Ask The Experts

Aspiring Journalist Seeks Travel Tips  July 11

World Travel

I need some insight from experienced international travelers. I’m a rising senior at UCLA going into my last year of college. I was awarded a ten-week fellowship to study abroad in Geneva, Switzerland during this upcoming fall semester. That’s why I need some guidance. I plan to travel to a handful of European and Nordic countries doing research for my senior thesis, which explores how digital technologies impact civic engagement. This problem is that I’ve only left the US once before and it was for vacation. In other words, I’m a total novice. What are the most important things to know before traveling for research work? And what am I supposed to do with my belongings while I’m gone? It wouldn’t make sense to ship it home or anything because I’ll need it when I get back.

You should consider yourself extremely fortunate because the chance to conduct research abroad is very rare, especially for an undergraduate student.

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Copywriting as a Career Choice  July 2

 Career Guy

I could use some guidance. I’m a recent college graduate trying to figure out the best career path. My bachelor’s degree is in psychology and I had a minor concentration in marketing. The original plan was to graduate and then land a job with an ad agency. However, now that I’m having a hard time finding a job, I’m wondering if I should adjust. My older brother said I’d have a hard time getting one, especially if I wanted to become a copywriter. That’s why I need some insight. Is my brother right? Are my plans unrealistic in terms of launching a career? I’ve heard that college graduates are having a harder time than ever landing jobs.

Selecting the right career path after college is no trivial decision. Society would have you believe that the transition ought to be seamless, but we know better than that.

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Planning a Successful Survey  June 19

Survey

I could use some guidance. I recently graduated from college and started a new job at a local non-profit. The organization is committed to economic development in low-income communities. I was a volunteer with the organization throughout college, so it made perfect sense to continue working there after graduation. This past week, however, I was given the responsibility of planning the data collection for our annual survey. The survey is the one of the biggest projects we have, which means this is a huge deal. The only problem is that I don’t know too much about survey planning and/or data collection. I feel like I’m way out of my league. Any insights that might aid me would be much appreciated.

It already sounds like you’re well on your way to a fulfilling career, especially because it combines a righteous cause with both intellectual and moral rigor. There’s no shortage of disadvantaged peoples and exploited communities in dire need of compassionate help.

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Landlording For Dummies  June 19

Property Manage

Hey, experts--I could use some extra insight. I recently graduated from college and landed a job as a property manager. I’m supposed to move to Washington, DC, early next month to get started. I’m excited and nervous about starting my first job. I already have some transferable skills from being both a resident assistant and an assistant community manager throughout college. That being said, I still feel a little out of my league, especially because my older brother likened it to being a landlord. Is that a totally accurate statement? I always thought landlords had more extensive powers, but I could be wrong.

Anxiety surrounding your very first career job is absolutely normal. Our first significant forays into the professional world are almost always uncertain, which means it’s only natural to get nervous about the outcomes.

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Capturing the Moment  June 13

Collage

One of my favorite things in my dorm room is my photo wall. I’ve had a photo wall since middle school, actually, so this is a long-running tradition for me. I print out photos of my friends and family (and “borrow” them from my parents’ photo albums, too) and I put them on my wall with double-stick tape to create a big collage of photos. Seeing photos of the people I care about makes me happy! It doesn’t make my roommate happy, though. She’s nice about it, but I can tell that she’s not happy with my choice of decor. And I kind of understand: it’s definitely a little casual, I guess. I think I’d like to class it up a bit, but I really do want photos of my loved ones to decorate my room. What should I do?

There are a lot of ways to capture moments of joy shared by you and your friends in wall displays other than the photo collage that you’ve been using--if, in fact, that is what you want to do!

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Your Past Matters  June 13

Digital Tracking

I know that we’re living in the age of information, but sometimes it weirds me out just how much our reputations can follow us these days. It seems like everything we post online and everything we do in our private lives can be discovered somehow, and that our future employers and others will find out. Experts, how can I make sure that my decisions now don’t affect my future?

There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the ways in which we are tracked in the modern world. However, it’s also important to understand that our decisions and our pasts have always mattered--and that our mistakes can cost us for a long time.

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Building a Bustling Web-Based Business  June 6

Online Business

I’m going to be a senior next year. I’m already tired of the prospect of looking for a job. I want to bust out. I’ve always been savvy with money, so I’ve thought about starting a business. I figure if I start it now, I can have something pretty significant by the time graduation rolls around, and I can grow it by focusing on it and living off of money I’ve saved. Plus I can do something that I like, rather than working for “the man.” I go to school in the middle of nowhere, and that’s my concern. Anything I need to do, I need to do online, and there is already so much online I don’t know how to stand out. What are your tips for getting noticed and finding my niche, in the constraints of college?

How do you start and grow a business online? How do you rise above the din so that customers can find you? It is a question every entrepreneur has to ask.

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Advancing Careers with Advanced Degrees  May 23

Advanced Degree

I’ve enjoyed my college education immensely, and I wouldn’t trade the years I’ve had here for the world. But now that I’m headed toward graduation, I can’t help but feel that I’m ready to get out of here and get to work! Weirdly, though, I feel as if I’m the only one: a ton of my friends are headed to graduate school rather than into the working world. I haven’t ruled out graduate school entirely, but I want to get some work experience first. But I’m a little nervous that I’ll be less competitive for the jobs I want because of my lack of higher degrees. Experts, how important is graduate school?

A graduate degree can open doors to new job titles, speed career advancement, and make you more appealing as a first-time job applicant. But it’s not equally necessary in all fields. What, if anything, can we say about graduate degrees in general?

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Ways to Stay Healthy  May 22

Calorie Counter

For most of my life, I was one of “those people” who could eat whatever the heck they wanted and never gain weight. It was awesome! However, it was also not destined to last forever. The other day, I noticed that I was looking a little chubbier than usual. I managed to put off my “freshman fifteen” for a couple of years, but it seems that it arrived, and I’m not thrilled by that at all! So, I’m looking for some tips--not just diet tips (though I guess I wouldn’t mind some of those, too), but also lifestyle tips for my post-graduation life. I know I’ll be busier when I’m out in the world and have a full-time job, so I’m worried that my newfound ability to gain weight is going to catch up with me in a big way. Experts, can you help?

We sure can! First, congratulations on your commitment to stay thin and healthy. If you continue to focus on your health throughout your life, you’ll reap incredible benefits. You’ll live longer, you’ll have fewer medical issues than you otherwise would, and you’ll enjoy feeling more energetic and happy!

However, before you can get all those benefits, of course, you’ll need to do the things it takes to stay healthy. So, what does that mean?

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Healthy Diet, Healthy Life  May 14

Dieting

I’m fat, and I’m sick of the way it makes me feel. I feel tired and worn-out, almost like I’m sick. I can’t run far or do a lot of physical activity. I hate the way I look. Enough is enough, so I’ve decided that I’m going to change the way I eat and get thin once and for all. But, to be honest, I don’t know where to start. I know that people say fad diets don’t work, and that there aren’t shortcuts to eating well. I wish there were! I really want to lose weight fast. But if I can’t do that, I at least could use some help figuring out how to eat healthy in whatever way these anti-fad-diet people are talking about. I don’t know the difference between organic foods and “GMOs” and all of that stuff. Can you help?

First of all, congratulations on taking control of your health. While your frustration with your weight is understandable, the important thing here is that you are making the decision to get healthy.

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Supplement Safety  April 24

Supplements

I have a friend who swears by supplements. You know, the “natural supplements” and other over-the-counter pills and powders and whatnot that are supposed to make you feel better or sleep better or gain more muscle or… whatever. I’m a little skeptical; however, my friend is convinced. I’m not sure how to dissuade her from taking all these weird supplements. What can I do?

Let’s back up for a minute, and examine a premise you seem take for granted: is there anything illegitimate about supplements and natural remedies?

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Understanding Economies of Scale  April 19

Man Selling

I saw something on the news about Amazon’s deal with the United States Postal Service recently. I’m not sure I understand everything that’s going on with it, but I have to say that I find it kind of fishy that Amazon can afford to deliver stuff to me so cheaply. My parents have Amazon Prime, and they use it to ship things to their house or to me at my dorm all the time. The two-day shipping is free, so Amazon is paying for it, but all the stuff on Amazon is still so cheap. How can this be? Is Amazon ripping off the United States Postal Service, like some people are saying?

We don’t get political here at Ask the Experts, so we’ll have to let you make up your own mind about how fair or unfair Amazon’s business practices and deal with the United States Postal Service are. However, we can give you the background you’ll need to analyze everything.

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The Power of Water  April 18

Basement Leak

My childhood home is in rough shape. While I’ve been away at college, my parents have been dealing with flooding problems in the basement. It’s not a burst pipe or anything; the water comes in from outside, somehow. It apparently ruined a bunch of our stuff, and could even cause structural issues in our house, if it’s not repaired soon. My parents aren’t too interested in home improvement and that sort of thing. So, while they’ve been quick to hire people and get everything fixed, they haven’t really explained to me how this is all happening. However, I’m curious--how can a basement just flood? It’s not like we live on a lake or anything.

Basements are a part of many houses in the United States, but they can present unique risks on a property--especially when it comes to water damage.

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Big Purchases, Small Bank Accounts  April 18

Budgeting

I’m graduating soon, and I’m already worried about my finances. One thing that I keep thinking about is the fact that I have some big expenses coming up that are going to be unavoidable. If I go where I expect to for work, I need to rent a place to live, buy a car, and get stuff like furniture ASAP. On top of that, my girlfriend and I are planning to get engaged very soon, which means I’m going to have to spend big on an engagement ring. All of that is really going to add up, and I don’t plan to have a ton of money anytime soon. How can people make big purchases with small bank accounts? I don’t want to end up in a ton of debt!

It’s not always easy to get started after college on a tight budget.

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Debating New Versus Used Car  April 12

Car Shopping

I could use some guidance. I’m a college senior who’s graduating at the end of May, with a degree in sociology. I already have a job lined up in Sacramento, which means I’m planning to move there and start my life as a full-fledged adult. I was lucky enough not to need a car during my time as an undergraduate. I hitched rides with friends and use Uber most of the time. The former won’t be possible, since I don’t know anyone out there yet. The latter won’t be cost-effective, especially for commuting to work. My parents think I should look into leasing a new car, but my roommate said it’d be a lot cheaper to get a used car off of Craigslist. My parents don’t know this, but I lapsed a bunch of credit card payments last year, so my credit score isn’t the best. With that in mind, what options do I really have?

Deciding whether to get a vehicle isn’t easy. There are multiple factors you should take into consideration before coming to any kind of conclusion.

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The State of Prototyping!  March 26

Prototype

I could use some guidance. I’m a freshman in college studying civil engineering. Two classes this semester are way more difficult than I expected them to be. I probably shouldn’t have registered for both this semester, but there’s no going back now since add/drop period is over. One class is focused strictly on emerging trends in business, which is fun but also intense because it requires a lot of good research and teamwork. The assignment this week is fairly hard. We’re supposed to suggest the state of prototyping as a practice/technology and include some relevant examples. The scholarly articles that I’ve found through library resources are pretty limited, so I need help with a brief overview.

You might not realize it, but prototyping, otherwise known as additive manufacturing, has a rich history that goes back almost 40 years.

