I firmly hold the belief that every college student these days needs a computer. Of course, whether you go for the laptop or the desktop is up to you (I personally use a desktop). However, no matter what machine you’re using, there are certain applications that are a must have. Some are needed simply for school; others are required just to be a hip college student.
1. Microsoft Word
I use a Macintosh, but I still have Microsoft Office for the Mac. It’s an MS Word world, and college students should definitely have this application. Your professors will mail out things in word documents, and if you are sending papers to school computers, you’ll need that lovely .doc extension. It’s true that other word processing programs sometimes allow for conversion to Word format, but if you’re anything like me, the extra effort is almost not worth it.
Yes you’ll need PowerPoint as well. If you go your entire college career without ever having to do a presentation, then you are more fortunate than I. PowerPoint may not be nearly as nice as some other presentation programs, but it gets the job done, and if you have to send it to a school computer, it will need to be compatible. Also, chances are, if you’re working in a group, the other members will also have it. You don’t want to be “that guy” who causes project issues because you don’t have the right application.
I list Microsoft Excel, which is the third installment from Microsoft Office that has college utility. However, it’s not a requirement for every college student. However, it’s needed by many. If you are doing anything with business, statistics, or math, you’re probably going to be required to have Microsoft Excel. In fact, I had to take an entire business class about Microsoft Excel. It would have been quite complicated if I didn’t even have the software.
4. iTunes/Windows Media Player/Other
College students love their music, it’s no secret. So, if you want to be cool, you better have a nice program to play music from your computer, and transmit songs to your mp3 player. If you’re rocking the iPod, then iTunes is a necessity. If you’re a rebel with a Zune, then the windows application will be your saving grace. Either way, you don’t want to be the one to ruin the party because you don’t have any music on your computer.
Alas, I have made my allegiance known. I think Internet Explorer is terrible, and most college students agree with me. If you hate spyware, don’t like viruses, and like neat add-ons, and the ability to customize your web browsing experience, then Firefox is your best bet. Sure, with Windows Vista, Internet Explorer now has “tabbed browsing” (something Firefox has had for years), but wouldn’t you rather go with the innovator, not the imitator? However, keep in mind that some professors and/or colleges may still be in the dark ages of web browsing, so having Internet Explorer is not always a bad thing, just prepare to run a virus check immediately afterward.
I’m not advocating illegal downloading, because no one should ever infringe upon the rights of millionaire artists who need the money for their extra mansions. However, many college students, which don’t include myself because I would never download a movie or album illegally, like to download such things. In order to get your torrents, you’ll need a program, so make sure you get a good one. However, be forewarned that the RIAA is cracking down on college students everywhere, and have enlisted the help of some universities to turn over names associated with dorm IP addresses. The last thing you want as a financially strapped college student is a lawsuit on your hands. The point is, download at your own risk, and make sure you have a good program. I recommend Azureus, but then again, I wouldn’t know because I’ve never used it.
7. Google Earth
Well, I suppose college students don’t need this application, but it sure helped me when I was a lost and lonely freshman on one of the biggest campuses in the country. Plus, you can look at cool landmarks, such as your University’s Stadium, from a bird’s eye view. Now that makes it an application worth getting!
8. iPhoto/Kodak EasyShare/Other
Photo programs are definitely a must in college. How else can one organize all those neat photos taken at parties, sporting events, and exciting college vacations? It’s nice to have a great application that may also allow you to eliminate redeye, so your friends won’t untag themselves when you upload it to Facebook.
Professors have an obsession with PDF files. I’m not quite sure why, but the result of this obsession is that you need this application in order to view them. If you don’t have it, then get it post haste!
10. A Calendar Program
I use iCal, but any other application will work great. In college you have a lot to do, and organization is a huge key to success. I recommend updating it frequently and marking in all your class times for the semester or quarter. If you have an appointment, or even something as simple as lunch with a friend, have it handy.
11. Widgets and Gadgets of All Kinds
These fun little applications can be dead useful. Search around for specific ones that can help you. I usually always use a sticky note widget, a weather widget, a Google search widget, and a computer status monitor widget. Find what will help you the most and use it. Widgets and Gadgets are a fantastic invention.
12. Thunderbird/Other E-mail Client
My e-mail client (Thunderbird) is one of my favorite computer applications. It makes my life so much easier. At the moment, I have 4 e-mail addresses that all send mail to Thunderbird. When you are in college, you will generally have at least two e-mail addresses. Your university will most likely provide you with one, and you may have one from high school. If you are really smart, you’ll also set up a Gmail account. Having one application that can put all those e-mails in one place is quite convenient, and beats significant time wasted logging in and out constantly.
College Students like to keep in touch, and although Facebook is trying to steal yet another market with their new messaging system, nothing beats the old school AIM. If you don’t have a screen name, you should definitely get one. How else are you going to IM your roommate who’s sitting in the same room (a favorite pastime of mine, having whole AIM conversations with my roommate sitting a mere 10 feet away).
In college, you will most likely have a plethora of research assignments. While going to the library is sometimes unavoidable, for the smaller projects (and even to add to some big ones), having an encyclopedia handy is always a plus. If you’re making a PowerPoint presentation about a specific topic, you can sometimes get movies and pictures to add. While the internet, and Wikipedia are great tools, some professors are against any type of internet resource that doesn’t come from a site with a .edu address. Therefore, with encyclopedia software, you can still get some high quality information to add to your report from your very own desktop.
So there are 14 software applications that I feel every college student should have on their computers. Luckily, most computers already come with them installed, so the next step is to actually use them! If you don’t have anything on this list, then you might want to get with the times. You just might find that some applications can make your life much easier