Chicago for College Students 101

OPINION

(Chuan D. Vo for RedEye )
August 07, 2013|By John Hickey, @johnnyjhickey | For RedEye

So you passed on attending a sprawling university in the middle of nowhere for an undergrad experience in the Windy City. Congratulations! While different, the Chicago college experience is unlike any other. This blueprint should help you navigate these next four years.

Do live in the dorms for at least a year

It's tempting when you live in a city to want an apartment. Pump the brakes. These come with responsibilities like gas, heat and cable that are all paid for in the dorms. And don't even get me started on groceries. Not a day goes by where I don't daydream about my school's meal plan.

Don't bring a car downtown

Doesn't matter if your parents said you could. Parking is a nightmare and it's a DUI waiting to happen. A car suddenly gives you the bright idea to do things like "drive to Costco" and "pick up friends from the airport." Make them take the CTA like a normal person.

Do walk to the lake

This applies to any campus: Rogers Park, Lincoln Park or the Loop. Lake Michigan is always within walking distance, and during the warm months is packed with other people looking to get out of their neighborhoods. Screw Lake Geneva.

Don't take Megabus ... anywhere

"But for $15 I can take the Megabus from Chicago to Indianapolis! And it only takes six hours to get there! And it'll only break down twice! And I'll only get puked on once! How can I say no?" By flying, that's how. Southwest is cheap and flies anywhere.

Do go to Chicago sporting events

Unlike other Midwest schools, our college teams are downright pathetic. Luckily, we have professional athletes we can go watch on a daily basis. Never been to a hockey game? Why not go see the best hockey players in the world? Not a fan of baseball? That's OK. Unlike the baseball stadiums on college campuses, we serve beer.

Don't spend too much time off campus

If you do plan on staying in the Chi after you graduate, as a lot of people do, you'll have plenty of time to make it your own. Make sure you make the time to participate in the things you only truly can while you're still in college. Like beer pong.

Do explore the neighborhoods

This city's neighborhoods are like patches on a hipster's JanSport. They're colorful, eclectic and rich with history. Duck in and out of stores and grab a bite to eat. I promise, if you do this in a different neighborhood once or twice a month you'll still have plenty left over by the time you graduate.

Don't forget to network

The biggest advantage to a city school is its proximity to the city (and all the employment opportunities it presents). Take advantage and network with everyone you meet. If it doesn't land you a job right out of school, maybe it'll land someone you networked with a job, and they can throw you a bone.

John Hickey is a RedEye special contributor.

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