Student Life

Dorm Room Dining 101

While it might not seem like it could logistically work, especially when you’re only allowed to have a microwave and a mini-fridge, there are actually some things you can cook in your dorm room.

While your options may seem limited, there are actually quite a few things you can cook in your dorm room.  Here’s a list of a few suggestions:

  • Ramen noodles (these will be your best friend)
  • Frozen dinners
  • Frozen pizza
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Eggs (they actually make microwavable dishes that can cook eggs for you in the microwave)
  • Hot dogs
  • Popcorn
  • Frozen or fresh vegetables
  • Hot breakfast cereals
  • Russet and sweet potatoes
  • Rice

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Those are only just a few.

However, when it comes to cooking in your dorm room, there are some things to keep in mind.  The first is to avoid washing dishes in the bathroom sinks.  Instead you should try to find another sink away from bacteria and harmful chemicals.  You should also keep in mind that you will need microwave safe plates and Tupperware to cook in your dorm room.  You should be sure to check to make sure that the plates, cups, bowls, and Tupperware you do use specifically says that they are microwave safe.  For when it doubt, don’t use it in the microwave.

Another thing to keep in mind is the simplicity of recipes.  In an article by Kristin Stewart (not Kristen Stewart of the Twilight movies) called “Chew on this!  Tips on dorm room cooking,” she suggests choosing recipes with five ingredients or less, as it will not only save you space in your dorm room, but it will also save you money.  She also suggests keeping pasta, oatmeal, milk, sugar, eggs, olive oil, frozen fruits and vegetables, cheese, popcorn, and canned soups on hand, just in case.  Having at least one plate, one bowl, one mug, a drinking cup, a sharp knife, a can opener, a corkscrew, and utensils wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

Stewart also suggests asking your roommate(s) about the food that they are sensitive to, either because of allergies or smell.  You want to make sure that you aren’t creating strong odors in your dorm room that your roommate(s) can’t handle.

Overall, you aren’t actually that limited when it comes to dorm room cooking; all you need to remembers is to keep it simple and you’ll be golden when the dining halls close.

Other References
“Healthy Microwavable Food” by Sara Ipatenco

Student Life

Tips for Cooking for One

One of the biggest obstacles you have to overcome while living off-campus is learning to buy and cook for one.  While it doesn’t seem that difficult, it can actually be tough when you are living on a budget and have never cooked for yourself before.

Buying just for you is really the first hurdle you have.  Especially if you’re living on a budget, it can be difficult to figure out how much you should buy for a week.  We suggest stocking up on dried and canned goods that will keep for longer periods of time.  This will help you keep your grocery budget low every week, and it will keep you fed when you don’t have time to go to the grocery store.  We also suggest that you don’t buy a lot of perishable goods.  Think about your regular routine each day and what foods you can live without and those you can’t.  You will also want to consider that you can eat leftovers, so you don’t have to buy something for every night of the week.

Another main concern you should have is maintaining a balanced diet.  This can be one of the biggest obstacles for college students, as they are often eating at weird times and they often don’t have time to be preparing large meals.  In an article by Andrea Cespedes called “What Does a Balanced Diet Consist Of?”, she explains that a balanced diet really should contain orange and dark green vegetables and fruits without added sugars, whole grains, low-fat and non-fat dairy, and lean meats.  However, while meeting these requirements should be a priority, it doesn’t have to mean that you should totally take out all of the “fun” foods in your life.  The USDA recommends that you just keep your “fun” foods (sweets, solid fats like butter, and alcohol) to a minimum, at about 10 percent of your daily caloric intake.

Cooking for one can be an entirely different story, especially if you’ve never cooked for yourself before.  The idea is to cook one meal to reheat if you have leftovers.  As we described in our last post, it is important to eat the leftovers before they go bad, but they can be a great way to keep yourself fed and to avoid spending unnecessary time and money.  If you know you can’t eat the leftovers in time, you can even freeze them and save them for later.

