Survey and Results: Student Motivation and College Housing

IMG_7282

After writing my blog post “Lesson Learned: Do Not Skip Class,” I started to think more and more about how where you’re living and what housing choice you make really can affect your grades and your motivation for classes. For my Media Research class, we had to construct a survey, administer it, and talk about our results in a research paper. I decided to make my survey about this student motivation and housing situation.

In order to find out what kind of questions I wanted to include in my survey, I first looked for some other academic sources. While I found a few, there’s two that I wanted to share with you. First, I found a paper over a study of the effects of housing environment on grade point average. He found a significant result, which was two seniors rooming together on campus had a higher GPA than seniors who were living off campus or seniors who were living in a sorority or fraternity house. I don’t say this to you to make you think that you’re doing the wrong this by being off campus or by living in your fraternity house. How could I say that when I, myself, live off campus?

Secondly, I found a paper that studied the effects of living on or off campus on the grades of first-year students at York University. It was interesting to me because he also found that those who lived on campus scored higher their first year than those who lived off campus with a friend.

Then, I created my survey. I included questions such as: what is your GPA?, what is your housing situation?, how long have you lived in your current housing situation?, how many unexcused absences have you had this semester?, etc. I found that these would be a good start to finding out if students really do start to slack when they move off campus. I would also be able to run tests over how long they have been living where they do. I could find out if maybe students just start to slack when they move instead of just being off campus.

I had 55 respondents to my survey, which I thought was a good start. I even got a nice variety of people who aren’t attending my college and found people attending other universities in other states.

Although I ran multiple tests and found multiple things significant and multiple things not significant, the best part of my results was when I ran a test between how many credits a student would be taking next semester and where the student currently lives (on campus, off campus or with family). I found that the students who live on campus statistically take more classes than those who are living off campus and those who are living off campus statistically take more classes than those who live with their family.

Through my survey, I think I found significance that people really do change their motivation and behavior based on where you live. I don’t mean to blog about this to scare anyone or to convince them that moving out isn’t the right choice for them, because I wouldn’t change moving out on my own for anything, but I do think it’s a good scare and I do wish that I would have seen and known something about this when I first moved out. I would like to think that it would have changed my habits this semester and helped me kick in gear. I can just hope it does for you!

Splitting Cleaning Responsibilities Between Roommates

Cleaning Supplies for Spring Cleaning
Courtsey of Chiot’s Run on Flickr

I would have started this blog post with lesson learned, but it just so happens that this lesson is still in the process of being learned!

Recently, I’ve found how hard it is to split the cleaning responsibilities between roommates. Austin and I never really thought it would be that big of a deal when we moved out. However, with both of us always so busy all the time between work and school, we spend the only free time we have on video games or watching TV. Are you surprised that we don’t want to clean? I’m not. Cleaning is no fun! But it needs to be done.

I can’t give any concrete solutions on this subject because, first of all, we haven’t find our own solution and, second of all, I think every roommate situation is going to have a different solution. The hardest part is figuring out what’s best for your setting!

For Austin and I, we got in an argument a couple weeks ago because it seemed like the cleaning work was unfairly split. Our apartment seemed to always be messy. There were never dishes clean, or laundry folded, or cat litter picked up, or a vacuumed floor… and when I did try to start some of the cleaning, I always felt like I wasn’t getting any help.

Austin and I are very open with each other and we had a long discussion about what we could do to make sure the apartment was going to be clean and stay clean. We came up with a few ways we have tried from some helpful online articles.

1. Apartment Therapy suggests making sure you clean every day for 20 minutes a day. This way, no matter what, something always gets done each day. With two of us making this commitment that would rack up to the same as one person having to clean for 40 minutes a day. We started this and it worked well for a while. However, there were a handful of days where neither of us could even find time to work in 20 minutes of cleaning. When you both work from 8AM-9PM on a Saturday, no one wants to come home and clean up the house you weren’t in all day.

2. Lovelyish suggests splitting up the chores evenly depending on who doesn’t mind doing what. Austin doesn’t mind doing the dishes, but he hates doing the laundry. As long as there’s always a clean sink for me, he shouldn’t have to worry about having a clean pair of socks right? You would think. But for us, it doesn’t seem fair when one person is scheduled 30 hours one week to have to do the same around the house as the other person who was scheduled only 18 hours that week. So, it only worked for so long…

3. Scattering Cheer Blog had good ideas about splitting up everything with roommates. She talked about splitting up the cleaning work, the bills, and utilities everyone uses and should buy. I really wanted to share her ideas with my readers because it seemed like that would really work for roommates such as in college. However, for a boyfriend-girlfriend, things are scattered more than between friends, so it didn’t work for us too well. For example, her blog says that they have a rule that you can’t leave your dishes in the sink for longer than a day. For Austin and I, we always eat together. So, if I’m going to do dishes, I’m going to do all of them, not just my half.

