6 College Perks That Might Make You Jealous

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iStock

College admissions are competitive, and not just from the student's side. Sure, sometimes it's hard to get into the college of your choice, but the schools are fighting just as hard to lure in top applicants. While some colleges boast about class sizes, graduate fellowships, and endowment growth rates, this sort of info is likely to bore the 17-year-old students they're wooing. Instead, some schools try to come up with unique perks that appeal to students, often in the form of free services.

While the cost of these "free" perks is undoubtedly built back into tuition bills, when a family's spending upwards of $40,000 a year for school, it can't hurt to help them feel like they're getting something for nothing. Here are a few you might be jealous of:

1. Free Laundry

Nothing's more maddening for a college student than wanting to study, party, or sleep, only to be confronted with a massive mound of laundry. Most of us know that if left unchecked, these piles of dirty clothes can grow until they're on the brink of becoming sentient beings, but students at Davidson, an elite liberal arts college in North Carolina, don't have to worry about it. Their college does the laundry for them.

Since 1919, Davidson has been operating a laundry facility that allows students to drop off their laundry and pick it up once its clean and smelling of dryer sheets. At the Lula Bell Houston Laundry, students' dress shirts and blouses are even pressed and put on hangers for them. The laundry clears about six tons' worth of dirty clothes and linens a week, but if students prefer to keep their filthy t-shirts to themselves, the school also offers free self-service washers and dryers in the dorms.

As if that's not enough, Davidson was even more generous when its basketball team made a miraculous run to the NCAA's Sweet 16 last March. The school shelled out the cash for free bus transport to the venue in Detroit, two nights' lodging, and a free ticket to the game for any student who wanted to go cheer on their Cinderella in person.

2. Free Skiing

Michigan Technological University offers a pretty standard slate of majors for its students, but it also has a real estate holding that might lure in applicants. The school owns Mont Ripley, a ski slope on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. While normal lift-ticket prices run at around $35 a day, Michigan Tech students can hit the slopes without dropping a dime.

3. Free Computers

At my undergrad alma mater, Wake Forest, one of the chief perks is that when you showed up for freshman orientation, the school gives you a fully loaded IBM Thinkpad and a printer. Students keep this laptop for two years, then trade it in for a new model before their junior year. Students then take this one with them when they graduate.

While there was a downside to the system (if profs know everyone has a laptop, they're not the least bit shy about making you tote it to class), it really upped the on-campus computing efficiency. Any program you needed for a class was already loaded on the laptop, and since everyone on campus was operating one of only two types of machines, tech support could diagnose problems and fix them really quickly.

4. Free Theater Tickets

Nothing irks actors and theater owners quite so much as playing to an empty house, so if tickets are moving slowly, why not fill the seats with college students? NYU's Ticket Central can wrangle Broadway and Off-Broadway tickets for up to 75% off their face values, but sometimes, the school can get lucky students into theaters for free to help fill otherwise thin crowds. Ticket Central also boasts that it can get students into Knicks games for as little as $12 and into Mets games for just $3. Of course, the way those teams have played in the last year or so, that offer might scare off more prospective students than it entices.

5. Personalized Birthday Cakes

College birthdays are often all sorts of debauched fun, but at least in my experience, they were often sorely lacking in quality cake. Sure, sometimes you'd get a pan full of Betty Crocker-ed good intentions cooked in a dorm oven, which are precisely calibrated to burn cakes' edges while leaving the center liquid, but it was rare to see a real birthday cake. Ohio University's dining services can fix that, though, by allowing students' parents to join the Birthday Club. For $18, parents can make sure their kid gets a personalize birthday cake and all of the plates, napkins, and forks they'll need to share it with their friends.

6. Cheap Golf

College students who want to golf on a tight budget often have to resign themselves to finding the rattiest municipal course they can find and hoping they survive the ordeal. Students at Stanford, though, have access to the Stanford Golf Course, a legendary course that's hosted such greats as Tom Watson and Tiger Woods since it opened in 1930. Only students, alumni, faculty, and their guests can enjoy the course's picturesque views of San Francisco, and for guests the price is pretty steep, up to $110 a round. Students, though, get a great deal on greens fees; they can get in a full round for just $25.

