Saying that you need access to the internet is like saying fish need water.
A bit of an understatement, don’t you think?
Internet access for college students is much more than a need, it’s a way of life. You need the internet to complete homework & watch lectures, watch movies & stream music in your downtime and to keep up with family & friends through Facebook and email.
Considering how little spare time you have, and the importance of the internet to your day-to-day life, it’s very important that you choose the right ISP and internet service plan for your particulate situation.
What Are You (the College Student) Using the Internet For?
The best way to determine what internet service provider and plan you should signup to is to figure out what you’re going to use the internet for:
- Homework – You’ll want to be able to find out what your homework is, download any necessary files to complete, perform the work and then upload everything (to turn it in).
- Lectures – Watch lectures or presentations online from your laptop or tablet.
- Classes – Take entire courses/classes online from home.
- Connect – While away from home you might want to send emails, connect with family and friends on Facebook or Twitter and maybe talk via Skype video or instant messenger.
- Entertainment – Watch TV on Hulo, play World of Warcraft or download and listen to music.
If every student uses the internet the same way, then why might you choose one ISP and a peer choose another?
The key difference from one student’s internet service plan to the next will be usage. In other words, if you were to only use the internet for emails and Facebook, you won’t need a plan that has nearly the data limit that your friend that streams 2 hours of videos everyday does. If you’re constantly on the go and out of wi-fi range, you’ll need a different plan than your buddy who does all his homework from the local Starbucks.
Other factors will play a role too, such as your location and budget. Not every ISP will have service in your area, so if your buddy has Comcast, but goes to school in a different town than you do, then you might not be able to have the same ISP.
Budget is important because it will affect the quality of internet service you’re able to buy (and quantity when talking about data limits).
Internet Service Recommendations for College Students
- Speeds of 6 Mbps or higher.
- Wireless plans with 10 GB of data or higher.
- If using campus wi-fi, or if using a fixed internet connection, wireless 3g is a good idea for backup.
To find out what internet service providers are available in your area, just fill out the form below. Once you click the Find Offers button, a new window will open up and you’ll be shown a list of internet providers and offers available to you.
Based on the general needs of college students, I wanted to give you some base recommendations to work from when shopping for internet access.
Speed is going to be very important. If you have slow internet service you’ll find that it takes a long time to down/upload content. Videos will lag too, making it frustrating, if not impossible to watch.
Our recommendation is that students look for internet plans with listed speeds of 6 Mbps (mega bit per second) or higher.
If you need to buy a wireless modem and/or 3g internet service then you should understand data plans and how they work. These types of plans come with a data cap or limit, and everything you do (download, watch videos, email, etc) affects your data allowance. It can get quite expensive if you exceed this limit within your billing cycle.
We suggest that students get at least 7 to 10 GB. Start with the lower end if you don’t watch videos watch (videos use the most data) and go with the higher end of things if you plan on watching/streaming 30 minutes of video per day. Always go with a little more than you need, because that’s much cheaper than exceeding your limit.
Cost Effective Internet
The most cost effective internet plans will be landlines (hardwire). Your money should stretch further (enabling you to get faster, higher quality internet) and you won’t have to worry about data overages. You can even split the costs with your roommates. Keep in mind that wireless would be the way to go, but you’ll have the additional cost of a router ($50). You should still save money versus going with 3g, though.
However, it might also make sense to use wi-fi whenever possible and signup for a pay-as-you-go plan. You would use this plan only in emergencies (school’s wi-fi goes down, for example). It’ll cost more on a monthly basis, but the money you save when you don’t need it should more than make up for it.
To clarify, the school owns the (their) internet and wireless network. So other than it being congested by other students, or intermittently cutting out, it’s possible that they just take it down altogether. They may also restrict how you use it.