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$5 & Under Valentine’s Day Ideas For College Students

February 8, 2012

Well, Valentine’s day is less than a week away. Every year Valentine’s Day seems to become more polarizing, with observers spending quite a bit of dough to embrace the commercialism, and non-observers speaking out against its inherent evils. My opinion on Valentine’s day has always been somewhere in the middle; I’m not a huge fan of its obligatory nature, but still think it can be fun if observed correctly. In college, however, Valentine’s Day is a entirely different beast. Busy schedules, tight budgets, and pressing homework can reduce Valentine’s day to nothing but a steaming pile of melted Sweethearts. Not to fret, Cupid-struck college students, because this post is here to help. Below you will find some unique/thoughtful/funny Valentine’s Day related ideas, all geared to a college student’s budget. And if you have any additional ideas, please share them in the comments.

Build Her a Cake or Something

It is one of the classic scenes from Napoleon Dynamite, but it is also a pretty good Valentine’s idea. You can build that special someone a cake for only a few dollars, write something cheesy on top, and have a good laugh. Oh, and then you get to eat it.


Go To a Fancy (Value Menu) Dinner

In the ideal world, you could afford to take your Valentine to a $100 a plate fancy dinner. Just because dropping a few Benjamins on a single meal isn’t possible, though, doesn’t mean you have to drop the fancy part of the evening. Dress up in a suit, prom dress, etc., and pay a visit to the local dollar menu. For extra effect, speak only in a British accent.


Have a Dance Party

Collaborate with some friends (and inform the neighbors), and have a dance inside your apartment. Use some headphone splitters to play your music through a couple different sets of computer speakers, and use a free iPhone app to add a strobe light to the mix. The type of music you would like to dance to is your choice,but be sure to put some thought into the playlist. Oh, and probably don’t wear matching clothes, because that’s sort of weird.


Make A Silent Movie Together

It’s looking like The Artist will clean up at this year’s Academy Awards, so why not make a cheesy B&W film of your own? There are tons of great iPhone apps that will give your movie an old-school feel, just don’t forget those title cards in place of dialogue. Once finished editing, sit down together with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy the premier.


Give a Homemade Valentine

The more over the top, the better. Be sure to include paper doilies, Valentine’s-related puns, and as much pink and purple as you can. A homemade Valentine beats the heck out of anything store-bought, and is a lot more likely to get laughs.






Super Bowl XLVI Ad Preview

January 30, 2012

The Super Bowl had around 111,000,000 viewers last year, but many of them didn’t care an ounce about football. In what has become an event of its own, millions of people now watch the Super Bowl each year for the commercials alone, and advertisers know that. The average price of a thirty second Super Bowl commercial this year is right around $3.5 million, but advertisers are attempting to build hype around their commercials well before Game Day. In what has become a tradition, several Super Bowl commercials have intentionally leaked onto the internet, and we’ve compiled the best ones so far for your viewing pleasure. Check them out now so on Super Bowl Sunday you’ll know which commercials are worth watching and which ones are worth a bathroom break.

Honda CRV: “Matthew’s Day Off”

Pepsi Max: “Checkout”

Hyundai: “All For One”

Toyota Camry: “It’s Reinvented!”

Audi: “Vampire Party”

Apple’s Big Textbook Announcement: What Does It Mean For Education?

January 19, 2012

Earlier today, Apple held a media event in New York City that was focused entirely on its education market. As a current student this peaked my interest. Apple has innovated several different industries in the past (music, tablets, phones, personal computers, etc.), so the prospect of them focusing on education is an exciting one. This article will briefly summarize todays three major announcements, and touch on what each means for current and future students.

iBooks 2

The central focus of Apple’s announcement was the iPad, and an updated version of Apple’s iBooks app. The technology possible within the new iBooks app is pretty exciting (watch one of the event’s demo videos for an example). If you’ve played around with any current textbook offerings for the iPad some things will look familiar, but the new iBooks offers richer media offerings, pretty snazzy note taking functionality, and a new section in the iBooks store with competitively-priced textbook offerings.

iBooks Author

To complement the new version of iBooks, Apple also announced a program that they call iBooks Author. iBooks Author is a free Mac program that allows anyone to create and publish an ebook. Once the book is published, you can submit it to the iBooks Store, where you can either sell it or give it away for free. Apple seemed to emphasize the creation of textbooks with the iBooks Store, but technically the user can create any sort of book. The creation possibilities, however, are much more than just exporting a word document into the proper format. iBooks Author offers some pretty cray cool functionality, including support to gestures, multimedia, etc. The app is available via the Mac App Store.

