Online student resources

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Being a student has its advantages, but few would venture that one of those is your current economic situation. Sure, there’s the promise of significantly greater earning power over your lifetime with the door to higher income jobs opened by a college degree. In the meantime, though, you’re running out of creative ways to prepare ramen (Google “ramen noodle pancakes”) and watching your loan bills mount while bouncing between a couple of part-time jobs. Thankfully, there are some steeply discounted products and free offers available to you on the Web just for being a student.

First off, check out http://webstore.illinois.edu. As a UIS student, you are entitled to educational and student-licensed copies of high quality software packages. That means saving tons of cash while loading your laptop full of essentials.

Click “personal purchase” at the top to get started. Log in with your NetID and password before browsing the catalog. Some software packages are only available to students at certain campuses. There’s no point in getting excited about a certain piece of software only to find out later that the offer is restricted to students at UIUC or UIC.

The WebStore carries both Mac and Windows platforms. You can browse offerings by type, platform, or campus. There are even some free software packages available. Nothing is more discouraging than having your research paper munched by a virus you picked up while using your buddy’s unprotected Wi-Fi network, so download the free copy of McAfee VirusScan to ensure that never happens.

One thing that will most surely happen, though, is that at some point in your college career, you will bolt out of bed at 2 a.m., suddenly remembering you need to make a PowerPoint presentation for class in the morning. The computer labs are closed and sending a frantic txt message to that guy you met at orientation (“U got PwrPoint? Need for class this AM!!!”) is no way to make a lifelong friend.

The WebStore offers Microsoft Office 2010 Professional, a package that retails for between $350 and $499, for only $65. Get it now and sleep soundly this semester.

Before making any purchase be sure to read the “specifications” (a.k.a., fine print) on the product page. The WebStore’s licensing agreements vary. Some software packages can only be used while you are a student. Others are perpetual licenses that allow you to continue using it even after graduation.

Some software is instantly downloadable from the site, while other packages must be delivered on CD-ROM. Unfortunately, the WebStore does not offer a pick up location in Springfield, so you will need to pay additional shipping of $3. But with the substantial savings, that’s a small price to pay.

In addition to the Microsoft products you can pick up at the WebStore, Microsoft runs their own program called DreamSpark. At http://www.dreamspark.com, the company aims to “put some of the world’s most powerful software in the hands of students and educators.” All you need to do is create a new account using your UIS e-mail address to start downloading free software.

Whether you’re majoring in management information systems or computer science, or are just a closet computer whiz, this is the site for you. Microsoft offers free versions of Web development, server management and coding software. One of the more unique offerings is XNA Game Studio 4, which allows you to develop your own games with “custom-managed code libraries, Xbox Live Support and Games for Windows Live Support.” Microsoft has also included links to tutorial videos to familiarize you with the basic features of some pieces of software.

Lastly, Amazon Student is a free membership program for college students that gives you free two-day shipping on eligible purchases with no minimum order requirements for six months. Also, you can upgrade your account to Amazon Prime for just $39 annually, instead of the usual $79. This adds unlimited access to streaming video.

It’s as though Amazon is saying, “Find some new swag for class or maybe a used copy of that super expensive textbook. Then, start watching a few movies or an entire television series. Before you know it, your stuff will have arrived with that free two-day shipping.”

The dividends of a college education are paying off early. Society is already investing in your success, confident that one day they’ll reap the benefits of the brilliance and knowledge you gained at UIS. Go take advantage of their good faith.