The Best Off-Campus Date Destinations For Each Stage in Your Relationship

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Dating in college can be tricky, because it’s hard to tell what other people’s priorities are in those beginning stages. Maybe they’re just looking for someone to hang out with casually. Maybe they’re just looking to try dating. Maybe they’re up for a serious relationship. Of course, even more importantly, you also need to consider what you want out of it! Thankfully, through this process, there are different options to pursue for each stage of the relationship.

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No need to wait for the boy to initiate, for the girl to initiate, or for your friend to decide for you. Dating someone you like is supposed to be fun, but games are probably best kept out of it!

The “Let’s hang out sometime!” Stage

Oh boy. Doesn’t anyone know how to say “I’d like to go on a date with you” anymore? Maybe we’re past that bold statement and we’ve moved on to what’s easier. Or, maybe whomever is initiating this “hang out” is just trying to keep things moving slowly, feeling it out, and waiting to pick up on something from you. Whatever the reason, these casual first “hang outs” should be exactly that: casual!

Pick something simple that will allow for you two to talk and get to know each other before you start getting formal (yes, the dinner and movie can wait!). Maybe take a stroll around your nearby college town, check out that great coffee place downtown that all the locals flock to, or explore a nearby park or nature trail. These off-campus locations are low pressure, fun, and will allow for plenty of conversation!

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Church Street, Burlington VT

 

The “We’re together, but not serious yet” Stage

So you’ve made it clear that you’re interested in going somewhere with this, and you’re past those awkward “what are we?” discussions. Now it’s time to put a little more effort in! Planning something more “official” together, like a dinner out or a movie, shows the other person that you value the time you spend with them and can be a fun way of taking things to the next level.

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Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get fancy in any way! Going out to a great local pizza place, pub, or a valued hot-spot in your college town can be way more fun than the pressure of a fancy dinner!

The Serious, Long-term Stage

At this point, you’re probably happy and lucky enough that every outing feels like a date (awww)! But really, it’s true. Once you’re past the burdens of what you’ve always been told is a proper date (by your favorite middle school romantic comedies), you realize that you guys really can do whatever you want, and the fact that you’re both enjoying spending time together trying something new, exploring, and discovering new things about each other, is what makes it a date. So have fun, and always make sure to enjoy your time together, however you’re spending it!

One way I’ve always showed my boyfriend I care about him is by sharing my OCM care packages with him whenever my mom has sent them along on different holidays or occasions! And with midterms right around the corner for so many college students, now is an ideal time both to send and receive such packages.

 With the promo code BLOGGER10, you’ll save $10 off any order at OCM.com, good through July 1st, 2016! So be sure check out those care packages or any other goodies.

I hope you’ll share them with friends, and of course, your date!! Good luck, and have fun. <3

What is March Madness?

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One of our all-time favorite traditions has to be the month long celebration of school spirit called March Madness! But if you’re not up on your Ducks or Bulldogs, don’t fear! With so many ways to participate, everyone will want to brush up on their college sports history and fun facts. Here’s our breakdown!

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What is March Madness?

March Madness refers to the time in which the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) hosts its annual college basketball tournament. It’s a single-elimination tournament that features 68 of the best Division I teams.

The tournament starts with an event called Selection Sunday where governing members of each conference to determine which of their teams deserve to be sent, based on season play, to the national tournament. They give these teams seeds (or rankings) and assign who will play who. These games are then played over the course of mid-March and into early April .

The excitement of the tournament is so huge that different parts of it have its own designation. For example, Selection Sunday has become a massive event similar to the NFL Draft where fans and alumni gather to watch as their team gets seeded. Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four are also parts you may have heard of as they designate the lead up to the national championship game and crown the winners of the regions.

Then there is the national championship. It’s one of the biggest nights in sports television and often rivals the Olympics and Super Bowl in terms of viewers. Many college campuses, regardless of if there team made it all the way, host watch parties or events. And if you’re lucky enough to see your team pull through, you’ll be guaranteed a lifetime of parties, events, and school spirit lead up.

