6 College Perks That Might Make You Jealous

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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?

16 Secrets of School Portrait Photographers

iStock.com/HKPNC
iStock.com/HKPNC

One by one, they form a little conveyor belt—throngs of students lining up to sit in a chair, look into a camera lens, and smile. For millions of kids, picture day is a way to memorialize their appearance in a given year, although later the out-of-fashion clothes or cosmetic growing pains may be a way to memorialize pure awkwardness. For the photographers tasked with the job, however, picture day means corralling hundreds of children and establishing a comfort level without any time to waste.

“We get about 30 seconds per kid,” Kristin Boyer, a photographer in Atlanta, Georgia, who has been taking school portrait photos for eight years, tells Mental Floss. “And it’s amazing how much impact you can have. You want to make them feel like a million bucks—beautiful, awesome, and smart.”

To get a better sense of what goes into the job, we asked Boyer and two other school photographers to divulge some of the more interesting aspects of wrangling kids for posterity. Read on for some insight into uncooperative subjects, why mornings make for the the best shots, and the importance of booger patrol.

1. SCHOOLS GET A CUT OF THEIR FEE.

While deals can vary by school, photographers typically get paid when parents order photos. The school then takes a percentage of that fee.

To select a professional, schools will often take bids. "I make a presentation," Boyer says. "I'll explain what I do. Sometimes schools are looking for certain things." Boyer takes more dynamic shots with ambitious outdoor backgrounds; some larger schools herding 1500 or more kids, she says, may want to opt for a simple portrait to expedite the process.

As for what schools do with their portion of the revenue, it depends on the school. But many usually sink it back into student programs.

2. PARENTS TAKE PICTURE DAY VERY SERIOUSLY.

A child poses for a school photo
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“Parents are very passionate about their kids getting good school photos,” Courtney, a photographer based in Canada, tells Mental Floss. They might send along a note with their kid describing what they didn’t like about the previous year’s photo. “When I started, I didn’t expect the level of hostility with parents when a photo doesn’t go the way they want it to.”

Boyer has sometimes had parents ask to stand behind her while she shoots so they can take their own pictures. “I usually say no cell phone photos. If they take theirs, they won’t buy mine.”

3. THEY TRY TO TAKE PICTURES BEFORE LUNCHTIME.

For younger kids, mornings are better. After lunch, photographers are likely to need the help of photo-editing software. “One of my first-graders got spaghetti on them,” Boyer says. “You don’t want to let them start to get markers or food all over.” Boyer’s most unusual Photoshop request? “I edited out a cookie once. The kid would not sit down unless he had a cookie.”

4. KIDS ARE SOMETIMES TERRIFIED OF THEM.

A little girl in a yearbook portrait photo
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Portrait photographers typically work across a spectrum of ages, from kindergarteners to high school seniors. If a child is very young, it’s possible the entire idea of sitting for a portrait will scare them silly. “You always get one or two that are just terrified,” Grant, a portrait photographer who works on pre-K to 12th grade, tells Mental Floss. “I’m a big, beefy dude, and sometimes a kid will get in there and see me and go, ‘Oh, I’m not doing this.’” To placate the pensive pupils, Grant makes a big show of leaving by stomping his feet, then lets one of his less-threatening assistants take the pictures.

5. YOUNGER KIDS TAKE EVERYTHING LITERALLY.

Photographers need to be careful when giving instructions to kindergarteners and first graders, who tend to process things with little nuance. “Sometimes I’ll ask a kid to high-five me and I'll act like it hurts,” Grant says. “I’ll ask for a Band-Aid. Sometimes they’ll look very serious and say, ‘I don’t have one.’” Another time, Grant asked a kid to point his knees toward a nearby computer. “He came over and touched his knee to the laptop.”

6. SOME KIDS INSIST ON HAVING PROPS.

A student poses for a school photo with an electronic keyboard
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A lot of photographers are switching up the conventional portrait by snapping pictures of kids outdoors, in "action" poses like jumping, or against more eclectic backgrounds. Kids are getting more creative, too. Like prop comedians, they will sometimes arrive for picture day armed with accessories. “I’ve seen everything from Halloween costumes to dogs and other pets,” Courtney, says. “Or they want to wear hats or sunglasses.” If it’s within reason and OK with the school, she’ll take one traditional photo and then let the subject pose with their prop for the second.

7. SELFIES HAVE MADE THEIR JOB HARDER.

Posing for a professional portrait can be a strange experience for a kid who has spent considerable time on a cell phone. “Kids have gotten much more comfortable in front of the camera, but it’s bad selfie behavior,” Boyer says. “Doing duck lips, thrusting their arms out to make their shoulders straight. You kind of have to re-train them.” Boyer lets them know it doesn't look good, but "I say it in a nice way."

8. “ORANGE CHIN” IS A PROBLEM.

A child poses for a school photo
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Sometimes, fashion can betray kids. “Fluorescent green and orange tops seem popular now and light tends to bounce off of it and on the chin,” Grant says. “The bottom of the chin tends to turn orange.” Unless they happen to have an extra shirt or request a photo retouch, they’re stuck with it.

9. THERE'S A REASON THEY ASK KIDS TO TILT THEIR HEAD.

Aside from some unfortunate fashion choices, one staple of school photos is the head tilt, with kids cocking their faces off to one side. According to a school photographer on Reddit, there's a good reason for that. "These photos are going to be used for the yearbook (more than likely) and everyone should have somewhat of the same head pose," they explain. "The way we stage our lights does not flatter the subject when they're looking straight at the camera. If you tilt your head you're more likely to also move your chin in that same direction, which makes for a more interesting highlight/shadow play and also has the added benefit of making the face look smaller (if you're a little overweight)."

