8.02.2011

When I was in school...

I'm going back to school. There, I said it. It's been eight and a half years. I expect things to be different this time around, and it's making me feel a little bit old.

For example, will the kids be taking notes on computers, not in notebooks? When I was in college, I had a laptop, but other students had desktops. It was not the norm to bring a computer to class--at all. (The laptop that I had freshman year was my uncle's hand-me-down that sometimes shut down suddenly in the middle of work and could only be turned on again by taking the battery out and slamming it back in, hard. So I did a lot of my work in the computer lab that year.)

When I was in college, all of the dorms had ethernet (as opposed to dial-up--remember that?), but wireless didn't arrive on campus until my senior year, and then only one library was equipped (as far as I recall). I babysat for a family that had wireless at home and I remember thinking that it was crazy to be able to connect to the internet without a cord! Like, just nuts! (The paterfamilias was a computer science professor, so it made sense that they were wireless earlier than most.) When I lived off campus my senior year, I had dial-up at home. I remember fiddling with TCP/IP settings.

I just signed some federal loan agreements, and whoa, have they overhauled that system! Back in my day, you went to the bursar (I think?) on the first day of school and signed some papers. I don't think I even read them, at least not after the first time I signed them, freshman year. They said to pay back the loans after graduation. End of story. Now, they make you take a 16-screen quiz before you can borrow money. I was grumbling all the way, because it was extremely boring and I needed to answer their insipid questions and then scroll up each time to close the window that automatically opened to grade my response, but I actually learned some things about my loans that I didn't know, in addition to some repayment incentives that either didn't exist when I was paying back undergraduate loans or that I didn't know about. (They may not exist for long, anyway. See this. Or maybe grad students won't be able to get subsidized loans at all. That seems like a stupid decision to me. Isn't more education good for growing the economy, inventing things, running things more efficiently, etc.? Although I do agree that going to college is more crucial than going to grad school.)

What other changes will I notice when I return to campus this fall?