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by Agnes Jasinski

Many of you have already made your decisions on the school you’ll be attending come fall. The next step (outside of the obvious, determining how you’ll pay for that choice and evaluating your financial aid letter) will be figuring out where you’ll be living once you’re on your chosen campus.

Many colleges will require freshmen to live in dorms, to build a sense of community and give those first-year students better access to campus offerings and guidance. You’ve probably heard quite a bit about communal living already, either through older siblings’ roommate horror stories or warnings of consuming too many calories in the dorm cafeterias. A number of recent articles have taken a lighter approach to dorm living, looking at the unique options you may have when determining where you’ll be spending most of your time come fall. (You may remember reading about college students demanding more from their dorms; it seems like schools are taking notice.)

One article in The New York Times took a look at dorm rooms that came with “bragging rights” and an air of celebrity about them. While wait lists for them are typically high, some students discover only after they’ve moved in that they’re bunking in the same space as a former politician, celebrity, or historical figure. Princeton University in particular has quite a few of these famous spaces—Michelle Obama had a single room there, and four freshmen currently live in Adlai E. Stevenson’s old room. (The school razed the building where James Stewart spent his evenings.) Yale University boasts Anderson Cooper’s and Paul Giamatti’s old rooms. While colleges are often hesitant to disclose where famous alums lived while attending their schools, the article suggests it’s not too hard to figure out using old yearbooks, and the Times piece alone discloses quite a few of the celebs’ previous addresses.

For those who would rather bring a furry friend from home to college than boast of their rooms’ history, a number of colleges have become more amendable to allowing students to bring the family pet to live with them in the dorms. Another recent Times article took a look at the trend, as colleges begin setting aside dorms specifically for pet owners. The dorms include daycare facilities for when students are in class—although hours are limited to prevent pet neglect—and other amenities staffed by work-study students interested in working with animals. According to that article, about a dozen colleges currently have policies allowing pets access to the dorms. Typically, the policies are limited to cats and small- to average-sized dogs.

What kinds of things will you be considering when you’re ready to make your housing choice? Are you looking for a more traditional dorm room experience, without the frills or additional options now offered by colleges?


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by Agnes Jasinski

You’ve already read about the website that allows college students to wager on their grades. A new online tool allows students to calculate not whether they should risk some cash on their academic performance, but whether sleeping in and skipping class is worth their while.

The “Should I Skip Class Today?” calculator asks users 10 questions that glean information about how many times that user has that class in question, when the next major test/quiz will be held, and whether that class has an attendance policy, among other criteria. Once they hit submit, users are told whether they’d be safe or sorry if they stayed in bed and skipped class. For example, I was told it was OK to skip class but that I wasn’t completely safe when I gave the calculator a whirl. I used a hypothetical class that met twice a week, included regular handouts in class, and had an attendance policy where my instructor did not take attendance, but where participation mattered in my final grade. The results also told me that I had already skipped 7 percent of my classes this semester (I had informed the web tool that this would be my third absence), and when my next test or quiz was (I offered that information up as well).

The calculator is the brainchild of Jim Filbert, who thought of the idea “one cold morning” in February of this year. Filbert, a telecommunications management student at the time, didn’t want to go to class that day, and found himself wondering what the risks were to stay in his warm bed. Following a quick search online, he was unable to find a similar tool, so he took it upon himself to create an online risk calculator himself. He did end up skipping class that day, according to his bio on the site, but he spent his free time working on the calculator, instead.

While you should probably go to class as often as you can, barring an unfortunate illness, flat tire, or other incident that would stop you from doing so, it’d be interesting to see how “accurate” this calculator is in a real situation. How you’d measure its accuracy, though, I’m not exactly sure. Have you tried out this new online tool? How do you go about determining how risky it is to skip class? What’s an appropriate excuse? If you’re feeling swamped, check out our College Classes and Study Smart sections before deciding whether you’re really too overwhelmed to go to class; we have tips on everything from preparing for exams to choosing which courses you should sign up for.


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by Agnes Jasinski

A college freshman goes through a wide range of emotions when it's time to leave home. Many are a little nervous, but mostly excited, with a laundry list of things to do before they're able to relax about their first round of courses. It's probably for the best then for parents to get back on the road and leave new freshmen to their orientations and campus exploring, right? For some parents, seeing their first son or daughter go to away to college has been harder than most.

A recent article in The New York Times took a look programs at colleges across the country that aim to make the transition easier for both incoming freshmen and their parents. According to the article, a formal “Parting Ceremony” at Morehouse College involves literally shutting the gate to the campus as the newly enrolled are left on one side, their parents on the other. At Colgate and Princeton universities, school officials are quick to remind parents that student-only activities start the afternoon or early evening of move-in day. At Grinnell College, a formal welcoming from the school’s president keeps parents on one side of the college gym, students on the other.

The article is one of several lately on “helicopter parents,” or moms and dads who can’t help but involve themselves in every aspect of their children’s lives. While moving day may be an important milestone for college students to share with their parents, especially if they’re the only child, it’s also important for parents to realize that this is their freshman’s first taste of independence. And they won’t learn how to be self-sufficient if mom and dad are hovering.

