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Giving parents “peace of mind” for college-bound purchases

In my role as HP, I can’t tell you how many times friends, relatives and parents come up to me and ask me “what device should I buy for my child?” as they prepare for college. So let me take a moment away from my institutional role to address a common question among many consumers.


When I was in high school and college, my friends and I made the effort in vain to tell our teachers that “the dog ate our homework.” And naturally, the teachers didn’t believe us. And today, technology may have advanced, but the excuses still have little or no success. Try telling a professor your computer crashed or was damaged by your dorm-mate and you’re likely to encounter the same lack of sympathy, not to mention a failing grade.peace_of_mind.jpg


As a former professor, students have abused this excuse so often that most of my colleagues include statements in our course syllabi that tell students they are still responsible for turning in assignments on time regardless of the issue. So whether you’re looking for the ideal computer for yourself, or your school-bound family member, remember that the most important factor to consider isn’t just price.


You want to make sure the student has peace of mind when it comes to their academic computing needs. As the end of the semester approaches, term papers are due, and “Murphy’s Laws” kick in, you can rest assured that you’ve taken the steps necessary so any possible problems and issues will not add more stress to your student’s already hectic schedule.


Sure there are plenty of options for low and mid-priced computers. In fact, today’s breed of hybrid tablet/laptop combinations are quite ideal for students to handle all of their computing needs. But in most cases, parents don’t know what else they should include in their purchase to make sure their student has a safe and productive computing experience at college.


As a parent or relative, how will you handle the call from your college-bound student, upset that their computer was stolen and they’ve lost their term paper due tomorrow? Sure, you might have saved a few dollars when you bought the PC….but no amount of money will be able to correct that painful call.


Must-have features


When you’re shopping for your ideal computing device – whether a desktop, notebook or tablet, please take into account my list of four “must-haves” for every college bound student.


CompuTrace Student Edition (Absolute Software) – Whether you or your student will reside on-campus, off-campus or be commuting to school, their belongings are constantly exposed and easy for the taking. The computer may be valuable to the thief, but to your student, it’s the content on that device that’s irreplaceable (term papers, study guides, passwords). Once a student reports their computer stolen, LoJack will trace that computer each and every time it connects to the internet. Even if a clever thief tries to remove the software or wipe the hard drive, CompuTrace is built directly into the BIOS of the machine, ensuring it will continue to protect the device.


Online Backup Service – Theft is only one possible problem that could keep a student from their files. Viruses, damage and over-writing older versions can easily destroy crucial files like term papers. Some students may back up their files to a USB drive for safety – but what happens if they forget to back up the latest versions, or if that USB drive also gets lost or destroyed?  Online backup sites such as Carbonite (www.carbonite.com) and Norton Online Backup (http://www.symantec.com/norton/online-backup) automatically back up all of your personal files and protect them online so students can easily recover files for any reason. Starting at under $60/year, this is the best way to protect essential files.


4 Year Accidental Damage/Extended Warranty – College students work their computers harder than almost anyone on Earth, so it’s essential to have a support plan in place if and when problems happen. No matter how safe they are, it’s a way of life. Computers will be dropped; students will spill drinks on them in dorm rooms, they will get banged around in backpacks. Ordering both an extended warranty and accidental damage policy protects you from both everyday hardware issues as well as drops and spills. Should the computer need service, the student doesn’t have to drive to a store 50 miles away….HP will arrange to ship the PC to and from campus for them, getting their PC repaired as quickly as possible. If you buy your PC at a store or other web site, make sure that the policy you’re purchasing is an official HP policy, as some others may require you to bring the computer back to the store or may impose more restrictions regarding repair.


System Recovery DVD – When you receive a PC today, Windows encourages you to create a “recovery” disc that will allow you to reboot from that DVD in the event your operating system has a problem. Unfortunately, most students who get their new PC forget to ever create that recovery disc until it’s too late. When you order your new PC, you can often order the recovery DVD included with your purchase for typically around $20. It’s a one-time inexpensive purchase that will more than pay for itself the first time your student needs that recovery disc. It’s a lot easier for a student to borrow a USB optical drive to restore their computer than to try and find a recovery disc after the fact.


My last words of advice as you finish your purchases for those college bound students in your life…..don’t forget the ink! Most students will also come to college with a low-cost printer, ideal when they need to quickly print out an assignment. Students will come to school for the semester or entire year with only the ink cartridge in the printer, and they’ll run out very quickly, especially if they start printing more often than planned. And by the time the student realizes they need a new cartridge, it’s usually at 1am and they need to print a paper out within the next 4 hours.


Better yet, enroll your student in HP’s “Instant Ink” program, which will ship them out replacement ink cartridges before they run out. To learn more visit https://instantink.hpconnected.com/us/en.


All too often, I had the great enjoyment of trying to read a paper with so little ink on the page, the text looks more like a watermark than real text. So if you’re going to equip your student with a printer…send them with an extra few ink cartridges or enroll them in Instant Ink just in case. Their professors will thank you!

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About the Author
  • Jim Vanides is responsible for the vision, strategy, design, and implementation of education technology innovation initiatives. His focus is the effective use of technology to create powerful learning experiences that help students around the world succeed. He has been instrumental in launching over 1200 primary, secondary, and higher education projects in 41 countries, including the HP Catalyst Initiative - a 15-country network of 60+ education organizations exploring innovations in STEM(+) learning and teaching. In addition to his work at HP, Jim teaches an online course for Montana State University on the Science of Sound, a masters-level, conceptual physics course for teachers in grades 5 through 8. Jim’s past work at HP has included engineering design, engineering management, and program management in R&D, Manufacturing, and Business Development. He holds a BS in Engineering and a MA in Education, both from Stanford University.
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