It's been over a year since students of all ages began navigating the unfamiliar and daunting task of virtual learning. There's no denying the challenges this caused for students, parents and teachers, however; as the new school year approaches, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel. College students across the country are finally beginning to pack their bags, say goodbyes, and prepare for their return to campus life.
Preparing for the unexpected
We're not out of the woods yet. Both students and educators continue to hold their breath, waiting to see how this next school year will unfold. So how do we prepare for the unexpected? If there's one thing we've learned from virtual learning this past year, it's the importance of quality technology. We rely on it to submit assignments, connect with classmates, learn new topics, collaborate and more.
What tech is best for me?
If you're wondering "what should I bring to college?" or "what do you give someone going back to school?", you're not alone. When shopping for educational gadgets for students, it's easy to go overboard or spend money on things that aren’t necessary anymore. Investing in a printer, for example, may not be necessary as many dormitories have one for student use and campus libraries are easily accessible. Further, the ability to submit assignments online makes physically turning in a paper less likely.
There are other “nice-to-have” but not necessary gadgets that may or may not make sense to add to your 2021 dorm packing list depending on your budget or your studies, like a monitor or speaker for example.
With so many gadgets to choose from, it can be hard to tell what options work best for you, your budget, and your courses. Well, we’ve done the work for you! We've compiled the best college tech essentials for 2021 - whether you’re hunkering down in your dorm room, running to class, taking lecture notes, or getting some much deserved R&R.
Below is our list of the best gadgets for college students, and how to decide what's right for you:
iPad or Tablet
iPads have come a long way in recent years. They’re no longer simply a media consumption device to pass the time. Extremely powerful iPads, such as the iPad Pro, are often used as a student's or professional’s daily device - replacing the traditional desktop or laptop.
Whether or not you decide to go tablet over laptop (or have both), it’s worth considering. The versatility and affordability alone of an iPad makes it a strong alternative. In a dorm room, you can go from sketching out a drawing to writing out a paper in seconds, and iPads are increasingly becoming the go-to notetaking gadgets for college students.
With the premium iPad keyboard and accessory options out there, the difference between laptop and tablet is barely noticeable. The Brydge 12.9 MAX+ wireless keyboard for iPad Pro not only matches the aluminum finish of the iPad to a “T”, it also features a massive trackpad so you have the multi-touch capabilities to tap, swipe, or click depending on what you’re doing.
Other (and more affordable) iPad options like the iPad Air or iPad (7th & 8th generations) are convenient laptop replacements when paired with premium iPad keyboards.
If you decide to go the laptop route, your options are endless (and easily overwhelming!). While you may not need a laptop that’s labeled as one of the latest technology gadgets for education, you will want to keep in mind these key features:
If you’re looking for a laptop that’s listed as one of the best Amazon gifts for college students, you may want to check out Tech Radar’s article.
Brydge Vertical Dock for MacBook
A full fledged desktop setup may not make your freshman dorm essentials list but it could definitely make your unexpected things to bring to college list. If you’ve got a heavy course load or are studying a creative field, you may want to consider a proper desk setup with monitors - especially if you go the laptop route.
More screen space can make getting work done a lot easier, and Brydge makes a variety of docking stations designed to create a seamless flow from laptop to desktop. These docks allow you to get the most power from your laptop while connecting all of your external devices in a clutter-free way.
It’s probably not news to you but college isn’t all work and no play. And with a good speaker, you can get in the zone with relaxing music and jam out with your friends when you’re done. As with all back to school tech, there are a lot of options to choose from. If you’re someone who loves to listen to music, we’d recommend getting one that’s portable and waterproof so you can use it when you’re in the dorm, hanging on campus, at a friend’s place or camping.
Be sure to check out CNET’s, “Best Wireless Speakers for Students” article for both affordable and high-end options. A speaker is also one of the best Amazon gifts for college students as you can easily find a variety of options there.
Noise Cancelling Headphones
If you’re someone that doesn’t work well with distractions, noise cancelling headphones are among the college tech essentials. Not only can you listen to music while you work (if you’re into that) you can pretty much work peacefully in any environment, whether that be in your dorm, library or waiting for your next class.
Headphone Honesty offers some great advice and options for finding noise cancelling headphones on a budget.
Portable Hard Drive
If portability and versatility are priorities for you, you may want to consider investing in a portable hard drive. This is one of the best gadgets for college students as it allows you to get the storage capacity of a large computer, but without the extra weight and bulk. You’ll have room for all the photos, videos, movies, and assignments you like but in an organized place that will be there when you need it.
Portable Battery Packs
Imagine rushing to your next class only to realize you’re out of power and can’t take notes. Or worse, needing your iPad or laptop to submit an assignment but missing the deadline due to something as trivial as a dead battery. In times where technology is essential for success, having a reliable back up battery pack is essential. A battery pack is definitely something that college students need most, and fortunately, there are a lot of great (and affordable) options to choose from.
Fitness Tracker/Smart Watch
Ah, the dreaded freshman 15. It’s notoriously hard to avoid unless you’re intentional about it. With all of the late nights studying, going out with friends, convenient (and delicious) frozen pizzas and fast-food, staying in shape can feel impossible. While not necessarily an educational gadget for students, a fitness tracker can help to keep you in check and track your fitness goals. Check out some of the best fitness trackers of 2021 to find one that’s right for you.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to college tech essentials of 2021. What you need and don’t need depends on your budget, studies and preferences. The amount of choices when it comes to the best tech for college students is enormous and it’s a decision you don’t want to take lightly. Having the right gear is the best way to set yourself or your student up for success during their college career. We hope this list was informative and helpful in guiding your decisions and preparing you to ace this school year!