Although all of these have been great ideas and seemed to work for a while, we still haven’t found the perfect balance. Honestly, I think that’s life! I think that one week Austin will clean more than I will, and the next, I will clean more than he. However, overall, it will always balance out. Even if it’s a whole month I do more, he will do more the next month. We’ve been living on our own for almost 6 months now and I’d say that even though things have seemed unfair at spots, it has overall been very even.

I think splitting the cleaning responsibilities will never have a perfect solution and will always be a lesson unlearned, but I think this is a lesson best not learned for us.

Making Your New Home Feel Cozy with DIY Projects and Decorating Tips

It doesn’t always have to be “out with the old, in with the new.” Often when we move out for the first time, we struggle trying to make our new space a space we enjoy being in. A first apartment is usually pieces of mix matched furniture donated. Possibly from the family friend who had an old lamp and chair she had stored in her garage or a rug you found cramped in your parents shed that you’ve never seen before. Whatever you find and come up with, you always want your place to become “home” and as I am no design expert, today let’s look at some other examples and projects to make all those old pieces tie in together and make you and your guests feel welcome.

Get in the holiday spirit! No matter what time of the year it is, there are always fun, interesting, and, even more important, CHEAP ways for you to spice up your space!

However, although decorating for the holidays is fun, there isn’t always time for DIY projects and constantly changing up your space! Some people prefer to finish their space and keep it that way. If that sounds more like you, there are plenty of small space options for decorating.

You can also spend time searching other blogs! I really like The Nester. She shares her home and her decorating ideas and shows how things “do not have to be perfect to be beautiful.”

As for me, I’ve spiced up my apartment with a lot of my own artwork. I recently found my love for painting after attending a “paint and sip” event. I mentioned it earlier in my blog here, where I painted my beloved dog. Since then, I’ve painted on my own in my apartment and my walls are covered in my own work. You could even attend your own paint and sip event! In Omaha, there are around six different spaces. My favorite shop is Canvas and Cabernet. However, paint and sip shops seem to be popping up everywhere! Just find your local shop! Even if you think you’re not creative, you are and you will come out with a piece you love to help spruce up your new apartment.

Just remember to make your space you! It’s important to be comfortable in your own home and surrounding yourself with things you’ve made or things that just make you happy is really important.

Lesson Learned: Do Not Skip Class

When Austin and I decided to move out, everyone told us that we would learn a lot about responsibility. We heard a lot about how students tend to let their grades slip, skip classes, and really slack off in school. I didn’t believe any of them. Throughout college, I’ve always been an A+ student. I’ve worked hard to get the grades I’ve earned and I’ve always been really proud of it. However, this semester things have really changed.

Moving out really has shown me more about responsibility. Growing up is hard and each day you’re presented with a new challenge and new things to worry about. If you choose to move out when you’re still a student, you have to worry about going to classes, doing your homework, studying for all your tests, working to pay for your bills, always budgeting, getting enough sleep, and not to mention trying to find time to spend with your friends and family.

This semester I’ve started worrying about all things that didn’t involve school and pushed school to my last worry. Now, halfway through the semester, I’ve realized how wrong that is. I’ve also realized how hard it is to push your grades back up and get back on track once you’re already so far behind.

Some tips that have worked for me as I’m trying to get myself back on track are:

Here's how I use Apple Stickies to keep caught up on my homework and quizzes.
Here’s how I use Apple Stickies to keep caught up on my homework and quizzes.

1. Get organized. I started with this planner at the beginning of this year. It worked great for a while. For my overall monthly calendar, I still use it. But, as I was assigned more assignments during class while I was on my laptop, it seemed simpler to keep an on-going “To-Do List” on my computer. Whether you use Microsoft Word, Apple Stickies, a planner, or just a piece of lined paper, keep your list with you at all times. It will save you when you go to do the one assignment due tomorrow, you look at your list, and you realize you actually have two assignments due tomorrow.
2. Do your least favorite assignments first. When you get into classes that involve your major, it’s easier to get some assignments done versus others. For example, I’m taking a required Philosophy class and a Graphic Design class. It’s much easier for me to work on Adobe Illustrator and be creative than write a philosophy paper. So, do the philosophy paper first.
3. Use Pandora! This one’s fun and easy! Tune yourself into a Pandora station that works for you. For me, I can’t listen to music I know the words to because I will sing versus do my work. Find what keeps you motivated and stick to it.
4. Most importantly, reward yourself. Last week I got caught up on everything school related I could. I even started assignments due in the future. I had to work doubles on both Friday and Saturday, but on Sunday, Austin and I went to one of my favorite restaurant and I bought a latte and breakfast.

