(BPT) - - Just 30 years ago, textbooks, paper and pencils were the main supplies college students needed. In today's digital world, where more teachers are using technology to deliver a better learning experience, college-bound students need to equip themselves with the latest technology to make the most of their college experience and give themselves an academic edge. But how do students and parents know which technologies can get the job done, and how can they best use them to their advantage? "From viewing lectures online and getting help from a digital tutor to using one of more than 20,000 education-specific apps now available, today's college students have many options when it comes to technology," says Brian Kibby, president of McGraw-Hill Higher Education. "Finding the right tools can enhance the learning experience and improve student performance in class - sometimes by a full letter grade or more. These tools have great potential to help students master course material and prepare them for success not only in the classroom, but after graduation." Here are some important tech tips for college-bound students and their parents: 1: Get advice and choose the best fit for you. There is no single piece of technology that's right for every college student. It's important to think carefully about your individual needs and purchase only what works best for you. However, it can be helpful to ask current college students which devices they have found to be the most useful. Talk to recent grads about what it takes to be successful in college and what, if anything, they may wish they had done differently in regard to studying and technology. Their answers might be surprising and help steer you in the right direction. 2: Try before you buy. Before you make a purchase, spend some time with the equipment or program and see how it works. Think of the three things you'll use it for the most and make your purchase based on those criteria. Before you decide to buy an iPad, try using one to type an email, take notes and view videos to see how comfortable it feels. If not, try another option. In addition to how a device functions, you should assess its portability and battery life since you'll be using it frequently and in different locations. 3. Hire your very own digital tutor. Personalized study tools like McGraw-Hill LearnSmart dramatically increase student engagement, retention and achievement through a customized learning experience, making study time more efficient and effective. This adaptive learning program tailors students' studies to their individual needs by continuously assessing their knowledge and skills, and providing personalized recommendations that help them master course concepts. In a McGraw-Hill Effectiveness Study released last year, LearnSmart was shown to turn C students into B students, and B students into A students. Starting at $24.99 a semester, it's a simple and affordable way to study more efficiently and help increase your GPA. 4. When it comes to tech, put yourself in your professor's shoes. Once you're on campus, don't be afraid to ask professors for insights about which technologies will help you the most. Many college professors today use a technology called lecture capture that enables professors to record lectures and make them available for replay after class. Most colleges and millions of college students use digital course hubs that house everything from the course syllabus and e-book to interactive, adaptive quizzes all in one location. 5. Stay connected to your college finances. If you understand how your college finances work, you're more likely to take college seriously and get the most out of your education. Speak to your parents about yearly tuition totals and the cost breakdown of each individual class. Use tools like Mint.com to understand spending habits, start a budget, and stay on track. Graduating college with the best grades and as little debt as possible is key to positioning yourself for success after college. 6. Use social media for academic and professional growth - not just to post party pictures. College-age students are among the most active users of social media, but many are not aware of the academic and professional benefits. Learn more about how social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn can help build your academic network and market yourself as a professional. Your college's career center should have plenty of info on how you can get started putting your best foot forward with a positive social media footprint.
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