Ask The Experts

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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
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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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?


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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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