 

What about that bracket?

One of the most celebrated traditions for March Madness is playing along with a bracket games. Basically, you sit down before the tournament begins to pick out the winner of each matchup. Each correct match-up gets you a point.

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Millions of people attempt to see the future or use their basketball knowledge to win. Even the President famously fills out his bracket for the world to see! But don’t worry if you’re not an expert yet — USA Today says that there is a one in 9.2 quintillion chance of getting the bracket perfect.

The first bracket game was thought to have been played in 1977 at a bar in Staten Island, but now it is a national pastime! Businesses that play along offer huge contest wins like cash or prizes, but many colleges also offer their own versions. If your school is missing out, don’t be afraid to propose a bracket tournament for fun university swag — or even consider hosting a March Madness party yourself!

 

How to Win at March Madness

If your university or college isn’t Division I, don’t be too disappointed. Division II, III, and Junior College tournaments also have their own high-energy championship series. And if your school doesn’t make it, don’t sweat it. March Madness is for everyone — whether you go to your favorite tournament team’s school or not.

Have fun, try your best to pick a winner, and get into the spirit! March Madness as a college student or college-student-to-be is one of the most exciting parts of the school year!

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Let the Countdown Begin! The HS Senior’s Guide to the March Waiting Period

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Hey Seniors: the time is finally here. It’s March, and this month means more than just great basketball, the start of Spring, and St. Patrick’s Day! It’s also time you start the dreaded wait for your college admissions decision. While surviving this countdown month can mean a lot of anxiety and self-doubt, you can get through it by understanding the process. Here’s what you need to know about the March madness that is the college admissions season.

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Every year, colleges receive thousands of applications from around the world hoping to hear back that they’re in. Many admissions offices are flooded and packed come November through January with essays and paperwork or even students doing their interviews.

After February starts, things go quiet, and the real work begins. While you wait patiently (or impatiently), that admissions crew begins sorting students based on their set of guidelines. Every school is different in this process. Some schools favor great recommendations and pull those first while others are sticklers with grades and will only focus on your standardized tests and GPA.

The process of picking the next freshman class is not an easy one. At very selective schools, it can be an emotional and political one at that. It often requires round after round of revisiting one student’s file. Now imagine that times a thousand…there’s a lot to decide!

What You Need to Know

First and foremost, don’t reach out to speed up the process. Admissions offices receive hundreds of calls from anxious students or (worse) their parents looking to see if they can get an answer before the April 1st send-out date. Don’t be that person. Most schools advertise when you’ll get your decision back, so keep that in mind before you ring up your contact.

Secondly on the don’t-do list is to not freak out. Sure, waiting for something as life changing as a college admissions letter is tough and nerve-wracking. But, you can use the month of March to focus on the present. Put your energy into finishing your midterm paper or preparing for a competition. You can even take up a new hobby to pass the time, such as an art class or learning how to play the guitar. Just distract yourself from the potential stress.

Third piece of advice: don’t forget your friends! They’ll need you as much as you need them. One of the best parts about being a senior is having a whole group of people to commiserate with. If you have the time, consider throwing a pre-admissions party where you get together and celebrate each other’s accomplishments before your letters come in. It may just be the pick-up to your self esteem you need to countdown the days.

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Finally, you can also use March to think about the alternatives out there. The truth is that your dream school may not be the right school, and in that case, it doesn’t hurt to have a backup plan. Investigate your local community or junior college, or read up on your safety’s school’s rolling or late admissions policies. Just because you didn’t get your dream school doesn’t mean you can’t make great memories somewhere else. Explore your options!

 

Making it through March is all about the mindset. By understanding the process of admissions, staying away from the temptation of reaching out too soon, and trying to stay positive in the face of silence, you can survive the wait without going crazy.

 

Daylight Savings Tips for Night Owls

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We’ll give you the good news first: your days are about to get brighter a bit earlier. But to get there, you’re going to lose an hour of sleep during the night. Daylight Savings Time (DST) signals a lot of good things, like the coming of Spring and warm weather. Night owls like us, however, often associate it with the pain of adjusting our clocks and our bodies to a different routine. Luckily, there are some tricks you can do to make the transition more easy for you. Here’s how.

