my father, I learned he has taken
up the daily ritual of walking his homicidal
cat. With his new hobby underway, he has gained
the unofficial neighborhood title of "Crazy
Cat Man." The day I visited, he accidentally
introduced this feline version of "Saw"
to a fellow tenant. I watched as this furry
member of Jihad cornered an unsuspecting woman
in the hallway, causing her to flee while leaving
a trail of groceries in her wake. The scary
part was hearing my father, with whom I share
the same D.N.A., utter, "She really moved
on that one!"
Searching for tranquility and peace in my Facebook-free
time, I tried utilizing my state park seasonal
pass. Unfortunately I came to discover the unwritten
park rule: Family at park, no problem. Couple
at park, no problem. Single dude in an unregistered
car, yeah, let's get his plate.
Returning to Facebook was surprisingly uneventful.
My first post went: "Forty days Facebook
free. Finally I'm back from my self imposed
exile. Oh this tastes so good! It's always better
after a good meal. It's no biggie. I can always
This was followed by a barrage of comments including,
"We knew you'd be back. Facebook is like
crack except people don't sell their TVs for
Who ever said I had a T.V?
One friend called me out by posting, "I
saw you on here once a week accepting friend's
Yes, I skewered the experiment. I accept that,
but come on, it was just a taste, it was just
Hands down the best was the comment, "Where'd
you go, FB Anonymous?"
That would be a good idea in concept, but you
know the meetings would be whacked. I can just
see myself standing in front of other users
proclaiming my faults, bowing my head in shame
and then hearing them all state "LIKE"
Just like riding a bike, I returned to posting
strange facts and observing the like button
until someone inflated my ego. A couple of my
posts included "10 CDs for a penny? I miss
that. They even had a spot where you could tape
the penny to the envelope. They really wanted
that penny." I still double lock my doors
in fear of Columbia House henchmen rerouting
my kneecaps because of the one unpaid Papa Roach
Another went "Best deadliest warrior episode:
welfare mom vs. birth control."
That one lit up the like button like Dick Cheney's
heart monitor but unfortunately got me disqualified
from ever attending another Nickelback concert.
Actually, in hindsight, it really wasn't that
Well, I'm back on Facebook, I'm hooked and I'm
Oh, yeah, before I forget feel free to add me