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Some great tools you can use include using a toaster oven and a slow cooker.  Toaster ovens are a great way to bypass using your oven to cook.  Now you can even get special pans to use in the toaster oven that you can use to cook your vegetables and meats.  Slow cookers also offer the same convenience in that you can throw all your ingredients in in the morning, and when you come home around 8 to 10 hours later, you’re meal will be ready for you.

Overall, living off-campus can afford you a lot of comforts and independence.  However, there are some basic lessons you have to learn when you do decide to live off-campus, and buying and cooking for yourself is certainly one.  It is not particularly hard to master, it just takes a little planning, and some cool tools to help you keep yourself fed and on a budget.

Other References:

“10 Cooking for One Tips” by Kimberly Kunaniec

Student Life

How Long Do I Have To Eat My Leftovers?

Looking at the leftovers you have in the fridge, you just never really know. According to Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D., leftovers are actually good for three to four days. However, she says that if you know you can’t eat them in four days, you should be sure to freeze them. It is best to keep your food in temperatures under 40 F if you aren’t going to eat them.  Zeratsky says that by keeping foods in temperatures above 40F for extended periods of time, or leaving food in the fridge for longer than four days, you run the risk of getting food poisoning. However, when you are ready to eat the leftovers, you should cook them in the stove, in the oven, or in the microwave until the internal temp is at least 165 F to kill off any bacteria.  Raw foods should not be kept out for longer than 2 hours at room temperature.

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In an article at My First Apartment, they suggest avoiding cross-contamination, as well. This means avoiding using prep items, containers, and surfaces that have touched raw meats to prepare other food. It is best to keep things separate, and to heat raw foods to at least 125 F if it’s beef, and at least 165 F if it’s chicken.

The article also suggests keeping the refrigerator organized so that you know how long food has been kept in the fridge. You can do this by either putting food in special containers, or by placing a label on it so that you remember. It’s also a good idea to avoid tasting the food to see if it’s still good, and to throw it out when you aren’t sure. As Zeratsky explains, bacteria will not usually change the taste or smell of the food.

Student Life

Getting Through Midterms

It’s coming up on that time of the semester when you’re going to have to start thinking and studying for your midterms.  It is probably one of the most stressful times of the semester, as some of your classes will have midterms, others won’t, and some will have papers or presentations.  It’s just a mess!

Well, we certainly feel your pain.  The long nights of studying, writing papers, and endless lines of questions, you can’t help but feel a little overwhelmed.  While you should check out our post on de-stressing in college, here are some more tips to help you stay focused during this time in the semester.

Find a good spot to study.   As we’ve noted before, studying in your room cannot only be stressful, it can also be incredibly distracting.  Choose a place that suits your preferences.  Maybe you like to study in complete quiet with very little action going on around you.  If that is the case then maybe you want to choose a spot in the library.  If you prefer a more active environment with a little bit of background noise, you may want to choose a place like your favorite coffee shop.

Take study breaks.  You need to give yourself breaks every once and while to take a breath and recollect your thoughts before beginning again.  It will not only be something to look forward to, but it will also give you some time to clear your head.  Just be diligent with how long your breaks are if you have to get a lot done.  Maybe you want to limit yourself to 5 or 10 minute breaks.  It just depends on how quickly you want to work and how much work you have to get done.

Try a study group.  In many ways a study group can be really helpful.  If you are all studying for the same class it will help you test your knowledge if you have to explain something to someone else.  It’s also a great idea to test one another to see what you know.

Even if you aren’t studying for the same class, going somewhere with a group of people can be helpful in keeping you on task.  While it may not work for everyone, for some it may help you to stay on task and will give you someone to talk to when it’s break time.

Choose background music.  One of the best ways to keep yourself going is by choosing an awesome playlist.  Many have said that listening to classical music can be incredibly beneficial when you study.  However, it doesn’t really matter what you choose, as long as you choose music without lyrics.  This is because lyrics can cause your brain to try to focus on too many things.  If you want to focus on your studying, it’s best that you choose classical or instrumental music.

Overall, studying for midterms can be really overwhelming.  By choosing a study spot, taking breaks, studying in groups, and choosing background music, staying hydrated, exercising, and get as much sleep as possible, you can ensure that you keep your mind, your metabolism, and your immune system up during one of the most difficult points in the semester.