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  1. Start Early

One of the best things you can do to survive DST is to start tonight. Forget setting clocks back on Sunday. Instead, set it back tonight. Practice getting up an hour earlier or to bed a bit sooner. If that seems too drastic, transition slowly by going to bed/waking up 15 minutes earlier for the rest of the week. Come Sunday, you’ll be already set.

  1. Build New (and Better) Sleep Habits

DST is the perfect time to evaluate your sleep habits — both good and bad. For example, set yourself an actual bedtime. I know, lame. But having a set “goal” time in mind can help you focus on getting better sleep. A fitness tracker that looks at your sleep may also help you note how productive your sleep is so that you can make a change (such as a quieter alarm or less interruptions while trying to fall asleep). Shoot for seven to nine hours as your starting point.

 

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  1. Cut Out the Caffeine

Don’t worry! We’re not telling you to leave behind that sacred cup of coffee you survive on. However, you should consider saying no past dinnertime. While caffeine can be great little mood booster, you know too that it will keep you up and moving, even when you don’t want to be. And caffeine jitters when you first wake up will only make you feel more drowsy.

  1. Refresh Your Bedding

DST signals the start of Spring, which brings to mind Spring Cleaning. One thing to get rid of during this time is your ratty old comforter and sheets. Even that lumpy college mattress could get a boost from a padded mattress protector. And don’t forget about decorations! A sleeping space should be a calm and peaceful place. Go with dim lighting and maybe even some noise canceling headphones.

 

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  1. Soak in the Sun

The vitamins you get from the sun will not only help you during the day with improving your energy and mood, but it will also help your body transition into night. By focusing on spending as much time outdoors, your body will respond to the patterns as it should. And you’ll wake up feeling even more raring to go. Your best bet is to exercise outside during the day when your body is at its peak and when that activity won’t keep you too pumped at night.

  1. Hydrate Yourself

Water is really the cure for everything — including DST blahs. Make sure you keep a bottle of water with you at all times and drink whenever you’re thirsty. A great way to know if you’re getting enough is to use a bottle that has measuring lines or to keep track on an app. Your body needs roughly 40% of your body weight in ounce of water to run at its best and to reduce that tired, out-of-it feeling us DST night owls know all too well.

 

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Daylight Savings Time is inevitable – while there are some states who may not even observe it (hi, Arizona), most of the US is ready to turn their clocks forward come this Saturday night. If you haven’t already taken our advice, change your clock back now! Even night owls need sleep.

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Parent’s Corner: Top 4 St. Patrick’s Day Care Packages

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Every college student needs a little luck and love in their lives! That’s why some of our favorite care and gift packages are sent out right around the St Patrick’s Day holiday! With green and gold lifting spirits during midterms and paper due dates, there is no better time than to say “I’m thinking of you” than the 17th of March. If you want to send some love to your college student but can’t do it in person, try these four favorite St Patrick’s Day themed care packages.

 

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  1. Leapin’ Leprechaun

Want to make your student’s friends green with envy? The Leapin’ Leprechaun package is the way to go! It’s stuffed with uniquely themed candies, such as Elfkins from Keebler, gold chocolates, and Double Mint gum. Then, there are favorite study snacks to help them make their own luck such as Sun Chips and Skittles. So whether they have a sweet or a salty tooth, the package’s got you covered. But for extra fun, the Leprechauns also added a personal touch with a green bead necklace and a pair of shamrock glasses so they’re not at risk of being pinched on the day of.

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  1. Blarney Charm

What’s “blarney” you ask? Blarney comes from the legend that if you kiss the Blarney stone in Ireland, you’re sure to be granted the “gift of gab” (or great talking skills). That’s why the Blarney Charm care package is made for your college student and their many presentations and oral reports! But instead of kissing a stone thousands of miles away, they can just chow down on their favorite, gold standard candies and treats! From cookies like Oreos and Chips Ahoy to chips such as Pringles and Doritos, your favorite college student won’t be more thankful to “luck into” such an awesome package!

