Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sending Your Child to College 101: Student Electronic Needs

Note from Susan: It’s that time of year … graduation! Most likely, you know someone who’s graduating from high school this year and heading off to college. Maybe it’s even a child of your own! My oldest son graduated from high school in 2008, and we started asking ourselves what his electronic needs would be for college. My parents came to the rescue by getting him a new laptop as a graduation present. He loves it and uses it exclusively now instead of his desktop. He can take it to class or the campus library, or sit in bed doing homework with his computer in his lap. Marie Pinak Carr, who coauthored the book, Sending Your Child to College: The Prepared Parent’s Operational Manual, wrote the following article about the essential electronic products that college-bound students will need.

Sending Your Child to College 101: Student Electronic Needs
By Marie Pinak Carr

The 2009 graduating class is perhaps the most technologically savvy class of students to date, and bringing these skills to college is increasingly important. Below are 5 essentials that every student will need.

1. Computers -- They’re expensive, but every student will need one, and many computer manufacturers and colleges offer student discounts. Students need to inquire and take student IDs with them when purchasing. Today’s computers can multitask. I suggest investing in some external speakers, and if the computer doesn’t have an internal DVD/CD-ROM drive, purchase an external one. Now the computer can double as an entertainment center, playing both music and allowing one to watch movies or TV on it. Modern monitors can also be hooked up to cable, and used as a screen for watching TV. In this case the keyboard controls act as a TV remote for changing channels. If your computer contains a webcam, you can use it to webchat with the free downloadable program Skype. Skype offers visual and auditory communication through computers.

A word of caution: Unauthorized downloading, uploading or possession of copyrighted material, including songs and movies, is illegal. Use of file-sharing programs has exposed students to costly lawsuits from record and movie industry groups.

2. Ethernet cable
-- Plan on purchasing a 14-foot Ethernet cable. This will be sufficient for almost every situation to connect your student’s computer to the college network in the dorm room. Many colleges prohibit personal wireless access points or routers in their residences as they interfere with network traffic.

3. Printers -- Before you purchase a printer, inquire if your college provides each registered student with a print allowance or a set number of pages that a student can print from any of the networked printers on campus. In some instances, colleges offer as many as 1,000 pages per student, per semester.

4. Portable memory chip, also known as a thumb drive or USB key. A 2GB or less thumb drive is adequate, as this will primarily be used for the transport and transfer of data between campus and the dorm room. It’s advisable for students to email important documents to an email account they can access from any computer on campus. Thumb drives will act as critical back-up should the Internet be down.

5. Cell phones are also a necessity with our Generation Y students. Once again, these can multi-task, and many phones can act as cameras, alarm clocks, calculators, and electronic calendars in addition to communication devices. Fancier models can offer GPS, Internet connections, note-taking capabilities, etc. Note that telephone companies charge additional fees for text messages, information calls, and Internet use that is not included in the original cell plan. It’s best to understand call plans and warranties.

Lastly, before you pack those items to go to college, it’s a good idea to take an inventory that includes purchase receipts along with the model and serial number, warranty information and photographs of these higher priced items. This could help in recovering stolen or damaged property, or working with the insurance company.

Marie Carr’s latest book,
Sending Your Child to College, is the winner of both the iParenting Award for the Best Parenting Book in 2009 and one of 2009 best products from Parent Testing Parent Approved media. It is available in bookstores, from Amazon and also

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  1. My kids aren't college-age yet, but I really appreciate this list. At the risk of dating myself, I headed off to college with a TYPEWRITER and almost made it all the way through without touching a computer. In other words: I'm going to need a time like this when the time rolls around!


  2. Jennifer, I'm nodding my head in agreement with your note. I went to college in the early/mid '80s, and never once touched a computer even though I studied business. In fact, I earned money throughout college by typing other students' term papers on my IBM Selectric!


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