iTunes U

iTunes U isn’t a new name in the world of Apple, as it’s existed for several years as a way to get free university lectures and content through iTunes. As of today, however, Apple has added several new features to iTunes U. Specifically, iTunes U now serves as a place to organize all the course content for a class, including files, videos, lectures, and apps. It can also be the distribution mechanism for the course syllabus, quizzes, etc. Anyone currently in college is probably familiar with web-based services like Blackboard or Canvas; the new iTunes U provides similar functionality to those services, and in addition it also serves as a “media hub” of sorts. Students use the iPhone or iPad app to access their iTunes U supported courses.


So will Apple change the face of education as we know it?

It’s a good question, and one that obviously cannot be answered today. Much of what Apple announced today is extremely exciting, but many questions still remain. The new iBooks is easily the most exciting part of today’s announcement; some of the functionality within iBooks 2 seems Jetsons-like. The only downside is that there are only a few textbooks available today, and the overall selection is entirely dependent upon the textbook publishers. Like many things tech-related, a high adoption rate is essential to success. These new iBooks textbooks do support the ability to download just one chapter of a textbook at a time, which can definitely save a ton of money. The iBooks Author application was great to see, and like many people I am excited to sit down and play with it. It’s exciting to think about teachers and professors sitting down and creating their own class textbooks, then distributing them over the air to their students. No more cheap photocopied packets; now that’s awesome. Though the revamped iTunes U service is probably the least flashy of the announcements made today, it actually was super exciting to me as a current college student. I absolutely despise Blackboard (and Canvas isn’t much better) so the having Apple introduce a viable alternative is incredible. I can only pray that iTunes U will see quick adoption as well.

Apple’s media event today, though maybe not as ground-breaking as some of their hardware announcements, is still a pretty incredible opportunity for the education industry. Many people believe that companies like Apple often “show us the future,” and that’s exactly how I felt as I watched Apple’s promotional video that highlights today’s announcements. As I said earlier, however, the success of everything announced depends upon educators actually using it, so only time will tell. I can’t wait to see what my kids use in college!

Found Stuff: $275 Citation

January 3, 2012

It isn’t fun to be this University of Oregon student. A $275 “minor in possession of alcohol” ticket? Ouch.

Found Stuff: Angry Angry Birds Letter & Drawing

December 23, 2011

At the end of every semester, we receive thousands of textbook rental returns everyday. As we process these returns, we find some pretty random things stuffed between textbook pages and at the bottom of envelopes. For fun, we’re going to blog about some of the things that we find; we’ll call this reoccurring feature “Found Stuff.”

Most of what we find in textbook rental returns isn’t intentional, but a few days ago we received a hilarious letter and drawing from our friend Sydney. The basic gist of the letter? She believes that the game “Angry Birds” is a conspiracy. Needless to say, we all got quite a chuckle out of her comedic letter and accompanying illustration (which is quite impressive in itself). You can click on the images below for a high resolution version. Thanks again, Sydney!



How To: A Surefire Way To Pass Your Finals

December 13, 2011

Note: This article was originally posted December, 2010. It’s still awesome, however.

It’s hard to imagine how many cups of coffee  are being consumed right now. By college students. Frantic college students. Yes, it’s “the worst time of the year” for many of us; our attempts to cram knowledge back into our brain that was forgotten the second week of the semester can be frustrating and time consuming. Many of you probably have developed your own study methods, or you just don’t study. No matter which boat you find yourself in, the following article can help you immensely on your finals. I decided to write this post to share my “surefire” study method; the one that has allowed me to get B’s on tests that I had no business getting D’s on. I’m not joking. Alright let’s get rolling.

Required Equipment

  • computer w/ microphone
  • iPhone or iPod (any other mp3 player really)
  • headphones
  • study sheet

Step One

The first step, and the most important in my opinion, is to create a comprehensive, yet also concise, study sheet. Some of my professors have provided a list of concepts to review, while others just say “study chapters 2 through 9”, which can be the worst. Regardless of your circumstance, you need to be sure that you have a list of essentially everything your final will be on. Double check what is on this sheet, because if it’s wrong then you are essentially wasting your time.