My lesson for the day is that no matter how responsible and dedicated you think you are, things always get in the way and there are always things trying to sidetrack you. Although this is life, and it’s bound to happen to everyone, don’t let it consume your life. When you realize you’ve procrastinated, stop right there. Stop and get on track before it gets out of hand.

Canvas and Cabernet: Paint Your Pet Night with Grandma Duckert

At the beginning of this year, I experienced one of my first real losses. After plenty battles and fights, my golden retriever, Murphy, passed away. It was an excruciating and devastating feeling. In memoir, my grandmother and I went to a local paint and sip shop and participated in their monthly “Paint Your Pet” night. When we signed up for the class, we were asked to send in a picture of our pets, so that their own sketch artist could draw our animals and have it ready for when we showed up. Below is the picture I sent in of Murphy. I wrote down what happened this night so that I could “live blog” about my experience painting Murphy.
IMG_0626

6:10 PM: Grandma shows up at my door to pick me up. She comes inside to see Alonso and Fez. I knew we were already late, but I can’t say no to grandma!

6:14 PM: Grandma and I leave my apartment to drive to Canvas and Cabernet, the shop holding “Paint Your Pet” night.

6:23 PM: Grandma got sidetracked talking to me and missed her turn. We’re trying a different route.

6:25 PM: We’re lost.

6:33 PM: Found it! We parked in the parking garage in Aksarben Village and walked around the corner into Canvas and Cabernet. There’s a lot of chatter and loud noises.

6:35 PM: I immediately run my eyes around the shop to find my drawing, but before I can search too much, grandma and I are greeted and told to have a seat by our paintings. She said they were just waiting for us to arrive and we would begin shortly.

IMG_06656:36 PM: I found my drawing of Murphy. The sketch artist is extremely talented.

6:40 PM: We’re told to grab acrylic paint. We have to find what colors we want to paint the background and the outline of our animal. Instead of the wood background, I chose to paint him in front of a bright green grass background. I wanted his fur to shine more than his outline so I chose a coral/pink color to outline him in.

6:52 PM: I definitely like the grass background. I’ve decided to paint a little crazy. I’m using lots of different shades of green and dabbing white as I go along.

IMG_06677:09 PM: I finished my background, and now I’m working on getting his outline in. The background was easy for me. Not so much for my grandma. She used to be a painter when she was younger, so she’s a really big perfectionist.

7:14 PM: Everyone’s paintings are looking good so far. We have two artist guides and they’ve both spent a lot of time helping everyone get exactly the look they want and we haven’t even gotten onto our actual pets really yet.

IMG_0670
7:21 PM: I’m done with my outline. Definitely looks strange so far. I really hope it comes out looking like Murphy. I’m planning on hanging in in my living room with his collar.

7:29 PM: The artist got back on stage and stopped us from our work. She wants us to move on. Looks like grandma’s already a little behind. Now we’re going to work on the main parts of our animal. The artist tells us to pick one “medium” color of our animal. If our animal is black and white, she told us to paint the whole animal grey and then we’d go back and add highlights and lowlights.

7:32 PM: I hate painting Murphy all one color. He’s all one color but mostly highlights and shades. I decided not to follow the artist’s advice.

7:34 PM: Started using the same technique how I painted the background to paint Murphy. Loving it more than the one shade. Just need to make sure I don’t make him too orange or too red.

IMG_06727:41 PM: Definitely coming out better so far. I’ll stick to my own technique this time.

7:52 PM: Grandma is way behind. I hope she hurries up.

IMG_06747:58 PM: Finished his coat.

8:01 PM: The artist gets back on stage and explains to the group how to add the highlights and lowlights to our animals.

8:04 PM: After trying to hurry grandma along a bit, I decide I need something more to Murphy. This picture was taken when he was older. I need to add some of his “old” to him.

8:15 PM: I added in some white spots where he was showing his old age. Starting to feel more like Murphy. I’m already getting so excited to see the final project.

8:19 PM: Grandma still isn’t done painting the overall “medium” tone to her pet. She’s spending too much time worried about something she is going to cover up.

8:28 PM: Added even more to Murphy. I added some black near his ears because there were shadows there and I wanted his ears to “pop” more in the picture. I drew the black downward and jumped ahead and filled in his nose.

8:31 PM: I’m ahead on my painting compared to everyone else and my grandma is behind everyone else. Ironic.