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Making Ends Meet  March 26

Saving Money

I’m not a wealthy person, and given my college major and career plans, I don’t think I’m going to be super wealthy in the future. That’s okay with me, and I plan to live pretty frugally and carefully to ensure that I can be comfortable and as financially secure as possible for as long as I live. But I know that financial problems aren’t always predictable, and I’m a little concerned that my lower income will make me more prone to financial issues. Experts, can you give me some advice for avoiding financial problems and for overcoming them if and when they arise?

It is certainly easier to make ends meet on higher salaries, and there are those whose limited income makes things nearly impossible.

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The Power of Logos  March 19

Logos

I found myself buying a shirt with a logo on it the other day, and I realized I was paying more to have the little emblem on my chest when I wear the shirt. I actually pay more to show off this shirt company’s brand, and I’m happy to do it! That got me thinking: how do logos like this work in our brain? Why am I more comfortable with a product that has a logo, even to the point where I’d voluntarily show it off on my chest wherever I go? Experts, lay it on me: what’s the deal with logos?

Brands in general--and logos in particular--are powerful tools for companies. They’re also surprisingly useful from a consumer perspective, though they can be used for both good and ill.

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Real Estate and Rentals  March 15

Real Estate

I’m curious about real estate and renting. I’m not so much wondering about the renter’s side of the bargain--as a college student, I’m already living that part. I’m more curious about the idea of owning a property and renting it out in order to make money. It seems to me that in areas like ours, landlords can make a lot of money by owning properties and renting them out. They can then take their profits and invest them in more properties, making more and more money as they acquire more and more properties and tenants. How does a person get involved in real estate and renting?

It’s certainly true that there is money to be made in real estate and renting.

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Graduation Gift  March 9

Biking Accessories

I could use some help. My older brother is graduating in May with his degree in biology. He’s been a pretty flawless student throughout college, which paid off, since he was accepted into a bioinformatics program at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Our whole family is incredibly proud of him, especially our grandma and grandpa. My dad called me yesterday asking for ideas that would help my parents decide on a graduation gift. I wasn’t expected them to ask for my advice. In fact, when my dad called, I had to confess that I thought they already decided on a gift. We brainstormed together and eventually agreed that a bike might be a good idea. My dad asked me to do a little research into biking in Vancouver and whether it’s a practical gift. I need some guidance on that.

Using a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation is almost always a better choice than the more conventional route of car ownership, which is exorbitant by comparison and also further promotes inactivity in what’s already becoming an increasingly sedentary society.

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Young People and Vaping  March 9

 Vaping Close

What’s with “vaping?” Is it just me, or has it become way more popular with my generation as we’ve been growing up? I know people younger than me who vape, and a few who are a few years older, but it seems to me that nobody my parents’ age is vaping. Is it a generational thing? And, if so, what might this mean in terms of laws and health and stuff like that? I remember being told not to smoke cigarettes as a kid, but nobody ever told me not to vape.

Vaping didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but there’s no denying that it has gained a great deal of popularity in a relatively short time.

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Getting Confident In My Career Choice  March 7

Grad School

I could use a second opinion. I’m a senior expecting to graduate in a couple months with a degree in psychology and a minor in childhood development. I was originally planning to go into social services, but having investigated much more about it while searching for jobs, I’ve decided that it probably isn’t right for me. I’ve been spending the past few weeks researching different careers that would still let me work closely with kids and help them become better adults. There are a lot of options out there. Counseling was something really interesting that I hadn’t considered, even though there were school counselors available throughout most of my childhood education. I’m wondering if I should get an advanced degree in counseling before applying for those jobs. Would that make me a more appealing candidate, or are there other tactics I should consider?

Career decisions are never easy to make and despite what you might assume, the process doesn’t necessarily get any easier as life unfolds.

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Coding and Careers  March 6

Coding

I’m not majoring in computer science--or any technology-related subject, actually. I’m an English major. But I hear it can be tough to get a job as an English major, so I’m considering learning how to code in my spare time. I’m not sure yet, though, if I want to invest the time in learning how to code. So I have some questions for the experts: how much does it help a person, career-wise, to know how to program? And if I do want to learn how to program, which programming language should I start with?

Computers have become a way of life for most of us--and a way of work for a lot of us!

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The Busy Person’s Guide to Healthy Eating  March 2

Healthy Eating

I want to eat healthier, but I find that I just don’t have to time. I have an off-campus apartment, so I was hoping that this year I’d be cooking a lot for myself and making myself eat better than I have before, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. I’m busy, I’m tired, and the last thing I want to do during the week is spend time cooking. But on the weekends, I want to go out with friends and enjoy myself, not stay at home eating alone! Experts, do you have any advice for eating healthy with a crammed schedule?

Eating healthy isn’t easy, at least not at first.

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Crash Course On San Diego Extracurriculars  March 1

San Diego

I need some guidance. I’m a senior expecting to graduate this coming May with a degree in sociology. I’ve already been accepted into UCSD to get a master’s degree, which means I’ll be moving fairly soon after commencement. My parents are helping me research different places to live, but I’m also looking for other tips and recommendations. As my sister said, “You have to try all sorts of new things you couldn’t do here!” She’s right, but there are almost too many options. I’m looking for a balance of variety and reasonable pricing since I won’t be making too much money as a grad student. What are some viable possibilities in the area?

San Diego has a great reputation that certainly precedes itself.

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Software and Slot Machines  February 22

Ace of Spades

Some of my friends here at school enjoy gambling. I’ve never been all that into gambling, so I’m not super familiar with the games or the culture, or anything. I was kind of surprised to learn that my friends do the vast majority of their gambling online. I suppose it’s more convenient that way, but how can online casinos compete with the big “real” casinos in the area? It’s not that far to drive to some pretty large and fancy ones. Is gambling online as popular with others as it is with my friends? How does it compete with physical casinos?

Gambling is one of the oldest forms of entertainment on earth. It began, most likely, as wagers between friends. It later evolved into an industry dominated by massive and luxurious casinos. And, today, it features casinos of a new type: online casinos.

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Define And Discuss Niche Healthcare Topic  February 21

Vaping Health

I need some help with a difficult assignment for one of my classes about public health in the public space. We just concluded a segment on alcohol abuse since the American prohibition and now we’re beginning a new segment on tobacco. Last Friday, I was given a research assignment to present to the class this Friday. I’m supposed to outline the history and investigate the pros and cons of vaporizing versus combusting tobacco. This is a huge topic. Most of what I’ve found already focuses almost exclusively on traditional cigarettes. All I need is some basic guidance and a few comparisons to explain the health aspects behind everything. Understanding and presenting the implications should be straightforward after that.

Questions concerning the comparable risks associated with traditional smoking and vaping emerge fairly regularly.

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How Spaces Make Us Spend  February 21

Building Shape

I have a question for the experts about architecture and businesses. I’ve been thinking lately about how big box stores are all laid out the same way, and how certain types of businesses have distinctive buildings with specific architectural features. What can the experts tell me about how commercial spaces draw us in and make us spend money?

When it comes to making us spend, architecture is the secret weapon of a great many businesses. While we’re not always conscious of it, the shape that we’re in has a powerful effect on us.

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What is Vaping, Really?  February 21

Vaping

I don’t personally smoke or vape, but I’d like to know a little bit more about both--and particularly about vaping, which I’m not sure I properly understand at all. I have a few friends who vape, and they claim it’s safer than cigarettes. Can this be true? Meanwhile, I have other friends who smoke and say that vaping just isn’t the same. What’s the deal with vaping? How does it work, and why does it exist? And what is the relationship between vaping and smoking?

Vaping and smoking are actually quite different, though it is easy to see why they’re associated in the minds of many people.

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Crash Course On Sustainable Investing  February 19

Finance

I need some guidance. I’m a sophomore focusing my studies on environmental sustainability. In one of my courses, the instructor has a different student present a topic each week that she assigns the week prior. The topics are always related to sustainability, but they’re usually indirectly related to the environment. For example, a few weeks ago, my friend had to present conservation policy. She decided to explain the importance and implications of the Kyoto Protocol when it comes to curbing global climate change. This coming week is my turn to present, and I’ve been assigned to introduce sustainable investing to my classmates. I’m no math expert and know almost nothing about investment strategy. How should I define sustainable investing compared to normal approaches? How can I make it interesting?

Sustainable investing isn’t necessarily a dull topic simply because it’s related to financial investment strategy. More importantly, you most definitely don’t need to be a math expert to grasp investment strategy.

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Responsible Relationships  February 19

Sex Ed

I feel like I never got a great sex education when I was younger. My family tends to avoid talking about this sort of stuff, and we never covered it a whole lot in school. Now I’m in college and I feel like I’ve run out of time to learn what I need to know about safe sex and stuff. Going to the internet for answers seems like a bad idea, since there’s so much messed-up stuff on there, and asking my peers here at school seems both embarrassing and ill-advised. Experts, where should I turn for answers about safe sex?

While everyone has their own values and strong feelings about sex, experts say that it can be a healthy part of a fulfilling life.

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Sports and Spectators  February 14

Sports Fans

I’m a huge sports fan--it’s part of why I wanted to go a school with a sports culture. I’m particularly big on live sports, because I just love the energy of the crowd and the feeling of people coming together and reacting to the same thing at the same time. For me, seeing a sporting event on TV just isn’t quite the same. Being at so many sporting events in person makes me think about which sports are the biggest and best live experiences. It seems like football has the biggest crowds, but I also know that people like different sports in different places. Experts, what interesting things can you tell me about spectators at sports?

Sports are popular the world over, and in every corner of the globe there are bleachers, stadiums, and arenas built for fans who want to watch the big moments in person.

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Pets For Patients  February 12

Service Animal

I could use some help with a sociology assignment. Earlier this week, our professor discussed how domesticated animals have changed how cultures and societies develop all over the world. He cited the ancient Egyptians who worshipped cats, settlers who relied on oxen and horses, etc. The assignment for this coming week was to explore how domesticated animals continue to impact modern culture and society. We’re supposed to pick an example, obvious or obscure, and present it to the class. I was going to choose a seeing-eye dog for people with blindness, but then I came across emotional support animals. Are emotional support animals more or less like than other service animals? What are the most common examples?

Your topic is extremely relevant, especially when it comes to flying with emotional support animals.

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Gambling Growth  February 9

Casino

How long have online casinos been a “thing?” I know they’ve been around forever, but I never though they were that popular. But here at school I know a few people who gamble online a fair amount, and I’m surprised. I’ve also read about things like those online fantasy football gambling sites in the news over the past few years, and I don’t remember ever reading about those before. Is online gambling a growing industry? Is it even legal? Am I the only person around who still doesn’t gamble online?

Gambling is indeed a growing industry--a fast-growing one, in fact. 

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A Path Forward for Addicts  February 9

Yellow Pills

I have a friend who has a serious substance abuse problem. I’ve read about the opiate epidemic, but I never thought that it would hit so close to home. This friend of mind is from my hometown, and in the time since we graduated high school he has changed dramatically. He used to be one of those kids that everyone thought had a really bright future, but now he’s having an incredibly tough time. I think he’s trying to get help, but I feel like I’m losing touch with him, and I have to get news about him through my other friends. What hope is there for someone addicted to opiates? For that matter, what even are opiates? And what can I do to help my friend?

