Back To School Tech Shopping Rules: Simple Dos And Don’ts

Unless you’re under 17 and attending grade school in France, where a cell phone ban has come into effect, tech is your reality on campus. Schools all over the country are leaving behind analogue teaching tools for digital ones.

You can’t expect to access online course materials, read digital journals, or message your fellow students easily if you don’t have the right devices. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy finding the “right” devices for your learning style — or budget. If you aren’t sure where to start with your back to school shopping, here are some simple dos and don’ts to help you.

DO shop refurbished

The most important devices also tend to be the most expensive. Laptops, printers, and other back to school essentials can eat up a lot of your budget when you purchase them at full price. You can reduce how much by buying used.


Refurbished computers tend to be much cheaper than their newer counterparts, but their price is pretty much the only way they differ. Though they may sport some cosmetic damages, the best refurbished devices come with the manufacturer’s guarantee that they’ve been tested thoroughly. Some even come with 1-year warranties on the work they’ve done to restore these refurbs to factory specifications.

Refurbished gadgets don’t deserve the stigma surrounding them. If you choose wisely when shopping for a refurbed device, you can get a high-performing computer at a fraction of the cost. So how do you shop wisely? Stick to trusted manufacturers that certify their refurbished items and avoid strangers that can’t guarantee the quality of their devices. Rather than search through Craigslist, companies like Apple, Dell, and Microsoft are a good place to start.

DON’T go without a skin

Laptop skin

A skin is a protective vinyl accessory that wraps around your tech to keep an impervious layer between it and the dangers of campus life. A company like dbrand uses 3M vinyl to offer waterproof, scratch-free, and grime resistant skins for a variety of devices — including your iPhone, MacBook, Surface Pro, or Alienware. This exclusive partnership also means the new skins from dbrand aren’t replicated anywhere else. Designs like bamboo and dragon skin will set your tech apart from the campus crowds as it protects it. iPhone skins and MacBook skins are especially important if you decide to take advantage of Apple’s refurbished program. These accessories will hide any of the minor cosmetic damages that come with these refurbed items.

DO think about power


While the tech world goes mobile at lightning speeds, the academic world is struggling to keep up. Your campus is probably under construction in an attempt to retrofit their campuses with tech-friendly buildings. Until they finish, your lecture hall isn’t always going to have enough plugs to go around for those students low on battery. You can’t expect to win the draw every time, so make sure you’re ready for your time without a power source by bringing a backup battery. A Mophie Powerstation XXL has enough juice in it to extend your MacBook’s battery by 14 hours, so you and your tech can be ready at any time of the day.

DON’T lose your stuff

Don't lose stuff

Your reliance on tech has a downside. While it’s easier to type up an essay than write it by hand — and easier to submit it online than in person — it’s also easier to misplace your tech. If you leave behind your tablet or Chromebook, you risk losing class notes, research, and assignments forever. This can be a gigantic step back for your academic career, resulting in an even bigger chunk taken out of your budget as you replace your lost or stolen gear. You can prevent making this a permanent loss by syncing all your tech with a device tracker. The Tile device tracker uses Bluetooth to keep digital eyes on anything it’s connected to, and it uses the GPS on your phone to tell you where they’re located.

You should also consider backing up your hard drive in case these items are stolen or lost when they’re low on battery. There are physical backup hard drives that store up to 2 TB of stuff on a small, portable device. You can also opt for free online storage with Google Docs or DropBox.

You already have enough on your plate with the beginning of the semester. Don’t add any more stress to your life by worrying about your tech. Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to back to school shopping. Keep these simple dos and don’ts in mind, and you’ll already be better prepared than your lecture seatmate.