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New Student Tip #2

iPad and keyboard

My trusty iPad and keyboard combo

Tip #2: You don’t need to buy a computer. Unless you want to. (In which case, definitely utilize your educational discount!)

However, having a computer with you at all times is not necessary. Many students take notes on paper, often utilizing the PowerPoint slides provided by instructors in advance. Other students make use of tablets or phone screens, with or without a wireless keyboard. Still others carry laptops, or some combination of the above.

When I was admitted into the MSC program, I already owned a fully equipped iMac, an iPad, and an iPhone. I wondered, did I really need a laptop, too? Something about the program materials gave me the impression I needed to carry a computer.

My solution was an iPad/keyboard combo, which has worked very well. I love the pint sized portability of it, as well as the flexibility of using my device as either a tablet or a pseudo-laptop. For a $100 investment, I greatly enhanced the functionality of my iPad. The keyboard provides easy access to numbers, symbols, shortcuts, and of course a physical object on which to type much more quickly and accurately. Although occasionally I find the iPad’s functionality limited compared to that of a laptop (moving files between apps can be tricky, and the features of apps are not always easily discerned or available), for me the relatively rare inconvenience is not worth the cost of a new device.

At times, instructors will not allow technology in the classroom. This does not happen a lot, but it does come up. I find it helpful to carry a small pad and pen with me as a backup.

A computer and internet connection will be required at certain times, such as registering for classes, viewing or paying your tuition bill, or when you need to type an essay. The university will communicate with you strictly through email and online platforms. Also, group projects are often managed through Google Docs and Skype. However, even then, if you have access to a computer at one of NU’s computer labs, at work, or at home, these tasks can be achieved.

It is helpful to have some kind of device with you, such as a smart phone, for email communications and impromptu research during class. But if you don’t currently own a laptop, it’s not imperative to buy one. Other tools can be and often are utilized in the classroom just as effectively.