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Entries from August 1, 2008 - August 31, 2008


18 Things You Already Forgot to Bring to College

There's a frequently cited post from College and Finance that lists 18 things people tend to overlook when packing for college. That ain't no hack though. The hack comes in when you're already at college and you need to improvise a substitute for each of those 18 items.

  1. Ear plugs - They're pretty indispensable for blocking out snoring, but you can certainly go without them. The simplest solution is to fall asleep before your roommate, especially on nights when you know he/she has been drinking.
    The other option involves actual communication -- as heinous as that may sound. Ask your roommate if he/she could wear nasal strips. I got through my sophomore year by simply waking my roommate briefly and asking him to roll on to his side.
  2. Flip flops or any type of shower shoe - The main, practical reason for "shower shoes" is to avoid athlete's foot. Talcum powder or preventative spray will hold you off until you can muster up the $2 for a pair of flip flops.
  3. Carrying case for toiletries - Most people already own a Dopp kit, so just use that. Soap and shampoo aren't that difficult to carry.
  4. Plugs, power strips, and adapters oh my - You can't really go without a surge protector considering how stingy dorms can be on outlets. Just swap things out of the outlet until you get what you need. Label the plugs with masking tape so you know what you're doing. And examine the desk lamp that comes with your room. Sometimes, there's an extra plug on there.
  5. Cleaning supplies - If you're desperate, you might have to "borrow" some from the janitorial staff. Paper towel dispensers can be easily opened with a flat-head screwdriver or even a paperclip. Also -- don't underestimate the school's culpability. If when you first arrive your dorm is dirty, complain and they'll clean it for you.
  6. Duct Tape - The major problem with duct tape is that it ruins things. If you hang up a poster with duct tape, you risk ruining both the poster and the wall you're hanging it on (which means you'll get charged by the university). If you tape a CAT5 to the carpet, it'll stay for a while, but come Christmas, it'll all be a sticky mess. And if you tape your cords together to keep them organized... you might not ever get them apart again.
    There's lots of ways that duct tape can save your butt (won't go through them all), but it's not as essential as you might think. People over-use it.
  7. Hammer - I honestly thing you're creative enough to come up with a substitute for a hammer. But the standard for hanging anything on to drywall in college is a simple push pin. You don't need a hammer, just push hard.
  8. Screwdriver - Just have a swiss army knife or a mini tool kit on hand and you'll be covered. If not, tools are one of the most borrowable items on this list. Borrow one from a friend or a department you're friendly with on campus.
  9. Stapler - You can get by without your own stapler. You might be printing stuff out in the library anyway. They have a stapler there. If you're handing in a paper that isn't stapled, make sure your name and the page number is in the header of every page.
  10. Door hangers/Hooks with adhesive backing/Something to hang stuff on - Corners of furniture, bed posts and chairs are your back-up hangers for now. When in doubt, just put it in the laundry bag.
  11. Storage containers/Crates - Cardboard boxes.
  12. Bottle opener - There are way too many methods for bottle opening. Look on YouTube depending on your resources: belt buckles, lighters, counter edges, door jams... even a slice of 8.5 x 11.
  13. USB Flash Drive - Finally, something with a Web 2.0 answer. Thumb drives are usually for printing stuff elsewhere or giving presentations. Both can be solved by uploading your stuff to the cloud (ie, emailing yourself the document) or just working in the cloud to begin with. Empressr is our friend and we also quite like GoogleDocs.
  14. Pliers - Okay, seriously now. I don't know why this is on a list of college vitals. You don't need pliers in college.
  15. Extra sheets - They're good to have on hand, but there's a reason they're labeled "extra." Unless you're still potty-training, you'll be fine with a bottle of detergent and coin laundry.
  16. Vitamins - Just eat healthy and you won't need vitamins. In the past few years there's been a revolution in college dining. We're over the days of all-you-can-eat-burgers and breakfast for dinner. Get yourself an egg white omelet or a yogurt parfait.
  17. Air fresheners - I've heard of people using sheets of bounce, but the best solution is just to keep your stuff clean enough where you won't need to mask the smell. I don't know many people who become air freshener-dependent so leave it at home.
  18. Microwave - Most schools won't even allow a microwave in ordinary dorm rooms and you'll definitely be fine without one. A simple water boiler is probably the best investment (since they're so cheap). In apartments, there's probably already a microwave, and even if there isn't, with an oven and a stove, you can cook anything.



New "HackCollege Love" Page

Check out the new HackCollege Love page where you'll find people wearing their HackCollege T-shirts all over the world.

It's wimpy right now, but we hope it blossoms into a beautiful flower... or something. If you've got a T-shirt, send us a picture! love [at] hackcollege [dot] com If you want to buy a T-Shirt, head over to the HackCollege T-Shirt page.


How to Ask Your Parents for Money

So you've worked your ass off at your unpaid internship over the summer and you've loaded up your meal plan dollars with your student loans. But something goes wrong, you spent too much money here and there. All of a sudden it's the end of the semester and even a Ramen diet seem luxurious. You have to do the unthinkable. You have to ask your parents for money.

