A lot of Universities RECOMMEND that you have XP Pro, but it seems kind of odd that they'd REQUIRE it. You might want to double check with any help desk type people on that one.
To clear up a few things though. You should be able to just pop in an XP Pro CD and upgrade Home to Pro. Generally speaking, a clean install is the better route to take, but not necessary. Doesn't matter if you get the OEM, retail, or academic versions, they'll all work. The catch with OEM versions however, is there's no support, and it will forever be locked to that specific laptop. Retail and Academic versions are the same thing, only you get a discount on the Academic version if you buy it through your school or some such. You may also not get a box or "manual" (usually more of a pamphlet) with it. Just a CD in a sleeve with a CD key code on a sticker on the back. Still not a bad deal if you ask me.
Also, any hardware that works with XP Home will work with XP Pro. You may have to reinstall some drivers, but unless Dell has recently changed their practices, you should have gotten a blue colored CD that has all the drivers and probably a Norton Antivirus trial version, etc. This will be necessary if you do a clean install, but an upgrade should be able to use your existing drivers just fine.
But before you go getting too far along, I would strongly recommend that you double check on this requirement of XP Pro. That just seems rather suspect to me, since so many systems come loaded with XP Home, they'd likely have a large volume of phone calls from irate parents. If it's not an absolute requirement, leave well enough alone. There's probably nothing in XP Pro that's worth the upgrade price for you unless you're majoring in something like MIS. But if you were, you probably wouldn't be asking such basic questions, and if you are, now's a good a time as any to pick a different major.
I have dell inspiron 700m with windows xp home however, my school now req that I have xp pro version. Can anybody tell me how to go about doing this. I read several forums saying I could just buy upgrade and pop in cd and it will work and several who say that I must do clean install. If I do upgrade , can anybody suggest what should I purcahse. I tried looking for things but they all say different things like, OEM version only, Full version only-- will not work for upgrade, academic version only.
And once I change the OS will my built in wireless and so forth work in my laptop? Any help will be apprecaited because I can not afford to buy a new computer since I just brought this one