Has the Covid-19 pandemic forced you to become a "virtual" (online) student? If so, getting your hands on the essential tech for at-home college students (or really, middle and high school too) could help you get your work done more efficiently.
This list is designed to highlight gear that can be bought on a budget yet also last for several years. After all, “bring your own tech” and "work-from-home" are trends that are likely to stick around even beyond the pandemic.
With that in mind, college (and even high school) students may want to invest in "school" technology that could also serve them in their working careers. Here is the essential tech for at-home college students in 2020.
Unlimited Cell Phone Plan
When it comes to doing school from home, nothing is more important than internet access for all your devices. If there are bandwidth wars at your house, you may be forced to watch video lectures using data from your phone.
Unlimited data is helpful if you'll want to study on the go (on bus rides, during work-breaks, etc). Plus, you’re still going to want to be connected with your friends even if you’re at home!
Mint Mobile is currently the low-cost leader for unlimited data in the United States. The unlimited plan starts at just $30 per month, and includes unlimited talk, text and data. And Mint Mobile allows you to bring your own device. That means that you don’t have to plunk down extra cash for a new phone.
It can allow you to get work done on your laptop even if you're not somewhere with available free wifi. It can also allow you to create your own Hotspot if your home internet is bogged down.
While the unlimited plan through Mint Mobile offers Hotspot capabilities, it should be noted that it's limited to 5 GB. While 5 gigs won’t allow you to do all of your school work, it's more than enough to connect to a class or two if your internet is sluggish.
Laptop That Will Last
If you’re still working with an old school computer from high school, it may be time for an upgrade. This is especially true if your computer needs to support software downloads.
Since you’re at home, a larger screen may seem like a good option. However, it is likely that you’ll want your computer to be mobile someday. To that end, a moderate-sized laptop may be more appropriate.
Laptop Mag recommends the 2020 HP Envy 13.3” as it’s number one pick for college students. It’s got a touch screen, plenty of compute power, 512 GB of Memory, and clocks in below $900. Based on the specs, that seems like a great choice that will last through your college career and beyond.
However, there are plenty of less expensive options that still pack a punch as well. And if you're looking to get the value for the specs, you may want to consider a Chromebook. Even many of the "top-of-the-line" Chromebooks today, like the Acer Chromebook 714, Asus Chromebook Flip, and Lenovo Chromebook Duet are priced in the $500 range.
Are you still using your laptop trackpad? Don’t!
Buy yourself an inexpensive wireless mouse and reap the enhanced benefits of better speed and control. Plus, a wireless mouse with an ergonomic design can help eliminate wrist and hand fatigue.
Here are a few of the top sellers on Amazon:
- Logitech M525 Wireless Mouse
- Jelly Comb 2.4G Slim Wireless Mouse
- Logitech M705 Marathon Wireless Mouse
- VicTsing MM057 2.4G Wireless Mouse
Headset With Built-In Mic
A headset with a built-in mic is definitely essential tech for at-home college students that participate in video discussion groups.
Using your computer’s built-in mic can be an obnoxious experience (for you and those who have to listen to you). On top of that, your roommates (or siblings and parents) will appreciate that you keep your school conversations to yourself.
Air buds work fine as an entry level headset and mic combo, but an over-the-ear, wireless option can be a nice upgrade. The Cowin E7 PRO is a highly-rated option. It clocks in at under $100 (currently $79.99) and has Bluetooth capabilities, a built-in mic, and noise-cancelling features.
Decent Office Chair
Lectures, classroom discussions, and most of your paper writing will require you to be seated in front of a computer. All that time in a chair can quickly become uncomfortable if you’re using your parents' extra kitchen chair.
Decent office chairs are often readily available on the used market. Check Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, eBay, and Letgo for some used options.
The list above covers the essential tech for at-home college students. However, there are a few things that can make your work-from-home experience a bit more comfortable and enjoyable. Here are a few extras worth considering:
- A standing desk. A standing desk is an amazing investment if you spend long days in front of a computer. Just be sure to wear shoes while standing, or stand on an anti-fatigue mat.
- A tablet. Strictly speaking, an iPad or another tablet isn’t needed. But it can be nice to have one handy to watch lectures, educational content, or to access apps and reading material.
- A water filter. Most universities are equipped with tons of water fountains that have water bottle filling functionality. Even though you won't have a water fountain at home, you'll still want to find a way to stay hydrated with clean water. A pitcher with a water filter, like the Brita pitchers, can be kept in the fridge. That way you can refill and enjoy fresh water throughout the work day at home.
- A password manager. Lastpass is a free password manager that allows you to store secure passwords for all your online apps. Never let a lost password be the reason you turn in an assignment late again!
Continued Reading: The 50 Best Ways To Save Money In College And Live On a Tight Budget
Robert Farrington is America’s Millennial Money Expert® and America’s Student Loan Debt Expert™, and the founder of The College Investor, a personal finance site dedicated to helping millennials escape student loan debt to start investing and building wealth for the future. You can learn more about him on the About Page, or on his personal site RobertFarrington.com.
He regularly writes about investing, student loan debt, and general personal finance topics geared towards anyone wanting to earn more, get out of debt, and start building wealth for the future.
He has been quoted in major publications including the New York Times, Washington Post, Fox, ABC, NBC, and more. He is also a regular contributor to Forbes.