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Decorate Your Room on the Cheap

Decorate Your Room on the Cheap

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">Postcards are a cheap, interesting way to decorate a dorm. Image courtesy of Flickr user Arlette. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

It's hard to make a new apartment or dorm (whether for the summer or the rest of the year) feel like a home. Even worse, art is frequently expensive and photos taped to the wall can look collegiate in a bad way. With that in mind, here are some ways to decorate your dorm or apartment on the cheap.

Postcards: Postcards, whether purchased while traveling or through Etsy, are cheap and easy to arrange. Buy a set of five or six (I'm a fan of woodcut-style art) and tape them to your wall in an organized fashion. Because the financial investment is so small, postcards allow you to go beyond Klimt posters and put up art from lesser-known (or at least less-cliché) artists.

Thrift Store Art: If you are looking for an actual framed painting, hit up the nearest Goodwill or estate sale. You can usually find something not-terrible, and even if you can't thrift store canvases can provide a base for you to make your own art. If your own thrift stores aren't turning up anything interesting, try the Goodwill auction site. So long as the painting isn't too large, you're probably safe hanging the canvas from a Command hook.

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Google to Announce Chrome Laptop Rental Plan

Google to Announce Chrome Laptop Rental Plan

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">Could this be your new laptop? Image courtesy of Rachel Wente-Chaney. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA/

Remember the Chrome laptops that were released for testing a few months ago? Well, now we know what's become of them: Google's planning to announce today a $20/month package for students which would allow them to rent a Chrome laptop and the OS that goes along with it. The laptops aren't super-powered, but they don't have to be for most of what students do (watching Netflix, writing papers, and watching Netflix while writing papers).

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Create a Summer Bucket List to Bust Boredom

Create a Summer Bucket List to Bust Boredom

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">Bucket lists: more fun than an actual bucket. Image courtesy of Flickr user marco. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

For most of us, finals have finished or are about to, and summer is starting. For those of us with interesting internships or study abroad opportunities, this is exciting. However, for those of us (me) who are living at home and attending summer school, summer is looking like it might be a little--dare I say it--boring.

However, it doesn't have to be. Part of the reason summers at home can be kind of dull is that there isn't a whole lot of scheduled activity to occupy your time like there is during the school year with homework and classes. To add insult to injury, your high school friends may not be returning to town, isolating you with your family. As much as you may love your family, everyone involved in the situation gets really tired, really quickly when you feel confined and bored.

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Moving For Cheap: How to Score Cardboard Boxes

Moving For Cheap: How to Score Cardboard Boxes

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">A collegiate treasure chest! Image courtesy of Flickr user Charley Lhasa. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.As Shep's article last week brought to our attention, moving season is upon us. However, as I discovered while packing last year, moving can be annoyingly expensive--particularly when it comes to finding enough cardboard boxes to pack up your things.

This Passionate Homemaking piece on moving, along with its Lifehacker writeup (the comments of which are worth a look), suggest searching for cardboard boxes on Craigslist or at liquor/grocery stores. However, if you live on a rural campus, Craigslist may be unhelpful and liquor stores unavailable. With that in mind, here are some more campus-specific resources for cardboard boxes.

Mail Services - My campus's mail services department has a huge pile of boxes by the trashcan from students receiving packages. The employees are glad to let you have them for free either to repurpose for shipping or--for larger care packages--to pack. These won't take care of your largest items, but they're useful for books or small collections of things. At my school, mail services is also helpful in providing tape and bubble wrap (and larger boxes) for a fee--not ideal, but useful in a pinch.

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Leading Through Action (or, Not Everything is for Your Resume)

Leading Through Action (or, Not Everything is for Your Resume)

an class="full-image-float-right ssNonEditable">Leadership is more than standing at a podium. Image courtesy of Flickr user Young Fabians. Licensed under CC BY NC SA 2.0.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of campus leadership. It’s the sort of phrase that my school likes to print on admissions brochures as a way to distract people from our lack of a football team. We even offer a leadership certificate (it is as ridiculous as you would imagine), and there are awards for leaders, and we talk a lot about how the liberal arts Train People to Lead.

The longer I’m at school, though, the more that it’s becoming irritatingly clear to me that there is a difference between being a campus leader--getting certificates and learning the psychology of leadership and racking up the most volunteer hours--and actually leading people on campus in creating something. The idea of hacking college, for me, has always been about the latter far more than the former. Talking to my friends at school, it’s become more and more clear that I’m not the only one who feels like this.

Being a campus leader is exclusive--there are only so many club spots to fill or awards to earn. Leading on campus is inclusive--literally anyone can make something neat, whether it’s a website about how to hide your beer cans, or an app that helps students, or a video that Ashton Kutcher tweeted about. Anyone who works and who has an idea can do something useful and interesting--you can have an entire campus of leaders because the world is full of things that need to be fixed and the world is so, so much bigger than just your campus.

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Five Favorite Free Programs

Five Favorite Free Programs

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">This software is free as in "freedom" and as in "beer." Score! Image courtesy of Flickr user Lisa B. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 I just recently upgraded my Mac to OS 10.6, and I griped the whole time about having to pay $25 to do so. It was at that point that I realized that there are maybe three pieces of software I pay for, ever--a premium Evernote account, a Cinch license, and the OS itself. The rest of my computing load is done via freeware. With that in mind, here are my favorite free software projects which come in handy as a student.

