Tips and tricks from savvy Tartans

Hey first-years: Orientation does a pretty nice job of (surprise surprise) orienting you to campus, but there are a few things we think it leaves out. Here’s a list of tips and tricks we’ve picked up in our years here at Carnegie Mellon and in Pittsburgh. They’re tried and true; put them to good use.

Saved by the Bell: In-Class Tips

• Make sure to ask your professors on the first day whether you’ll need every book they’ve put on the syllabus. Sometimes they only assign a single chapter, in which case it’s much easier (and cost-efficient) to photocopy the pages from a friend or take it out of the library.
• Didn’t do the reading? Don’t know the answer? Don’t look down; that’s sheepish. But don’t make eye contact with the professor, either; that will get you called on for sure. Look pensively at the board. If you happen to get called on anyway, respond with another question: “Give a real-life example of Lacan’s theory of the mirror stage? Could we actually go over the mirror stage? That part of the reading really went over my head.” Intentionally revealing a pebble of ignorance will save you from accidentally revealing a boulder.
• Professors are almost always willing to give extensions on assignments. Just make sure you ask far in advance, not the day before. This is a great way to balance your workload when multiple deadlines hit at the same time.

Tricks for Saving Dough

• You don’t have to buy all your books from our bookstore. Save money by checking out,, or the Pitt bookstore. Since Pitt is so much larger than CMU and buys more books, they’re often cheaper.
• In the basement of Doherty Hall you can buy a soft drink for 50 cents. If you’re a little more daring, you can slip into the faculty lounge on the fourth floor of Wean Hall and buy a bottle for 65 cents. If you get quizzical looks from computer science professors, play the I’m-just-a-wide-eyed-first-year-looking-for-the-john card. Especially in a behemoth like Wean, that’s easy to believe.
• PlaidCa$h is convenient if you’re on campus and practically useless if you’re not. Turn PlaidCa$h into real-people money by going to the Giant Eagle in Squirrel Hill and using it to purchase an American Express gift card. Then you can use it anywhere that accepts credit cards.

Riding PAT: Tips for Taking the Bus

• Sometimes you show your ID when you get on the bus, and sometimes when you get off. And if you get it wrong, some bus drivers get awfully persnickety. If, when you step on the bus, the driver has his or her hand covering the money slot, that means show the ID on your way off. If the slot is open, pull it out when you step on. When in doubt, three words clear it all up: “On or off?” The driver will tell you.
• Never try to pull a fast one on the driver by using someone else’s ID or lending your ID to a friend. Anyone caught using someone else’s ID will be arrested — yes, arrested — for identity theft.
• The 59U is not the only bus that goes to the Waterfront. Sure, it drops you off right in front of the movie theater, but it’s infamously irregular. The 61C, D, and F all go into Homestead. Get off at the first stop past the Waterfront and it’s a five-minute walk to wherever you need to go. If you’re already in Squirrel Hill, grab a 64A on Murray.

Miscellaneous and Notorious

• Ethernet bandwidth usage is two gigabytes per day, right? Wrong. It’s 10 gigabytes every five days. Hog the bandwidth for a day if you need to download, but just make sure you lay off it for a few days afterwards.
• The stoplight pattern at the corner of Forbes and Morewood is a conundrum to newbies. You’ll feel the rhythm eventually, but till then: Don’t cross while there’s a green light on Forbes; you’ll be flattened. The walk signal will then flash, but only if you’ve pushed the button. It’s also easy to cross while the traffic on Morewood has the green, but only if there’s no one turning into your path.

Use these tips and tricks and you’ll be a savvy Tartan in no time!

Editor’s Note: The Tartan does not promote jaywalking. Power-walking, moonwalking, and walking the line, however, are all encouraged.