From the Kenosha News on 8-19-07

Know what technology gear to take with you to college

      If you, your child, or grandchild is heading off to college this fall, know what to take with you before you go.  Since I work in Computer Services at Carthage, I get numerous phone calls from parents asking what their incoming student will need.  No matter which school you attend, your best bet is to contact them directly about what items are recommended and which are strictly forbidden.

      You can find out more about what your selected college requires/offers by contacting your admissions rep, the IT (Information Technology) department, or checking the college's web site.  (See Carthage's web site at http://www.carthage.edu/ais/computers)
Some specific questions to ask include:

  • Does the college provide a laptop or require the student to bring one?
  • Can you purchase or lease a laptop through the college at a discount?
  • Is wireless connectivity available?
  • Are there technology fees or fees for connecting to the internet?
  •  Is any specific software (especially anti-virus) recommended or required?  Is this software provided by the college?  Are discounts available on recommended software?
  • What is the availability of computer labs on campus?  Are they often full?
  • Do they restrict some types of internet use – like gaming or music sharing?
  • Is a printer recommended?  Can you use the college’s printers?  Is there a charge for this?

      Don’t underestimate the importance or potential complexity of connecting to the internet from a residence hall (dorm) or other on-campus housing.  Make sure you understand what is needed.  For example, to plug in to the network, an Ethernet cable is probably required, but it’s easy to forget to pack one along.  If your campus provides wireless, do you need to know something like the SSID or an encryption key?

      Make sure you don’t bring something that the college discourages or doesn’t allow.  For example, Carthage provides wireless access in our residence halls, so students are not allowed to use their own wireless routers since the signals interfere and cause problems.  In fact, routers of any kind can cause problems in some environments, so listen to the people from where you are going – not to the sales person at the local electronics store who is “sure that you really want a router.”

      Windows computers are still more common on most campuses than Macintoshes, but for the past two years, Apple has run their “buy a Mac, get an iPod free” promotion, and numbers of Mac laptops owned by students has climbed.  While most campuses support both Mac and Windows, check first.  One platform or another might be recommended or discouraged.  In the Mac vs. Windows debate, the student’s intended major may also be significant.  Students studying fine arts, including graphic design, may well be steered toward the Macintosh; students studying business would do better with a Windows computer.  Consult your advisor or a representative from the department of your major.  If both operating systems are supported, we’ve found that Mac users typically have less problems with viruses and spyware, and connecting to wireless seems to work more reliably.   

by Carol Sabbar from the Kenosha News on 8-19-07