College: It ain’t what it used to be

Well, my friends, it’s done.

We’ve packed Thing 1 up, driven her to a different state, moved her into her dorm room and had the expected tearful goodbye.

Obviously taken before the tearful goodbye

Obviously taken before the tearful goodbye

And I know what many of you are expecting to read from me today: the heart wrenching story of her tearful goodbye to her cat (who’s been her trusty companion for the past 11 years); or maybe a glimpse at the humorous-yet-heartwarming letter I gave to her at our final dinner at home (that we made her read aloud but then she couldn’t because she was crying too hard so she made me read it and then I started crying too hard and we all ended up crying and laughing hysterically at the same time, which as you all know, is a terribly ugly look); how Thing 2 handled it (rough. It was — and still is — rough); or maybe a replay of the madness that was move-in day and how justlikethat (or justlike36hoursswhichfeltjustlike36hours) it was over and before we knew it we were headed back home to our “new normal.” 


After the past week (or 52), I’m emotionally spent.

And hungover.

Kidding! I’m (sort of) kidding. But seriously you guys, I think it’s time to lighten things up. 

If I don’t, someone might will get hurt.

Over the past seven months or so as I’ve been getting re-acquainted with this whole college thing, I’ve been amazed at how much different everything is from when I was in college 27 years ago. (Good Lord — please don’t do that math.) But the point is, going to college today rules when compared with what we endured back in the day. (Aaand the fact that I just used that expression makes pointing the ’27 years’ fact out totally unnecessary.) 

For those of you who haven’t gone through this process yet, let me enlighten you on a few things.
And for those of you who have and think of things I’ve neglected to add (see: hungover), please add them in the comments below! 

college it ain

Roommate Search
Back in the day: You know the old saying, “You take what you get and you don’t throw a fit?” That was pretty much how it was. Well, unless you showed up to your dorm room with your pink and green Laura Ashley floral bedding, pink TV and matching cassette player, spanking new sorority paraphernalia and giant black and white poster of James Dean only to discover that your roommate who had already moved in was Goth and had draped black gauze over the windows (which coordinated very well with every other satanic thing she’d unpacked).

If (by chance) that scenario happened? Then believe you me you threw a fit. (Don’t worry, the Goth girl also threw a pretty good fit when she saw all that pink and green and we got switched — me with a new sorority sister, and the Goth girl with anyone else who was not me.)

Today: Two words: Online dating.

But seriously.

Finding a college roommate today is just like going on It’s easy! Either go on the roommate-search website for your college, or visit your school’s incoming freshman Facebook group and just start person shopping, but totally in a legal way! 

If you go with the roommate-search website you can be a little more specific. 

Much like dating websites, you answer a host of questions ranging from how much you plan to study, party and sleep, all the way to how clean you are, if you’re planning on having “sleepovers” with friends and how you feel about your roommate doing the same. (And by ‘sleepovers’ I mean have sex. And by ‘friends’ I mean strangers. Or not. Really, when the bunk above you is swaying and creaking and you are three feet below praying this is all just PTSD from that one time at band camp, does it matter?) With just a click, you’re matched up with someone else who answered the questions similarly to you (or more likely, lied similarly to you).

Want to just creep on other people’s Facebook pages instead? Who doesn’t?!? Just join your university’s freshman Facebook group, and using the photos as your guide, pick a few that look friendly. Make sure to read their last month’s worth of status updates and take a look at their photo albums. Overuse of acronyms and posed selfies means an entirely different kind of roommate than links to “What Kind of Disney Princess Are You” quizzes and photos of sloths. (For the record, I’ll take the second type…and thankfully, so did my daughter.)

Registering for classes
Back in the day: Long, long lines. And frustration. That’s really all I remember about registering for classes back in 1923. Or 1988. Same thing.

Regardless, over 20 years ago when it came to freshmen requirements, there really weren’t many choices: for science you had BIO 100; to satisfy your communications requirement, COM 100; and for humanities it was usually SOC 100, and so on. Snoringly boring. Seriously, how many 100 level classes did you fall asleep in? And when you registered each semester you stood in a never ending line with your course book and your registration sheet and prayed to sweet baby Sparky that all your classes would be open. (Hey, I was a Sundevil, it’s what you do.)

And when you finally made it to the front of the line and the real live person told you the class time you had chosen was full? Two words: SUCK IT. You had to choose an entirely new day and time — which effectively screwed up the rest of your schedule — and go to the back of the line.

The registration process became like buying fucking concert tickets. People actually camped out the night before registration in order to get the schedule they wanted.

Today: Today?

IT’S ALL ONLINE. Tents? Wearing Depends so you don’t have to leave the line to go pee? HA. You seriously can register for all of your classes IN YOUR PAJAMAS laying ON YOUR BED! (And we wonder why the recent generations tend to be lazy?) The choices of classes you can resister for are RIDICULOUS. To satisfy a math requirement my daughter is taking ASTRONOMY, and for an English requirement she’s taking a study of Hans Christian Andersen. Dude. She gets to study “The Little Mermaid” for college credit. I know. 

But get this: When she plugged in all her classes, she also got to enter in specifics like the earliest time she’d like a class and what times during the day she’d like breaks. Then — in like five seconds — the computer spit out over 100 possible schedules for her to choose from. ONE HUNDRED. 

Damn kids and their instant gratification.

Back in the day: Hospital quality food in an old school cafeteria. The end. You paid one meal fee and either chose the cafeteria slop, or if you were like me, praised the Sweet Lord Sparky that the cereal bar was left out all day and that the crouton bowl at the salad bar was always kept full. No lie. I existed on Lucky Charms and croutons with an occasional soft-serve ice cream cookie sandwich when it was cookie day.

Today: Two words: Food court. They’re not even called cafeterias anymore. They’re “Marketplaces” and they. are. awesome. Pasta bars, deli stations, salad bars, grills with burgers, chicken and fries, sushi bars, comfort food stations, desert islands, and yes, even the old-school cereal bars (left open all day), and you pay for only what you take. And get this, every day is cookie day. 

Plus, in every building there are convenience stores. Like serious 7-11s. Hell, if I’d have been able to buy Doritos and microwave hot pockets and pop-tarts at a whim, I’d have been in BIG trouble.

And by ‘I’d’ I mean my ass. 

Kind of makes me chuckle, however, to know that in spite of all the other comforts college kids have now, there’s something that’s remained the same forever:



Nothing like some cinder block walls and a prison-cell sized room to keep them humble.

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  • Nikki - At UMN they had laundry that was not coin operated and would notify you by text or email when it was done, you cooks monitor your laundry live! It was crazy but awesome 🙂 and you could use part of your meal plan in an actual food court with chick-filet and places like that! I always sucked at going to lunch but figured out they has online to go lunch ordering. Worth it for the diet coke, cookie, chips and banana even if I didn’t eat the sandwich! We had to pay for stuff we didn’t even but like an inclusive plan so even if I just ate that it was worth it :).ReplyCancel

  • Susanna Herber Strand - Michelle – It was a total hoot bumping into you this past weekend at Parent’s Weekend in Madison. So nice to meet you in person! I wore my shrinky-dink Badger earrings with pride to Saturday’s game. On Wisconsin! – and I never did end up crossing paths with Peg Weaver other than via IM. Best, “shrinky-dink-Susanna”ReplyCancel

  • Funny Is Family - This makes me want to go back to college. I wonder if my old roommate would ditch her husband and three kids and move back in with me?ReplyCancel

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