I recently spent the
weekend on a scavenger hunt for the "must haves" on my children's back-to-school
lists. Parents, see if this list sounds familiar: Backpack, rubber cement,
safety scissors, saddle oxfords (I am not making this up), spiral notebooks and
the perfect new pair of jeans. This is one of those fall rites that we all get
to enjoy with our children.
As I write this, thousands
of budding engineers are gathering their
back to school wares - laptops, dorm refrigerators and the like. The items that
ultimately make it into the family car for the drive to college provide a
unique window into the world of our children. Getting a front row seat to both
the emotion and practicality of the dorm move-in, I thought I would provide my list
of "must haves" for the college-bound engineer:
Extension Cords -
Most dorm rooms were built at a time when people only plugged in a lamp, a
clock radio and maybe a small TV. How times have changed: nearly everything
students treasure requires electricity. So it's a good idea to throw in some
power strips to keep the juice flowing. And do check the amperage at your
school of choice before firing up all your toys: It is quite embarrassing for a
new engineer to trip a switch on opening weekend.
iPad - First of all,
sporting an iPad sends the message that you are living on the cutting edge and
you like to travel light. It also helps project a "socially conscious" attitude
to the hipster upper-class students. And you can burn downtime on Words with
Friends, while updating your Facebook page and listening to Pandora. †
Slingbox - You have
logged endless hours on the sofa watching TV, so going cold turkey is not an
option in the middle of this big life change. But be mindful, if you want to
look like a person on a serous life mission, you are going to want to get your
TV fix in private.
Tie or Skirt - Yes,
you will need to get dressed up every now and then. It could be the obligatory dinner
over parent's weekend or a gathering with corporate visitors that could lead to
a plumb summer job. It happens. Guys, make sure you can tie a double Windsor.
Army Knife - I know this sounds old school, or maybe better yet like you are planning
to break into the Dean's office, but believe me, both tools will get you out of
many scrapes throughout the year.
Prepaid Credit Card
- If you have paid any attention to the ethical meltdown on Wall Street, you
have learned what happens to adults when they have unfettered access to debt.
Cap your own liability now before it bites you. Plus, you can get others to
spring for dinner when you hit your limit.
Smart Car, Vespa or Bike - Gasoline is currently uncool on the college campus. You gotta get
around, so go green. You will generate more bald-faced envy than the kids who
arrive in their guzzling hot rods and monster trucks.
words: Don't fret if you find you have left something at home. You always have Craigslist
and eBay. Now go to class and study your tail off. You have important things to
do. Geoffrey C. Orsak is Dean
of the SMU Lyle School of Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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