The Big 5: Tech Tools You Can’t Hit College Without

College is a much different place now than it was even ten years ago. Sure, the legacy of Harold Ramis’ “Animal House” lives on, but today’s college student is a different animal, at least in terms of the tools they need to succeed.

But what does preparedness mean on today’s campus? For one, it means cutting edge tech toys that make those tough classes feel a whole lot easier. Combine those tools you take to class with the ones you tote to parties, and you’ve got the gear to get to graduation. But to make sure you’ve got everything you need, take a few minutes to go over this checklist of tech tools for school before move-in day comes around.

ComputerâÂ?¦And more and more students are throwing their preference toward laptop computers. Some schools even require them for certain majors. But whether you choose a laptop or a desktop, having a computer might be the essential tool to take with you to college. Not only is your computer your workstation, it’s your game console, one of your main communications portals (through IMs, email, etc), and your window to the outside world.

There are a few extra things to consider when buying a computer for college, as well. Obviously, making sure it has the right software packages is a must. Microsoft Office is a no-brainer, but extras like Adobe Photoshop can be helpful to have on hand if your major requires it. In terms of hardware, CD and DVD burners are a must, and flat-panel monitors are especially appreciated in terms of space economy and ease of transport when it’s time to take everything home for the summer. The key is to make sure you have everything you need on your computer, and make sure it works, because especially during those all-nighters, your computer is bound to become one of your new best friends.

Flash Drive. This one is huge. In case you’ve been living under a rock or slept through most of the last few years, a flash drive is a drive about the size of your pinky finger that holds a certain amount of memory. You can plug said drive into a USB port on almost any computer and transfer files onto it to take with you wherever you need them. This means that a lot of projects, papers, pictures, and even music are probably going to see the inside of your “flash” before you walk the stage at graduation. Moreover, it means that having one, and a big one at that (think 512 MB or 1 gigabyte) will be a huge help in making life easier for you, and presumably those group members relying on that Power Point presentation you were supposed to put together. If you remember to do it, of course.

An MP3 PlayerâÂ?¦And on most college campuses, this means the Apple iPod. Those little white headphones are everywhere. Seriously. Everywhere. It seems almost a right of passage to have those white cords wrapped around you as you cruise your tardy butt to class. Of course, the iPod is just one of the myriad of options for your MP3 needs, but having a digital music player is a great way to keep yourself entertained on those long walks around campus. The great thing is that there are music players available at just about every price point now, making them available to most anyone who wants one. And while iPod does dominate the market at schools across the country, at the end of the day, it’s all about the music.

Digital Camera. While it doesn’t make much difference what kind of digital camera you have, even your mom will tell you that you should have one toâÂ?¦you knowâÂ?¦record all of those important memories. Truth be told, this is an important piece of equipment. You’ll want to record those embarrassing moments in a higher resolution than your cell phone will want to record them (see below), and with their removable media, digital cameras are a lot simpler to deal with in terms of transferring photos. That means getting the picture of your roommate streaking through the football game posted online a whole lot faster.

Cell Phone. If you’re not carrying a flip phone with a camera onboard, you might have to steal your friends’, because they’re hot right now. Even though the cameras aren’t usually all that great, they’re convenient and perfect for snapping those photos that will embarrass you in the morning, especially if you happen to forget your regular digital camera (see above). But even if your phone doesn’t flip, flop, or spin, having a phone on campus is a crucial tool for keeping in touch, not only for those parties that you aren’t having (as far as the parents know), but also for keeping things together academically.

The importance of cell phones on campus is evident in the number of students that use them as their main source of communication. In fact, many students opt to use only their cell as their main phone line when they decide to move off campus. Therefore, a good wireless plan can go a long way in keeping one less bill out of your mailbox when you’re finally off the university residence grid.

While these aren’t the only tools you’ll need to give college your all, this list is a good place to start. And even though there are some cool toys on this list, it’s really you who makes college what it’s supposed to be.

�But boy, can these babies help.

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