When a friend or family member is an addict, it can be incredibly difficult to understand and to cope.

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Define & Discuss Modular Mezzanine  February 9

Urban Planning

I could use some help figuring out how to best present something for my urban planning class. The backstory is that I’m an undergrad studying architecture and design. I’m taking my first urban planning course this semester, and it’s extremely difficult. This particular class focuses on municipal zoning regulation, which is a surprisingly complicated topic--and also really obscure to anyone outside the trade. Every few weeks, our professor arranges a panel of peer students from a counterpart class and forms mock assemblies. Small groups have to present a topic to the group and are graded on their ability to share the topic both convincingly and accurately. The exercise is much harder than it sounded at first because students get assigned topics. Anyway, our group was assigned modular mezzanine design. We’re supposed to define it, explain its importance, and give examples or make some up.

This class sounds tremendously important despite how challenging you consider its curriculum.

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Crash Course On Interventions  February 9

Substance Abuse

I need some guidance. I have an older brother who’s a senior at another major university. Earlier last year, during the fall semester, our parents confronted him about his slipping grades. They pressed him about doing well during his last two semesters; otherwise, an employer might consider withdrawing a job offer. My brother begrudgingly agreed and said that he’d try to improve. He was at home during the holidays when his final grades were released. The news was bad. He failed a class and earned two Cs. Our parents were very disappointed--because he was instructed to pass an alcohol education course by his university. He had apparently gotten into trouble at his on-campus apartment, too. As a result, the resident community manager suggested that he pass the course as a disciplinary measure. Our parents wanted to have an intervention before he returned to school, but it went horribly. He was extremely hostile to everyone. Now our parents are thinking about a professional intervention. I know almost nothing about interventions. What would it involve, and how successful would it be?

Unfortunately, what you’re describing is likely more widespread than you assume. Substance abuse and dependency is a major public health issue across the US.

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Currency Concerns  February 7

Market Charts

I’m worried about the economy. For a while, it seemed like everything was going up--now it seems like everything is going down! I talked to my parents about it, and they say they still have money in stocks. I want them to pull that money out, though, so that they don’t lose big when the market goes down. It seems like we’re on the edge of a big market collapse. Look at Bitcoin: everyone overreacted and sent it way up, and then it crashed down again, right? Couldn’t the Bitcoin bubble cause a market drop? Experts, can you tell me what’s going on and whether I should keep trying to convince my parents to get out of the market?

The economy is a complicated thing with a lot of moving parts. It’s certainly possible that you’re right about the market being due for a big correction--but it’s also possible that you’re wrong, and that getting out of the market now would only cause your parents to miss out on money.

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Advice for An Aspiring Entrepreneur  February 7

Cannabis Store

I need an outsider’s advice, especially from someone who knows about the marijuana industry in California. I’m a college senior preparing to graduate this coming May with a degree in business administration. I’ve spent the last two years focused entirely on investing and entrepreneurship. This being the last semester before I walk, I wanted to line up the right opportunities. I’ve applied to dozens of companies and have two offers on the table. Only one of them is all that appealing, but it’s better to have limited options than none at all. Anyway, I want to spend time exploring what it would take to start a medical marijuana business in California. I plan to move to Los Angeles or San Francisco soon after college anyway. Now that it’s legal statewide, I figured it’d be the perfect chance to consider opening a dispensary. The question is what different medical conditions are treatable with marijuana? I want to understand who my customers are, which in this case means treatment patients.

Becoming an entrepreneur is no light decision. As a business major, you probably already know that fact, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re privy to marketplace realities.

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When to Call a Lawyer  February 7

Law

My dad was recently bit by a dog while on a walk in my neighborhood back home. At first he thought he was alright, but the bite actually turned out to be pretty bad. He spoke with the neighbor who owned the dog, and the owner was very apologetic. They agreed not to report the incident, and that the neighbor would cover any of my dad’s medical bills. Well, now a few weeks have passed, and my dad hasn’t been able to get the guy to pay up. He says this neighbor has basically made himself really hard to reach, and when my dad does manage to talk the guy, he just says he’ll pay (and keeps not paying). What should we do?

We all want to believe the best about people.

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The Cost of a Clean Room  February 5

 Clean Room

I’m a graduating senior majoring in biochemistry. This last semester, I ended up registering for an industrial applications course. It’s the only non-advanced class I’m taking this semester, and yet it’s probably one of the most challenging. Almost everything we’ve covered in the class so far has been foreign to me. One of the first things we learned, for example, was the economic history of optical enhancement. We spent weeks learning about microscopes and telescopes. At the end of each week, a different student presents something related to a category chosen by the professor. This coming week is my turn, and I was given contamination control. It seems easy, but I was told healthcare examples are excluded. Those are the most obvious. What’s another relevant example to highlight?

This class sounds fantastic. The instruments and infrastructure that advanced industries rely on are quite frequently taken for granted.

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Keeping Fantasy Fun  February 5

 Football

My friends love fantasy football. So do I, but there’s a problem: I’m really bad at it, and it’s causing problems in my league. The league is full of great guys: my friends here at school, plus various friends of theirs from their hometowns. They all take it really seriously--more seriously than I do, to be honest. They do a lot of research and build really good teams. This year, I got beat badly almost every week. As a result, I started to kind of lose interest. I didn’t always set my lineup, and people complained about my team being an easy win for their competitors. I’m worried about getting kicked out of the league, because my friends seem mad that I’m so bad and that it’s messing up the league. What can I do to get better next year, so that I keep my spot in my league--and the respect of my friends?

Fantasy football should be fun. It doesn’t sound as if you’re having a ton of fun, and the question is: why?

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Celebrating Friendship  February 5

Friendship

When I was in high school, I filled my room with photos of my friends. I had a digital camera when I was a kid and later on I just used my phone. I’d print out the photos on regular printer paper and hang them up, and pretty soon I had a great collage going. Now that I’m in college, I want to celebrate my friends (new and old), but I’m not so sure that I want to have a big printer-paper collage on my wall this time around. What other ways might I decorate my room in a way that celebrates my friends--without looking too juvenile or going with too low-quality of a solution?

Your plan to incorporate a celebration of your friendships into your room’s decor sounds like a wonderful one! And as far as your question, never fear: we have the expert advice that you need to get this done right.

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When Pets Pass  February 2

Pet Memories

I just got a really upsetting call from my family. My dog was hit by a car. I really don’t know what to do. The dog was really, really important to me--we got her when I was in middle school and I wasn’t really fitting in, and she helped me feel so much better when I got home from school. I always felt that same joy when I visited between semesters here at college, too, and now she’s gone. What happens next? What happens when a dog dies? Is she going to be cremated, or buried? I guess I won’t get to see her again, right?

We’re so sorry to hear of your terrible news. Dogs bring a lot of joy into our lives, and it’s incredibly difficult to say goodbye, especially when the news comes as a shock.

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Suspicious Sibling Seeks Advice  February 2

Pills

Last month while I was back home my family for the holidays, my dad pulled me aside and asked whether or not I’d noticed anything different about my older sister’s behavior. I told him no, since I hadn’t been in touch with her all that much, which was equally my fault. I’ve definitely been consumed with my last semester of college. Then last night, my mom called me and asked whether or not I knew if my sister had tried certain types of drugs before. Aside from alcohol and possibly marijuana, I couldn’t imagine her doing anything else. Apparently, however, my mom’s bottle of codeine had multiple pills missing. Nobody wants to jump to conclusions. My sister has historically always been the angelic one. How suspicious is that? Does it make sense to confront her about it or wait until we know for sure?  

This is a very difficult position. One of the first things to realize is that drug abuse often begins in a seemingly harmless context.

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Budding Investments  February 1

Weed Store

I was recently on a visit to a state where marijuana is legal, and I was struck by what a business it is out there! I’m not much into drugs myself, but I never thought about all of the money that would be flowing back and forth in a place where marijuana is legal. I saw people spend large amounts on drugs and paraphernalia, and I was kind of blown away. So that all got me thinking--how do I invest in the marijuana industry? It seems like it’s going to be a business that will keep growing (no pun intended) for a long time to come.

There’s no denying that the marijuana business has really taken off in the years since the legalization trend began.

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Some Worse Than Others?  January 30

Drug Needle

My roommate and I like to talk about the current events brought up in our public health class. Our professor always relates what we’re studying to some major news story or two. Some of the examples are pretty obvious but others are shocking. Before this semester, I hadn’t realized how far the medical profession had grown, especially outside the US. This week we’re starting to learn about substance abuse and how it can translate to increased risk of disease. The first example was heroin because of the use of contaminated hypodermic needles. We were shown images of patients who had contracted gangrene. Sometimes it even led to amputations. Now we’re wondering how widespread heroin use is. Are some states worse than others? Have some seen more success than others in treating heroin abuse?

Make no mistake: the opioid epidemic is a problem of national proportions.

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Artsy Options  January 30

Small Business

I’m an art history major getting ready to graduate this coming May. I’m trying to understand my options for what happens after. I already have a part-time hourly gig at an art studio, which also gives me some space to put together a workshop. I was basically contemplating the idea of designing and selling trinkets during the time I’m not working for the studio itself. The only problem is that I’ve never done anything like that before. Once I decide what to make and sell, I need to find distribution channels. I have to have all of these things figured out, otherwise, my parents will probably be livid with me. Are there free opportunities to merchandise products? What products would sell best? What are the legal steps to doing this?

The decision to start a fledgling business is never an easy one; running it successfully is even more challenging.

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To Automate or Not to Automate My Investments  January 29

Investment Automation

I’m fairly new to investing and would like an informed second opinion. I’ve been investing a small fraction of my discretionary income into penny stocks trading with only moderate success. My dad cautioned me about the risks versus rewards when it comes to penny stocks, but it seemed like a good place to begin. Now that I’m about a year into trading without too much to show for it, I’d like to consider other options. I have a friend who swears by automated trading, but I have my reservations as a technology skeptic. My main concern is how effective they are, but I’m also trying to understand how they even work. Should someone in my position seriously consider automated trading software, or is it overkill?

A healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to the promise of technology is almost always a sound strategy.

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A Different Direction  January 29

Pre-Diabetes

I was recently at home with my dad when he admitted to being recently diagnosed with prediabetes. I was originally under the impression that it was the same thing as diabetes but he made it clear that it’s different. Neither my mom or I were surprised, because he hasn’t had the best eating habits in at least a few years. Making matters worse is the fact that he hasn’t been very active since he suffered a lower-back injury a couple years ago. My mom has been trying her best to motivate him, but he’s been impossible to convince. We hope the diagnosis is enough to change his mind, but there’s really no way to be sure. That’s why I’m trying to find a way to help. A lot of what I read online is about lifestyle choices. What’re some suggestions that might force him to get active again?

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Tech and Taxes  January 29

Tax Return

I work a summer job and pay for some of my own schooling, so my finances aren’t as simple as some college students’ are (though I’m sure there are also plenty of college kids out there with more confusing finances than mine!). I have to file taxes, of course, and my parents have asked me to take care of my own taxes this year--the first time I’ve ever had to do so. They’ve offered to help a bit, but I’m probably going to be working on this mostly while at school, not at home with them, so I thought I might use tax software instead. My question, though, is this: is it really safe to use software for taxes and file online? What sorts of long-term risks, if any, might I be opening myself up to by recording sensitive financial data on a computer?

