8 Questions to Ask Your College I.T. Department

It’s back to school time and for you incoming freshman there are many that need to get done! Get ready to pack up your shit, say goodbye to your high school friends and prep for year of studying, making new friends and drinking your face off. Something else you need to look into before the year begins are the technology requirements of your new college. Here are “8 Questions to Ask Your College I.T. Department” from PC Magazine.

1. Is a computer required? Most colleges now require incoming students to bring a system with them. Save yourself the agony of being the only one in the lecture hall frantically scribbling notes and wishing you took that high-school shorthand course while your classmates are all calmly typing away.

2. Can I bring my PC from home? Many colleges give minimum requirements for both PC and Apple models, concentrating on memory, processor, and hard drive size. Some schools even recommend specific systems and brands. Before you bring your faithful system from home, make sure it doesn’t need a major up-grade to make it college-ready. If your current PC is over three years old, you may want to buy a new one.

3. Does the college offer any discounts on desktops or notebooks? Most colleges have made arrangements with specific computer manufacturers that can save you money on not just hardware, but on full software suites and ex-tended warranties as well. Others actually require you to buy a specific system from a particular manufacturer. Still others sell systems already discounted at a campus store. If your school doesn’t offer any of the above, you can find some special student discounts on manufacturers’ Web sites.

4. What specific operating system and software are required or recom-mended? Many colleges support both Microsoft Windows and Mac OS (few, if any, support Linux). Many schools also recommend that you have Microsoft Of-fice. They will even tell you which applications are not supported, such as in-stant-messenger chats, music managers, and utility software other than their own. With the newest Windows-based systems rolling out with Vista, it’s a good idea to make sure that your campus’s network and computer-based curriculums (such as those of accounting classes) support this new OS.

5. Are there broadband connections on campus? If so, where? The majority of colleges have broadband Ethernet connections in their dorms and libraries, as well as in some classrooms and public places, such as cafeterias. Virtually every school has a computer lab where you can schedule time to work on an Internet-connected computer if you can’t access your own PC.

6. Is there wireless access on campus? Most colleges are using wireless in common areas such as classrooms, cafeterias, libraries, and even outdoor ar-eas. Ask how much of the campus is currently covered, what kind of encryption it uses, and what plans the school has for additional coverage in the near future. Also find out what type of wireless it is (most likely it’s 802.11b or g), so you’ll be in sync. Few, if any, will be draft 802.11n, but this wireless standard is backward-compatible with both b and g.

7. Is there a computer-support business near your school that’s open 24/7? Be prepared for when your IT department is swamped during exam week and you can’t get an appointment for several days—and sending your computer to the manufacturer and getting it back will take at least a week. Do your emer-gency research now, so you don’t have to call your parents in the middle of the night pleading for help.

8. Does the school have an online help site? Most schools have support Web sites that you can access from on-campus dorms and off-campus apartments. Find out if you need VPN software to get to the school’s departmental servers from off campus. Better yet, find out if the school has a help site that will lead you step-by-step in downloading the VPN software, so you can get to your course-work during those unscheduled visits back home.

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