A recent article in The Chicago Tribune looked at how technology has made helicopter parenting even easier, leading with the story of a 19-year-old college sophomore who has a frequent texting relationship with her mother back home. Administrators say constant communication becomes a problem when parents start taking the lead on their children’s schedules and social lives. According to the Tribune article, some call to remind their sons and daughters about upcoming exams or other deadlines, and are the first point of contact when laundry issues or conflicts with other students and professors arise.

Having a close relationship with your parents is great, but it’s also important to use college as a period of self-discovery. Set up boundaries (do you really need to be Facebook friends with mom and dad?) and make sure that you’re taking advantage of your first stab at independence. And worse comes to worse, you can always study abroad.


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A New Facebook in Town?

August 31, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Looks like there’s a new facebook in town. Sort of. Apparently trying to recapture what the aforementioned site once offered, namely exclusivity to college students, is the new site CollegeOnly.com. It’s really not a bad idea, either, if you think about it. Sure, facebook really took off and their numbers skyrocketed as a result of their opening-up their site and services to the general public, but at what price? Or, at what price to students, I should say. It worked out pretty well for facebook. I mean, does it really make sense to jettison users of your site once they reach a particular age or social status? With regard to site traffic, less is never more.

Several years ago, students could go online and post photos from frat parties and, basically, be college students without fear of their parents, employers, etc. seeing them, for example. Sure, facebook allows you to adjust your privacy settings and sure, you don’t have to accept every friend request you get, but it could be a bit awkward to get an invite from an employer, parent, aunt, etc. with whom you really don’t want to be facebook “friends” for the above-mentioned reasons.

Having only glanced at the site (don’t currently have a “.edu” email address), I can’t go into much more detail, other than to say the clipart on the home page is certainly an interesting choice. Regardless of your gender or preference there’s a plunging neckline there for you. Enjoy.


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A New Facebook in Town?

August 31, 2010

by Kevin Ladd

Looks like there’s a new facebook in town. Sort of. Apparently trying to recapture what the aforementioned site once offered, namely exclusivity to college students, is the new site CollegeOnly.com. It’s really not a bad idea, either, if you think about it. Sure, facebook really took off and their numbers skyrocketed as a result of their opening-up their site and services to the general public, but at what price? Or, at what price to students, I should say. It worked out pretty well for facebook. I mean, does it really make sense to jettison users of your site once they reach a particular age or social status? With regard to site traffic, less is never more.

Several years ago, students could go online and post photos from frat parties and, basically, be college students without fear of their parents, employers, etc. seeing them, for example. Sure, facebook allows you to adjust your privacy settings and sure, you don’t have to accept every friend request you get, but it could be a bit awkward to get an invite from an employer, parent, aunt, etc. with whom you really don’t want to be facebook “friends” for the above-mentioned reasons.

Having only glanced at the site (don’t currently have a “.edu” email address), I can’t go into much more detail, other than to say the clipart on the home page is certainly an interesting choice. Regardless of your gender or preference there’s a plunging neckline there for you. Enjoy.


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An Apple a Day...

Students and Staff Receive More Than the Daily Fruit Requirement

September 9, 2010

An Apple a Day...

by Alexis Mattera

Since its debut in early April, the iPad has had quite the effect on consumers – even the most PC-loyal ones – around the world. The student population is no exception and just as they use the iPad and other Apple products every day on and around campus – this year, all Seton Hall undergrads received an iPad, while Stanford is bestowing the device on its incoming medical students – many colleges are even integrating the device beyond their curricula.

Eric Stoller of Inside Higher Ed’s Blog U. posted a piece last night where he followed up on a recent tweet from UNCP’s Assistant Director in the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership Becca Fick. In 140 characters or less, Fick said her office was getting – her words – a fleet of iPads…and while that particular fleet turned out to be just four (cuatro, quatre, vier, etc.), the department is making good use of its new quartet in conferences, student voice assessment and social media management, among other fields.

Have you noticed iPads popping up more around your school and, if so, how and by whom are they being used? If not, do you think wider usage would be a benefit or a burden?


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Credit Card Crack Down

SUNY Adopts Credit Card Reform Agreement

September 10, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

Ah, the emergencies only credit card. Sounds great in theory but when a student’s cash flow is low, the term “emergency” can take on an entirely new meaning (some sweet new sneakers or a floor dinner at Chez Fancypants, perhaps?). If Mom and Dad aren’t too keen on the idea – maybe they’ve been there, done that and have the credit score to prove it – there hasn’t been much they could do to prevent their child from stopping by the student union during the first week of classes and signing up for myriad cards and repercussions…until Andrew Cuomo stepped into their corner.

Reuters recently posted an article detailing the State University of New York’s agreement with the New York Attorney General to adopt practices to protect students from unnecessary debt. SUNY, with 465,000 students on 64 campuses throughout the state, is the first university in the country to adopt this sort of reform, which calls for mandatory financial literacy programs to educate students on loans, credit cards and finances in general to minimize the nearly $4,100 in credit card debt and $20,000 in loans that most four-year college students graduate with. Letters have also been sent to the state’s approximately 300 higher educational facilities insisting that they evaluate any existing contracts with credit and debit card companies, prohibit the sharing of students’ personal information with card companies without authorization, limit on-campus marketing and never accept percentages of charges imposed on students.

