If you have children or grandchildren or know of other students headed off to college in the fall, it’s important for them to know what computers or other technology items they should take with them.
Knowing what NOT to take is probably even more important.
I get asked this fairly frequently in my role at Carthage in information technology.
Here are some thoughts to consider:
Find out what your college will provide
There aren’t many colleges these days that provide laptops for their students, but there are some, so see if the college will provide equipment or software or both.The more they provide, the less you will need to spend on your own.
Carthage, for example, provides anti-virus software and Microsoft Office to all of its students at no cost.
See if your college has recommendations
They may have a website with recommended hardware or software, or they may have someone you can talk to.
Recommendations may vary depending on the subject area you intend to study.
For example, graphic design students may need to use a Macintosh platform, while business students should steer toward a Windows computer.
Remember your priorities
If you are purchasing a laptop for college, remember that doing homework is the priority over streaming video like Netflix or playing video games.
It might be tempting to get a big Alienware desktop to take to college and rationalize that you can type your papers on it, but a desktop won’t allow you to bring your computer to class to take notes or do in-class activities.
Understand the difference between a real computer and a Chromebook or tablet
An iPad or a Chromebook may seem like an ultra-portable tool for note-taking, video streaming and other simple tasks, but if you need to use specific software for a class (SPSS statistics software, the full-blown version of Excel or software specific to your textbook) it may not run on an iPad, Chromebook or tablet. Instead, unless your college says differently, choose a laptop computer that runs either Windows or MacOS.
Ask what NOT to bring
If you are living on campus, most colleges provide Wi-Fi signal to connect, so you will not need a wireless router in your dorm room.
In fact, many colleges (including Carthage) do not allow you to bring your own router.
Other undesirable items include wireless printers, personal assistants (Alexa, Echo, etc.) or equipment that might put out Wi-Fi signals that will confuse other people’s computers or invade their privacy.
We were recently asked for help connecting a colored light bulb to the internet. Not kidding.
Best to leave those things at home. If you need your own printer, get one that you can connect to using a USB cable.
Get helpful accessories
When buying a Mac laptop, consider the AppleCare warranty extension.
Invest in a protective cover and a nice padded laptop bag for whatever laptop or other device that you get. These will help keep your laptop safe and prevent damage.
Carol Sabbar is the director of computer services at Carthage College. Send email to email@example.com.