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Archive for Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some things you definitely need to know about college

August 19, 2012

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So, you’re new here.

Don’t worry. There’s a lot for students to take in before starting out at Kansas University, and you’ll surely pick up a lot stuff along the way.

But, speaking solely as a reporter who covers higher education, there are a few things that might help you out if you knew them up front. So I figured I’d share a few of them with you. And don’t worry, I’m not old enough to be your dad. I hope that buys me at least a few more seconds of attention span.

Anyway, here’s how this is going to work. We’re going to have a little question-and-answer session, but since you’re out there and I’m in here, I get to ask all the questions and give you the answers.

So let’s get started.

So what do I need to know?

A parking ticket rests under a wiper blade on Massachusetts Street on Monday, March 7, 2011.

A parking ticket rests under a wiper blade on Massachusetts Street on Monday, March 7, 2011.

You know, if you just pay your parking tickets, you’ll have a head start on many folks. Jerry Little, the city prosecutor, agrees with me. For tickets received off campus, what eventually happens is a warrant is issued for your arrest. A downtown meter violation is a $3 ticket. It’s easy to wave that off. But then it can become a $15 ticket.

“If they never pay their tickets, eventually a warrant will be issued,” Little told me. And that means diversion fines, paying the amount of all the tickets together and a bunch of headache, including potentially a trip to jail.

If it’s on campus, they’ll put a hold on your enrollment account.

Haha, my car is owned by my parents, so no one will ever know it’s me who’s been driving it!

Well, not exactly. If you are piling up a bunch of tickets at KU, they check with the police to see who owns the car. And if it’s your parents, they actually cross-reference that with the data they have from the university. If your parents’ car is the one sitting on campus illegally, KU Parking actually assumes you’re the one driving it and just directly places a hold on your account. And the city will eventually notify your parents of the outstanding parking tickets, because they’re the owners of the car. That’s probably not a letter you want them to be getting.

Yikes. So, what was that you said about a hold on my enrollment?

This is one of the primary ways KU gets you to comply with its rules. The people running the show are pretty smart (they’ve got Ph.D.s, after all), and they know the primary reason you’re here is to take classes, earn credit and get a degree. But there are a few major rules that you have to follow, or they won’t let you enroll in classes for the next semester.

Well, which rules are those?

I’m glad you asked. You’re getting pretty good at asking these questions.

Owing money to the university is a big one. If you owe money, you can’t keep taking more classes. Outstanding parking fines is another. You can also have a hold placed on your account for not completing the mandatory online alcohol education program. There are two parts to it, and you have to take them 30 days apart. So don’t forget about that. There are some other reasons for holds, too, including not receiving academic advising in the first year and some other stuff, but those are probably the main ones you’ll run into.

What classes should I take?

You should definitely take some fun classes. Look at the health, sport and exercise sciences department. Getting college credit for bowling isn’t a bad deal. And there’s something for everyone at KU. One of my favorite classes dealt with nothing but apartheid all semester (OK, I’m a little strange, I admit). But I heard KU’s business dean say this once, and I think it’s absolutely true. Everyone should take a personal finance class. When you get out in the real world, there’s going to be a bunch of money decisions you have to make, and no one (particularly not a high school) gets you ready for it.

What do I do if I get in trouble?

Well, that depends on what kind of trouble it is.

Here’s one thing that I don’t think a lot of your classmates will know about. If you’re paying student fees (hint: you are), you’re already paying for a whole bunch of services. One of those services is something called Student Legal Services. Their office is well off the beaten path, on an upper floor of the Burge Union. But what they do is provide legal advice for students and representation in some other stuff. If you get a speeding ticket, call them. You’re already paying for it. They’ll help you do your taxes, too. Again, you’re already paying for it. Get busted? Have a dispute with a landlord? Call them. Seriously.

Do you have some good safety information you could share?

See, this is exactly why I get to ask the questions. This is not a question you would likely ever ask. Ever. In a bajillion years. And it’s honestly something of a small miracle you’ve made it this far into the answer.

Frank DeSalvo is a very nice man who’s also a KU associate vice provost (don’t worry about what that title means) who thinks about this stuff as part of his job. I asked him about this, and I made sure he wasn’t going to be preachy. Frank knows students have been known to imbibe alcoholic beverages from time to time (he’s one of those smart guys with the Ph.D.s). So he really wants you to remember just three things when you’re out on the town: 1.) Agree to stay together. 2.) Check on each other from time to time. 3.) Take charge to get everyone home safely. It even makes a nice little acronym (ACT), he said.

How do I use a laundromat?

You will occasionally want to wash your clothes. Find a laundromat.

You will occasionally want to wash your clothes. Find a laundromat.

Where did that question come from? (Actually, if you really want to know, that one came from my editor. She’s a mom.). Since I didn’t know the first thing about laundromats, I decided to trudge on down to the College Corner Laundry and Snack Bar at 1827 La. and ask the attendant what the scoop was. The first thing I learned about laundromats (at least the one at 1827 La.) was that they don’t have attendants. A washing machine load cost $1.75 (or $3 for a double load), and I couldn’t see a price on the dryers, but the folks using them assured me that they cost 25 cents for eight minutes of drying time. The last load has to be in by 9:30 p.m., several signs read, before the place closes down at 11 p.m.

Isn’t there some kind of day care service on campus?

How did you know? The Hilltop Child Development Center is just down Irving Hill Road from the residence halls on Daisy Hill. Students have priority there, and its director tells me that about half of all the children it serves have KU students for parents.

So does the student health center have real doctors?

Yes, indeed. In fact, they should have 10 board-certified physicians when they fill a couple open positions, the communications coordinator for KU Student Health Services told me. The doctors also specialize in college-age student health, she said. And here’s the best part. This is another thing you’re already paying for with your student fees. So doctors visits are always free for students who have paid the student fee (again, it’s very likely that you are). You can see a doctor every day if you like. Prescriptions and lab services do have an additional charge, however.

Wow, this has been really helpful.

I’m glad you think so.

So is there anything else you think I should know? I mean, something I’m not likely to pick up anywhere else?

Here’s something. KU Recreation Services (you know all about the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, right?) offers rentals of outdoor equipment that you can use for that Clinton Lake camping trip. Tents, sleeping bags, stoves, backpacks, kayaks, camp chairs, coolers and a whole bunch more stuff (even climbing shoes) are available for students to rent for a nominal fee. You can find them on the bottom floor of the Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center, 1740 Watkins Center Drive.

Thanks again, man. You rock.

I know.

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