Remember when back-to-school shopping for college students used to be pretty easy? You would make the drive to Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond and fill your cart with shower baskets, storage crates and a neat alarm clock? Nowadays, trips to Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond have been replaced by visits to Apple and Radio Shack as desktop computers and books for pleasure have slowly been replaced by tablets and Kindles.
Many industry pros out there have been fashioning back-to-school lists for coeds, delineating the “must have” education technology items from the “could be nice but not necessary” gadgets.
1. A good ol’ laptop
This may seem pretty obvious but it’s not when you consider the fact that iPads and HP tablets are steadily replacing the trusty laptop. But let’s be honest. Laptops are still a pivotal part of the college experience. From sitting on the quad with your laptop doing homework with your peers to looking up cool YouTube videos with your dorm mates, a trusty laptop is emblematic of school life. And who wants to be that strange college freshman who is trying to look cooler than everyone with their iPad? Not to mention, who wants to take all their notes and write six-page essays on a touch screen?
While everyone has his/her personal preferences for laptops, here are some “musts”: a webcam so that you can Skype with your friends at other schools (and, of course, mom and dad); a trusty battery life so that you can successfully get through the two-hour long Bio lecture in a room with limited outlets; and a light laptop so that you do not feel stressed at the thought of trekking your laptop from the north side of campus to the south end.
2. Substitute the TV for the monitor
While in the Days of Yore, roommates would fight over who would be tasked with schlepping the TV to college, students nowadays don't need a dedicated TV. Instead, they need an all-encompassing computer monitor with either DVI or S-Video and HDMI ports. By trading in the TV for the computer monitor, kids can enjoy more workspace while still being able to plug in their gaming consoles and Blu-ray players.
3. A trusty flash drive
I cannot count the number of times my Dad told me to back up all my Microsoft Word documents and then how many times my laptop crashed and I lost everything. (It was particularly horrific when I lost a 17-page study guide for my Communications Law class the day before I had to take a final on libel laws and morality clauses). The moral of this story is to make sure that, along with iPods, headphones and Kindles, your kids are equipped with a flash drive or USB drive.
This simple device can be the most valuable vault of information if used correctly. And trust me, not even the school’s computer geek teams can retrieve everything.
So here’s what’s on my “Could be nice but not necessary” list: smartphones (not only are they extremely cost prohibitive but they are huge distracters); E-Readers (most colleges offer discounted books anyways); printers (printing stuff in the computer clusters is pretty effortless in college); and alarm clocks (because who really uses them over their cell phones anymore?).