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  1. St. Pat’s and More

Okay, St. Patrick’s Day is just one holiday, and it comes and goes so quickly. If you’re dedicated to giving your college student a thrill of a surprise on not just the 17th, why not go the extra mile and plan out the rest of the semester? With the St. Pat’s and More package, you’re not just getting a green filled box of goodies, but you’re also pre-ordering our favorite Easter and Spring Energy packages too!

Each one has some of your student’s most favorite snacks. For example, St. Patrick’s Day contains Charms Blow Pops, Chips Ahoy cookies, and a cute “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button! Easter is filled to the brim with chocolate and Cadbury eggs, gummy carrots, and classic Jelly Belly Jelly Beans. And, just when they need it the most, they’ll receive a package made to boost spirits and lower study-related hunger pains with Smarties, Teddy Grahams, popcorn, and Nutella spread.

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  1. Mrs. Fields St. Patrick’s Day Forested Basket

But what if candy and chips aren’t your student’s thing? What if you want to surprise more than one student, such as a roommate or a study group? St. Patrick’s Day doesn’t just have to be about solo gifts! With the Mrs. Fields St. Patrick’s Day Frosted Basket, you can send everyone’s favorite themed cookies right to your student’s door. Good enough for 12, you can feed an entire village of Leprechauns!

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College & Your Credit Score: Ways to Improve “Real-World” Spending

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In our first part of “College and Your Credit Score,” we talked about what your credit score is and why college kids should care. If you want to get ready (and ahead) in the real world of spending, follow these five simple steps to get your finances in check before graduation.

 

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Apply for the right credit

Before you can get a credit score, you need credit. One of the easiest ways to do this is to apply for a credit card. While you can apply for your own if you’re 18 or older, you may want to consider asking your parents (so long as they have good financial sense) to add you to their card or become a cosigner on yours. This will help keep you from overspending.

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If you already have credit, and it’s not very good, make sure you shop around for a card that offers low interest, as well as no signup or maintenance fees. Over time, these extra, hidden fees can add up and cost you even more.

Learn your limits

During your first few months with a credit card, you may be torn on how and when to use it. Make sure you use as much caution as possible. Start by making a budget. Add up your paychecks and any other income, and subtract whatever you spent. If you earned more than you spent, you’re on the right track. If your expenses are exceeding your income, however, make sure you’re extremely diligent with your cards so you don’t end up using them to cover your overages.

Once you know how much you can spend, try using your card only for essential purchases — items like groceries or gas. Each purchase will boost your credit score as long as you stay within your budget.

Develop good habits

Good credit habits start with paying off your credit card each month. When you’re starting off, you’ll want to pay all of your balance back. This will keep you from accruing extra interest or fees on your purchases. One way to do this is to go in daily or weekly and pay off whatever you spent.

If you develop a good habit like paying off your expenses, you may be able to carry a little debt down the road. Just remember that your credit-to-debt ratio should be as low as possible. A 10% ratio (for example, $100 on a card with a limit of $1,000) is considered healthy and won’t overwhelm you when you try to pay it back.

 

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Good habits will also help you when it comes to your student loans. Because you’re not paying back your loans now, it’s easy to forget that they are there. If you have the extra income and ability to do so, you can start building your credit now by simply paying off a bit of your student loans each month.

Check up on your finances

Knowing what your credit score is can be tricky. Your bank won’t tell you, your mom won’t know, and apps or add-ons from the credit card companies will only give you an estimate based on their knowledge of you.  Luckily, you can check your credit score for free once a year by visiting annualcreditreport.com. You should do this at the same time every year (a good idea is the New Years).

When you look over your score, also look at the credit lenders and payments made. It should be accurate and list all of your lenders. If you see something unfamiliar, you may be a victim of credit fraud (which can severely damage your finances if you don’t act quickly). If you see something incorrect, call the number listed for the three credit bureaus and ask for a review. They will walk you through how to report something inaccurate or a possible identity theft.

