Computing Gifts for Students - 2011 Holiday Shopping Guide

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Amazon Kindle

I’ll start off with one of the more interesting devices on the market. Any ebook reader will be fairly useful for a student, but Amazon’s latest offerings are especially nice. Not only does it open up the possible for electronic textbooks, but the latest models can show PDF files. Since professors just love to assign .PDF files for readings, this portable device can come in handy.

Amazon Gift Card

While we’re on the topic of Amazon, I might as well point out just how useful an Amazon gift card can be. Amazon’s cards are effectively as good as cash thanks to their large selection. Your student can pick out music, games, textbooks or any computing devices that fell through the cracks.

Any iPod

I won’t get into the particulars of just which iPod (or general MP3 player) is the “best.” As a rule of thumb, there are different options for people with different needs. Just note that you should really try to set them up with something, if they don’t already have one. While college can be a time for partying, it’s also a time when they’ll need to be able to avoid disturbing other people on their dorm floor, on a bus or in the library. Having a little music player on hand is practically required for staving off boredom.


Yes, I just said that an iPod and headphones are ideal for avoiding roommate conflicts, but there are times when they’ll want nice sound too. Having some external speakers for laptops and devices can make little parties better, and they’re fairly vital for getting the most out of any device. It’s not a lot of fun watching movies when the sound is sent out through weak built-in speakers or free headphones.

A Jump Drive

Students may be more mobile than ever before, but there will be times when they will need to haul some documents and files around. Even with a nice laptop, they will need to jump on other computers quite often. Since libraries and their lovely printing services are the lifeblood for most students, having an easy way to bring carry programs, files and other digital treasures around will be quite nice. Plus, they’ve gotten quite cheap, especially if you don’t want more than a few gigs.

A Good Case

Everyone remembers to get a laptop, but it’s surprising how many people don’t go the extra step to protect them. While you can stick to small protective sleeves to keep a laptop safe, it’s often worth the extra few dollars to get a good bag. A nice sturdy case can make a laptop easier to haul around at college, and it’s a necessity if they plan to take it with them on any plane trip.

You may want to consult with your student on what type of bag they would prefer. I’ve included a picture of a normal messenger bag design, but there are special backpack style bags that may be a better option. Also make sure that you get the appropriate size.

A Cooling Pad

Laptops are based around the idea of jamming a bunch of electronic equipment into a narrow case and doing everything possible to filter that heat out before it damages anything. A laptop throwing out heat isn’t exactly fun to keep on your legs, so it’s a good idea to get a cooling pad.There are a few options. You can get one with a simple fan, or try to get materials that absorb the heat. Either option is great for getting a little extra comfort.

A Laptop Desk

Another important lesson to learn about laptops is that they can be quite uncomfortable to use if they’re just awkwardly balanced on someone’s legs or laid down flat on a desk. If the laptop will be their main computer, getting a nice laptop stand or lapdesk is a good investment. And note that a few designs offer the best of both worlds, such as cooling and more comfortable angles and stands.

Laptop Security Lock

It’s not fun to think about security, but theft is a real threat in the dorms. Even if they aren’t worried about their laptop being converted into beer money, it’s not a lot of fun to have one disappear as part of a prank, or have one “borrowed” by someone on the hall. Investing in a simple lock can make their expensive laptop a little bit safer. If their laptop has a spot for a safety lock on it, then it’s a decent little add-on.

Battery Extenders

When any phone, laptop or mobile device states a long battery life, they’re really talking about “ideal” conditions. These conditions usually mean that the device is barely on and not being used. In real life, the battery life can be depressingly short. To keep trips and layovers at the airport from turning into boring nightmares, a battery extender comes in handy.

Note, please be sure that you’re getting an extender that is rated for the student’s device and model. It should say so in the description.

A Wireless Mouse

A wireless mouse is just nice to have. The average desk is already a mess of cords, and using a laptop with just a touchpad can be a bit annoying. There’s something to be said for having a nice mouse in your hand, and especially one that can be easily carried and used on the go. There’s a lot of choices and brands out there, so feel free to shop around.

Nice Earbuds

Chances are that the default earbuds or headphones that come with any MP3 player or laptop are going to be fairly low quality. Occasionally you’ll get a good set, but often they’re uncomfortable, have poor sound quality or they’re just the wrong size. You don’t need to shell out a lot of money for top of the line sound equipment. A fairly cheap set of comfortable earbuds will come in handy and get a lot of use.


  • All images from cited sources
  • All information based on author’s personal experience