By Alan Gillis

Going to college could be a life-threatening experience or about the best thing that ever happened. Basically you decide. To steer through the obstacle course without crashing, check out your college newspaper online before you parachute in as a freshman. Don't jump to any fatal conclusions. The paper ergo the campus could be dull and stupid, urbane, sensible, stuffed with monkeys in suits, friendly, goofy or off the wall. Or all of the above. Resist the temptation, that you've blown it already: I'm in the wrong school! Wait, you'll find out later. Doesn't matter anyway, but looking around the paper and then the campus maze will give you some idea of what you can expect and the operating do's and don'ts you might have heard elsewhere like from your parents or your big brother.

Be prepared for confusion and stress, but don't take it seriously. Everybody's going through it. Under all the conflicting emotions, the good and bad decisions, is the classic 3-way student dilemma. In the struggle between social life, grades and growing-up, who's going to win? If you're a Young Republican or a Nerd, you've already made your choices. But you might get a second chance. Socializing and sex is the over-riding factor on any campus. Beer is also big. It's a juggling act where you're bound to break a few plates.

RIT left: “Keep ahead, don’t fall behind.” Brandon Nowakowski. RIT right: “If you’re ever invited to anything, accept it.” Ben Vanderberg.

If you want it all, you've got to work hard and play hard. Being young and hopefully in good physical shape with a working brain, you could pull it off, unlike mom and dad who've burned that bridge already. If you take their advice at face value you could wind up safe and sorry. If you don't you could flunk out or worse. If you can't resist temptation or you faked it in high school or just scraped through, then load up on Mickey Mouse courses your first year. And good luck.

Here's your crib sheet on surviving college from one of the best student newspapers anywhere, the Rochester Institute of Technology's Reporter. Thanks you guys.

Click on article title links to continue reading each Reporter story in full. Artwork and photos courtesy RIT Reporter. Mouse-over for credits. Thanks to Andy Rees, Editor-in-Chief; Artists Robert Modzelewski, Jamie Douglas; Photographers Mathew Woyak, Megan Rossman.

From the Reporter's RIT Orientation X-Files

The Man. The Heat. The Fuzz. The...Helper?

By Laura Mandanas

There’s no escape. Whether they’re busting your parties, nagging you not to ride your bike down the Quarter Mile, and/or plastering your only-semi-illegally parked car with hundreds of dollars worth in tickets, you’re going to run up against our campus law enforcers at some point in time. But it’s not all bad — in fact, there are a lot of really helpful things that Public Safety will do for you! . . .

Alan Gillis adds: Lock yourself out? Lost something? In trouble? Adopt a Public Safety Officer. It depends on your campus, but overall there are more security issues in city colleges than at a campus in the country. If you have any concerns, talk to campus security. If there are hot spots, places and times to avoid, they'll tell you. At some colleges you could get into trouble just by walking alone or leaving your frat house door open. Take the same precautions you would anyplace you don't know well. Some campuses have student services where volunteers will pick you up and drive you home or walk with you. You're alone, it's late, it's cold, you're stoned. Get help. If that doesn't work call campus security. Put them and your other emergency numbers on your speed dial.

Things you shouldn’t do but, if you do, try not to get caught

By Kimberly Reeb with Andy Rees

Stay away from anything illegal: drugs, guns, robbery, and so on.

In the words of RIT’s student conduct rules, “Students neither relinquish civil rights nor acquire additional rights by virtue of being within an academic community; they do, however, take on additional responsibilities.”

In the 2007-08 school year, the three most common Public Safety referrals to the SCO [Student Conduct Office] centered around alcohol, drugs, and theft.

Every incident has a different outcome but, unfortunately, freshmen are most likely to be the ones getting in trouble this year. The 2007-08 year had 1,297 incidences and 39 percent of them were committed by first year students. So have fun, but be smart. . .

Alan Gillis adds: If some misconduct like alcohol and drug use leads to a medical emergency, you have to seek medical help for yourself or anyone who is with you. Since there is some fear seeking help because of legal and other consequences, many institutions have a policy that forgives such misconduct. Check the rules at your own school. Find out what emergency medical facilities there are on your campus. At RIT if it's only alcohol-related, there's room for leniency.