By starting to build your credit score now by checking your numbers, building good habits, and learning the basics, you can have a great head start on the real world. After all, your finances start to matter now, so there’s no time to lose!

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College and Your Credit Score: Why It’s Important

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You’ve probably heard your parents talk about their credit score, and there’s always news reports and articles out there on how to get a better one. But, do you know what a credit score is, and why – as a college student – you should care? As an important part of managing your personal finance, having an understanding of how this score can affect you can save you down the road. Here’s what you need to know about your credit score.

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What is a credit score?

Credit is any money loaned to you. This could be the credit card you carry around, or the loan you used to pay off your college tuition bill. The history you have with this credit is looked at and evaluated, and just like your tests, you are given a number based on how you have handled and managed it by three credit bureaus – TransUnion, Equifax, & Experian.

That number is your credit score. It ranges from a 300-850, 300 being the lowest and 850 being perfect. The average person should shoot for a 700 or better — roughly the equivalent of a B on a grading scale.

How do you get a credit score?

Your credit score number is determined by many factors. As a younger person with not much history (that is time having credit), your score will most likely start lower in the 5-600 range. To build it up, you will need to have a good payment history and a low debt-to-credit ratio. For example, if you have a credit card with an available balance of $1,000 and you carry a balance of only $200 after making minimum monthly payments on-time each month, your debt-to-credit ratio is 200/1000 or 20%.

However, getting a credit score isn’t that easy. As you may have noticed from applying for student loans without an already established credit score, you may need someone to cosign with you on your loans or credit cards. This is because history is on your side. If you do not have a credit card or loan of some sort, you’ll never get a credit score, and that could hurt you in the future.

Why it’s important to a college student

So why not go without? Why not just avoid credit scores altogether by sticking to your debit card or paying cash?
For one, paying in cash may not be available to you in the future. For example, your car breaks down and you need one to get to work. You can pay for much of it in cash, but you don’t have the funds to pay the rest. Having a credit score can help you get a car loan to pay the rest.

In addition, that credit score will determine the amount of interest you pay. So for that car loan, having a credit score of 500 may mean paying thousands more in interest over time than if you had a good credit history and credit score of 700. This is especially important for larger loans such as your student loans for graduate school or if you decide to buy a home.

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And there are other repercussions too! Many landlords look at your credit score to determine if you will pay rent on time, or if you have the history to show responsibility for a regular expense.  Not having a credit score or having an extremely low one may make your chances of getting an apartment or building wealth on your own practically impossible.

As a college student, it is important to consider building both your credit and credit history now. One option is to apply for a very small credit card which you only use for emergencies or a few essential purchases here and there. Pay it back every month and build up your on-time payments. By the four years of college, you’ll have a strong score that will ensure you’re ready for what waits you and your money after graduation.

This is a two-part post on the importance of establishing credit while still attending college. For tomorrow’s post, we’ll outline some tips you can use to make sure you’re able to build (and keep) good credit.

A Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting It Done

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Whether or not we like to admit it, we’ve all been there- our planners are full with assignments, papers and exams, and we just can’t seem to get started with any of it. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by a heavy workload; the good news is, there are ways to combat your tendencies to procrastinate! Take note of the tips below, and you’ll be on your way to getting it done!

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1.) Keep an organized planner

I don’t know where I’d be without my planner. I write down all my assignments, along with reminders of due dates, meetings, exams, etc. The truth is, I would forget most of that stuff without this trusted, reliable strategy!  Maintaining a well organized planner will let you stay on top of your workload and schedule at home and on the go, relieving your mind from the burden of remembering. Also, explore using a separate wall calendar to schedule your next study session, and to further ensure you’re always caught up. Constant reminders of your ever-changing to-do list will lessen your chances of falling down the black hole of procrastination.  Imagine what you could do with all that extra brain power!

