5 Must-Have Tech Skills for College Students

Sharpening your typing and research skills will help reduce the time needed to complete assignments.

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College students must learn proper online etiquette, including how to interact with professors and on social media platforms.
College students must learn proper online etiquette, including how to interact with professors and on social media platforms.

It may not seem immediately apparent, but possessing a solid foundation in using daily technology can greatly smooth a student's transition to college academics. In order to be successful, there are a few technical skills students should develop long before reaching college.

1. Typing ability: You will type a great deal at college while searching the Internet, sending emails and writing papers. Accurate and swift typing is essential as the more time you require at the keyboard, the longer you will take to complete assignments. 

Learn to type correctly by purchasing a software program and practicing daily. Understanding the home keys, keyboard shortcuts and correct keystrokes will greatly improve your speed and accuracy in the long run. 

[Remember to practice college study skills in high school.] 

2. Online etiquette skills: You will frequently need to communicate through platforms such as email, online forums and social media during college. Learning how to use appropriate etiquette in online communications is essential for your success. 

A good rule of thumb is to always remain formal, such as addressing a professor as Dr. if they have a Ph.D. or otherwise as Mr. or Mrs. In your use of social media, never post anything that you would be embarrassed to show your grandmother. Keep any bashing, berating or other negative opinions to yourself. 

Practice appropriate formats for contacting professors by drafting emails with correct grammar and punctuation, no emoticons and a more professional tone. Make sure you know how to differentiate your writing style when reaching out to instructors from what you use to instant message your friends. 

If you are unsure of what a respectful email to a professor should look like, use Purdue's Online Writing Lab. There you can find stellar tips for email etiquette that you can apply to future communications. 

[Get 18 etiquette tips for emailing your professor.] 

3. Software suite basics: In most university course work, no matter your field of study, you must be able to navigate through a word processing program, a spreadsheet program and a presentation program. 

While there are a multitude of options available, the best known is Microsoft Office. If you master simple skills in Microsoft Office, this knowledge base easily transfers to other suites like Google Drive or OpenOffice. Set aside an hour to click through each drop-down menu and discover your chosen program's wide array of functions. 

If you are composing a paper, practice your typing skills while simultaneously broadening your knowledge of Word. If you are performing basic math calculations for homework, verify your answers with the functions in Excel. If you need to create a school presentation, develop a visual aid or slideshow using PowerPoint rather than a poster. 

4. Online research chops: It will be essential to your success in college to know how to properly use the Internet. Making the most of search engines, online reference materials and databases can help reduce the time it takes you to find the articles and research papers to support your projects. 

If you do not have a school reference database, use Google Scholar to ensure you are searching through credible material. Make sure you use nouns instead of pronouns and action verbs when entering search terms. 

The more specific your search phrases, the better results you will get. For instance, searching the term "music" will give much broader results than "rock music from the 1990s." 

In addition, make sure the websites you use are credible. Do this by checking the references listed in the provided article, as well as the domain name. Websites ending in .gov, .org and .edu domains are generally more reliable than other extensions. 

[Learn strategies for doing college online research.] 

5. Privacy and security awareness: Consciously practice privacy on the computer and Internet at all times. Recognizing what information you are making public is important, whether online or on a shared desktop. 

When utilizing social media, remember to thoroughly review all privacy policies. Steer clear of websites that share private information such as your address or telephone number. 

Additionally, choose unique passwords and periodically change them. Following through on regular online privacy and security now will not only protect you and your computer, it will aid you in forming a positive, lifelong habit. 

Meghan Moll is a professional science, math and ACT tutor with Varsity Tutors. She has a degree in biomedical engineering from St. Louis University.