How to create great care packages for your students

You see her friendly face so you know who wrote this. Yes, it’s our awesome intern Alicia Hooks at it again. Today, she writes about creating good care packages for your students.

Rising costs in education mean that college student is synonymous with broke, poor and no food. We know this, and so do our parents. This is why receiving a care package is so important.

 In my family’s case, I usually receive a large envelope filled with all the mail I’ve missed, colored pictures from my little sisters, and occasionally money to help fill my gas tank. Since his first year, my friend Matt Houp has received an assortment of things in the mail:  

  • Cookies (oatmeal, chocolate chip, etc.)
  • Brownies
  • Fruit basket
  • Hot wheels race cars
  • A Kimono
  • A loaf of banana bread
  • The soundtrack to Easy Rider
  • A harmonica
  • A kazoo

In his most recent care package from his mom, he received a bag of socks, a few t-shirts, a new wallet and tickets to this weekend’s Pitt Football game.

Student Dani Erdley receives an occasional card from her mom filled with encouraging words, updates from home, newspaper clippings, and spending money. “What I look forward to most,” Dani says, “are her letters just telling me about what’s going on at home or how her week is going, I just enjoy hearing from her no matter how simple the letter may be.”

 So, a word to parents and friends out there: Send someone you know in college a letter, a kazoo, a poster, anything that shows them they’re on your mind. Yes, money is important for those midnight runs to Pizza Hut, but oftentimes the simplest things are those we enjoy the most.

 Here are a few more ideas:

And, as always, if you have some to share, please let us know.


Helping your son or daughter prepare for the SAT/ACT

If your college-bound son or daughter hasn’t taken the SAT or ACT test yet, he or she will soon. What exactly is it? Well, pretty much everything you need to know comes from the CollegeBoard.

 Why are SATs and ACTs so important? According to Alex Nazemetz, director of admissions at Pitt-Bradford, the test results determine your son or daughter’s eligibility for admission. Also, in some cases, the tests results help college and university officials place your son or daughter in certain levels of math or English, which will help him or her during the first year of college.

What can you do to help them prepare? Sylvan Learning offers video suggestions in two parts.

Part I:

Part II:

What else can you do to help? Encourage your son or daughter to:

  • Take challenging courses.
  • Read and improve his or her vocabulary.
  • Get familiar with the testing format.
  • Look into low-cost or free preparation classes before paying for any expensive test preparation.
  • Find out how much weight is placed on the test results by the colleges he or she is considering.

If you’re already been through this with your son or daughter and have some suggestions, please send them our way and we’ll share with everyone.

How you can prepare for the SAT/ACT

It’s that time, when high school students like you take the SAT or ACT.  Why are these important? According to Alex Nazemetz, Pitt-Bradford’s director of admissions, the test results help colleges and universities determine your eligibility for admission. Also, in many cases, those test results help officials place you in the appropriate level of math or English, which will ultimately help you during your first year of school.

How do you get started?

My College Options  offers several suggestions:

  • Take SAT and ACT prep test during your sophomore year to help you with your test-taking abilities.
  • Hire a tutor to help you.
  • Take a prep course, which will give you sample tests so you’ll know what kinds of questions you’ll be facing.
  • Use the SAT and ACT study books, which include study tips and practice tests.
  • Play Zero Hour Threat, an SAT/ACT video game. Really. There is such a game.    

My College Options also offers two downloadable guides – one for the SAT and one for the ACT that you may find helpful.

And, when test time has come, there are things you can do the night before the test to prepare:

  • Relax. You’ve been preparing for quite awhile now. Now is the time to relax your mind. Take a walk. Watch a movie.
  • Be ready. Make sure you have everything ready the night before so you’re not scrambling in the morning to find your keys or your wallet. And, make sure you wear comfortable clothes. You’re going to be there for awhile. Wearing something uncomfortable won’t help.
  • Pack a bag. Make sure you have enough pencils. Pack a calculator. Bring scratch paper. Bring a bottle of water and a light snack like a granola bar if you think you’ll need them.
  •  Sleep well. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep. Your body and mind will need to be well rested so you can perform well.

Now, go get ‘em. You’re going to be great.

If you’ve already taken the test and have some advice to share please let us know.

How to avoid the Freshman 15

Is it easy to avoid that additional weight gain? Well, it’s not as hard as you might think. Many ways to avoid the Freshman 15 are just plain old common sense.

For example, make herbal tea instead of a cream-filled latte, or blot your pizza with a napkin to absorb additional grease. Here are some more interesting suggestions:

Dr. Charles Stuart Platkinwho is also known as the Diet Detective, offers several tips:  

Eat regularly

It’s easy to skip meals when you’re running from class to class. But by skipping meals, you’re making yourself more vulnerable to pig-outs at 2 a.m. when your roommate or friend has ordered pizza. Our bodies need food throughout the day, not just at the end.

Carry a healthy snack

Put a little protein in your backpack, which will make it easier for you to resist junk food. Try packing low-calorie cheese, freeze-dried fruit, nonfat yogurt, small plastic bags of dry cereal.

Don’t skip breakfast

Remember to start your day with food, and try to pack it with protein.

Practice portion control

If you eat out of a bag or box, you never really know how much you’ve eaten, which means you’ll likely eat too much. You’ll be better off if you take out one serving and put the rest away.

Watch liquid calories

These really add up fast. And, once you’ve had a few drinks, you’ll want to eat more, so it’s a double-whammy. Twelve ounces of beer contains about 150 calories. If you have three beers, that’s 450 calories. It adds up quickly.

