Student Advice Columnist at U. of Kansas Helps Undergrads Navigate ‘Whirlwind of College Life’
Anissa Fritz has the answers to your questions, concerns and insecurities. Need help motivating friends to exercise more? Ask Anissa. Trying to decide whether grad school is right for you? Ask Anissa. Working up the courage to talk to your crush after class? Ask Anissa.
“Ask Anissa” is a popular advice column produced for The University Daily Kansan at the University of Kansas. Since it debuted in January, Fritz, a rising junior from Carrollton, Texas, has weighed in on a bevy of life, love, health and career conundrums.
A few other samples: Should I get a dog? Should I transfer schools for my significant other? What if I hate my relationship partner’s pet names for me? How do I tell my roomie we won’t be sharing living quarters next year?
As Fritz, a journalism major, wrote in her introductory column, “College is a demanding and confusing time for all of us, but that doesn’t mean your issues and questions have to be swept under the rug. I look forward to helping my fellow Jayhawks in the whirlwind of college life.”
In the exclusive Q&A below, Fritz — who is also the Kansan’s incoming opinions editor — shares her “Ask Anissa” origins story. She also defends her advice columnist credentials and offers tips for student interested in following in her Dear-Abby-esque footsteps.
What motivated you to launch “Ask Anissa“?
For the last few semesters, I have been writing as a columnist for the opinions section [of the Kansan]. Over this last winter break, my editor informed me that the Kansan wanted to add a new section to the opinions spread: an advice column. She then explained that she and the rest of the staff thought I would be a good fit for the position. After getting super-excited, jumping up and down and gladly accepting, she said we would brainstorm later in the week on how we wanted to go about launching it. We came up with the name “Ask Anissa” because — well, let’s be honest — it is kind of catchy. Students would then anonymously text their questions to the Kansan phone number with the hashtag #AskAnissa. At first, we thought about making the hashtag #AA, but you can probably guess why we changed it.
What has been the most surprising part of the advice column experience so far?
The most surprising part is just how many people know and recognize the “Ask Anissa” advice column. When I go out with my friends, random people will come up to me and say, “Are you Ask Anissa?” It happens all the time. On campus, in class, when I’m running errands, everywhere. Another common scenario is if someone I know is reading the paper and they get to my advice column, they’ll say, “I had no idea that was you!” It’s pretty funny and also very rewarding to be recognized by my peers for my work. I’ve even had professors and my advisers emailing me, saying how much they liked a certain piece — when I had no idea that they even read the advice column at all!
What’s your advice to students who want to follow in your footsteps and run an advice column aimed at college readers?
I would definitely say that one of the best things you can do is level with whoever asked you the question you are responding to. Give it to them straight. We’re college kids. For the most part we just want the answer and we want it now. Be harsh if you have to. But there is a line between being harsh and being flat-out mean. To balance this out I always try to add a sarcastic or playful tone to a paragraph or sentence. This makes it an overall more entertaining read. But seriously, be forward and don’t beat around the bush when answering these questions. And if people for some reason think that you may be wrong, then they can get their own advice column.
“We’re college kids. For the most part we just want the answer and we want it now. … [B]e forward and don’t beat around the bush when answering these questions. And if people for some reason think that you may be wrong, then they can get their own advice column.”
My favorite column that I’ve written for Ask Anissa focused on this question: “So about a year ago my girlfriend cheated on me and told a lot of lies. I decided to give her another chance and so far we haven’t had any issues that I know of. But no matter what I do, I can’t seem to fully trust her. What should I do?”
This was a really hard topic for me to answer because I had been in his shoes before. But I have also had friends who cheated on their significant others before but absolutely regretted it and would do anything and everything to make it right again. So both sides of the situation were very real and personal for me. But I had to tell him what someone should have told me a long time ago: We as humans tend to be with people who have hurt us not because we love them but because they are familiar and comfortable and because of this the idea of living a life without them is terrifying. Toward the end of the column I wrote, “Keeping a pair of shoes in your closet because they are comfortable is acceptable; keeping your girlfriend for the same reason is not.”
What is your response to those who might question whether a college student is qualified to pass along advice to her peers?
If someone were to suggest I was not qualified to give advice to my fellow students I would respond by making two points. The first being that anyone could give someone their two cents on a situation. But since anyone can say whatever they want to whoever they want, it doesn’t mean it’s warranted or even good advice for that matter. These students come to me for advice because they trust that I have a solid moral character and viewpoint. It’s called “Ask Anissa.” Not “Let’s have Anissa write about what she thinks about other people’s lives and judge them.”
My second point would be that because I am young and in college — which could often be seen as a con — I can relate more to the questions students are asking. I have either already been through it, am currently going through it or have had friends experiencing it. It is much easier for me to understand and empathize with what a student is going through than a grown adult who hasn’t been in the college environment for several years.
Turning the tables a bit, what is one question YOU would submit right now to a college advice columnist if you could?
If the tables were flipped and I were to ask a question to an advice columnist, I would probably end up asking this question: “I have a bad habit of putting my work and school before relationships. Which is unfortunate because I feel like sometimes I miss out on potential relationships that could benefit my life. But at the same time, my accomplishments haven’t disappointed. How can I best balance relationships while still being successful but not a workaholic?”