Back to School: 7 Essentials for Your Student

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Tossing the Caps

School will be back in session soon, and your student will probably need to snag a couple of items. Think about the list: it's probably huge. No matter what major (or age) they are, you'll be able to find most of what you need here at B&H. If you've got a student in your life (or are one) getting ready to go back to school, here are some items that you may need when you head back.

 Image by Mike Wacht Photography via the B&H Photo Flickr Group


Photography/Videography Items

If you're a photography student, you'll need a camera. Some classes and departments put more emphasis on digital over film and vice versa. Enquire with your campus's department and try to figure out what your needs are. If you're a parent and your student needs a film camera, they'll have different needs from a digital photographer and the entire equipment layout may vary. As a quick note: don't invest in your own dark room. Many college have their own, and those chemicals can be illegal in a college dorm room.

Along with the camera, you may need to also make the purchase of a small system for the student to use. Important necessities like tripods, lenses, flashes, continuous lights, reflectors and more could prove useful. Most colleges have their own loaner cage for students to borrow equipment; but the problem is that every student inconveniently seems to be assigned those big projects all at once. Because of this, all the gear goes out on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Want your gear for a more affordable price? Consider purchasing used items so that you can have your own gear.

Audio/Recording Equipment

Audio recording equipment can come in handy at so many different times in school. In college, I knew people who recorded a professor's entire lecture so that they could refer to it later on. This is common in longer classes where students can become bored. For this reason, a portable digital recorder can come in handy.

Besides being used for lectures, students can use audio recording equipment for videography classes. Students in these classes would do well with devices that record MP3, AIFF or WAV audio since they are the most common codecs. Of course, this once again depends on the requirements of the instructors.

Taxi!

Photo by Michelle Rick via the B&H Photo Flickr Group

Besides recording audio, your student will often need to listen to it too. For example, you often run into situations where your surroundings are louder than you'd like. To drown out the noise, a good pair of noise-canceling headphones and an MP3 player are a good idea for students. If your student really likes to blast their tunes, they won't be able to do that around final and mid-term time. Most dorms enforce quiet hours during this period to ensure that people can get studying done. If your student needs music to focus, they will need to wear headphones during quiet hours.

In fact, I wear headphones at work to help me concentrate.

Laptops and Computing Accessories

Are you Mac or PC?

Photo from SJMGarnier via the B&H Photo Flickr Group

Laptops and accessories are essential for almost all college students. If all the computers at the library are in use, students can get lots of work done using their own laptops. Laptops are used for accessing documents for a class (which many teachers do,) research, getting homework done, note taking (if you're that type of student) and sharing essential files for a class project amongst other tasks.

While laptops with Windows operating systems are the most popular, Apple computers are usually the choice of the creative student. In fact, some schools even have Mac Labs—where students are required to use Apple computers to accomplish many of the tasks.

With the purchase of a laptop, consider the fact that students need lots of physical memory. I know that flash drives were needed for me to transfer large files quickly between computers; so I often had a couple on me at a time. An alternative is using email to save and send files to yourself, but that has its limits. Besides flash drives, you'll need to clear space off of your computer's hard drive to keep it in tip top shape, so an external hard drive will become very useful.

Memory cards, like a CF, SD or Eye-Fi card, are also very useful for photography and videography majors.

To put the laptop to the best use, every student needs software. Whether they need the latest version of Final Cut, Adobe Lightroom 3, Photoshop, InDesign, Microsoft Office, each student has their own tasks to complete which will often require some type of specialized software. Best of all, there are student/teacher editions of some of the most popular software from Adobe and Microsoft. If you don't purchase them, they may have to talk to their professor about asking the library to install the programs on their computers. Similarly to laptops and printers, the student may have to get on a line and wait for those specific machines.

Printers are needed to print out term papers, research notes, etc. More often than not though, your college will have an entire network of printers for students to use. However, there are times when you'll need to get on a line with dozens of other students to be able to use one (especially during midterms!) Other students also tend to print out 80 pages at a time and slow the process down with printer jams, using all the ink, using all the paper, etc. This happened to me when I was printing my 60 page thesis.

It's always good to have a backup in the dorm room. Oh, and don't forget the printer paper!

To take full advantage of those laptops, a student needs cables—and quite a few of them.

RCA snake wires

Photo by st bernard via the B&H Photo Flickr Group

These are absolute essentials for students. USB cables, extension cords (if they're legal), power strips, spare charging cables for your computer, and others will help to make your student's life much easier. If you're getting cables, a good idea is to also get Gaffers Tape to secure them. In fact, some dorms require this.

eBook Reader

One of the biggest expenses for students are textbooks. However, there are ways around this costly expense: eBook readers! Though these aren't an essential for students, the ones that are more tech savvy will probably prefer gluing their eyes to an eBook Reader than sticking their nose in a book. Students can borrow eTextbooks through different programs, which can save lots of money.

Depending on your student's major, eBooks may be perfect for may make like more difficult. For example, a Biology major may need multiple books open at once. In that case, physical books may be better. In contrast, a Communications major will only need one book at most (if any) open at all. Of course, this only applies to their Communications classes. Consider the needs of your student before making the purchase.

Batteries

Do your student a giant favor: purchase rechargeable batteries and the charger with them. They will need batteries for many things like their computer, MP3 players (depending on which one), flashes, etc. Just for good measure, be sure to purchase a couple of spares to cover lost or dead batteries.

Carrying Cases/Bags

Consider the fact that your student will need to schlep around books, a laptop, maybe a camera, etc. They will need a bag of some sort to protect those items from the elements while traveling around campus or the halls of their school. In some cases, students may need more than one bag. We have a whole selection of bags for you to take a look at. Some of them can be modified for different purposes.

EDU Membership

B&H has their own EDU Advantage program that offers student discounts on certain items. This means that when they need things like film or memory cards, they will be able to purchase them at a more affordable price.

What does your student need? Let us know in the comments below and help out some other scholars.

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Great stuff here and since my own kid just graduated I have a little insight to add. The advice about USB flash drives is excellent. You cannot get too many of these. They're inexpensive and easily lost so start your kid out with a handful. Each one doesn't have to be too large in capacity but you'll certainly want more than one.

We got our kid a combo printer/scanner/copier with wifi and I'd do the same again in a minute. College is a 24-hour enviornment and if the library's closed the kid still has to print out the next day's work if it's not going to be emailed to the prof. Wifi let both my kid and the roomie connect to the same printer. We brought that and the roomie brought the fridge. Fair's fair after all.

Here's something I learned the hard way. At our kid's school extension cords were forbidden but power strips were encouraged. A combo power strip & surge protector is a great idea for that new laptop and a handful of other power strips are necessary, particularly in older dorms with too few wall outlets.

I know this will sound very 20th century in an era when every electronic gadget including your cell phone has a built in alarm clock, but a small table-top clock radion with battery backup turned out to be a very useful and inexpensive purchase.

I don't recall a single TV in a dorm when I was in school but now, even though internet TV is everywhere, almost every room has a flat-panel set. Starting prices for a 15" model are surprisingly low nowadays too and even combo TV/DVD player models are remarkably affordable.

And, it always helps to remember that it's okay to forget something or other. UPS delivers and whatever the kid turns out to need is just one more reason for him or her to call home, something they'll do far less frequently than you'll wish they did.