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Design and Decoration on a Budget  January 29

Decoration

I live in an off-campus apartment with a few friends. We all care quite a bit about what our apartment looks and feels like, and we’re all pretty unhappy with it right now. The unfortunate truth is that none of us really has much money right now (we’re just college kids, after all), so things like redoing the kitchen or bathroom are kind of out the questions--and it’s a rental property, anyway, so it wouldn’t be allowed (or worth it). Still, we all want to do what we can to clean things up. The space is a little dirty, kind of run-down, and--thanks to a lack of storage and organizational stuff--kind of cluttered up. What advice would the experts give to a few students trying to keep a space nice on a budget?

It can be tough to make a rented apartment feel like home, especially when your budget is tight.

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Faith and Sobriety  January 26

Vodka Bottle

I have a friend who is an alcoholic. I don’t drink for religious reasons, but my friend--though religious--never used to share my love of sobriety. Now he’s trying to find his way to a better life. I think his faith should be a big part of his journey, but so far, it doesn’t seem to be. I don’t want to force anything on my friend, but I want to tell him that he should take some comfort in his faith as he faces this difficult fight against his addiction. What can I say or do to help him see that?

The battle against alcoholism is indeed a very serious one.

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Focus on Finance  January 26

Budgeting

I’m going to graduate pretty soon, and I’m excited about heading off into the “real world.” One thing I’m worried about, though, is money. I’ve never really been great with money, and I don’t feel like I know much beyond the basics of budgeting and saving. I know that I’m supposed to start saving for retirement as soon as possible, but I don’t know when that will be, or how important it really is to rush into that. I don’t know what to do with my money, basically (besides spend it), so I’m hoping that the experts can give me a crash course in personal finance.

We can, and we will!

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A Guide to Grief: From Funerals to Feelings  January 25

 Grieving Girl

I’m having a very difficult time lately. A close family member has passed away, and I’m one of the people in the family who is supposed to be dealing with things like funeral arrangements. I’m finding it hard to focus on that kind of stuff--I know that some people really throw themselves into tasks like that when they’re sad, but I guess I’m just not one of them. What am I supposed to do? How can I be more functional and help my family when I feel so sad?

Grief has a way of making the most simple tasks seem insurmountable. That makes life particularly difficult when it comes time to plan the funeral services of a loved one.

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Thinking Machines  January 25

 Artificial Intelligence

What’s up with artificial intelligence? I’ve been looking at new TVs, and I was surprised to see some of them advertised with “virtual assistants” on board. Since when does my TV need a brain? I find it a bit creepy, to be honest--like something out of a science fiction movie. And I don’t understand why we need these assistants. If AI isn’t doing anything that a person can’t do him or herself, then what’s the point? Experts: what does AI do that makes it so worthwhile, and is anyone else finding this creepy and scary?

There is no question that artificial intelligence (or “AI”) is increasingly a priority for companies, governments, and consumers. What’s going on?

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Rings and Reasons  January 25

Gift

I’m struggling with a very serious dilemma and need some out-of-the-box thinking. My older brother is turning thirty in a few months and I want to get him something special. There are two primary challenges. Problem #1: he has a very well paying job and therefore practically owns everything he already wants. Problem #2: the things he wants but doesn’t yet have are way too expensive for me to buy alone. Lastly, I want to get him something he won’t expect. It should be something meaningful that reminds him of our sibling bond. He’s pretty sentimental so I know it’s possible, but I can’t come up with any good ideas. Help!

Finding the right gift for that special someone is no easy task.

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Dangers of Drunk Driving  January 25

Drunk Driving

I’m having a serious problem with my friends. They love to go out and drink, which is fine with me--I enjoy it myself! But I also like to get home safe, and this is where my friends keep letting me down. They insist that it’s just more convenient to drive, and when it’s time to go home, they drive back--even when I feel that they’re not sober enough to get behind the wheel. It’s becoming a real issue, because my friends are viewing me as a nag, but I’m getting increasingly frustrated with their decision-making. What should I do? I don’t want to ruin my friendships, but I feel that this is something I shouldn’t back down on.

There are few things more reckless and dangerous than driving drunk.

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Life, Death, and Memories  January 24

Pet Loss

Our family dog, Aurora, passed away recently while I was far away from my childhood home. We loved her dearly and her memory is forever a blessing. She was nearly fourteen years old, which is well above average for an Alaskan Malamute, and what a great life she had. The only problem is that my dad was struggling with what to do with her remains when he called to share the tragic news. Burying pets is pretty common, but my parents are preparing to sell their house to travel extensively, which has been one of their lifelong goals. Nobody was sure about the specifics of burying her remains in a cemetery. I’m still struggling to reconcile her loss, having had no chance for a meaningful farewell. I don’t want anything bad to happen to her remains. What are the options in these situations?

The loss of a beloved pet, especially one spanning your childhood, is almost always devastating to those left behind. That’s why the grieving process is so essential to your recovery.

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A Medical Approach to Marijuana  January 24

Medical Marijuana

I don’t do any drugs of any kind. As far as I’m concerned, doing illegal drugs is like throwing your life away. And even if some drugs become legal in a state where I live – as has already happened in some other states – you won’t find me doing them. But that doesn’t mean that I’m closed-minded about reasonable applications of drugs and their active ingredients. So I’m intrigued by the medical marijuana debate. My only concern, though, is whether medical marijuana is just a stepping-stone to full legalization, and is being abused by people in states that have legalized medical uses but not recreational ones. Is medical marijuana for real?

Medical marijuana is very real.

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Introducing Aquamation   January 24

Pet Cemetery

Our family dog, Baxter, passed away a week ago at the age of twelve. He was the best dog ever. My childhood wouldn’t have been the same without his constant energy and lovable character. When my parents called to share the news, they were also fairly distressed about what to do with his remains. Long story, short: my family tries to be as eco-friendly as possible, and we’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. My parents are career environmentalists, so it makes perfect sense. The family members who’ve passed away before were always cremated to avoid the ecological impact of a traditional burial. What makes this different is that a Baxter clearly couldn’t express his opinion, whereas people can confirm or deny certain wishes. Everyone had explicitly agreed to be submitted to extreme heat and reduced to ashes before dying. My mom doesn’t quite feel right about doing the same thing with Baxter’s remains, but she also doesn’t want to resort to a burial. What other options are there?

Losing a beloved family pet is tragically difficult for almost everyone, especially when it’s those that survived our formative childhood.

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Rough Road to Recovery  January 22

Mixed Drinks

I was at home for the holidays when I had a pretty big confrontation with my older brother, whose college binge drinking has progressively worsened. I’m a sophomore this year and he’s a graduating senior, although we attend different universities (his on the west coast). We’ve been reasonably close throughout our childhood, but things began to change when he arrived at college. I don’t want to blame his fraternity for everything, but there’s no doubt that his relationship with our family and even his non-fraternity friends has been consistently undermined by his apparent obligations to that brotherhood. The fraternity brothers host parties three or four times a week, which is a terrible environment for a senior preparing to graduate and enter the real world. My parents are obviously disappointed, but we’re struggling with how to approach him. He’s extremely caustic when anyone confronts him about his alcohol consumption. What’s the best way to intervene?

This is a certainly a tough situation but know that you aren’t alone. Substance abuse and/or dependence is a global issue.

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Big Project, Big Data  January 22

Big Data

I’m a social entrepreneurship graduate student working on a group project with a team of three classmates. We’re preparing to spend the next few months collaborating on a product proposal for a nonprofit client through our university. We’ll essentially have the entire semester to launch a new product with them. I can’t reveal too much, because we’re struggling just to get started. The gist of what we’re trying to do is develop a solution to address growing organizational complexity. The success of this nonprofit client, like so many other nonprofits, depends on balancing productive fundraising efforts with a host of competing priorities. Where should we begin with the client? What kind of product would be most appealing to a nonprofit?

These are extremely complicated questions to answer, because only your client has access to the most relevant information.

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A Woke Bloke   January 19

Cannabis

I’m an upperclassman in college studying electrical engineering. I’m very introverted and have a lot of social anxiety. My sister insists that I have to put myself out there, especially now that college is coming to an end. My parents insist that I’ll need to get a job, possibly move to another city, make new friends, and start my life. I know these things are true, but they’re also terribly frightening for someone with social anxiety. Making things worse is the fact that I hate the taste of alcohol. I’ve avoided drinking altogether since only a few weeks after turning twenty-one. Coming from a pretty conservative family meant I’ve also avoided experimenting with alternatives. But California recently legalized recreational marijuana in additional to medicinal, which I know is used by patients to treat different disorders, chronic anxiety being one of them. Would it make sense for me to explore cannabis as an option, now that it’s legal?

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Is Silence All That Golden?  January 17

Elderly Hands

I was recently at home in NJ visiting my family for the holidays when my grandma mentioned intermittent hearing loss. She’d never mentioned anything before, and she’s been in seemingly great health for many years. More importantly, she’s only in her early sixties with no significant medical complications in the past. And as far as we know, she isn’t predisposed to anything based on heredity. Nevertheless, I’m worried something could happen to her with compromised hearing, especially since she’s living entirely alone, having unexpectedly lost my grandpa only a few years ago. She’s an extremely independent woman with a lot of heart, and I know she’d hate the idea of living permanently with my parents. She’d probably think she was an unnecessary burden, which obviously isn’t true. I know they’d enjoy her company and the solace of knowing she was doing alright. Am I being too overprotective and blowing things way out of proportion, or is there a genuine reason to be concerned?

You have every reason to be fearful about the possibility of something unfortunate and potentially tragic happening to your grandma.

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Are You Ready for the SQL?   January 17

Computer Code

I’m preparing for my last semester in college before graduation and have a pretty big dilemma. Lots of peers either already have jobs or have serious offers on the table to contemplate while I struggle just to figure out what I should be pursuing. My undergraduate degree is in computer science with a concentration in systems design. Friends tell me getting a job should be a cinch because of how popular STEM degrees are nowadays, especially from prestigious universities, but I don’t share the same optimism. There seem to be hundreds if not thousands of computer programming gigs listed nationwide for almost every conceivable coding language. I’ve spent the last three semesters focused on procedural coding with Java and despite its allure to almost everyone else, I’m fairly averse to it. How should I go about deciding which jobs to go after?

Graduating with a STEM degree is obviously an excellent first step to becoming an employed and proficient programmer regardless of what coding languages you decide to learn as time unfolds. Your question is a difficult one to address because of the different variables involved.

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A Tale of Type 2  January 16

Diabetes Control

My older brother was recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and decided to share his news with our family over the holidays. The parents didn’t take it too well, especially our mom. While my brother tried to keep things positive by sounding optimistic, the reality is that diabetes is a serious condition. I’m worried he won’t take it sincerely enough to change his diet and lifestyle, which is a mix of unhealthy eating habits and excessive drinking. I was planning to confront him about it before he returned to Chicago for his last semester in college but couldn’t muster the courage. I’d like the conversation to be productive rather than hostile, but I’m unsure where to even begin. I’m not the most eloquent when it comes to expressing emotionally-charged thoughts. How should I approach him without sending the wrong vibe?