8:43 PM: Artist gets back on stage to talk more about the “little features.” She asks us to stay away from the eyes, but she wants to use this last time to focus on everything else we want added to our painting.

IMG_06768:50 PM: Here I am, so far.

8:58 PM: I go get my free drink we get with our attendance from the bar. I grab a soda and head back to grandma. She seems frustrated. Class is suppose to end in a half hour and she’s still not done with her undertones. I wish I could help. I don’t want her to hurry too much because I want her painting to turn out well.

9:11 PM: Reflection time over. Artist is back on stage. She quickly discusses how to do the eyes on the animal. It’s very confusing.

IMG_06809:14 PM: I get ahold of one of the artist guides. She re-explains how to do the eyes with me. I mix water with a muddy brown since Murphy had brown eyes. I cover the entire white space with the “muddy water” look.

9:16 PM: Now that the watery eyes have dried, I start to add in some black for the pupils.

9:17 PM: I need a break. I barely did any of the black for the pupils, but I’m getting frustrated because I want his eyes to really look like him.

9:21 PM: I get back to my painting. I just dug in and did the black. I actually like how it’s looking. I add two plops of white in the center.

9:28 PM: It looks like Murphy, but something is missing.

9:31 PM: I call the artist over again.

9:33 PM: The artist helps me add in some teeth for Murphy’s “smile.” He always had this dumbfounded smile on his face. He was always the happiest and most go-lucky dog I’ve ever met. It really helps the painting look like Murphy. My grandma hugs me. What a special way to celebrate such a special dog.

IMG_06829:36 PM: My final painting.

9:45 PM: Grandma isn’t done with her painting, but we had a really great night together. I can’t wait to come back and paint more with her, although none else will compare to being able to paint something so near and dear to my heart.

10649635_710649625674355_2597963123203946061_n9:51 PM: Grandma and I pose for a picture for Canvas and Cabernet.

Working As A Team

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERAPhoto from Flickr, CC by Dawn (Willis) Manser

When moving out for the first time, most people usually pick a roommate. Some people choose their best friend, some a far friend, some a cousin, or maybe a significant other. However, no matter who you pick, it’s important to pick your roommate wisely. Fortunately, I haven’t had a lot of problems with Austin, but I’ve recently realized how glad I am I picked someone I can work well with.

When Austin and I both lost our jobs at Summer Kitchen a couple months ago, our worlds were turned upside down. We both had to quickly find a job that would pay the bills and find something we enjoyed. Five months later and we’re still working on this. Currently, I’m working three jobs and going to school full time. For many reasons, he’s working one job that only pays minimum and going to school full time. This means that I pick up a lot of the financial slack in our relationship and, more importantly, in our household.

This has taught me a lot about working as a team. We both need to work together to pay bills, clean the apartment, etc. and, fortunately, he tries to pick up the household slack while he knows I’m off picking up the financial slack.

Now, I’m not saying this relationship is always perfect. In fact, although this sounds like an even plan, it’s not always and we argue about money and chores. My point, however, is to point out that as well as I feel like we work together, we’re still having arguments about the apartment. I couldn’t imagine trying to do the same with someone who doesn’t want to work with me.

When you move out with someone, you are legally putting your name on a contract that says you owe the complex X amount of dollars each month for X months, until your contract runs out. Whether you lose your job, you argue with your roommate, your roommate isn’t paying their share, etc, the apartment complex doesn’t care. All they care is that they get paid what you promised each month. If you pick a roommate, say your best friend, and she isn’t making enough to pay her share, you will have to. You both need to work together to make a real household and apartment continuous.

Although there will always be hurdles to overcome, whether they be financial, personal, household, school-related, etc., when you’re trying to overcome all these, it’s important to have someone by your side that is going to help you get there, versus someone who is going to let you sink and do it all on your own.

One way to try and overcome these hurdles together is to try and make sure each person is accountable for something. Yes, like in Austin and I’s case, sometimes things happen and pulling your share one way may not be possible. However, there should be a way to share responsibility another way. Try to make a budget and write down who is going to be accountable for what part of the household. Not only will it take stress off of trying to figure things out month by month, but it will help avoid conflicts with each other.

Lesson of the day? Choose your roommate, but choose wisely. Choose very very wisely.

Q&A: Your First Apartment

IMG_0196 IMG_0199
We finally made the decision to move out, but only when it was right for us!


I get a lot of questions about moving out on my own for the first time. It’s a big leap from mom and dad paying the bills to doing it yourself. It’s even harder to know when is the right time for you to take that leap. Today, I’d like to answer some of the questions I get about your first apartment.

