08/27/12

College Communications Checklist

by Taylor Gibbs

As a recent college grad, I learned a great deal in my four years away from home. For the first time, I was balancing homework with a more robust social schedule, trying to stay connected with old friends now in different states, keeping my parents informed but also learning about independence. Some of these lessons I learned the easy way, while others I learned the hard way. You live, you learn, you do better next time, right?

I found that smart use of the technology I had available to me and some common sense went a long way toward making college life easier and avoiding some of the problems that confront so many new students. So before your new college students hit the road, check out a few of the basics I gleaned outside the classroom.

1. Review your phone’s data plan

Before you leave home, make sure to understand everything your cell phone plan includes. Do you have unlimited talk and text, or set restrictions? Do you have nationwide calling, or will roaming charges cut your talk time short?

This was not something my family and I did, and I remember a conversation with my dad mid-October about how I was running up our cell phone bill calling my friends at schools in different states (whoops!). So do yourself, and your family, a favor and make sure you have the plan and device that’s right for you before heading off to school.

2. Organization is key

You know how important it is to keep all your pictures, videos, music and contacts on your phone organized, and it’s the same way in your new dorm room too! Freshman year, my room had two outlets, and one was unreachable behind our fridge. This meant everything my roommate and I used: phone charger, lamps, curling irons, TV, computer chargers, hair dryers and microwave had to fit into one outlet. One! So we invested in surge protectors. Command hooks and Velcro tape helped consolidate wires and keep the mess contained behind our desks- out of sight, out of mind, right?

We also learned ways to consolidate certain functions, like using my phone as an alarm and playing music from your laptop instead of a separate set of speakers. Your dorm room won’t be big enough to house the heavy duty speakers you used to rock out at home.

3. Is your campus wireless?

Before heading off to your first day of class, you’ll want to find out if your campus has wireless internet access. You can usually find this information by searching “IT Services” on your school’s website. I was fortunate in that my school was completely wireless, so I could jump online in class, outside in the quad, and in my dorm. This meant I could use my wireless printer and laptop without additional Ethernet cords! Plus, I could work anywhere I wanted if the library was too crowded.

If you decide to bring your own printer to school, my advice is to buy your replacement ink and paper in bulk before you leave. It will be cheaper, and you’ll avoid the 2 am panic attack when you realize you’re out of ink but still need to print off that term paper. I’ve been there. Not fun.

4. Smart Students Use Smart Apps

In college, you’ll find you’re always on the go, so it’s important to maximize the things you carry with you everywhere- like your phone! Here are some must have apps every college student needs:

  1. iStudies Pro: Instead of carrying a bulky planner to all your classes, why not organize yourself on your phone? You have it with you anyways, and it allows you to keep everything in one place- even a reminder for that “study date” with your cute lab partner Tuesday night (as if you need a reminder!). No matter what, this app makes sure you are always on your game.
  2. Evernote: Ditch the heavy notebooks you used to take notes with in high school and use your laptop instead. You can keep everything neat and organized during class, then easily move all your notes to the cloud, where you can access them anywhere. This app is also great for safely storing passwords, bike lock combinations and more!
  3. Mobile Security App: You may not realize it, but your phone houses a ton of information. Just think of all your contacts, pictures, videos and even financial information you use for online banking or shopping from your cell. Now imagine losing all of that.  Nightmare! Be smart and protect your stuff. Most phone carriers offer security apps for free or for a low monthly rate, that can back up all your information and alert you at the first sign of malware on your phone. No matter which app you decide on, the peace of mind knowing your stuff is protected is well worth it!
  4. Maps: I am the world’s worst with directions, so driving 325 miles home for Thanksgiving break my freshman year was quite a daunting task. My Maps app totally came to the rescue though and navigated me home safely. This app was also great in helping me learn my way around a new college town. It showed where to find the best restaurants, the grocery store, and the movie theatre- helping me feel at home right away.

The “Essentials” College Packing list:

If nothing else, make sure you packed these key things before pulling out of the driveway on move-in day:

  • Phone Charger- I kept one in my bag at all times so I could recharge throughout the day if I was running low on battery.
  • External Hard Drive- Make sure to back up all your notes, pictures and papers regularly on your external HD. You never know when you might accidentally spill that late night cup of coffee and fry your computer.
  • Headphones- I never left home without them! They took up no space in my bag, and were great to drown out the sounds of a noisy roommate or chatty people “studying” in the library.
  • Computer Case- Your computer can really take a beating in your bag all day, so make sure to protect it with a sturdy case to ward off scratches, dents and damage.

Hopefully, now you feel more prepared to start your college experience off right. Following a few of these lessons will no doubt make sure you stay connected in college!

Taylor graduated from Miami University in May, 2012 where she studied Strategic Communications and Marketing. After graduation, she moved to her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. where she now works as Public Relations Coordinator at Asurion.