Unfortunately, situations like these rarely have guaranteed outcomes. Permanent medical conditions can be difficult to accept and often more difficult overcome.

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New Novelist Seeking Novel Advice!   January 16

Writing

I’m an English literature major with a minor in linguistics preparing to graduate this coming spring. I already have a couple job offers: one as a copywriter at a startup ad agency and another as an ESL instructor for an international boarding school. Neither pay especially competitive salaries, yet both demand unreasonable time commitments. My parents are encouraging me to at least endure one of them while I figure something else out but the idea of having to withstand any amount of tedium and monotony is simply too overwhelming. I’m instead considering the possibility of writing a fiction novel. Tapping into my savings while continuing to wait tables on the side could safely float my little literary adventure for almost a year and a half. The problem is not knowing where to begin. What should I be doing to ensure this whole thing doesn’t become a regrettable blunder?

Writing for a living as a traditional novelist, newspaper columnist, digital copywriter--or anything in between--can certainly have its challenges, but those persistent enough very often find it to be a rewarding way to go.

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Organic Options  January 12

Organic Vegetables

I care about the Earth, and I care about my body. So whenever I go grocery shopping, I try to buy the stuff that I know is good for both! Simple right? Well, to be honest, I’m a college kid, and I’ve never been much of a cook. So I don’t exactly go grocery shopping all of the time, and a lot of times I just get take-out or frozen dinners or something. I’m not an expert on all of the labeling practices and stuff, which means I don’t really know what it means when something is “organic.” I see “organic” labels on all sorts of things: peanut butter, vegetables, and even booze (I don’t personally drink, but my cousin has been drinking nothing but “organic” alcohol, which I had never even heard of!). Some of my friends swear by organic foods, while others say the label is meaningless. One of my friends jokes that all food is organic, because it all has carbon in it. What’s the real deal with organic foods and organic labeling?

Good for you that you care about both the planet and your body! That’s the kind of attitude that helps a person grow to a healthy old age in a world worth living in.

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Dangerous Doctors?  January 10

Doctor

I have to get an operation soon for a medical condition that I’ve had for quite a while. I’m used to dealing a lot with doctors and hospitals at this point, but this operation will be pretty significant, and that’s making me really nervous. I understand that doctors are highly trained, but they’re only human, and I worry that mine will make an honest mistake--or, worse yet, will get lazy or negligent and harm me. I’ve asked my doctor about the risks, and he’s been very up-front about what could happen in the surgery if things go wrong. But there’s really no way for me to ask him how likely it is that he is the thing that goes wrong with my surgery! How often do doctors make mistakes or commit malpractice? How safe, in general, is surgery? Experts, I hope you can tell me something that makes me feel a little better!

In general, surgery in the United States is quite safe.

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Toxic Corporate Cultures  January 10

Corporate

I interned for a company (I’m not going to say which one, for reasons that will be clear in a moment!) last year that impressed me in some ways but, in other ways, really appalled me. They have a corporate culture that I can’t fully respect, one that really encourages a casual office atmosphere but often lends itself to upsetting encounters and inappropriate behavior in the office setting. The beer flows freely and people behave poorly--but the results are there, and the employees are very, very talented. This business recently offered me a position, and it’s in human resources, a department in which I might be able to help right the ship in terms of corporate culture. But I’m wondering if that’s even possible, or if I’m taking a risk if I take this position and try to help. Any advice?

The corporate culture that you’re describing sounds problematic, and it may not be easy to fix--especially from an entry-level position.

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Vacation Locations  January 10

Vacation

I want to go on a nice vacation this year after I graduate, using some of the money I’ve saved over the years plus some that I’ll be getting as gifts from family members (yes, I know I’m spoiled!). I plan to work really, really hard in my first few years out of college, so I want to have a sort of last hurrah of relaxation, with the idea being that I don’t have to do much planning. So I’d like to just pick a resort that has a sort of all-in-one vibe. But I’ve never really done that kind of vacation before, so I don’t know where to start. Any advice?

A great vacation is just the thing to do before diving into a stressful work environment. But don’t make this your last vacation for too long, because studies show that time off can have a serious (and positive) effect on our working lives.

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Back to Back Pain   January 4

Back Pain

About a month ago, I fell when I was skiing and I hurt my back. I know that I probably should have gone to the doctor, but I didn’t, and eventually it felt better. I’ve felt mostly fine since, but my back pain reemerged again just this past week. It feels similar to how it felt when I first hurt myself, so I think it’s connected. But I’m not sure what to do about it other than to take over-the-counter painkillers--my next doctor’s appointment isn’t for a while, and I don’t really know who I would see otherwise (I also don’t want to end up seeing some special doctor that my insurance doesn’t cover--I’m only a poor college student!). Are there any home remedies that are good for back pain? What other options do I have?

Sorry to hear that you’re back to having back pain--but perhaps this is the wake-up call that you need to go see an expert (in person--your letter to us doesn’t count!) and ask about your problem.

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Investing In Yourself  January 4

Side Hustle

I’m going to graduate next year and, with luck, head straight on to law school. I have a very clear idea of what I want to do for a living and how I’m going to save and invest once I graduate from law school, but I’m concerned about making the most of my early 20s. While I’m in law school, I won’t necessarily be earning any money, and I know that it’s important to save for retirement starting as soon as possible. My plan for making up for this disadvantage is to take on a “side hustle” or two to earn some money while I’m in law school (and perhaps starting earlier--I still have a year left here). I know I won’t earn big bucks, but I can invest the money I do earn and begin building a nest egg, and I know that every little bit helps. What sorts of independent projects, part-time jobs, and other types of “side hustles” are most lucrative? Passion is secondary here--I need to make some cash!

You’re quite right to point out the importance of investing, and investing early. But in your zeal to invest in the stock market and save for retirement, you seem to be neglecting something else: investing in yourself.

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Energy Efficiency  January 4

Energy Waste

I had a bit of an environmental awakening recently. I’ve always liked nature and the outdoors--I grew up hiking, camping, hunting, and all that. But for all the time I spent in nature, I never thought much about the environment. I like the woods but didn’t think about logging, loved the fresh air but didn’t think about pollution, and so on. Here at college, I’ve made friends who are more focused on the big picture, and as we watched nature documentaries and spent time together I really got clued into the importance of protecting the environment. But now I feel overwhelmed. When I look at my energy consumption, in particular, I don’t know what to do about it. The heating and cooling of my parents’ home and my off-campus apartment, the gas I use in my car to get to and from school, and even the electricity that I use when I turn on lights--it’s all adding up and hurting the Earth. I want to cut back, but where should I start?

We Americans use a lot of energy.

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Built to Last?  December 20

Construction Worker

There are new subdivisions going up all the time near where I live, and not all of the residents are thrilled about it. I understand that it’s no fun when you trade open spaces for new neighborhoods, but I have to say that I find some of the opposition a little extreme. I’m not sure why people are so upset by the new houses, why farmers hate the new residents, or why my grandpa insists that the new houses “aren’t built to last,” which doesn’t make much sense to me (are we worse at building homes now than we were fifty years ago? That doesn’t sound right). What’s the problem here?

We build a lot of houses here in the United States.

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Adventures Abroad  December 20

Travelling Abroad

I’m contemplating going abroad, but I’m a little nervous about committing. I think it would be a good experience and all of that, but it seems like a lot of planning and stress, and I’m nervous about dealing with the responsibilities and dangers of life in a foreign country. I also think I might miss my friends on campus. I just keep imagining myself losing my luggage and my passport and being miserable all semester long while missing out on important things back here (family time, classes for my major)... and some unimportant ones too (parties!). Experts, can you provide some insights?

It’s good that you’re considering studying abroad. And while the decision is yours and yours alone to make, you should remember that a chance to study abroad isn’t something that comes up frequently.

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Benefits of a Break  December 20

Thinking

My friends and I are super close. We’re so close that we don’t want to miss out on seeing each other during school breaks, so we like to get together any way we can. Sometimes that means visiting one of our houses, but other times it means a real trip, and we have a great one coming up. The problem is, I’m completely burned out. The idea of spending even a few days away from my home and my bed seems exhausting, and my friends, while a lot of fun, tend to be high-energy. We already put money down, and I know I probably can’t get all of it back, but I thought I could at least save the money I would’ve spent on meals and drinks while catching up on my sleep back in my hometown. What’s the most graceful way I can back out of this trip?

It’s going to be tough to back out of your plans gracefully, especially since money has already been put down.

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Different Types of Drinking  December 20

Drinking at a bar

I have a friend who graduated recently whom I’m worried about. When he was still here on campus, he drank a lot. He’s left our campus behind, but I don’t think he’s ditched any of his drinking habits. The thing is, he thinks he has. He says it’s different now, because he’s not binge-drinking cheap beers at parties or happy hours. He says he can afford the good stuff now (and he can; he has a good job), and that he only drinks craft beers, and less of them. I’m not convinced, though. He still seems to drink plenty, and even if he’s drinking less, some of these beers have much more alcohol in them than the light beers he used to drink. What can I do to help my friend?

Our nation has a problem with drinking. One in 12 adults in the United States is an alcoholic, and that number includes people off all ages and all walks of life.

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Pills and Protections  December 20

Supplements

I have a friend here who is very into nature and natural solutions. That’s good, in some ways! I like that she’s environmentally conscious and she eats a lot of salads, which seems very healthy to me. But the other day, I was in here room and saw a lot of bottles (like a dozen or more) of all kinds of supplement pills and “natural” health pills. She’s taking a lot of pills every day, and I don’t really know if any of them are safe (I feel pretty sure that none of them are doing any good, so I’m mostly just wondering if any are doing anything bad). How dangerous is it to take all of these supplements? There were no prescriptions or “real” medicines in the whole bunch.

In the United States, the agency responsible for regulating the natural supplements your friend is taking is the same agency that regulates the food industry and the pharmaceutical industry.

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Investing Intelligently  December 18

Investing

I know that I should be investing. I know all the basic reasons to do so, and that inflation makes my money worth less each year, and that I should try to put my money in an investment that grows faster than inflation. I know I should have a diverse portfolio. I know all that basic stuff. But when it comes to actually getting started, I’m lost. How do I actually go out and buy stocks, and what should I do to figure out which ones to buy? What about taxes--how do they work with stocks and other investments? Are there more advanced things I need to know to not just invest, but invest intelligently?

You’re wise to invest! As you point out, the reality of inflation makes investing a no-brainer.

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Lawsuits and Loved Ones  December 18

Law

My sister doesn’t get along with the rest of the family lately. She has had a rough few years, with some issues with substance abuse and some problems financially. My parents have been raising my sister’s kids while a lot of this has been going on. Now my sister is trying to rebuild her life, but she’s going about it in the wrong order, if you ask the rest of us. She wants the kids back and doesn’t want to pay back a lot of money that my parents loaned her. She’s less interested, though, in proving to everyone that she’s sober and ready to be a great mom. My parents don’t have legal custody of my sister’s children, and they don’t want to report my sister to child services or anything like that, so they’re trying to keep her in the house by threatening to sue her over the loans if she takes her kids and leaves. If it sounds messy, well, it is. Experts: what kind of legal options do my parents have here?

The law is complicated enough on its own. When family ties are involved, things can get even more difficult.

