Friday, August 22, 2008

Dorm Life In the 21st Century

I have five years left before thinking about sending my son off to college, but the other night I was thinking about my own college experience and specifically the few years I lived in the on-campus dorms.

At RIT where I got my undergraduate degree in the mid-80's, dorm living was pretty standard as far the basics. It was two people to a room that was maybe 10x12 or so in size (don't recall the exact measurements). The room had one window, carpet, two closets and a phone. The school provided two wooden desks and chairs for studying, two wooden dressers for clothes storage, and two metal frame beds with mattress for sleeping. Everything else was the responsibility of the roommates to coordinate. I had a portable refridgerator (a leftover from my brother's college days before me) which I often brought to the mix. My roommate freshmen year brought his stereo (turntable, tuner, tape decks and large speakers). We each brought records or tapes of our favorite music. Often, I'd bring my own color TV if my roommate didn't have one. Each brought their own alarm clock. Those were pretty much your basics back then.

Today, I am sure, it is a much different take. Sure, what the school provides is still probably standard (you have to sleep somewhere and put your clothes somewhere). I'd like to think a fridge is still a must have in the room. Granted, the drinking age back when I was starting college was still 18 (so we could store your beer and wine in room). I would think today kids would want to be able to keep their sodas and sports drinks and such cold though. But what about the other stuff?

First, I am certain the whole huge stereo and physical music collection are pretty obsolete. Who needs all that when an iPod with a decent hard drive and a portable stereo with an input cradle can meet the same needs? Plus, it takes up a lot less space in the room and is easier to move in. (Side note: I can't tell you how many fridges and stereos and such we had to help freshmen move in as part of the Student Orientation Service at the beginning of every Fall semester. It was crazy, but I loved my time on SOS!) Kids can bring hundreds of complete albums and have them fit in their coat pocket. Incredible!

Next, while a television is a good source for news and entertainment, the same thing can be gotten via a laptop computer and a good Internet connection. I'm thinking that Internet has got to be a must for students. I know I can't go a week on vacation without being able to get online, and I am of the generation who can recall a time that being "online" meant using a BBS from a dedicated box with a phone and modem in a computer lab. The laptop even goes further and provides the capabilities that we often had to get back in the 80's from a good, old fashioned typewriter - a means to write up research papers and such.

A television could come in handy for those guys who can't live without their favorite console gaming system. Gotta have something to hook up that XBox 360 or Playstation 3 or Wii to. As a parent of a gaming kid, I'd be reluctant to allow the systems to go off to college with my son though. I'm thinking the distraction would be too great. Go to class or play Madden all day? I know what my kid would currently chose.

Now, I remember when I went to college how big it was to have a phone in every room. Where my brother went to college four years prior, they had one phone in the hall for the entire floor. Yikes! Though, today most kids have cell phones and that is probably their primary form of communication. Still, a land-line phone in the room would still prove beneficially. I'm thinking too that with the Internet need that there would have to be some kind of wired Ethernet ports to allow for connectivity in rooms. It might not be as fast as the DSL back home, but it probably gets the job done. If not in the rooms then perhaps somewhere on the floor in a common area or in designated labs on campus.

I guess I'll learn more about this when the time for scouting colleges comes up. Who knows what new advances will be around in five years?

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