Kelly Sutton asks his parents for money

Assess the Situation

If you're white, chances are your parents are already paying for your food, gas, bills, car insurance, booze expenses and cab rides back from downtown late at night. This post is not for you.

But if asking your parents for money is a big deal, you'll need to create a strategy. If your parents are still paying off the house, they will disown you for asking them for extra cash. If there is a slight chance of milking some money out of them, you can't make a wrong move.

Promise Enclosure

Many schools have switched to doing their meal plans in the form of dollars, rather than number of meals. If you attend one of these schools, you can give your parents the guarantee that their money supplement won't go toward booze, drugs or movie tickets. Such a promise pulls at the heart strings of parents; they just can't say no.

You're probably better off too. You will be forced to avoid the habits that got you into the position you're in now, unless you're working on the Freshman 40.

Give Your Parents Your Bank Info

College is all about becoming an individual, right? Correct on most accounts. But if you're in a financial pinch and need some money for food, having your parents know your account number can be a Godsend. Bonus points if your account is with the same bank as your parents; transfers will take place much more quickly.

Be Careful with the Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: College Edition

While the favorite Worst-Case Scenario Handbooks occasionally dole out life-saving information, the authors of the "College Edition" missed the mark on most accounts.

For example, the authors advise to "ask for more than you need." If you are out of money and turning to your parents--face it--you need to live on a strict budget until the summer. Then you can go into waiter/waitress mode to bring your bank account back to safe levels.

But the book does make some solid points: write a formal email, follow up with a thank-you and use specific examples of how the money is going to help you in the long- and short-run.

Make Yourself Useful

It is possible to make money on your own, believe it or not. Craigslist is full of freelance gigs for some quick cash.

But sometimes the course load is too tough to squeeze in a freelance gig or two. If your parents are completely soulless, you're in trouble. Switch in to Ramen mode, ask your closest friend for $100 and wait out the storm.

How do you deal with penny-pinching times? Do you have any personal strategies that have worked well? Let us know in some comments!


Freshmen: Party like a Senior

Dear freshmen,

I’m an elderly, wise senior. Ages ago, I was just like you.

In those first few weeks, I partied with a water polo jock, a Laguna Beach cast member, a girl who tragically died three months later, a high-school senior (who said she was in college), a surf rat and an upper-east-sider. Most of them don’t talk to me and that’s mostly because they pretend like they don’t know who I am. I thoughtfully reciprocate. I’m about to explain to you why that’s absolutely one of the most awesome things you’ll ever experience and it only happens once, during these first few weeks of college.

The 450-foot drop that propels the thrill ride of college social life is simple density of young folk. Also: sex, disposable income and… ginger ale. There is no other time in our lives during which we’re surrounded by so many other people our age. As college goes on, you’ll still be eating, breathing and pooping with your peers, but it’s froshy year where it’s thickest. People gradually move off campus and get jobs over the next few years, and it just makes the simple probability of seeing someone precisely your age a little worse. Plus, all you freshmen are typically colonized in the corner of campus like a bunch of Pilgrims. That density of hairless chests and pre-beer-belly-bodies is just one part of the perfect storm that makes those first weeks so incredible.

The second part is kind of an inexplicable, magic, social aura. Somehow, for a good three weeks at the beginning of freshman year, everyone is humble. You can literally go up to anyone, at any time, and introduce yourself for no reason and the other person will smile and start a conversation right back.

There's little you could do to precede your reputation before you come to college. Everyone is turning a new leaf and starting from scratch. They don’t want to be labeled as mean (at least not until they figure out who they can afford to be mean to). So they act nice in hopes that you’re an important step on their social ladder. My hunch is that it’s a selfish sort of defense mechanism to avoid being black-balled, but strangely, everyone implements it the same way. It feels like just plain friendliness – be it superficial or not.

To sum up: you’re surrounded by people your age who are being super friendly plus they’re all horny, rich and completely sober. Take advantage of it! I hope it goes without saying, but this process should not involve roofies. Here are some safe alternatives: ask a girl on a date, play beer pong at least once in every dorm and go to the beach with as many cars full of people as possible (plus, that’ll open up some parking spots for upperclassmen). You can party with anyone you want for these first few weeks, so do it twice as much. You’re going to reminisce about it forever.


Keep Your Mac Awake with Caffeine

So you're sitting in your dorm room late one night with that girl (or guy) you've been pursuing for a while. You're going to affirm your love to him or her by showing a surefire outlet of comedy, your favorite YouTube video.

Caffeine Logo

You watch contently for a few seconds. Just then, your screen dims. This distracts the person of desires. He or she checks the time, realizes it's late and decides to take off for the night. Chance blown!

You should have had Caffeine, the program keeps your Mac awake. You won't have to do that swishy thing with your hand every time you sit down to watch a video. All it takes is a click on a cup of coffee.

How do you use Caffeine to get you out of awkward situations? (Or keep you in them?)