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Salvaging Safe Spaces  December 18

Renovate

How can you know if a property is safe to be on? I ask because my friend, who graduated a couple of years ago, recently bought an old office building. He’s trying to fix it up and rent it out--the first step toward what he’s convinced will be a commercial real estate empire. But I have my doubts. The place he’s buying is old and in disrepair. He says it has asbestos issues, which I had assumed meant the place had to be knocked down! The roof is terrible and leaks, the windows are all busted, and I just can’t figure out how he’s going to make money off of this place. I think he should sell it again and get out, but I don’t know how to tell him. What should I do?

Hey, not so fast--it’s not a sure thing that your friend’s property is beyond saving.

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The Science of Sales  December 18

Store Sales

I’m a bad shopper. I put off going shopping and getting stuff I need. I show up without a shopping list. Then I wander around, and before I know it, I’ve spent a ton of time in Target or Walmart--and have a cart full of stuff! It’s not like I even really like shopping--in fact, I avoid it--but somehow, once I’m in the store, I’m a shopaholic. I know these stores have sneaky ways to making us all buy more stuff than we should, so I thought I’d turn to the experts and ask a little bit about what tricks these stores use--and how I might learn to beat them and save some money!

You’re quite right that big stores like Target and Walmart know a thing or two about convincing you to spend some cash.

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Headaches and Health  December 1

Headache

For about two months now, my best friend here at school has been having headaches. We’re not sure why, but I think that they’re happening because she got into a minor car accident a little while before she started getting headaches more often. Another one of my friends is freaking out because she thinks the situation might be a more serious medical issue (not that my theory wouldn’t be serious, too!). Meanwhile, the friend who is actually getting the headaches doesn’t seem so worried. She says they happen when she drinks, and that’s the real problem--and I’m sure that doesn’t help, but she never used to get a headache after just one or two drinks! She doesn’t want to see a doctor about it, but it’s scaring the rest of us. Can the experts shed any light on this situation? Should she see a doctor?

Here’s your short answer: yes! While it’s great that you and your friends recognize the need to consult the experts on this issue, the best expert to ask will be your friend’s doctor.

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Tangible Technology  December 1

Old TV

I have a brother who is a bright guy--but he hates technology. I don’t really know why or even how to describe it, but he just always prefers to avoid technology. He has an analog watch and an old non-digital camera. He uses a real alarm clock instead of an iPhone. And now he’s telling my parents that he doesn’t want to go to college, because he wants to “make real things” instead of work with computers. I totally understand that not everyone goes to college to make a good living, but I’m worried about my brother’s attitude toward computers and tech. Is it really possible to make a good living these days without dealing with technology at all?

You are certainly correct to say that you don’t need to go to college to make a decent wage.

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Anxiety Abroad  December 1

Study Abroad

I’m going abroad next semester, and I’m excited--but also extremely anxious. I’m a worrier by nature, and the idea of being in a foreign country and being a non-native speaker of the language is really freaking me out. I’m already worried about misplacing important documents, like my passport or my visa. I’m worried about staying safe, and I’m worried about the paperwork I’ll need to visit nearby countries (and get back safely and on schedule, so I don’t mess up my academics while I’m over there!). I want to relax and enjoy my time abroad, but I’m not sure it’s in my nature. Any advice?

It’s easy to get stressed when you’re preparing to go to an unfamiliar place.

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Farming Fun?  December 1

Farming

I grew up in cities and suburbs in the Northeast, and I’ve always dreamed of getting out and away from all of those people. It’s not that I’m not a social guy, or anything, but I crave a little more solitude in my life--and a little more simplicity. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a farmer. I’m majoring in English now, but I’m getting frustrated with academia. I’ve started to think again about getting away from everything. I’ve started to dream about the farming life again. I’m thinking about asking my family to give me some of the money they’ve saved for my education and then using that cash to start a small farm somewhere. I think it would be far more relaxing than my life now. My friends think I’m nuts, and urged me to talk to someone about it. So here I am: experts, is my plan feasible?

It’s absolutely possible for you to make a career in agriculture.

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Spending on Sports  December 1

College Sports

I was in a dorm-room debate recently that got a little out of hand, and I wanted to re-think my position a bit and get some insight from the experts. I’m not a sports fan at all. I don’t understand why colleges have sports, and what I really, really don’t understand is why we’re paying for them. When I think of the money that could go to education but instead goes to sports, it makes me mad (maybe a little too mad). Help me understand: why do colleges need sports?

You have a right to your opinion, and we’ll steer well clear of the politics here--but we will give you some context to your debate, which was clearly quite spirited!

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Energy and the Environment  December 1

Light Bulb

When I go home for winter break, I’ll be headed to New Jersey--and into another fight with my parents. I feel very, very strongly about environmental conservation. And I’m not thrilled with the way my parents keep their home. It’s a very comfortable home, don’t get me wrong! In fact, it’s too comfortable. My parents run the heat all the time, and while it’s always toasty, I’m horrified by their energy consumption. When I first became interested in environmentalism, they let me take a look at their energy bill, and I was horrified! Since then, we’ve all spent every winter break changing the thermostat whenever the others aren’t looking. It’s war! How can I help my parents see that what they’re doing is terrible for the environment?

You’re right that the energy Americans use to heat their homes is costing the environment.

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Brands on the Brain  December 1

Grocery Brands

My roommate and I get along in almost every way, which is good, because we had a disagreement that would have ended a lesser friendship: he brought home store-brand cereal. I was horrified, of course, as any red-blooded American would be! But, being the good and open-minded man that I am, I let my friend convince me to defend my convictions in a blind taste test. It is with great shame that I admit that I could not tell which cereal was which. So now I’m left asking: how could this happen? I’m not talking about my faulty taste buds, but about the hold these brand names had on me. What can the experts tell me about how brands work? Why do I trust them so much?

Your amusing experience is an instructive one, because it reminds us of what brands are--as well as of what they aren’t.

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Growth and Graduation  November 30

Graduation

I’ve almost reached the end of my college career, and I don’t feel ready at all. My friends and I still feel very immature, and the way we live--from the way we party to the way we decorate our apartment--just feels woefully inadequate for a professional, out-of-college adult life. I could not host a dinner party for work friends the way I live now (not unless my work friends really liked bagged wine and old torn posters from the freshman year poster sale). I know this is a broad question, but I really need help: how can I prepare my lifestyle for the real world?

Don’t worry! You’re far from the only one who feels unprepared for graduation.

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Real-World Romance  November 29

Dating

My parents met in college. So did their parents (both sets!). As for me...well, I don’t want to be pessimistic, but I’m graduating this year and it doesn’t look like my soul mate is going to show up by then. I’m alright with that, but I have to admit that I’m pretty nervous about what the post-graduation dating scene will look like. I’m applying to jobs all over, but I’m concerned that a job in the suburbs might be a handicap in the dating world. And do I need to be on all of these apps? Please help!

The post-college dating world can certainly seem confusing, but there are a lot of people in the same boat as you.

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Richer Regions  November 29
Rich
I have friends here from all over the country, and that’s been really eye-opening to me. One thing that’s been bothering me more and more is how some areas of our country seem to be doing so much better economically than others. It seems like being born in the “right” city, state, or region can really determine a lot of your future. Do the statistics back up this observation, and if so, what can I do to make things better? I don’t want to live in a country where merely being born in the wrong place can have such dire consequences.

You are, unfortunately, absolutely right: in our country, some regions do better than others. This is hardly unique to the United States, of course, and it can be observed on a smaller scale in states, counties, cities, neighborhoods, and even streets.
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The Law and the Land  November 29

Nature

I was at a party the other day and started to talk to some new people. Good, right? Well, the conversation veered into politics and the environment, which is not so good. I’m not sure if I made friends that night--we’ll have to wait and see about that--but at the very least, I had a great time debating a somewhat touchy subject. Interestingly, everyone felt very strongly about the environment. Where we disagreed was on the law: I felt that it wasn’t the law’s place to tell me how to care for the environment, while most of the others felt, to varying degrees, that the government has a big role to play in environmental policy. I know that you steer clear of politics, but I felt like all of us where a little short on facts that night, so I thought I’d ask the experts for a little background. What factual basis does each of our positions have?

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Teaming Up With Tech   November 29

Technology

I’m looking to go into business, and my major and my class schedule reflect that. But when I think about the future of business, I see tech everywhere--so I want to make sure that I graduate with a pretty firm grasp of technology and computers. I don’t want to work directly on technology, or anything like that--I’m all about about the business side of things. It’s just that I know that I’ll be working with and through technology in my business career, and I want to get a little extra background to make sure that I’m always on top of things. Where would the experts suggest I start in order to get a broad background in business-related technology?

You’re absolutely right: technology is everywhere. It always has been, of course: businesses have been using machines for as long as machines have been around, and fax machines and cash registers are just a couple of the devices that commerce would not have gotten far without.

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Data’s Dangers  November 28

Data

I have a lot of friends here who are studying engineering and computer stuff. That’s not me, but they way they talk about data and apps has started to make me think that I need to know more about how tech companies use my data. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how some companies have a ton of my information from all different apps. For instance, Google knows where I am because of Google Maps, and they also have all my emails (though they’re not reading those, right?). It’s a little unnerving. How safe is it to let these big companies hold onto all this information about me?

You are not alone in fearing the power of data in the hands of big companies.

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Eye-Popping Expenses  November 28

Eye

I’ve worn glasses all of my life, and I’ve never felt great about it. I’m used to them, sure, but I hate the way they make my face look. Other people look great in glasses, which I get, but the sad truth is that people like me--who really need glasses--never look as good, because the lenses distort our faces! I’ve tried contact lenses, but I hate they way they feel in my eyes. What I really want is laser eye surgery.

But there’s a problem there, too: laser eye surgery is super expensive! I want to get it now and pay with a loan or an installment plan, but my parents say that’s a bad idea and that I should wait until I’m out of school. Do I really have to live with glasses until after I graduate?

Laser eye surgery is a popular choice.

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Searching for Something Special  November 28

SEO

I got in a silly argument recently that I’m hoping the experts can help me resolve. My little sister and I were shopping online for a birthday gift for my mother when I did a Google search and clicked a link. My sister insisted that I was ridiculous for clicking one of the first links I saw on the page--she thought I should open up a bunch of the results in different tabs and compare them. She says that it’s easy for companies to trick search engines into putting them at the top of the results page, and that there’s no guarantee I was looking at a good online store. I say that’s nonsense, and that you have to run a reputable site to make it to the top of Google’s results page. What’s the truth here?

Your sister is referring to the art of search engine optimization--SEO, for short. Search engines are powerful tools, and companies know that searches on sites like Google can be worth big bucks to the businesses that are lucky (or good) enough to land the top spots on the search engine results page.

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Loan Lawsuit  November 21

Lawsuit

Can college sue you for defaulting on your student loan?

There will be quite a few who have already graduated, but are thinking the same thing.

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Library Lethargy  November 21

Library

With everything on the internet, do college students still use the library?

A big part of your studies will involve research; both online resources and a library should be used. Traditional libraries have certainly changed a lot since the internet took over the world, but they still play a vital role in the world of academia. Colleges are starting to revamp their libraries to change the way we gather information.

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Studying for a Test  November 20

Drug Test

I have a job interview. Can they make me take a drug test?