2.) Set a designated study time

Throughout the week, I do my homework after dinner every night. Establishing a routine is a crucial step for me in staying on top of my workload! While everyone works differently and relies on different methods, procrastination is at a much higher risk if you decide to wing it. Making some sort of plan for getting work done in relation to your daily schedule is a big step towards resisting procrastination habits!

3.) Find a study spot

Along the same lines as setting a designated time to study, setting a designated place is just as helpful in establishing and sticking to a routine! By finding a good study spot (which should be as free of noise and crowds as possible!) and studying there routinely, you will be far more productive in this place that you associate with working.

 

What are some of your favorite strategies for staying on top of your workload and avoiding procrastination?

Good luck, and let’s start kicking that procrastination to the curb!

 

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3 Recipe Ideas for Girl’s Night In

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Say goodbye to the boys, and call up your girlfriends! It’s time for a much-needed girl’s night in! Girl’s nights are perfect for reconnecting with your pals while saving money on expensive dinners out or takeout meals. With the following three dorm-friendly, party-appropriate recipes, you can really wow your lady friends while cutting down time and energy.

 

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Individual Pita Pizzas and Cheese Sticks

One of our favorite parts about going out with the girls is grabbing an awesome pizza and splitting it amongst friends. However, a pizza a week can sure add up, especially if you have friends who are picky on their pizza toppings and would rather get individual servings.

Instead of ordering in, spend your dollars on making your own, dorm friendly pizzas with no oven required. Pita pizzas are perfect for those who love thin crust style pizza, and you can find pita bread in most grocery stores. Purchase cheese and sauce for your party and have your girls bring their favorite toppings to share (such as pineapple, pepperoni, veggies, and more!).

 

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When you’re ready to cook, microwave for about a minute and a half (or until cheese is melted), and you’ve got the perfect instant pizza!

You can even make your own classic cheese stick appetizers to pair with the pizzas using just a microwave and a few ingredients. Take cheese sticks from the dairy aisle and roll them in beaten egg coating. Then, sprinkle with breadcrumbs and spices (such as garlic or red pepper flakes) and place in the microwave for 10 second intervals until they feel soft and warm. They’ll taste just like the real thing!

Make-Your-Own Taco and Nacho Buffet

Everybody loves customizing their own dinner! Try putting together a taco or nacho buffet that allows the girls to pick and choose their own toppings. Some of our favorites include freshly diced tomatoes, lime slices, refried beans, and nacho cheese.

 

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To make the meat, you’ll just need a stove top. You can even use a friend’s rice cooker in a pinch if your dorm doesn’t have a stove or cooktop for you to use. Estimate about ¼ lb. per guest when you purchase the meat. Brown it on low heat in a teaspoon of oil for a few minutes. Use a fork or spatula to keep it from clumping in large chunks. You can even add taco seasoning from a spice bag if you really want to amp it up.

If your friends are trying to eat healthier, skip the beef and go with ground turkey or chicken. Or, you can change it up and go veggie style by making black beans and lentils in your microwave. Just follow the instructions on the back of the can or bag!

Buttery Shrimp Pasta

For luxurious nights in or a spa night, you won’t want to mess with make-your-own anything. Instead, serve up something absolutely decadent like a buttery shrimp pasta that your guests will swear is catered in.

Pasta is great go-to meal for college students. You’ll just need some boiling water and fettuccini or angel hair noodles to make it happen. Prepare the pasta first and then set aside someplace warm.

 

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For the shrimp, you’ll want to purchase deveined and peeled medium sized version (about a pound per 5 guests), but defrost long before you get started. Sprinkle salt and pepper on them and then cook in a skillet with butter. For extra flavor, add in some garlic and/or oregano to taste while the shrimp cook for about 3-5 minutes (or until the shrimp are no longer cold).

Then, take a half stick of butter and roughly ¼ cup of parmesan cheese and melt together in the microwave. Add the shrimp to the pasta and top with the cheese and the butter, and you’ve got a dish your friends will be asking for seconds of!

 

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