Step Two

Record! Most laptops have built in microphones by now, and even if your computer doesn’t then you can get a plug in microphone for a few bucks at most big box retailers. Choose your recording software (I recommend Garageband on the Mac and Audacity on the PC, both are free) and begin to record. Make sure that you talk clearly, but also maintain a quick pace. Try your best to keep your recording in the 10 – 15 minute range, and if you mess up just continue; you can always edit out stumbles and mispronunciations later.

Step Three

Edit, mix and export. Remove any dead space from your recording; the goal is to cram as much information in as little time as possible. Sometimes I put a basic instrumental track in the background, but other times I just leave it simple. Once you are satisfied, export the sound file in a format that your mp3 player supports. iPods and iPhones support AAC, MP3 VBR, AIFF, and WAV. Drag the exported file into iTunes (or whatever you use to manage your player). You can then even create some album artwork if you want. Once I found a photo of my professor on Facebook and used it to create 500X500 dimension album art. Last, sync your player (obviously).

Step Four

Listen like crazy. You didn’t go through steps 1 – 3 without a reason;  it’s up to you to wear out your iPod on the track you created. Use the “repeat” function, and try to listen as many times as you can without going crazy. Sure, you will probably start to really hate your own voice, and maybe you will you tune out here or there, but with this method it’s quantity of time over quality. The best thing about studying using this method is that you can multitask; study while driving, walking to class, cleaning, etc.

I super hope that some of these tips help you pass those dreaded finals! Good luck and let us know how it goes!

How to Win the Online Fight Between College and Facebook

December 5, 2011

We’ve all been there. You sit down to write a paper, then decide to check your Facebook profile. An hour later, frustrated, you close your web browser and start writing the paper. Twenty minutes into it, you’re stuck. You trying to think of what to write next, then you realize that your friend might have replied to your witty Facebook status update. Back to Facebook, where another half hour goes by. You’ve spent two hours “writing your paper,” and you only have a paragraph to show for it. Suck!

Concentration is always an important element of collegiate success, but it’s absolutely imperative during finals week. Whether you have papers to write, or tests to study for, it’s quite likely that you’ll find yourself pressed for time over the next couple of weeks. While the causes of distraction seem unlimited, Facebook is easily one of the most common offenders. This is probably even worse if you’re going to an online college, with the temptation to browse always a click away. I imagine students going through Online University or a similar program, probably have a much higher rate of distractions than students who have to physically attend lectures.

College students always seem to find enough time for a quick Facebook check. Next time you’re walking around campus, glance at the laptop screens around you; I guarantee that most have a Facebook tab open on them. A few weeks ago, I decided I had had enough. I was tired of habitually checking Facebook, and I wanted to annihilate the wasted time that Facebook encouraged. But, like most of us, there are several people that I only communicate with through Facebook; friends from high school, out of state relatives, etc. I didn’t know what to do, until I concocted a plan!

Starting in 2010, Facebook added a feature that allows users to “unsubscribe” from certain people’s status updates. Not only is this handy for Facebook friends that post thousands of Farmville updates daily, but I realized it could also be the key to conquering my impulsive Facebook use. After all, how often did I log-on to Facebook with a set goal in mind? Rarely. Most of the time, I scrolled through other people’s status updates and photos, waiting for something to catch my eye. I hatched a plan: I would just unsubscribe from everyones status updates. To do so, I had to do is click on the little arrow by each persons status update, and click “Unsubscribe From (Name)”.

It was a little tedious initially, but not too bad. I have about 400 friends, but several of my friends aren’t very active. I noticed that a select handful of people post a majority of the updates, and after clicking unsubscribe once, it clears every single one of their updates. At first I decided not to unsubscribe from a small handful of people (family, close friends, etc.), but eventually I just ended up unsubscribing from everyone. After all, if they have anything important to tell me, they can text or call. It took a couple of weeks to unsubscribe from everyone on my list, because each time I logged on, I would unsubscribe from 10-20 feeds. When all was said and done, how did my plan work? Like an absolute charm. Now, when I log on to Facebook, I am greeted with the screen below:

That’s it! I still check my Facebook every day or two, to see if anyone has DM’ed me or sent me an interesting event request. But without a never-ending list of updates and photos, the lure of Facebook has been reduced to pretty much nothing. If you are tired of the time that you waste on Facebook, I can’t recommend this method enough. It allows you to still use Facebook as a communication tool, but greatly decreases the distraction factor. Now if I can just write my 8 page English paper, I think I’ll have my finals in the bag.

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