What unique perks did your school offer?

Texas Is the Latest State to Bring Cursive Writing Back to Its School Curriculums

iStock.com/narvikk
iStock.com/narvikk

The 2000s weren't a great decade for cursive handwriting. As computers became mainstream, many school districts dropped cursive lessons in favor of keyboard proficiency. But in recent years, the trend has been moving in the opposite direction, and Texas is the latest state to reinstate cursive writing in its public schools, ABC 25 reports.

Because Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (the state's curriculum standards for grades K through 12) didn't require it, cursive has been absent from many Texas classrooms for years. In 2017, the State Board of Education made it mandatory, but the new requirement won't take effect until the 2019 to 2020 school year. Starting with next year's second-grade class, all grade schoolers in Texas's public school system must be taught to write legible cursive by fifth grade.

Though opponents argue that learning cursive is a waste of time in the digital age, supporters of the writing style say it promotes clearer thinking. Elizabeth Giniewicz, executive director of elementary curriculum for the Temple Independent School District in Texas, tells ABC 25, "It's important that our kids are able to communicate through the written word and through the spoken word."

Texas is just one state that's reversed its stance on teaching cursive. Ohio came out in favor of cursive in 2018, making it mandatory starting in kindergarten.

[h/t ABC 25]

LEGO's New SPIKE Prime Is Designed to Teach Kids Coding and Confidence

LEGO Education
LEGO Education

LEGO isn’t just a company that makes cool toys (though it does that in spades). The company also has an education arm that brings LEGOs into the classroom. And its latest release is designed to give kids a lesson in more than just brick-based engineering. SPIKE Prime provides lessons in coding, hands-on building, and—most important of all—confidence.

Aimed at middle school classrooms, SPIKE Prime features LEGO bricks, a programmable hub that can control sensors and motors, and an app where kids can learn to code the functions that will be performed by their LEGO creation. The app, which uses the block-based Scratch coding language, features a variety of lesson plans for teachers, each one designed to be completed in a 45-minute period.

The LEGO creations themselves are relatively easy to put together—they’re designed to take 10 to 20 minutes apiece—so that kids can focus on the coding and experimentation they’re supposed to do rather than putting together bricks. (This also helps kids feel more free to break apart their prototypes and try again, since they didn’t spend an hour putting the original model together.) However, unlike many coding toys aimed at teaching kids computer science skills, the lessons are designed to be facilitated by a teacher, rather than being self-led by students.

A LEGO Spike Prime build
Spike Prime's "Break Dance Model"
LEGO Education

One of the main goals of SPIKE Prime isn’t just to teach kids STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) skills. It’s also to help them build confidence in those areas by teaching them to problem-solve, prototype, and experiment. According to a LEGO-commissioned poll of more than 5000 students, 5000 parents, and 1150 teachers in five countries, fewer than one in five students feels “very confident” about their STEAM abilities. Half of the students surveyed said trying new things in school makes them nervous. “With SPIKE Prime and the lessons featured in the SPIKE app, these children will be inspired to experiment with different solutions, try new things and ultimately become more confident learners,” LEGO Education president Esben Stærk Jørgensen said in a press release.

SPIKE Prime comes with 523 pieces, most of which build on the beams and gears offered by the more advanced LEGO Technic line. Some pieces, however, are entirely new LEGO elements that merge some of the functions of Technic pieces with regular LEGO bricks, like traditional-looking rectangular bricks that also work with Technic axles.

LEGO plans to work with local teachers to release the SPIKE Prime system across the world, in 17 different languages. The company also plans to release a version that uses Python, which is a more practical coding language for real-life programming than Scratch. And going forward, the company will add new functionalities and curricula to expand SPIKE Prime’s offerings, so that teachers can have new lessons to bring to their classrooms.

SPIKE Prime will be released in August, but it’s available for pre-order now on the LEGO Education website. Kits start at $329.95, with additional elements available separately.

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