Avoid late-night snacking

It’s tempting to snack while studying, but you can resist the temptation by getting a small refrigerator for your room so you can store your own foods.


You need to exercise. Most universities have great facilities with fitness machines, weights, and swimming pools. If you can’t find the time, you can also work out in your room with an exercise DVD. And, of course, you can still walk whenever and wherever you can.

Out of sight, out of mind

Keep unhealthy snacks out of sight. It’s much easier to eat the snacks you see.

Choose food wisely

 Keep an eye out for healthy food in the dining hall. It’s there, but you may have to look beyond the ice cream machine or the French fries.

If you have any suggestions please let us know.

What the heck is the Freshman 15?

It’s Thanksgiving week. The week we think of turkey, stuffing, and heaping piles of buttery mashed potatoes followed up by thick wedges of pumpkin pie with lots of whipped cream.

Of course, we’d like to be able to eat all of that and still fit into our jeans, which might be a challenge. If this is your first year on campus, you may have already experienced some weight gain. If you haven’t gotten to campus yet, you might want to know a little more about the famed Freshman 15.

What is the Freshman 15?

It’s the term that is used for the weight gain that many college freshmen experience in their first term or first year of school. 

There are several causes of the Freshman 15:

  • Lack of exercise
  • Latte-night snacking
  • Keeping and eating unhealthy snacks
  • Making unhealthy choices in the school’s dining hall
  • Drinking too much alcohol

to help you, including one to track your calories and another to tell you how many calories you’ve burned while on the treadmill. And many of them are free.  

And don’t panic. Most first-year students don’t gain 15 pounds. In fact, a recent study in Social Science Quarterly dispels the myth that freshmen gain 15 pounds, noting instead that the average weight gain during the first year of college is between 2.4 and 3.5 pounds.

Regardless of the average weight gain, we’re here to help. On Wednesday, we’ll give you some suggestions on what you gain do to avoid it.

Of course, if you have any suggestions we can share, please let us know.

Yummy T-giving recipe for college students – Part II

On Monday, we gave you the recipe for prosciutto, spinach and Swiss rounds from our friend Amanda Kelps, managing editor of our student newspaper, The Source.

Today, we share Amanda’s recipe for hazelnut and raspberry sandwich cookies. According to Amanda, it’s not a bad idea for college students to bring a dish to Thanksgiving dinner, whether they’re eating with family or friends.

Hazelnut and Raspberry Sandwich Cookies


  • 1 box vanilla wafer cookies
  • 1 small jar of chocolate/hazelnut spread (Nutella)
  • 1 jar of raspberry jam
  • Powdered sugar

Apply a dime-sized amount of Nutella on the flat side of a vanilla wafer, spreading it thinner in the middle of the cookie to make a divot into which you can dollop the dime-sized bit of raspberry jam. Spread a thin layer of Nutella on the flat side of another wafer and gently press the two wafers together. Remember to press just until they stick together or you’ll get oozing out of the sides. (“If that happens, eat that one and start a fresh one,” Amanda says.)

Repeat until you have all of the cookies you will need. Arrange them on a platter and dust with powdered sugar. If you’re not sure of the best way to dust, Amanda says you can poke two dozen tiny holes in a piece of plastic wrap, put a handful of powdered sugar in the middle of the wrap, then twist the ends. Gently shake the pouch over the cookie sandwiches to dust.

Letting these cookies sit for more than a few hours will begin to change their texture from crisp to soft and crumbly, so if you want to bring crisp cookies to dinner you should prepare these right before the dinner bell rings.

If you try these, let us know how they turned out. Of course, you could always bring some in for us to try.

Yummy T-giving recipe for college students — Part I

We happened to notice in the most recent edition of our student newspaper, The Source, that managing editor Amanda Kleps, a public relations major from Bradford, wrote a great article suggesting her fellow students consider making a dish and taking it to Thanksgiving dinner to impress their family or host. (As a longtime cook of Thanksgiving dinner, we love this idea.)

“The Source wants to help you make a good impression no matter where you’re eating on turkey day, so consider making one or both of these recipes to take as proof of your blossoming etiquette skills,” she wrote. “And the best part about preparing either of these is that they are no-bake and low-tech, perfect for the college student on the go.”

Amanda generously allowed us to publish those recipes here. We are offering one today. The next – hazelnut and raspberry sandwich cookies – will be published Wednesday.

Prosciutto, Spinach and Swiss Rounds


  • One eight-count package of flour tortillas
  • One package sliced prosciutto
  • One package cheese wedges (We used Laughing Cow sun-dried tomato and garlic and herb variety.)
  • One  package fresh spinach leaves washed

Spread one wedge of cheese in an even layer over the tortilla. After tearing off the little stems of the spinach, lay a single layer of spinach leaves over the cheese spread. Cut one slice of prosciutto into four long strips, layering one strip near the right side of the tortilla, another about two inches from the left side, and the remaining two strips in between.

Turn the tortilla so the side with the prosciutto on the edge is parallel with your body then begin tightly rolling the tortilla, stuffing things back in or removing runaway spinach leaves as needed. Wrap the roll in plastic wrap, closing the edges so the wrap doesn’t dry out. Refrigerate immediately and let set for at least one hour and up to 24 hours.

Before serving, slice rollups into ½-inch thick slices. Arrange on a decorate plate.

We hope you enjoy these. If you try them, let us know how they turned out.