Employers are asking a lot more from candidates than in previous years, partly because more graduates are vying for the same positions. Part of this selection process could enable some kind of screening, and a drug test may be included in that.

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Gender Bender  November 20

Male Nurse

Is becoming a nurse a good career choice for a man?

The demand for nursing is increasing, so your question is a timely one, as more men are entering the field. In fact, there has never been a better time to get into nursing with extremely low unemployment levels and a burgeoning healthcare industry.  Working as a registered nurse is a very rewarding career path, so read on to find out why.

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Thinking on Your Feet  November 14

Learn

I've been hearing a lot about microlearning, what is the difference between this and regular training?

Touted as the fastest-growing, modern learning platform for professionals, microlearning is changing the way we study and absorb information. Research suggests that the average employee can only allocate as little as one percent of their working week to personal development.

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Fraternity Row  November 14

I've read some stories about accidents at frat houses. Who takes responsibility in these cases?

Even if your brotherhood has a good disciplinary record and a solid set of conduct guidelines, accidents will still happen. A simple slip on a wet floor or full-blown fist fight are likely to occur in a house that is full of unsupervised teenagers.

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Media Mistake  November 14

Computer

Should I consider another major than computer science for a job online? Some of the top entrepreneurs graduated in other fields.

Working for a high-paying internet company in a relaxed environment among friends is the end game for many graduates today. Who wouldn’t want a job like this? The issue lies in the skill set for this type of work; it is not as clear cut as other industries such as engineering or accounting.

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Language Barrier  November 7

Second Language

Most developed countries speak English. Do I really need to study a foreign language?

Languages are like assets or investments; it is important to know which one to choose. While most of the developed world uses English as the primary language for business, it is always useful to have a second language.

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Taking Credit   November 7

Credit Card

I’ve asked my parents for a credit card at college. Can you explain why it is a good idea?

There are two ways you can get hold of a credit card.  First, you can get a card in your parents’ names and they bear responsibility for the bill.  Second, you can have one in your name. There is a big difference between these two options, and your parents may be reluctant for your own protection.

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Casinos, Cannabis, and Careers  October 30

Cannabis

I’m graduating this year, and I have a job offer--that’s the good news. The thing is, though, that the job offer came from my cousin, who is kind of the black sheep of the family. He’s working the legal marijuana industry out in Oregon, and he says I can come work for him right away. If I’m not into that, he says, he has a ton of connections in the casino business.

Well, my family is very conservative, so you can imagine the reaction my dad had when I told him my career choices were down to casinos or cannabis at the moment. He thinks both are dead-end careers, though my cousin seems to be doing well. I’m not sure what I should do here. Any advice?

While your father is free to feel however he likes about both the gambling and marijuana industries, you’ll have a hard time finding experts to back up his claims that careers in these industries are “dead ends.”

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Party Prestige  October 30

Celebration Club

I’m part of the leadership of an on-campus club that, once a year, throws a big party. I’m a little concerned, though, because these parties don’t tend to be the classiest affairs. While I don’t have a problem with what club members do on their own time, I’m a little worried about breaking rules and throwing a rager (some people in the club are underage). I’m hoping to plan something else earlier in the day instead--something a little more likely to impress and a little less likely to get me expelled. The graduating seniors like to do a toast at each year’s party, so I was trying to figure out a way to run a bar that cards people, or something. Any tips on running a classy party?

First of all, congratulations on your sound decision to not flout your university’s rules and (more importantly) the law on underage drinking. Your idea to have an afternoon party seems like a good one that keeps your club’s tradition alive while letting your collegiate career do the same.

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Ready for Rehab  October 30

Binge Drinking

I grew up in a pretty small town in Florida and shared just about every moment there with my best friend. We were inseparable, right up to the moment when he headed to school in-state and I headed far away. But we’d still get together whenever we were both back in town, like during school breaks.

But, lately, I’ve noticed that my friend has changed a lot since our high school days. At his school, binge drinking is the norm, and now that habit is a big part of his life. When we hang out, he drinks by himself (I won’t drink with him) and gets drunker and drunker as the night wears on. I’m worried that he has a serious problem, but he says he only drinks in the evenings and mostly on the weekend, so it’s okay. What can I tell him to help him see the problems his drinking will cause in his life?

Your friend’s drinking certainly does sound serious--even if it also sounds tragically common.

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Forklift Fugitive  October 23

Construction Site

When I’m back in my hometown during the summers, I work for the father of one of my friends. I work in a warehouse of his, doing all the things you’d expect: loading trucks, unloading trucks, tracking inventory, and driving a forklift.

It’s that last part that has me a bit concerned. Last time I was home working at the warehouse, another employee joked that he was surprised that a college kid had a forklift license. Well, this college kid doesn’t! Has it been illegal for me to operate a forklift this whole time? What should I do? I don’t want to get my friend’s dad in trouble.

First, the bad news: it is indeed illegal for you to drive a forklift without a special license.

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Soggy Software  October 23

 Wet Laptop

Back home at my parent’s house, we had a major plumbing problem. Our basement flooded, which would have been bad enough on its own, but was made worse (for me, at least) by the fact that the basement was where I had been keeping all of my computer equipment! Don’t get me wrong, I’m no computer engineer--just a guy who used computers a lot as a kid. I have a ton of old stuff on those computers, from favorite games to old digital photos, but I don’t know the first thing about getting it all back. For now, I’ve told my parents not to throw anything out. Beyond that, though, I don’t have any idea what I’m going to do. Help!

You've certainly learned a costly lesson about computer storage. While we hate to rub it in, it should be pointed out for all of our readers that computers and computer equipment are best stored in a dry place with moderate temperatures.

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Amateur Aunt  October 23

Aunt

My older sister is having a baby, and I'm so happy for her--and so scared for myself. It feels like only yesterday that my sister and I were playing in the woods and making cupcakes together (we burnt them--sorry, Mom). Now she seems entirely grown-up, and I feel like I’m faking it. I’m still in college, and I don’t know a thing about baby showers or how to treat a pregnant lady! I want to be there for my sister in any way I can, though, so I thought I’d ask the experts: what can I do to make my sister’s life easier while she’s pregnant? What should I expect while she’s expecting? And how the heck do baby showers work, anyway?!

Congratulations to your sister on becoming a mother--and to you on becoming an aunt! This is certainly an exciting time in your family, and while it may seem like a frightening one, too, it doesn't have to be. The good news is that the answers to your questions are very simple.

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Investigative Illness  October 16

Alcoholism

I’m thinking about joining a Fraternity this semester. I have several people in my family who are alcoholics, and I’ve heard that a family history of alcoholism can put a person at a greater risk of becoming an alcoholic him or herself. I don’t currently have a problem, but I’m worried about the possibilities as I have heard alcoholism described as both a mental illness and a physical disease. Which is it?

It is true that alcoholism is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III) and is considered to be a mental illness.

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Fantasy Format  October 16

Fantasy Football

After spending the weekend with some of my Fraternity Brothers, I realized just how much of an influence Fantasy Sports have on the real games themselves. Without having a Fantasy Football team to tend to, there’s no way I would watch half the games I did this past weekend but I feel like I still don’t know enough. How can I learn more about Fantasy Sports?

Fantasy sports are massively popular. In the United States alone, 59.3 million people play some type of fantasy sports game. As your older relative’s confusion suggests, fantasy sports have not been with us for that long.

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Environmental Effort  October 16

Watching the news recently, I have become distraught over the state of our planet. How can I make my home more environmentally friendly?

Environment

It's an unfortunate fact that the actions of our species have a destructive effect on the world around us. Like other species, our species creates homes, eats plants and other animals, and reproduces. But our success and our advances in technology have made our impact on the natural world large enough to affect the entire planet.

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Robocar  October 2

Driverless Car

Am I the only one worried about driverless cars?

Laws and regulations are usually slow to follow revolutionary technology. Questions about safety and liability have already arisen following the first fatality caused by a driverless car last year. Should the car manufacturers be held accountable, or the software developers?

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Assistant Adversity  October 2

Student Worker

I'm a grad student working on a computer project for a professor.  I got wrist strain from typing so much. Who pays for this?

With the cost of tuition rising, students have greater debt than ever before. Working at college can supplement your income, however there can be legal implications if you are injured or get ill.

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Me and My Baby  September 25

 Child Care

Are there assistance programs that can help me pay for campus childcare?

The burden of student debt is multiplied when you are taking care of a child. Fortunately, the number of campuses with child care facilities are increasing. Unfortunately, you have to compete and pay to enroll in them, along with the 26% of college students in the U.S. who have children.

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Mate Match  September 25

Roomies

We are getting an off-campus house with a bunch of students. How can I rely on everyone to pay rent?

Your college housing can impact well-being and ultimately your academic performance. The people in your apartment add to this experience or make it a daily nightmare.

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Debt Debate  September 25

College Debt

I hate to admit I'm graduating with both student loan and credit card debt. How can I manage these debts?

Graduating college students are all asking this question. Your credit and financial independence hang in the balance when you graduate with both credit card and student loan debt.

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Switching It Up

Student Loan

I understand there are different loan servicers for your student debt. Can I change?

All college students seek the lowest loan interest rate possible, but this may not happen with their current student loan servicer. It's been documented that some have been given incomplete or incorrect information from their servicer.

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Job Jitters

 First Job

Speaking to recent graduates, they all have advice about life after college. What are the major issues facing students in their first job?

You probably asked the same question about the shift from high school to college. Graduating from college and entering your first job is both exciting and stressful. Gone are your concerns over term papers and finals; now worries about corporate politics and proving yourself are major issues.

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Shop Around

Online Shopping

I shop online several times each week. Why do I wind up spending more money online than I planned?

Two thirds of Millennials prefer digital shopping over physical stores, which is no surprise since they grew up with the Internet. Many actually shop online while inside a physical store. Cost and convenience are the obvious reasons consumers shifted from retail stores to online shopping.

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Home Work

 Work From Home

My new job offers the option of working from home or office. Which should I choose?

This is a very timely question given the exponential growth of telecommuting. As technology has evolved, some people rarely go into the main office anymore. While it may seem like a no-brainer to choose working from home, there are some drawbacks to consider.

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Foreign Force Majeure

 Health Care

Our campus hosts students from around the world. It seems unfair that they don't receive the same healthcare and other services. What happens if they have a problem?

With over one million foreign students studying in the U.S., the true forum for this question should be the federal government.

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Roll of the Dice

Poker

Several of my friends play poker online. I know they’ve all lost money. Is this legal?

I bet this question is of interest to lots of college students, with over 20% reported visiting online gambling sites monthly. With the proliferation of online gambling in the U.S., the incidence among college students participating in the activity is steadily rising.

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Living Large

Off Campus Housing

I'll be living off campus in college. Someone suggested buying an off-campus house and subletting the extra rooms. Should I persuade my parents to buy or rent?

With this question, you should be studying finance in college. To determine whether it pays to buy or rent, you would have to be psychic regarding the trend in housing prices around your college.  However, every homeowner understands the purchase involves more than a numerical calculation.

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Good Night, Nurse

 Nurse

My friends and I are planning to be nurses. I read it's one of the most popular career choices. Does it have a secure job future?

You're all graduating together, but the real question is whether you all find employment as nurses. A career in nursing has historically been a promising choice, with good salaries and job security.