When I began my freshman year at UConn in 2001, I made the decision not to sign up for a credit card for one simple reason: I knew that when I tired of my wardrobe or dining hall food, it would have been all too easy to bust out the plastic. That being said, I knew plenty of people who were tempted by the free t-shirts and bottle openers and they would have surely benefited from Cuomo’s reform and tips like these. Now to our readers: Have any financial wins or woes from your college days you'd care to share? Would you have made different choices if more information was available? Were the sneakers worth it?


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An Update on Harrisburg University’s Social Media Shutdown

Some Students Participate, Others Find Ways Around It

September 16, 2010

by Alexis Mattera

When I first heard that Harrisburg University of Science and Technology planned to block Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and AOL Instant Messenger from its campus wireless network this week, I wondered how it would play out. Today, I got my answer (thanks, Inside Higher Ed!).

Fact: The sites are blocked on campus. Another fact: Students are resourceful. It seems like every student carries a smartphone or iPad equipped with access to their carriers’ respective 3G networks and Harrisburg U. students who don’t have left campus to get their social media fixes via the Wi-Fi in a nearby hotel’s lobby or attempted to hack into the campus network to bypass the block. Eric Darr, the provost behind the plan, said the university never expected full abstinence but bus personal observations reveal the proportion of students participating is between 10 and 15 percent – notable because students are required to have laptops and have their computers open in class. In Darr’s eyes, the initiative has been a success because people have become more aware of the role social media plays in their lives. “This extreme media coverage in and of itself is forcing more focus on social media,” he said. “That was the whole point of this in the first place.”

The slight percentage Darr noted could have been far different if the social media ban was implemented on a residential campus (Harrisburg is nonresidential, meaning that many students live nearby instead of living in dormitories and on-campus apartments), where students were more dependent on campus networks. Plain and simple, students can log on all they want when they get home…and they have been: Gio Acosta, a junior, said that while the ban has helped him focus in class, he still gives in to the digital urge at home. “They didn’t make any rules about that,” he said.

Do we have any readers currently at Harrisburg U. out there? If so, tell us how you’ve been dealing with the ban. Are you participating? Ignoring it? Hacking your way around it?


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Colleges Use Social Networking as Academic Tool

by Suada Kolovic

You can’t go anywhere today without hearing the words social networking. But unlike Facebook, where students go to poke at friends and post pictures of their latest shenanigans, college campuses are attempting to harness the popularity of social networking and create online learning communities attempting to mix serious academic work, and connections among working scholars, with Facebook-style fun.

At the City University of New York, a new project called Academic Commons is connecting faculty, staff, and graduate students across the system's 23 institutions. The CUNY-only network allows its more than 1,300 users to write, share blogs, join subject groups, and participate in academic discussions.

At CUNY, registered members of Academic Commons get their own profile, where they can post information about themselves and link up with friends in groups online. The subject groups focus on topics that include open-source publishing, graduate admissions, and—on the nonacademic side—the top New York City pizza joints.

As Matthew Gold, Academic Commons' director put it, “You may not want to friend your dean on Facebook, but you still want to be connected to your dean.”


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The End of Traditional Textbooks is Near

Colleges to Force Switch to E-Textbooks

October 25, 2010

The End of Traditional Textbooks is Near

by Suada Kolovic

The start of every new semester calls for a new set of textbooks- very expensive textbooks. Students can’t really think about the cost of college today without factoring in the skyrocketing cost of textbooks. For years students have improvised on ways to dodge buying a new copy- purchasing a used one, borrowing a copy from the library, sharing with a friend, renting one, downloading an illegal version, or simply going without. We recently posted about how e-textbooks and textbook rental services are saving students money but it may not be too long before they’ll be a students’ only option. The plan is to have colleges require students to pay a course-materials fee, which would be used to buy e-books for all of them (whatever text the professor recommend, just as in the old model).

And why not? Electronic copies are far cheaper to produce than printed text, making a bulk purchase more feasible and with colleges ordering books by the hundreds of thousands, they can negotiate a much better rate than students were able to get on their own, even for used books. The hope is to thwart the possibility of students dropping out because they could not afford textbooks, whose average price rose 186 percent between 1986 and 2005, and continue to shoot up each year faster than inflation.

"When students pay more for new textbooks than tuition in a year, then something's wrong," says Rand S. Spiwak, executive vice president at Daytona State, who is leading the experiment there. "Our game plan is to bring the cost of textbooks down by 75 to 80 percent."

But not everyone is buying into the hype of the e-textbook. Issues of ethics have aroused, for instance, what if a professor wrote the textbook assigned for his or her class? Is it ethical to force students to buy it, even at a reduced rate? And what if students feel they are better off on their own, where they have the option of sharing or borrowing a book at no cost?


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