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STATS >> Your Technology, Their Choices

When your students arrive on campus next fall with their technology expectations, will you fall short of them, meet, or exceed them?

Admissions departments put enormous effort into ensuring that admitted students are a good fit for departmental programs and academic standards. Even student residential programs poll incoming students with an eye toward achieving harmony in the dorms. But how much do you know much about your future students' technology practices? Student Monitor ( knows plenty. The NJ-based research firm tracks college and pre-college student characteristics in several categories, including lifestyle and media, financial services, telecom, computing, and the Internet.

With a representative sample of 1,200 students at 100 colleges and universities, the company reports on everything from general demographics to the specific Internet buying habits of various groups of students. Reports cover a wide range of topics that will reveal interesting trends over time, but perhaps the most valuable data points are the ones that can keep IT directors from being caught off guard-and sooner, rather than later.

Which platform? For example, do your students overwhelmingly prefer PCs? While Dell still dominates the realm of student-owned computers, Student Monitor's 2004 Computing and the Internet study reveals a big jump in students' interest in purchasing Apple computers. How would a sudden influx of Macintosh users affect your help desk and other IT services?

E-mail aficionados. And how are students using your carefully selected and well-maintained e-mail system? Student Monitor reports that in 2004, students had an average of 2.3 e-mail addresses. That's probably not a surprise, as it's common to juggle more than one account. But only 36 percent of students considered their institution's server as their main mail system. How might that affect communications on campus?

The plain truth is, college freshmen now have an average of 8.1 years of prior personal computing experience, according to Student Monitor. Now, more than ever, your students will bring their own computing preferences to campus-including ones that could possibly undermine communications systems or render the institution's hard-fought implementations redundant. IT director: Watch those upcoming generations!

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