3 Drinking Games You Need to Know

Today, schools around the U.S. on the semester started class. Now we all assume you've read posts on how to get textbooks for free and how to get into bars if you're under 21, but also necessary for fall survival will be your knowledge of drinking games. Here are 3 drinking games you will need to know--or brush up on--for the fall semester.

Some average college students partake in a game of beer pong

1. Beer Pong

By far the most popular game these days in filthy garages of college houses everywhere is beer pong, or beirut if you're on the east coast. If you've never attended a college party in your life, it's a game where you try to sink ping pong balls in opponents' cups from across a table.

The HackCollege Fall Advice: Mind the house rules if you don't want to look like a jackass.

2. Quarters

Quarters is a favorite, low-overhead game that works pretty well indoors on a crappy table found in the "free" section of Craigslist. Bounce your quarter into a glass and the drinking begins. It's very simple: all you need are a few quarters, some glasses and--of course--beer.

The HackCollege Fall Advice: Perfect your bounce by eliminating variables from your toss. Chris is a big fan of the "rolling" technique which he'll go in to depth on in the future.

3. Flip Cup

Flip Cup is the All-American Football version of drinking games. It's all about the strength of your team and pep talks. It can be played with 4 people, or 40 people. Great for those large keggers.

The HackCollege Fall Advice: Follow through. A flip with good form means landing your first attempt every time.

What drinking games will you be playing this fall? Are there any up and coming games that HackCollege should be privy to? Let us know in some comments!


Be an Organized Student with Remember the Milk

Everyone is always falling on and off the GTD wagon, but I've been hooked on a great to-do organizer called Remember the Milk (RTM). If you are looking for a way to keep yourself organized going into the new school year, this post is for you. This post will talk about the pros and cons of the service, its application for students and a demo of how I personally use it.


Remember the Milk Logo


Now is a great time to get yourself organized. It's just before school and you might be looking for something new.


To-Dos in the Cloud


One of the biggest selling points about RTM--to me--is its free-ness and the fact that it's in the clouds. The online interface is straightforward and clean. It has Google Gears, so you can access your tasks even when you're not online. Get the benefits of having info online and also avoid getting screwed if the campus WiFi goes down.

Remember the Milk Homepage


RTM also boasts just about every possible method of ingestion. Currently you can add tasks from a GMail sidebar, an iPhone, a BlackBerry, any Windows Mobile phone, Twitter, Google Calendar and... you get the point.


Student Application


Well this is all fine and dandy but how can us students use RTM? Since laptops are the primary computer choice of most students and campus-wide WiFi is now a selling point for schools, a cloud-based to-do manager makes sense.

And whether an iPhone is outside of your price range or not, the barrier for entry is low for Remember the Milk, which makes it perfect for students. As with most web applications, this sucker is on the freemium pricing model: you get most of the functionality for free.


Do It Like This


How do I use it? Let's take a look.

Whenever I'm sitting down to work, I always make sure I've got an RTM window open. I keep this window on the "Overview" view of tasks. Another important note: this gets its own separate window. It keeps me on task and focused.


Remember the Milk Overview


To enter in tasks when I'm at my computer, I use the RTM Quicksilver plugin. A few keystrokes and the task is in my system.


Remember the Milk Quicksilver Integration


If I'm on the road, RTM has a personalized email addresses for each user. I just send a task to the address from my new iPhone 3G and it's off my mind. (It would also work with my previous phone, the LG VX6200.)

Remember the Milk offers a great, free service that can be checked and maintained from just about any device, save maybe pen and paper.

Do you use or have you tried Remember the Milk? What do you think? OR What do you use as your personal organization system? Let us know in some comments!


Forbes Releases Its Own College Rankings

Before applying to college, many students will look through U.S. News & World Report's America's Best Colleges. The higher the ranking, the higher the prestige. And hopefully, higher the starting salary.

And who wouldn't want to attend a high-ranked college or university? From graduation on, that school's name will stick to your resume. And if there is anything you can do to improve your school's ranking, you should. It would essentially improve your credentials as well.

So today is a good day.

Forbes has released its take on the college ranking system, basing 25% of the rankings on 7 million student evaluations of courses and instructors, as recorded on the Web site

Let me repeat. Based on what you and your peers wrote on the infamous RateMyProfessors.

So maybe instead of bashing that professor for a low B, you should commend them for the greatest semester of your life. That is, if anyone actually reads Forbes.

[Forbes' Top 50 U.S. Colleges, via AboveTheLaw & Althouse]

A quick "top 10" comparison between the two rankings after the jump.

Forbes' Top 10:
1. Princeton
2. California Institute of Technology
3. Harvard
4. Swarthmore
5. Williams
6. U.S. Military Academy
7. Amherst
8. Wellesley
9. Yale
10. Columbia

U.S. News & World Report's Top 10:
1. Princeton University (NJ)
2. Harvard University (MA)
3. Yale University(CT)
4. Stanford University(CA)
5. University of Pennsylvania
5. California Institute of Technology
7. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
8. Duke University(NC)
9. Columbia University(NY)
9. University of Chicago