Q: How do I know if I can afford moving out?
A: This is the world’s trickiest question, isn’t it? This really is up to you to decide. Austin and I read and read and read about how your rent shouldn’t be more than thirty percent of your income and we constantly were trying to research what to budget out per month. For us, we never really felt the need to move out. Instead, we wanted to and so we took our time in figuring out what was right for us. The best advice I can give is to really give it thought. I know way too many people who just jumped into it without too much thought and are now struggling to make ends meet. Make a budget and then remake your budget. I probably changed Austin and I’s “monthly budget” ten times before we moved out and, now that we are living on our own, it’s way different. Also, be ready for unplanned expenses and try to budget that in now, before it even happens.

Q: How much will utilities cost me?
A: When Austin and I were trying to move out, this was our biggest problem. In order to make an accurate budget, you need to know what things cost and, unfortunately, utilities aren’t the same for everyone and so it’s hard to say. It’s also important to look at what the apartment is going to offer. One apartment we looked at paid for heat. However, the apartment we finally moved into, does not pay for heat. It’s also different depending on the person. The apartment complexes told us to budget about $100 for OPPD and MUD together. However, we’re actually spending about $100 a month just on OPPD. It’s hard to say, so the best response is plan more. Plan $100 for OPPD but also plan another $100 for MUD. When your first MUD bill is only $30, you now have $70 leftover to go out to dinner one night instead of staying in. Plan for the worst. For a more concrete answer, you can call OPPD or MUD and get an estimate for the renters around the area you’re planning on moving into.

Q: Should I get renters insurance?
A: This is a personal preference. However, I think everyone should have renters insurance. When doing my budget before I moved out, I planned an extra $50 a month for insurance. I knew it was something I wanted to have because we were going to have so many valuables with us, I couldn’t imagine my neighbor starting a fire and losing everything I own. However, I only spend $13 a month to insure over $10,000 worth of items. It seems like a no brainer to me, but a lot of people do just fine without it.

Q: Where should I buy cheap furniture?
A: Austin and I didn’t have to do this. Fortunately, we saved for a really long time to move out and were able to buy all brand new furniture. While all our friends were off living in college dorms and away from mom and dad staying out as late as they wanted, we stayed living at home and worked and saved every dime. It was well worth it. However, some of you may not have this option or this time. So, I always suggest Goodwill and Thrift World. They may not sound like the most glorious places on earth to buy your furniture, but a lot of what they sell is really good quality. You can also then go buy brand new couch covers and cover what you found. One other place I’ve found I’ve really enjoyed is “At Home” (also and formerly known as “Garden Ridge“). I shop here all the time. The store offers a lot of discounted prices for items like rugs, desks, lamps, etc.

Moving out for the first time is a big leap and there’s a lot of questions to consider before making the decision. Just remember that the best way to endure the adventure for the first time is to really plan, think, and budget ahead of time.

Weighing the Options

I had intended my first post to talk about some financial hurdles I’m currently trying to overcome. It seems that every time I try to get ahead, I fall even further back and I’m sure I’m not the only one among my readers. However, this last week my boyfriend, Austin, and I made a decision I’d rather talk about.

IMG_0441IMG_0605

When Austin and I moved out three months ago, we went to the Nebraska Humane Society and picked up these little guys. They sent me home with this handout. Alonso is a four month old brown tabby and Fez is a three month old white snowshoe siamese mix.

Last Thursday, I dropped my two wonderful “kids” off at my Veterinarian’s office– claws and all. The very next day I picked them up– doped up, bandages on, and a bag of pain meds with them.

Before I keep going, I know I’m going to get some negative comments. Declawing is a really sensitive subject to a lot of cat owners. So, let me say that this was not an easy decision.

Austin and I tried. We bought a cat post. We used step stools. We sprayed them with water. No matter what we tried, the bottom line was we weren’t home enough to train them. No matter how many articles I found talking about the countries where declawing is illegal or how many people told me that declawing was the same as cutting off human’s knuckles, I couldn’t help but think I needed to do it. Every time I turned around, one of them was still hanging from the bedroom curtains or climbing up the back of the couch.

After seeing how they’ve been trying to heal, I understand the articles and the pictures. I feel mean, but I also know that it’s been really nice to be able to put my real comforter back on my bed without fear of the satin being ripped.

My lesson for the day? I guess I’m not here to say whether you should or shouldn’t declaw. I guess I’m still trying to figure out what I think is best and whether I think I made the right decision or not. Which, ironically, is what I’m still trying to figure out with most aspects in my life.

I think it’s just important, no matter what you’re trying to make a decision about, to really think about everything that’s involved. I think the most important part is making sure to weigh all your options and, if you do, then you make a decision that’s right for you.