What to Get Your High School Graduate

This article was published in yesterday’s Seacoast Sunday.

It’s graduation season across the Seacoast and the country.  As these new grads head out to make their new futures, what makes a good gift to set them on their way?  Anything techy if you ask this writer.

For those kids heading off to college to further their education, they need a portable computer that will take them through their four years and further into their futures.  Depending on what they major in, their technology needs may be more specific than others.


It’s important to know what will be required for the given major.  However, if your student in undeclared, look in to a good all-around computer that they can use in any major.  Map your decision making toward the most specific requirements of a major the student is likely to consider, so that you won’t wind up needing the replace the computer after the first semester or year.

Here’s the good news when shopping for a computer for an incoming college or university student.  Schools have negotiated pricing with the various manufacturers and also have on-campus support arrangements with most of the manufacturers products that they sell in their on-campus and online stores.  Because of this, I recommend purchasing your students computer from the school store or purchasing the same make and model as the school sells.  That way, your student will be able to get support for their hardware on-campus, without having to send the computer out for service, should it need it.  Let’s face it, if anyone in the family is likely to damage their computer, it’s the kid who is always on the go.

Most schools have these relationships with the major vendors; Apple, Dell, HP, Lenovo and Microsoft.  Across any of these five vendors, you have an incredible breadth of choices.  A laptop is the way to go, as many of your student’s classes will want them to have their computer with them.  Students also will not want to be tied down to their tiny desk in their equally tiny dorm room and will not just want, but need the portability a laptop offers.

When it comes to selecting a laptop, the choices are many.  From traditional laptops to tablets, take the time to let your student try a few different types of computers out, so they can make a decision that will serve them well throughout their college career.

In the Apple world, it’s the MacBook Pro or MacBook Air that rule the roost.  The Air is thinner and lighter and the Pro will have more options for computing power, storage and size.  If your student will not be majoring in applied sciences and engineering, an Apple laptop should serve them well.  For anyone in applied sciences and engineering, a PC laptop from Dell, HP, Lenovo or Microsoft will be the way to go.  While writing and the arts have wide support on the Apple platform, it’s Microsoft’s Windows that rules the roost in science and engineering, primarily due to the various applications students will work with.  While you can run Windows on an Apple computer, it will be more expensive for essentially no tangible benefit aside from the light up Apple logo on the case.

Give serious consideration to a convertible or tablet model.  Microsoft’s Surface Pro is really a laptop in a tablet design.  If weight and portability are the most important factor, this is an excellent option.  Other manufacturers and Microsoft itself, also offer several model that are convertible.  These devices can be used like a traditional laptop or a tablet, in various ways and offer a lot of flexibility.

In addition to the computer, don’t forget about a printer.  A good multi-function that also supports scanning and copying will serve your student best.  These have become very affordable, to the point that it really does not make sense to send them off to school with just a print only printer.

A good site to do some research is Barnes & Noble’s thinkedu.com web site.  You select the state in which you will be going to school and then your school.  You will then be taken to a site with all the offers available to students attending that school.  Some of the discounts are substantial, but still take the time to shop around to be sure you get the best deal available.  Most manufacturers, retailers (both brick and mortar as well as online) offer student discounts.  You simply need to show proof of enrollment.

Enjoy graduation, congratulations on your accomplishments and embrace the opportunity your future holds.

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