“Classical Music for Concentration” by Tayla Holman

“7 Study Tips to Help You Ace Your Midterms” by Tamar Zmora

Student Life

The 4 Worst Excuses for Turning Work in Late

College deadlines come and go.  Whether we actually hand in the work on time is another story.

There are a lot of things to juggle in college; being a student on top of work and a social life can be really demanding and incredibly stressful.  This is why we may often find ourselves running really close to deadlines for school, or not meeting the deadlines at all.  Sometimes it’s just fate that steps in, and other times we just forget or procrastinate (check out our recent post) so much that we run out of time.  Whatever the reason, when it comes time to actually turning in that paper after it’s due, we tend to make an excuse for why it is so.  We think, “Hey, maybe the professor will take pity on me.”

While there are some pretty realistic excuses out there, there are also just some horribly bad ones; the excuses that make you think, “How did they ever think that was going to work?”  Here’s just a sampling:

  1. “I had too much homework in my important classes.”
  2. “I ran out of paper” and/or “My printer stopped working.”
  3. “I know I had it in here . . . where could it have gone?”
  4. “I didn’t know we had homework.  When was that assigned?” or “We actually had to do that?”

Let’s face it:  None of these will work.  This is because 1) professors have seen it all and these excuses are pretty easy to see through; 2) excuses like running out of paper or your printer not working are not plausible enough that you couldn’t have possibly handed in your assignment on time; and 3) feigning ignorance just makes you look worse.  In all cases, it’s best to tell your professor the truth and accept the consequences that follow.  Losing a couple of points is way better than losing your credibility with a professor AND losing your pride.

We’ve all done it.  Leave us a comment with a story about your worst excuse!


“The 10 Best and Worst Student Excuses” by Larry Wilson

“7 Worse Excuses for Turning in an Assignment Late” by Jenn at College Candy

Student Life

ASK THE EXPERT: Networking for College Grads

For many experts, networking is one of the best things soon-to-be graduates and recent grads can do to land a job, and it is the first thing that David Pinkley, founder of Resume Sage, suggests.  As he remarked in our post last week, students should begin “lobbying” for a job the summer between their junior and senior years.  For students, this means having career goals, and a clear introduction for potential networking contacts.

First Pinkley suggests that students should identify the kinds of companies they want to work for.   However, he advises students to avoid starting their search with their top choices for companies.  “You don’t want to start looking at the companies you would really want to look for until you have greater experience,” says Pinkley.   Instead, he suggests looking for their competitors, and smaller corporations in that same sector/industry.  He says that especially at smaller companies, you have a greater chance to take on more responsibility, as well as to be exposed to more versatile tasks and experiences.

Pinkley also suggests rallying people to your cause.  Maintaining important contacts that could speak to a student’s abilities and experiences is important.  In an article we read by Kristi Hedges at Forbes, Hedges says “Most people get jobs from connections, so this is the path to land your job.”  For this reason, students should focus a great deal of their job-searching efforts on making and maintaining these connections. For while resume and cover letter writing is important, it is the personal and distinguishing factors that will really land you a job.

Student Life

Avoiding Procrastination

We’ve all been there:  It’s the night before your test and you’ve just started studying, or it’s the night before your paper is due and you’ve only got an outline.  Everyone, especially college students, are no stranger to the late nights of cramming or writing after having procrastinated for at least a week.  And while it may not be fun, it oftentimes just seem like you can’t help yourself to putting everything off for one more day.  However, according to a recent study, procrastinating may say more about you than just you “were too busy to do your work.”

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In a recent article by Jeanna Bryner called “Why We Procrastinate,” she interviews Piers Steel of the University of Calgary, who recently analyzed over 200 studies on procrastination dating from the 1920s through 2006. According to Steel, one of the major themes he found was impulsiveness, or what he calls the “I’ll-do-it-tomorrow” phenomenon.

Steel says, that these are the people who live in the “now.” “[Impulsive people] can’t feel motivated, deadlines don’t feel real, they have no energy until just before they happen.”  However, once that deadline is near, Steel says that impulsive people work at about 11 times the average rate.