  1. OpenOffice: People have mixed feelings about OpenOffice (and Shep has relied primarily on GoogleDocs for his year without Microsoft Office), but this is my workhorse for churning out papers. It allows me to tweak the formatting as much as I need, which is why I prefer it to any internet-based text editor. It can run slowly and is sometimes finicky, but the very occasional trouble I have with it is more than worth the ability to edit papers without having to buy software upgrades. Impress, the OO version of Powerpoint, works fine for the very basic powerpoint creation that I have to do in my life. There are also clones for Excel and the rest of the Microsoft Office suite, but I hardly ever use them. If you're in the 90% of the student population that just uses your productivity suite to churn out papers and powerpoints, OpenOffice is great.
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Review: Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk Plan

Review: Virgin Mobile’s Beyond Talk Plan

an class="full-image-float-right ssNonEditable">Phone service and beer: two great tastes that go great together. Image courtesy of Flickr user Jose Betancur. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I recently made the decision to jump ship on my family's cell plan with Verizon. It was a perfectly fine plan and the reception was great, but I was looking more and more for a phone with data capacity and my parents didn't want to pay for it (understandable, given that Verizon is crazy expensive). Given that my contract expired last month and my dumbphone's case was so beat up that the battery routinely fell out when you picked it up, it seemed like a good time to go.

The situation: In looking for my new plan, I wanted unlimited text, a high data cap, and the ability to cancel service easily since I plan to spend half of next year in Senegal. I also wanted it to be cheap. After shopping around, I went with Virgin Mobile's Beyond Talk plan. For $25 a month ($27 with taxes) and no contract, I get unlimited text, web, and data and 300 minutes. You buy the phone from them, so that was an additional $150. I went with the Optimus V, which is a low-end Android phone.

The bad: The plan isn't perfect. Particularly in rural Georgia, where I spend most of the year, the Sprint service that the phone piggybacks off of isn't great. The phone took over a week to ship, and it didn't ship with a tracking number. The Virgin Mobile website, though usable, is a bit of a pain and setting up payment for the first time is more confusing than it should be--I managed to pay two months' worth of bills rather than the one that I had intended.

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How to Have Hobbies in College

How to Have Hobbies in College

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">This is Tim. He spends his free time building ships in bottles. Look how happy he is! Image courtesy of Diogo Mendes. Licensed under CC BY NC 2.0

A friend of mine walked into my room the other night, somewhat distraught. "I just realized," she said, "that I literally do not know what to do with myself when I am not doing homework." I would have teased her, but I couldn't--I feel exactly the same way.

Because college has no defined work/not work boundaries, it is incredibly easy to just work all the time and completely lose any ability to do things that are not assigned to you. This isn't healthy. Side projects and hobbies (for example, this site) are the sorts of things that not only get you noticed from a pack of job applicants post-graduation, but which make you a non-boring, fully-functional human being.

So, inspired by this blog post, I've decided to strike back. It's hard, but I've had some successes: for the first time in what feels like months, I read a book purely for pleasure. I have more time to write. Instead of letting college become my life, I've confined it to what it is--my job. I've set myself work hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the week, and the afternoons and evenings on the weekends) and I am doing my hardest to use the time after that to explore things I'm actually interested in.

There are four steps to making this work. They are:

  1. Know what you need to do: I have very clear lists each day of what I need to accomplish. I know what assignments I need to finish by the end of my "work" time. I'm able to do this because, every three weeks, I write out all of the homework I need to be doing each day in order to hand my assignments in on time. I don't have to worry about working ahead because I know I will finish everything if I only stick to what's in the planner. This means that absolutely none of my mental processes go towards worrying about what I need to do.
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Take a Mental Health Day to Power Through to Summer

Take a Mental Health Day to Power Through to Summer

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">Days off: best enjoyed with funny socks. Image courtesy of Flickr user Alfonsina Blyde under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The weeks after Spring Break are tough. Motivation is gone, classes are dragging, and professors doing research have clocked out to apply for grants. It can be hard to maintain motivation. If you find yourself struggling to finish up your homework as you hurtle towards the end of the year, there may be hope for you--just take a day off.

When I say "day off," I don't mean the kind of day off that college students have on the weekends, which is really just a day full of work that is structured at odd hours--you get up at noon, sure, but you also spend time working on papers or studying. I mean a day in which you give yourself permission to sit completely still if you feel like it, or to fly a kite or watch a movie or take a nap on the quad without guilt.

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Travel Like a Champ: Spring Break Travel Roundup

Travel Like a Champ: Spring Break Travel Roundup

an class="full-image-block ssNonEditable">By the sea, you and me... Image courtesy of Flickr user Kevin Tostado. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.It's the end of February and that means Spring Break will soon be upon us. HackCollege has your back with a collection of tips and tricks to organize your travel, remind you of airport basics, and fold your clothes completely wrinkle-free. Check out these blasts from the archives.

Road trip safety: For those of you who will be traveling by car rather than air, check out this list of basic safety supplies to keep in your vehicle. Particularly if you don't have AAA and are traveling in an at-all-remote areas, a well-stocked emergency kit can be a lifesaver.

Plan Spring Break with TripIt: I'm kind of in love with TripIt. For those of you who don't already use it, it is one of the most painless ways to keep travel information organized and accessible. TripIt's also useful for those of us with parents who worry--sharing all of your travel plans with them can soothe their fears about wherever you're going for the break.

Pack Everything into a Suitcase Without Wrinkles: Though the New York Times favors rolling your clothes to pack them in to a suitcase, I've found that this method is more compact and leaves clothes way less wrinkly. Particularly since Spring Break clothes are light-weight anyway, this can make packing unbelievably easy and compact, leaving more room for novelty magnets and beer.

Unplug Your Laptop to Boost Productivity

Unplug Your Laptop to Boost Productivity

Focus in and you’ll soon have those vocab terms memorized. Image courtesy of Flickr user Dani Ihtatho . Licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.For most students, laptops are like desktops that can move–when we’re not out and about, they stay plugged in to the wall. However, if you find yourself wasting time online and wondering how ...