College Life

How college has changed since you were on campus

Do you remember bringing a mini-fridge or a flat-screen tv to college? Or a laptop that fit in your book bag? College certainly isn’t what it once was, so if you’ve got a college-bound kid, prepare to say “back in my day” often. Here are some important changes to recognize as your student adjusts to college life.

They know about their roommate before they’ve even met.

Students take to social media first thing once roommates are assigned. There’s no need to call or write a letter. Within a matter of minutes, they’re able to learn a lot about each other, a level of stalking that wouldn’t have been acceptable twenty years ago. By the time move-in day rolls around, they’ve already friended each other on Facebook and decided who will bring the Keurig. The use of social media also helps students stay in touch with friends better after they graduate, so maintaining friendships is easier than when you were their age.

Student ID’s are for everything.

A day in a college kid’s life is difficult without a student ID. Contrary to the name, it actually serves a few handy purposes:

  • Meals. Your kid’s Student ID is actually their meal card. It makes paying for food on campus as fast as swiping the ID like a credit card. No human interaction is needed.
  • Entry access. Planning to surprise-visit your kid’s dorm? Good luck. Due to security regulations, it takes a swipe of a student ID to enter the building. If you’re thinking you can knock on the door until some kid lets you in, you might get lucky, but keep in mind students are warned not to let in anyone they don’t recognize. Your kid’s student ID is also their ticket into home sporting games, which explains the giant line of students waiting to get into the student section.
  • Laundry. Again, the swipe of their card and their laundry is paid for.
  • Student discounts. A student ID can help your kid score discounts at stores, locally and elsewhere.
  • Pre-paid card. Think of a student ID like an on-campus debit card. Students can use it to buy food, coffees and even apparel at the bookstore. However, there has to be money loaded on the card so one way to show a college kid love is to add more funds to the account.
  • Identification. Least importantly (for most students), a Student ID’s technical purpose is in the name. Students will occasionally have to present it when handing in an exam, so the professor can verify who they are.

College is more expensive.

Sure, but that’s because of inflation, right? Nope. College costs have actually gone up much faster. In 1990, the average tuition at a Private Nonprofit Four-Year school was $9,340 and tuition at a Public Four-Year In-State school was $1,908. In today’s dollars, factoring in inflation, that is equal to $17,237 and $3,521, respectively. The actual tuition today for a Private Nonprofit Four-Year school is $33,478 and tuition at a Public Four-Year In-State school is $9,648. That means the actual cost of tuition is roughly double what it was when you probably went to school.

Room and board have kept up with that trend as well, far surpassing the rate of inflation. And it’s not just that, the price of textbooks has gone up 73% since 2006 alone, more than 4 times the rate of inflation. Lastly, there’s more technology needed including a laptop, software and often a printer for their dorm.

Most students rely on additional financing such as private student loans (have you checked us out yet?), grants and scholarships. There are resources available for students so let us also help you find free money.

They rate their professors online.

Finding the easiest..ahem, best accounting professor isn’t just word-of-mouth anymore. Students use websites like to leave their professor a review. Then, other students reference these websites when they’re deciding which class to take. If you ever wanted to grade your professor back, this would have been the site for you.

Focusing in class is harder than ever.

Laptops are perfect for taking notes quickly. They have the benefit of SpellCheck and students can highlight and print out any important points later on. However, they also offer distractions like Facebook, games, online shopping and even Netflix watching. These make it difficult for students to choose to pay attention in class, especially during a less-than-riveting lecture. Cell phones are also easily accessible and most college students are guilty of texting during class. Even if your kid is actually taking notes, it’s easy to be sidetracked by the buzzing of other student’s phones.

Campus has gone digital.

It’s rare anymore that students need to turn in a hard copy of an assignment. Actually, many textbooks are even electronic. Multiple choice exams are graded electronically by Scantrons, although it still takes forever for professors to return the test. Even communicating with professors is usually done online. They do have weekly office hours that students can stop in, but many professors prefer to set up the appointment by email first.

Classroom settings have changed as well. Overhead projectors have been replaced by SmartBoards that connect wirelessly to the professor’s laptop. Also, registering for or dropping classes is done entirely online.

Waiting in line for food is even unnecessary thanks to mobile apps like Tapingo. These allow students to order food from on-campus vendors from their phone and pick up their meal when it’s ready.

The biggest change in technology is in the dorms. Twenty years ago, you talked on the phone within earshot of your roommates and looked up phone numbers in the address book if you didn’t have them memorized. Now, students text each other while sitting on the same couch and can check in on their friends just by going on social media. Additionally, there are no daily trips to the mailbox needed, although students still enjoy getting a card from home. Rather than renting movies from the off-campus movie store, having to rewind them if the last person forgot, students watch unlimited Netflix from a giant flat-screen tv in their dorm. Half the time, the tv itself is connected to WiFi.

Changes in technology also benefit you.

While the college environment is basically unrecognizable, new developments in technology offer benefits to you, as the parent, also. Many schools provide resources online where you can stay up-to-date on campus activities and events. While your parents were left in the dark about “Mom’s Weekend” unless you told them about it, you’ll be able to find out everything you need on the school’s website. Also, technology makes staying in touch with your student much easier. If your college kid seems stressed out, there’s a lot going on in their life so check out how to provide motherly advice, without lecturing. |
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