Roommate Issues

By Jess Kopitz

For many incoming freshmen, the most exciting and daunting experience in college is living in the dorms. On the one hand, you get more freedom than ever before: No more curfews or questions about where you’re going and when you’ll be back. On the other hand, you are now living with a stranger. This is the real world and, with it, come rewards and drawbacks.

Living with another person in the same room can be taxing no matter how well you get along with them. The truth of the matter is that living in the dorms gives you little to no privacy. A typical dorm room will resemble something like a closet and sharing it with another person may seem like being asked to never change your underwear again: uncomfortable and even unhealthy. . .

A Guy's How-To: Getting Girls

By Michael Barbato

Making the First Move

If you’ve ever wished the girl you like would do all the work and ask you out, chances are she won’t. 85% of the girls I polled revealed they had never asked a guy out. Most girls won’t make the first move out of fear of being too forward or depriving her would-be suitor of his ‘manly’ prowess. Although it does happen, it isn’t very often, so it is vital to make that first move. . .

The Approach

If you’re still using generic pickup lines, I have some magical love potions I’d like to sell you. By the way, neither pick up lines nor love potions work! In fact, pickup lines will hurt your chances; according to the spry young ladies, pickup lines are the most irritating tactics a guy can employ. . .

Where to Approach

Watch out for girls in a hurry or busy. Don’t approach a girl when she’s on her way to class or if she’s waitressing at a crowded restaurant. Bars and clubs are well fielded and usually not the best environment to start. Be spontaneous. Approach her in an unexpected place. Go up to her at the library and notice her reading the book you just read or want to read and go from there. . .

Alan Gillis adds: Advice for women on getting guys? Perhaps it's a question that doesn't need any big answer. All any girl needs to do is Ask. Guys are like that. 95% of the time that's enough, but if you want more ideas you'll find thousands in Cosmo. Of course ask the right guy and don't come on to him in a tiny halter showing off your big belly over short shorts and fishnet hose in spikes or boots unless that's your usual style. Don't beg either. It's embarrassing for him too. If it doesn't work the first time, try another approach. Guys are dense. They're not expecting a hook-up on short notice, as it rarely happens anyway. When it does, some aren't sure. Are you a tease making the rounds? Does the guy think he's being setup for a dumb joke? Serious or is she going to change her mind before she takes off her socks? Some girlfriend's girlfriend testing him? So try again if you're serious.

If all else fails whatever your gender, you need to practice more. Too shy, too slow on the uptake? Need a mega ice breaker? After a string of disappointments, or some success with disaster relationships, you might want to try speed dating. You could find that you've been stuck on your wrong type. Here's a chance to try somebody different. Some campuses offer a free version that might work out. See the Reporter's interesting experiment with speed dating at RIT in the article below.

Speed dating

By Madeleine Villavicencio

Reporter expanded its brand name into the dating service business by holding our very own invitation-only speed dating event. For this experiment, 18 hopeful singles piled into room 1829 in the Student Alumni Union (SAU) that evening, looking for a match. The night began with the consumption of snacks and refreshments — the Ritz Bits cheese sandwiches were a favorite — as the music of Tiger Idol finalists drifted through the walls of the neighboring Ingle Auditorium, doubling as entertainment for the night. At the same time, participants registered and left contact information with the assigned staff. . .

With speed dating, your options cover a wider range of people. Because of its random nature, you will probably meet at least one person you never would have walked up to at a party. . .

It isn’t just the quantitative data collected that’s interesting. If you take a look at the match sheets themselves, you start to notice a few things. More than half of the women’s sheets had multiple erasures, meaning they are more likely to change their minds more than once. Men, on the other hand, were more likely to avoid the decision all together by leaving boxes on their sheets blank. In addition, guys are more likely to vote “yes” [for a follow-up date] while girls are more likely to vote “no.” Some marks were darker than others, possibly indicating a greater intensity of like or dislike. . .