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Rate of Return

Community College

Money is a factor in my brother considering a two-year community college. What is the value of a two-year degree?

Over one third of all high schoolers furthering their education choose a community college, so your brother’s decision is echoed in millions of homes.

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Master Mercenary

Masters Degree

I can barely afford the cost of college. Is a master’s degree worth the investment?

Over 500K students are awarded a master’s degree yearly. Perhaps each one is asking the same question: with college costs mounting, is the extra time and money for a master’s degree worth it?

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Call Security

 Cyber Security

Internet crime and security seem to be getting worse. What are big companies doing to stop it?

Almost every time you get online, you're a witness to online threats from hackers and scammers, and new countermeasures employed by software developers. Even after billions of dollars have been invested in cybersecurity, organizations still are challenged to halt online threats.

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The Goodbye Girl

I'm leaving for my first year of college and my mom is already suffering from separation anxiety. What can I do to ease her stress? 

Your question is frequently asked, as parents and students often struggle to overcome "empty nest syndrome" when their children head off for their first year. With 2.2M traditional first-time freshmen starting college each year, parental anxiety is an ongoing concern.

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Foreign Model

Foreign Students

I spent a semester abroad. I'm sure it's much easier for international students to adjust to America. What do they think of studying here?

You ask about international travelers in America with the benefit of having lived abroad. This country has greater wealth, more support systems, more civil rights, a better educational system, etc. Foreign students must have an easy time over here. Here's what they think.

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E-Book Worm

E Book

Which is better, using a printed text book or digital e-book?

This is a question every college student wonders heading off to school. E-books are inexpensive and convenient on your laptop. Text can be quickly searched and there are plenty of apps for note taking and sharing. But do students actually prefer them over traditional printed versions?

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Antisocial Media

Twitter tiles

When I went to school, we didn't have social media. Now that my daughter is in college, I'm wondering if students were better off before social media.

This is a question asked by many parents of college students. Before there were laptops, WiFi and Facebook, there were pens and spiral notebooks. Social media facilitates idea sharing, discussion and an instantaneous connection to others. But like any communications device, young people use it to create their own unique world.

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All Hands on Deck

Ideas

In the Fall, I'll be in a campus-community partnership to help homeless students. While this is a required course, are these valuable for the community?

Your question about taking part in a campus-community initiative is one that many students are asking, as more and more universities are engaging in these types of programs. The community benefits from these collaborations on several levels.

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Ms. Manners

netiquette

Instead of social media with friends, I'm now pursuing business contacts. The netiquette is clearly different. How can I make the best impression on professional people?

Asking this question shows you're already aware of the new expectations for behavior in the workplace. That is first rule of netiquette, being aware of the person on the other end of the computer.

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Mortgage Mania

Home Ownership

I don’t think I'm planning too far ahead. After college, is it possible to get a mortgage even with student debt?

I assume you are going to college to be able to afford a home later, so now is a good time to ask this question. You're in debt and you want to know how to get deeper, much deeper, into debt. The federal government is right there to help you with its new mortgage programs.

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Dream Car

Dream Car

I want to take my car to college. I think it may be a distraction from studying. Should I bring my car to campus?

Your question has probably been asked by all students at one time or another. One of the best moments for teenagers is getting their license, buying their first car, and enjoying the independence that it offers. Naturally, you're going to want to take it to college, but there are a number of things to consider.

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Campus Conflict

University

I'm having a problem with one of my professors. I don’t agree with any of his comments on my reports and he's not interested in my ideas. I am stuck, what can I do?

Your question about student-teacher conflict resonates with all 20M U.S. college students, who empathize with you. We want to help you get along with your professor, but we appreciate your question is deeper and more complex.

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Adult Apprentice

Older Student

There are many older students, (over 21) on campus. Are they in the same degree program as we are?

On campuses around the country, students like you are beginning to make the same observation. The typical college student is no longer at a 4-year institution, enrolling at 18. Changes in the economy are the real driver for this migration back to the classroom.

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Career Comeuppance

Warehouse

The Internet has made entire industries disappear, while creating new ones. How do I make a career choice that is not likely to disappear?

Your question is a relatively new one, because graduates from past decades did not imagine their jobs, or even their skills and training, when become obsolete in the new digital economy.

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Mentor Methodology

Mentoring

I'm at a crossroads in my studies, deciding about a research project. Can a mentor help me work this out?

The first cavemen had to be mentored to make fire. So, your question has been relevant throughout mankind’s history. No need to narrow your search to solve one research problem.

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Loan Leeway

Money

I'll graduate with loan debt that will take a long time to repay. Is it true that some companies pay off your student loans?

With around 70% of students graduating with tens-of-thousands of dollars in debt, your question has everyone’s attention. Yes, it is true that some companies have been contributing to the repayment of employee’s student debt.

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College Connections

Job Hunting

I will be job hunting next semester. When should I start contacting companies that do not send recruiters here?

Your insight into the job market should be shared with all our readers. The question should encompass your entire job search. You should be trying to network with all potential employers now.

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Sophomore Servitude

Part Time Job

I'm not a full-time student so have time to look for a part-time job. What are the best, flexible jobs for students?

The majority of students need to work to supplement their living expenses at college, so your question is relevant for almost everyone. With tuition fees and the cost-of-living rising, a part-time job has become an essential part of college life.

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Privacy Pretense

Stethoscope

I was a walk-in patient at the student health clinic. My reason for writing is I don't want anyone to know why I was there. Can my parents read my medical file?

Laws regarding data privacy can be a minefield, so this question raises concerns about confidentiality with medical records, especially those held by school health services. Different laws govern specific types of health service providers so privacy rights will vary, along with many loopholes within the rules. We'll try to unravel the mess and check on your level of confidentiality.

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Dorm Room Delight

 Brazos House Dorm

Four years in the same campus dorm looks bleak. Are there ways to improve my room without spending a fortune?

Your question is relevant for all students, especially if they'll be living in a dorm for the whole four years. Tuition and living expenses at college are going up every year. It encroaches on the budget for other things, like your home and entertainment. Since you're busy studying, we have researched ideas for you on how to creatively and economically spruce up your place.

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To Plumb or Not to Plumb

 College Tuition

My brother is a successful plumber. He told me to come work with him. By the time I pay off my student loans, I would have been better off becoming a plumber. Is he right?

With the skyrocketing cost of tuition, many students are asking the same question.

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Lend a Hand

College Stress

College is much more stressful than high school. There are my goals, my parents’ expectations, exams and tuition. I read some colleges really help students cope with stress. What do they offer?

When I read your letter, I noticed you did not mention your year in college. This question could be asked by a freshman up to senior. You may learn to accept or manage the stress level, but it will not diminish. It peaks at graduation, when you have to start job hunting and plan to pay off your student loans.

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Blindsided

Blind Access

Since my friend at college has some night blindness, I particularly wanted to know about the rules on accessibility. Is there a law covering computers?

We appreciate a question that is for someone other than yourself. While your laptop is easy for you to use, a visually impaired or blind person will need another keyboard that can easily be purchased. However, who is responsible for assuring websites are compliant with the ADA (American with Disabilities Act)?

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Get on Board

Student

I want to return to college after being injured at work. If you cannot answer, then please direct me to the information. Can I go to classes and still receive social security disability?

We absolutely want to help with your question. We hope this information guides you, along with others who have family or friends on disability.

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I Accuse

Accuse

I've been to many rowdy campus parties. In the news, there are many horroric tales of sexual assault allegations, some proven false. What happens if you're accused of sexual assault on campus?

Our reflexive response is you should be expelled and go to jail. But you asked about being accused, not convicted. An allegation alone is enough to put the administration, students and parents in a tailspin.

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College Culpability

Law

I am writing for myself and my daughter. I need to talk to her about responsibility. What are the legal issues with children at college?

I'm still waiting for this talk from my parents. They just hoped for the best. Whether a conscious decision or not, parents are legal partners with their children. When there's a problem, mom and dad pay for it.

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Charity Drive

 Volunteer

I was a volunteer at home and now college, mostly with remedial reading. How can I get other students involved?

I want to acknowledge your effort, helping local kids learn to read. You also appreciate that one of the roles of a volunteer is encouraging others to join. Community activism has slowly dwindled to one of its lowest points in decades.

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Family Fortune

 Family Business

My father owns a small, successful business. He wants me to join him after college. Is going to work for daddy a good idea?

This question would not be asked in most homes around the world. A son would follow after his father on the farm or shop, with no other choice. Of course, as a college grad you have many possible career paths.

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The Rat Race

 Job

We all have to make a living after graduation. I want to do something interesting. Is that a tradeoff I have to make?

This question has been asked by every generation going out into the world. Your frame of reference is heavily influenced by your parents’ jobs and income. Do jobs we consider mundane pay more than ones we consider interesting? Drop off the extremes of dog catcher and doctor, and the rest of us are likely to fall somewhere in the middle. Most of the questions we field have direct answers, but this one is more about feelings and emotions. The answer depends on your age and where you are in your career and family life cycle. If you were to save this column and read it every 10 years, your response would undoubtedly change and adapt to your current situation.

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Condo Calamity

Apartments

My friends and I want off-campus housing for this year. Please tell us how to avoid problems with housing and each other.

Every student is confronted by this question. It's timely to address it now, before you return to college. Students and nervous parents are partners in this choice.

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Modem Matriculation

Online Study

I already paid for college this year. Now, I'm hearing more about online study. Should I complete my degree with an online college?

This question should be asked by all students. The choice impacts the entire college experience and outcome. Spending four years and tens-of-thousands of dollars for college is a huge financial decision. This affects your life and probably your parents as well. How do approach this decision?

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Manufactured Mistake

Diploma

I am studying very hard in college. Some in my family think it is a waste of time. Why do they think I am not learning anything?

Your question reflects a difference in life experience, not just viewpoints. Studying at college doesn't always give you skills to enter the workplace, which your family have already earned. This is what concerns your relatives: you may end up with a major, but not be job ready.

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Laptop Larceny

Cyber Security

I'm savvy about online security, but I almost fell for a new scam. What are the latest online threats I need to know?

Your question concerns every online user. We wanted to answer you, even though others have written about this. The problem is always changing, since scamsters are constantly trying to infiltrate your computer with new threats. Here are the most current scams you may face.

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Debt Dodgeball

 Student Loan Forgiveness

I will be graduating with a lot of student debt. Dare I ask if I can shed my student loans by declaring bankruptcy?

Your question resonates with all students, so we want to tell you what the law allows.

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Catch Me If You Can

I am on social media all day. Should I worry my posts may be seen by a potential employer?

 Social Media

Students often wonder if a foolish, offensive or accidental post on social media could be considered for a job interview or future promotion. The short answer is yes, it can.

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Campus ATM

Money

My parents paid for school, but there is little left over for me. Without letting my grades slip, what are some options to earn extra money?

This is a plea from all students, more than a simple question. Many students work part-time, while attending classes, to help pay for school.

Campus ATM

Bashful, Grumpy and Sleepy

Tired Student

I slept much better at home, before coming to college. Please help me, so I am not so grumpy in the morning.

Your question reminds all of us about dorm life. However, there are some real health and well-being issues, that should not be ignored. While no college student will admit missing their parents, there are other reasons causing poor sleep. This is a problem found in all college dorms.

Bashful, Grumpy, and Sleepy

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