Steel also cites high distractibility, low self-confidence, and low internal motivation as some of the other determining factors of procrastination.  Perfectionists, he says, are actually less likely to procrastinate, although it may be their guilt, perhaps, that drives them to report higher levels of procrastination.

So if you fall into any one of these categories, what are you to do?  Are you to just concede to a life full of all-nighters and delayed motivation?  Not necessarily.  There are certainly some things you can do to limit your procrastination.

Set small goals for yourself.  By setting smaller goals and deadlines, you bring the deadlines to you.  This way you don’t get overwhelmed trying to meet a larger deadline and you still get the jolt of needing to meet that deadline to motivate you.

Stick to any deadlines you set for yourself.  You shouldn’t let yourself get away with not meeting a deadline.  It will not only mess up the rest of your schedule, but it will also put you one step closer to having to pull an all-nighter.

Make your goals reasonable.  You don’t want to set ridiculously difficult goals for yourself; you’ll be less likely to stick to any of it.  Set reasonable goals for yourself.  Just avoid making them too easy so that you get bombarded with work closer to the REAL deadline.

Change where you work.  Especially when you’re in school, it can be incredibly tempting to watch TV with your roommate or hang out with the guys down the hall when you’ve got a mountain of work waiting for you.  The best thing to do is to find what environment you work best in, whether it’s a coffee shop or the library, make a plan to go there when you have a lot of work to accomplish.

Work in teams or groups.  Find a study buddy (or group) who you can study/work with.  This way you can motivate each other to stay on task.

Reward yourself for a job well done.  After working hard, it’s a good idea to treat yourself.  Take time to do your hobbies, spend time with a friend, or go to your favorite restaurant.  If you take some time for you and reward yourself, you’ll be that much more relaxed, AND that much more likely to work just as hard next time.


“Why We Procrastinate” by Jeanna Bryner

“15 Ways to Stop Procrastinating Right Now” by Vivian Giang


Higher Ed, Renting, Student Life

The Effects of Increasing Off-Campus Populations

With increasing student populations, particularly at state schools, it can be difficult finding housing for everyone.  This is why many students, especially upperclassmen, decide to make the move off-campus.  However, while the increase in population can have major effects on the universities, it can also have major implications for the cities and towns near these universities.

For many cities and towns, it can be difficult to find enough space for the students and long-term residents to live.  One example of this can be seen in the Northside neighborhood of Chapel Hill near the University of North Carolina.  In an article by the Jenny Surane of the Daily Tar Heel, she explains 500 of the rental properties in the area are student-occupied, and students account for about half of the population.  However, in a historically low-income neighborhood with only limited space for residents, both student and long-term, the town is put into a difficult place:  Do they allow new developments into the area, or keep the area as it is?

Others problems with increasing off-campus populations are the noise and other disruptions generally accompanied with increases in student residents.  In an article by Jonathan Morris of the Minnesota Daily, he explains the St. Paul City Council’s decision to implement a new ordinance to limit off-campus housing as a result of overcrowding, excessive vehicular traffic, limited parking, and noise and nuisance complaints.  While St. Thomas University (the university primarily effected by the ordinance) has not chosen to contest the ordinance, it will have significant effects on both long-term and student residents as the ordinance may force students to move elsewhere.

Increases in off-campus populations can have a major effect on an area, not in just in traffic, but also in the resources that are available to both student and long-term residents.  It is important for universities to consider the ways in which they can assist their off-campus students to make informed decisions about where and how they live off-campus.  For while living off-campus may just seem easy for students, there is certainly more to it than meets the eye.

Student Life

6 Tips to Avoid Getting Sick in College

For college students, it isn’t all that hard to get sick.  When you’re sharing a room with at least 1 other person, you’re increasing your exposure to all kinds of illnesses.  In most cases, you also probably aren’t getting 8 to 9 hours of sleep every night, and you’re dealing with a bunch of stress. It’s the perfect equation for even the smallest cold to catch you.  This is why we’ve put together some suggestions to help you stay healthy even when that head cold or stomach bug hits your floor.

