What tech to bring to college



Jason Keller
November 02, 2017

When you see images of students in college, you’ll probably see at least one piece of technology present on them. A cellphone, a pair of headphones, a laptop or tablet, or maybe even a smart watch. It goes without saying that higher education and technology go together like peas and carrots these days.

Incoming college students can feel pretty overwhelmed when they’re packing for college. What do you take, and what do you leave behind? As a college student and general tech enthusiast, here’s some tips and advice I’ve picked up in my years: 



If it were up to me, colleges would give every incoming student a pair of headphones. That’s how important I think this is. 

Cords and cables

For everything. Phone, laptop, devices. Bring extras. And yes, this includes extension cords. An Ethernet cable is valuable for a steady internet connection. I’d also recommend at least having an HDMI cord for playing things from your computer on larger screens. And don’t get scammed into buying something ultra-deluxe. A cheap cable should serve you fine.


If you have a laptop, bring it. 

Flash drives or a good cloud subscription

There are times when you can’t email a file, or you just need some storage. That’s where flash drives, or services such as Dropbox, Google Drive and others, come in handy.


You’ll probably need one. And since you can’t use your cellphone’s calculator on exams, be prepared for the jaw-dropping cost of a math-major-level calculator. Consider it in the same expense column as your textbooks. A scientific calculator is probably your safest bet when it comes to picking one out, even if you’re not pursuing a math-heavy degree. There’s a good chance you’ll still need to use some advanced functions in your college math course, and if you change majors to something a little more math-intensive, you’ll already have the tools you need. 


Tablets or e-readers

If handheld technology is your thing, a tablet or an e-reader is great. Keep in mind most tablets double as e-readers. You may find digital textbooks to be less expensive than those you buy or rent. But before you load up on digital textbooks, try one to see how you like it. You may prefer the bookmarking and annotating options on an e-reader, or you may find you’d rather tackle text with a real highlighter.

Gaming consoles

Not only are they fun, but for some people, they’re a means of getting Netflix or any other streaming service onto the big screen. Believe it or not, they can be great for socializing too, because nothing says friendship like split-screen or multiplayer.


The screen can be handy, whether or not you have a cable hookup in your dorm.

Chromecast, Roku, Fire Stick or Apple TV

This is tricky because these are streaming devices, meaning you generally plug them into your TV’s HDMI port and then stream content to them via your phone or laptop. The catch is that these have to be connected to your network (usually) to work. In a residence hall, it might be more trouble than it’s worth to get it whitelisted so you can actually connect to the network and use it.

DVD or Blu-ray player

If you’re in a residence hall, your front desk might loan these out to residents. If you’re on your own, it might be something to consider bringing.


A lot of colleges have printing available to students. Sometimes it costs extra (beyond student fees), sometimes not. At UNC, for example, you are credited $8 per year for printing, at eight cents per page, which you can use at printers in the student center, library and other campus buildings. Weigh the costs of ink and paper versus campus printing. Printers are bulky and take up space, so choose wisely.

Desktop PC

A desktop computer might seem like old news, but some people still bring theirs to college. Desktops are often considerably more powerful than laptops and tablets, and if you’ve got a budget to keep, they can be cheaper, too. 



You might be asking yourself, “What kind of degenerate brings a subwoofer to a residence hall?” Rest assured it happens. EVERYONE on your floor can hear and feel the bass. But if you live in off-campus housing and have obtained permission from your roommates and neighbors, feel free to be like this guy.


Sometimes called “the internet box,” routers are a no-go in residence halls. Personal routers might not be as secure as your school’s enterprise-level hardware, plus they probably won’t even work. If your IT team finds out you have one, it could cut you off from using the school’s network for a certain period.

And if cutting you off from Wi-Fi doesn’t deter you from breaking the rules, a team of trained IT interns will infiltrate your dorm and confront you. The good news is if you can beat them in single combat, you get to keep the router. The bad news is if you lose, they make you the Systems Administrator.

(Just kidding about that last paragraph. Leave the router at home.)


A lot of students play instruments, and a lot of campuses have designated practice rooms for music majors especially. Some dorms even have practice rooms. And if you want to play softly in your room, probably nobody will mind. But don’t bring your amp with you to your dorm. If you need to plug in to jam out, try a pair of headphones with a 1/4 inch cable attachment. 


is a senior at UNC and is planning to graduate in December 2018. He is studying journalism and writing, with an emphasis in news and multimedia. He has a passion for marketing, technology and writing, and hopes to work in marketing after he graduates. When he's not at work, he likes to listen to music, read, study, write and spend time with friends.