Preparing for College: Tech Essentials for Freshman Year

If you are about to send your child off to college, keep in mind that the past few years have brought about a whole new way of thinking about electronics. You’ll want to be sure your children have the tech they need to succeed, as well as the fun tech for entertainment and distraction when they are done studying. Gone are the days of lugging a TV, a bookshelf stereo system, and a desktop computer with huge CRT monitor, into a dorm room. Today’s freshmen have grown up in a world of smartphones, laptops and Netflix. Their needs are more compact.


Here are some college necessities for today’s freshmen:

  • Be sure that both you and your student have webcams for your computers. Many laptops and tablets have built-in cameras, but if you don’t have a built-in camera for the desktop back home, you’ll need one to use for video calling–Skype, Apple Facetime or Google Hangouts–to see the face of the child who is now far from home.
  • Before investing in expensive software for your student’s computer, check out Microsoft Office 365 University. Instead of a one-year license for $99 for Microsoft Word, Outlook, Excel and Powerpoint, University will cost $70 for four years and can be downloaded on two computers.  You will need a student address or other proof of enrollment in order to activate the software.
  • After working on a project or term paper all semester, your student would be devastated to have all that hard work disappear because of a computer crash (either a software failure or from falling off a bike).  Be sure to pick up an external USB hard drive and backup software so they can automatically save a copy of all of their work. Western Digital’s Passport Ultra will save a copy to the cloud in case anything was to happen to the drive.  A Pogoplug drive can automatically back up files and make them available online, so your student doesn’t have to carry the drive around in order to access it from a class or the library.
  • For students studying graphic arts, photography or filmmaking, a hard drive with over 1TB of memory will be needed for all the big files. For students who are simply writing papers and have few photos to backup, a USB flash thumb drive with 64 GB of memory may be enough. Still, while a thumb drive can attach to a key ring, it can be lost in a purse or backpack. An external hard drive with 320 GB will cost under $50 and can be kept in a carrying case.
  • A smartphone and a laptop or tablet can take the place of a number of other electronic devices that we once considered necessary in dorm rooms.  An alarm app can take your place in waking your student up in time for classes (or, perhaps, during boring classes). A laptop can play DVDs or stream videos. Still, a few extras can be fun and useful.  An iHome docking station or Geneva Bluetooth alarm clock and speaker can be used instead of a traditional radio alarm clock.  Bluetooth portable speakers can fill a dorm room with toe-tapping tunes in quality audio.  Noise-cancelling headphones can help them study even as rambunctious roommates rave, or keep the room quiet when they are watching a movie as their roomie pulls an all-nighter. Headphones with a microphone on the cable can be used for late-night Skype calls, too.
  • A recent study from youth-focused research firm “Ypulse” showed that more than half of college freshman have no interest in subscribing to cable TV. They are satisfied with streaming their entertainment from their parents’ Netflix account, or watching TV shows from Hulu or online websites. While gathering around a 15-inch laptop is acceptable, a 27-inch attached monitor is better to watch videos and may be useful in their school work. Alternatively, they can connect a Roku box to the monitor’s HDMI port for online streaming entertainment. Be sure the monitor has speakers or can be connected to speakers.
  • Of course, the most important tech for a college student is a computer. Powerful tablets can do most tasks typically done by a computer.  Next week, I’ll explore the pros and cons of laptops versus tablets.  Good Luck with School! - Barb Gonzalez ~ The Simple Tech Guru

Read Barb’s Recent Blogs & Guides

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