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Shopping for College: 7 Essential Gadgets and Ideas for Students

Written by Rebecca Hastings


Posted on June 17 2021

Starting college is an exciting time for high school graduates. They are registering for college classes, purchasing textbooks and getting ready for summer orientation.  Now that they are embarking on a new adventure, away from home, parents are probably starting to think about back to school shopping and what that will mean for their college bound son or daughter. You may ask yourself, what do you have at home they can utilize and what do you still need to purchase so that they feel comfortable in their new campus environment? The internet is full of articles listing college essentials from a mattress pad/foam topper to fans (included on most  lists).  While some articles shared specifics when purchasing technology (laptop, portable power banks, power strip), others listed creative decorating ideas for your dorm.  

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All great ideas, but little was mentioned concerning current or promising technology for your college student to consider. It is true some colleges and universities implement the use of technology faster than others, but if you have an idea about what might be available in the future, you have a better understanding of what to shop for now. At the very least, students should inquire about procedures and policies related to technology the next time they are talking to their academic advisor or other college representative. It may save your family time and money in the long run.

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The following list represents technology that could help your college student become more efficient while providing a secure experience. Therefore, decreasing their chances of ever becoming a victim of identity theft and fraud. According to Consumer Sentinel Network in 2018, 77,471 individuals age 20-29 fell victim to identity theft and the number each year is growing.


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  1. Apple Watch


In 2018, Apple announced that three universities (Duke, University of Alabama & University of Oklahoma) would partner with them so students had the opportunity to use virtual student IDs. Later in the same year, the technology was expanding to Santa Clara, Temple and John Hopkins. Students hold their iPhone or Apple Watch near the reader where physical student Id cards were once swiped or scanned. With this new technology, they can pay for campus meals and access their dorm and other buildings on campus (i.e. library, exercise room) without physical cards or keys.

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      2. Bluetooth Tracker


If your student’s college or university is not set-up to use an Apple Watch or iPhone for meal purchases or to access buildings, your student may want to consider purchasing a Bluetooth Tracker. It fits nicely into a wallet or bag.  In this way, if your student’s personal information (credit cards and student ID cards) are ever lost, the tracker will help him/her locate where it was last used. iPhone users should consider the Apple’s AirTag and Android users should consider the Tile Mate (2020).

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      3. Smart Pen

Carlton College promotes the use of Smart Pens for students who learn differently, but anyone can use a smart pen. According to their website, “The Smart Pens allow you to take notes while simultaneously recording classroom lectures or discussion. Simply tap anywhere in your notes and the pen will play back what was said at that moment in time.” Students must contact the professor ahead of time and let them know the class is being recorded. In addition, (in some states), the professor needs to let the rest of the class know too.

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  1. Folding Bluetooth Keyboard

Students who do not like to take their laptop to class, but like their lecture notes typed, may want to consider a folding keyboard. The only mainstream manufacturer with a folding keyboard is Microsoft and the Microsoft Universal Foldable Keyboard is compatible with iPad, iPhone, Android Devices, and Windows Tablet. However, it is not the only folding Bluetooth keyboard available on the market. The pros and cons of six can be found here.

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  1. External Hard Drive

Not an overly exciting technological gadget, but one that is extremely important to have. If your laptop were to break or get stolen, it’s satisfying to know that you have a reliable backup for all your college work especially when you are writing huge amounts of material like reports, essays and dissertations or storing photos and other material for projects. Here are what others are saying about a good external hard drive.

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  1. Anti-Virus Protection

Many families paid for security protection in the past but stopped for various reasons: 1) the packages got too expensive and 2) Windows 8 and Windows 10 includes Windows Defender, which helps protect against viruses and malware. However, is Windows Defender good enough to protect your PC by itself? Max Eddy believes Window Defender is a great product, but we can do better. For example, a third party may provide a backup protection and they would offer technical assistance if your student ever got into trouble with a nasty virus. Some colleges believe it is the student’s responsibility to prevent the propagation of viruses on the campus network and while they believe Windows Defender is sufficient, they require the student (if they do not have Windows 8 or 10) to run their own anti-virus software. The colleges also indicate that students who propagate viruses will be disconnected from the campus network. Make sure your student checks the college’s policy regarding computer viruses.

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  1. Uber App

There are times, when a student commits to a college or university only to find out later that the airport, bus or train stop are an hour away from campus. Some colleges try to make accommodations for students by providing airport transportation to and from the campus, but if college students do not have cars, chances are they will be on their own to figure out transportation. As a result, many students use Uber and the Uber app. Uber uses a drive share platform so college students can get from one destination to another. There will be times, they need to grab a ride across campus, across town, or to the airport, etc. When exploring the various transportation options, consider a ride sharing program and encourage your college student to download the app and use it before they leave home.  


A final note: Because colleges and universities have different procedures and policies, it is up to your student to investigate and ask as many questions as possible about technology related issues. Some questions, your student might ask include:

  1. What kind of technology support is available and what are their hours?
  2. Is there a technology fee? If so, what does it cover?
  3. How does the college manage email spam and spyware problems?



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