Alan Gillis adds: Nothing works? Buy a car. Make it available. Drive people around anywhere anytime. Right away you're scoring points big time. No car? Then find your own car guy. Find out how in the article below.

Triple P: How to Mooch a Ride

By Alex Salsberg

Hello, freshmen! You are currently enjoying the best moments of college. You like all your nveighbors (in three weeks your floor will be severely cliquey and probably on fire), and you are not yet fat. But to continue the fun, you must befriend a certain someone on your floor. We will call him “Car Guy.”

Maybe you thought that RIT’s quarter-mile long campus (complete with an ice cream parlor and a pretend SportsCenter set) would provide you with all the entertainment you needed for five years. But Car Guy knew better. He knew that someday he might actually want to explore the great city of Rochester, with its museums, restaurants and depressing zoo (did you know polar bears can cry?) So, when he found out that freshman were allowed cars, he proudly parked his white Dodge Spirit in B-Lot, which is just outside of Albany.

If you learn to take advantage of Car Guy effectively, you could enjoy a (literal) free ride through RIT. Just follow these three handy tips (I call it Triple P) . . .

Don't Forget: Balance is Best

By Joe McLaughlin

Most things are fine in moderation, but some things don’t lend themselves to “just a little bit.” World of Warcraft is the perfect example. Keep gaming within sane limits. Leave time for schoolwork and interacting with real people. Don’t, however, lock yourself in your room and do nothing but calculus. Leave time for goofing off. After all, you’re in college. You’re never going to have another chance to duct tape a friend’s chair to the ceiling. (Hint: The chairs in the dorms take a roll and a half.) . . .

And Make Friends

Alan Gillis adds: If you click with some people, make more room for them in your life. College probably is your best opportunity to make life-long friends who share your interests and your ideas. Once they're on their career path you'll find that you're all still in the same ballpark. You could wind up helping them or being helped yourself. Especially if you're a risk taker and are going into a tough game like filmmaking where contacts are essential. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg became friends at UCLA where they made a pact to help each other. It worked.

Reporter's Distorter: Brain Humping On Campus

By Alan Gillis

If the Reporter delivers about the best in student journalism, candid, relevant and interesting, other papers often fail. Even their dirty laundry stories look fairly clean, often apologetic too if a few stains remain to sully the old school name. Not at the Reporter. Why the Reporter will invent dirty laundry if it needs to, but that's for the annual April Fools Issue, the Distorter.

This year's Sexy Issue reached the limit of can-u-f******take-it, at least for RIT Admin, which pulled the magazine and closed down the Reporter's website for awhile. You can't find it anywhere except under the Editor's bed and Reporter Offices, but if you know where to look, there is now a secret website archive of a flip-through copy of Distorter 09.

It's not for the squeamish. Totally grossed-out humor on sex at its worst, but you get the same insane bits in your daily newspaper in small doses. They're brave at the Reporter, but they were slapped down hard for it. OK, Distorter 09 was trash, and it stunk, but it was also an attempt at satire. Still marginally better than Fellini's Satyricon, which wasn't very funny and made a lot of money. Fellini squeaked through in theaters along with Passolini that other Italian 30 years ago. Why not Distorter 09, an obvious First Amendment issue? Not that the case went anywhere either, not blazing freedom of speech for college kids. Imagine all the lawyers and the pain it would take to drag dirty Distorter 09 into court for a line-by-line dry cleaning. No your Honor, that horse in question was after the fact, from Oklahoma in USA Today.

For another more typical and less subversive Distorter there's last year's edition. Distorter 08, more your raunchy Animal House revisited: Sports Desk: Beer Pong, Bro! Can you re-rack that?

If there's a lesson here at RIT for Distorter fans or freshmen, its no flashing on campus, not even at the run through halftime at a Tigers' game. No Tigers, no streaking. When RIT's football team went 0-8-1 in 1977, the Tigers were permanently canceled for losing. One lousy year since 1922? Maybe some Distorters are still mad about it.

But there's hope. You can always join the Reporter staff for some laughs or your own college paper. If it stinks, all the more reason. They need you badly.