10. THEY USE A SYSTEM TO TRACK EACH KID.

A child poses for a school photo
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With hundreds of students at a given school, photographers need a reliable system of identifying kids and making sure their names match up to their portfolio. While systems vary, one of the most common is to collect school data and then print a unique ticket with a student’s name, grade, homeroom, and a number. “Those have a barcode,” Grant says. “So they come up, we scan the ticket, and pull up their record. It’s like scanning soup at a grocery store.”

It’s also error-free, unless some senior decides to trade tickets with a friend so their names get mixed up on their school identification cards. “They don’t seem to think it out, though, because the homeroom teachers pass the cards out and will notice the picture isn’t of them.”

11. THEY HAVE SOME SILLY STRATEGIES FOR MAKING A KID SMILE.

Photographers have less than a minute to relax a kid enough so they deliver a broad, genuine smile. To facilitate that, Grant says he keeps a laundry list of groaners at his disposal to provoke a laugh. “It’s like a script tree that a telemarketer would use,” he says. “If a kid says they play soccer, I’ll say, ‘Oh, so you like kicking people?’”

Photographers also rely on another age-old technique: embarrassment. “In grades four to six, if you ask girls to say ‘boys’ and boys to say ‘girls,’ it’s so scandalous,” Grant says. “For a second shot, you ask them to say, ‘cute boys’ or ‘cute girls.’ That typically works.” Grant can also provoke smiles by asking about pet names. Elementary kids react to being asked to say, “trick or treat, smell my feet.” If they remain stubborn, Grant will pull out all the stops and request they say “stinky feet.”

12. SOMEONE NEEDS TO BE ON BOOGER PATROL.

A child picks his nose
iStock.com/RichVintage

While photo-editing software can address rogue snot, no one really wants to spend the extra minutes digitally erasing boogers from photos. Boyer typically enlists volunteer parents to make sure faces are wiped clean or has assistants armed with tissues, combs, and other grooming products to make for a stylish and snot-free image. “We usually try to catch things like that before they get in front of the camera,” she says.

13. SOMETIMES THEY REGRET ASKING QUESTIONS.

To build rapport, photographers are always looking to get kids to talk about themselves. Once, one of Grant’s assistants asked if a child had any pets. “Yes,” the kid responded. “Rabbits. But we ate them last night.”

14. KIDS LIKE TO MESS WITH THEM ...

The older kids get, the more they tend to commit acts of subversion. “One kid came in with his jacket on, took it off, sat down, and was ready to go,” Grant says. “I knew something was going on. I looked at his shirt and it said ‘Student of the Month.’ Except he put masking tape over the ‘ent’ so it read ‘Stud of the Month.’” (After consulting with the principal, the kid was allowed to keep it on for the photo.)

Courtney had a kid sit down with what looked like a nice shirt with birds on it. “It was actually middle fingers,” she says.

15. ... AND SOME KIDS ARE JUST A PAIN.

While most kids are cooperative, Grant will sometimes see subjects who want to make their life as difficult as possible. "Seniors tend to fool around more and be difficult on purpose," he says. "Some of them are just perpetually in a bad mood or feel self-conscious." Sports teammates might egg each other on to not crack a smile. One school photographer who works for Lifetouch writes on Reddit that there are one or two "problem kids" per class: "You just have to remember they're just doing it for attention because they aren't getting it somewhere else."

16. ACCORDING TO THEM, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A BAD SCHOOL PICTURE.

A student poses for a school photo
iStock.com/RyanJLane

The internet is overflowing with awkward and embarrassing school photos, from unfortunate backgrounds to unfortunate hairstyles. But according to Grant, “bad school photo” is a misnomer that gives photographers a bad rap. “There’s a common idea school pictures are bad,” he says. “No. School pictures are like shooting fish in a barrel. Is a kid going to smile? Is a kid going to lean into it? Or is it going to be bad no matter what I do? If you think the picture is bad, well, no, that’s you. The picture was fine. The bad haircut wasn’t.”

Anthony Bourdain Is the Subject of a New Class at Louisiana's Nicholls State University

Larry French/Getty Images for DC Central Kitchen
Larry French/Getty Images for DC Central Kitchen

From journalism and television to the travel and restaurant industries, Anthony Bourdain influenced numerous fields throughout his career. His own work was also heavily influenced by the art, films, and literature he loved—and he wasn't afraid to make that clear in his shows. Next year, Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana is hosting an entire class dedicated to the media that shaped the chef/writer/television personality, USA Today reports.

Nicholls State professor Todd Kennedy was inspired to design the course following Bourdain's death in June. Like many fans, he was affected by the loss, and started reflecting on how successful Bourdain had been in seamlessly blending literature, film, travel, and food into his documentaries. He pitched a class called "Anthony Bourdain and His Influencers" for the spring 2019 semester, which was quickly approved by the college.

"Almost every episode of Bourdain's shows directly reference and/or pay homage to a major work of literature or film as he develops his own visual and narrative argument about culture, politics, food, art, and the intersections therein," the class description reads. "This course will pair Bourdain's work with the writings and films that influenced him, connecting ways of understanding the world around us through the lens of a transformative writer and public figure."

Based on an image Kennedy shared on Twitter, the course materials will includes movies such as Apocalypse Now (1979) and Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) and books like Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison and The Quiet American by Graham Greene. The class is a film studies course, but it also satisfies some English credits.

Enrollment for the class opens sometime this month, and it will only be open to current students at Nicholls State. A condensed version of the class will also be made available online to students outside southern Louisiana.

[h/t USA Today]

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