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The Parents Guide to Decoding Your Students’ Digital Must-Haves and Unnecessaries

by Student Loan Daddy

Your college-aged kids figured out long ago how to master the art of being an amateur con artist. But what once began as being sweet-talked into buying low-budget items like $3.00 packs of trading cards and $5.00 Happy Meals has grown into being urged to shell out for $500 flat screens and game consoles.
As their credit-card-toting parents, you’re their source of funds, and they’ll hit you with their techno-babble and digital savvy to sell you on all the specialized gear they “need,” especially around back-to-school time.
But this year, you’re in luck. We’ve done the decoding work for you.
As a bunch of successful ex-parent-conning college students ourselves, we offer you an honest breakdown of the truly necessary high-tech items and the counterfeit ones your kids don’t need but will try to convince you they do.

Get Your Hands on These Gizmos and Gadgets
We know, we know, your college days were more difficult with only mimeographs to make copies and typewriters to write papers and walking to school barefoot uphill both ways in the snow. Times have changed, and keeping up to change with them isn’t optional.
The digital age dominates the world of higher education: Colleges require online registration, professors regularly e-mail class materials, and T.A.s conduct study groups entirely through instant messaging.
In order for your kids to make it in the college world, we declare these items required purchasing:

    • Personal Computer
      If you’re limiting your kids to one high-price item for back-to-school, make it a computer. Consider the latest product revealed by Apple, the new iMac, starting at $1,199. As an ultra-thin monitor/desktop PC rolled into one, you won’t find this combination of space-saving design and power in any other machine. For a reasonably priced all-purpose laptop, look into the HP Pavilion series, starting at $899.99. These notebooks offer the latest in basic multimedia software, and the lightweight design is ideal for toting around campus.
    • High-Speed Internet
      If your kids are living off-campus and don’t have high-speed Internet access included in their rent, go ahead and spring for the DSL or cable modem. Dial-up may work for what you need at home, but your kids will find college assignments near-to-impossible to complete without a high-speed connection. Students will need to download large attachments for assignments and spend hours doing online research, so sending them off with a crawling dial-up connection will only cripple them. Call the local phone and cable companies, or search Internet providers online to find the best deal in the area.
  • Mini-Fridge and Microwave
    Unfortunately, poor eating habits tend to go hand-in-hand with a college acceptance letter. Campus food can be terrible, and without a huge amount of free time or disposable income, your college students will become microwave meal-making masters. By buying them a personal refrigerator, you can encourage your kids to keep fruits, vegetables or even frozen pizza on hand—a healthier alternative to the 24-hour IHOP or Jack in the Box drive-thru run when they’re craving quick and easy sustenance for those all-night study sessions.

Sometimes It’s Okay to Just Say No
This time, mom and dad will know best. When your kids drag you from store to store for back-to-school shopping this year, you’ll be armed with our first-hand knowledge, and you’ll smell their “I need” fakes from aisles away.

    • PDAs, Smartphones and MP3 Cellphones
      Unless your child is a successful day trader or has a booming online business that requires 24-hour attention, spending hundreds of dollars for a personal digital assistant, smartphone or iPhone, in addition to at least $50 a month for the device’s Internet access, is overindulgent and will more than likely just go toward checking game scores and friend requests on Facebook. Sure, the latest iPhone may score your kids some cool points, but they’ve got their personal style and charm to do that work for them—and those are free.
    • Digital Notepads and Recorders
      As the 21st-century version of the spiral notebook, digital notepads are the definition of superfluous. Many professors post lecture notes online. If not and your kids really want electronic versions of their notes, they can bring a laptop to class. Otherwise, they can type up their handwritten notes later on their desktop, which is actually a great way to start studying for a test. And recorders are only necessary if your kids are unable to take notes by hand, or if they strive to樂威壯
      become the next Christiane Amanpour or Bob Woodward—and that can usually wait until grad school.
  • Digital Cameras and MP3 Players
    They’re fun, they’re flashy and they’re everywhere. And your kids probably believe the world won’t turn without one. But the bottom line is digital players and cameras are entertainment and not live-or-die necessities. Use this opportunity as one last teaching moment: If your kids really want that iPhone, they’ll have to earn it. Help your kids devise a savings plan. With a part-time job or a few extra nights tutoring, your student will be cruising campus with earbuds in place and camera ready in no time.

Now you’ve got the real shopping list, but after adding everything up, even after dropping the unnecessary wish list items, your calculator may be showing dollars you don’t have. Student Loan Daddy can help you with your back-to-school educational expenses with a parent PLUS loan.

PLUS loans are available to parents of undergraduates throughout the academic year and can help you cover up to the full cost of attendance, which includes educational supplies. And since PLUS loans aren’t awarded based on financial need, you can qualify to receive PLUS aid regardless of how much money you make. Find out more at Student Loan Daddy.

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