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Wash your hands as much as you can.  In one of our posts last week, we talked about some of the benefits of washing your hands over using hand sanitizer.  It’s especially important to keep your hands clean before and after eating, touching someone who is sick, and touching garbage.  It’s an especially good idea to wash your hands after returning home from class and other public places.

Get 8 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  As we explained in our post last week, sleep is really important for college students.  One of the real problems for students, however, is that they never seem to get enough sleep, which can severely lower your immune system.

Don’t share glasses, water bottles, or utensils.  This is pretty self-explanatory, but simply taking a sip of someone else’s drink or tasting their food from a fork they’ve already used is one sure-fire way to ensure you get sick.

Stay away from friends who are sick.  Although it may seem a little mean, you don’t want to catch what they have.  Let them know that you don’t want to get sick, but you’ll hand out with them when their better.  It’s the best thing for both of you.

Eat well and stay hydrated.  The best way to boost your immune system is to eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water.  This will not only give you energy to stay alert, but it will also help your body to fight off illnesses.

Keep your place clean.  It’s a really a good idea to keep things clean anyway.  However, there are extra benefits to regularly cleaning your place.  By cleaning common areas, and washing dishes with hot soapy water, you can ensure you aren’t fostering a place for nasty bacteria to grow.

These are just some really quick and easy tips to staying healthy.  However, while it is important to prevent illness as much as possible, in some cases it may be unavoidable.  If you find yourself coming down with something, stay home and get some rest.  You’ll be both helping yourself, and helping everyone else from getting sick too.


“Avoid Getting Sick While Studying for Exams” by Lauren Busch

“Beyond College Immunizations:  How Students Can Avoid Getting Sick” by Angela Haupt


Student Life, Uncategorized

The Facts About Sleep: What a College Student Should Know

For most college students, endless nights of paper-writing and studying are not uncommon.  In fact, it’s not at all surprising that a recent poll showed that only 15% of students actually get the recommended amount of sleep (8 to 9 hours) per night.  However, while getting a regular 6 or 7 hours a night may not seem like a big deal, it can actually do more harm than just making you feel tired during class.

Studies have shown that there are many benefits to having healthy sleeping habits, including improving mood, improving cognitive abilities, preventing physical discomfort, decreasing the risk of depression, helping to manage stress, improving the immune system defense, and even increasing life-span.  However, when we don’t get enough sleep, we lower our own abilities to fight off illness and be able to function as needed.  In fact, studies have even shown that sleep deprivation is even linked to individuals experiencing pre-diabetic states and gaining weight.

Finding time for sleep doesn’t just have to be purely health-related, either.  In fact, according to a 2007 study, students who made time for sleep received higher GPAs than those who didn’t.  Current research reveals that it is actually during sleep when the brain produces hormones to repair and grow.  It is particularly during the Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (REM Sleep) in which we are able to consolidate what we’ve studied and learned that day, and potentially increase our abilities to learn and remember.

This means that, for students, sleep should be one of their top priorities.  According to researchers, the best way to ensure ideal sleeping patterns is to set up a bedtime ritual, meaning that you should be prepping your body and mind for sleep, which includes finishing up your homework, turning off the TV/computer, and keeping the lights low.

Getting a good night’s rest also includes possibly using your room only for sleeping and doing your homework/work elsewhere.  By doing this, you can compartmentalize the things you need to do, and let go of some of your stress before sleeping.

Other healthy sleeping habits include finishing eating 2 to 3 hours before bed, exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine 6 to 8 hours before bed, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, and turning off the television.  Some studies even suggest that taking 20-30 minute naps (between 10 and 11 am or 2 and 4 pm) are helpful in compensating for lack of sleep.  It is in these ways that you can ensure that you get the proper amount of rest and that you’re ready for whatever college has to throw at you.


“Sleepless in Durham:  The Importance of Getting a Good Night’s Sleep”

“The Importance of Getting Sleep in College” by Greg Voakes

“Don’t Skip Sleep to Score High on Finals” by Dr. Robert Oexman

“University Looks to Naps for Better Grades” by Allie Grasgreen