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Class of '11 brims with gadgets, hope

In just four years, the profile of the average college freshman has vastly changed thanks to technology, according to a new study.

My, my how time flies. In just four years, the profile of the average college freshman has vastly changed, thanks to technology. That's according to a study published Wednesday from Alloy Media and Marketing and research firm Harris Interactive, which contrasted details of the class of 2011 from that of 2007. (It queried 1,592 students ages 18 to 30 in the United States to gather its data).

The gist is that most college freshman are likely carrying all of the following: cell phone, digital camera, laptop and iPod (or some other MP3 player). It may seem hard to imagine it any other way, but that wasn't the case just four years ago, when "wired" still meant caffeinated and students weren't necessarily messaging their professors on Facebook.

What are the differences? Here's a short list:

No big surprise, but 93 percent of freshman say they own a cell phone, vs. about 78 percent four years ago.

A majority of students, 64 percent, owns a digital camera, double the figure four years ago. Sixteen percent say they plan to buy one this year.

More than half of students (58 percent) own an MP3 player, up from 17 percent in 2004.

A majority of students (63 percent) own a laptop, vs. 42 percent in 2005. The desktop is now considered "old school," according to the report.

About a third of college kids are mobile on campus, thanks to blanket wireless connectivity at as many colleges, according to the study. That number has doubled in four years, and it's poised to increase. Two-thirds of campuses say they have a wireless strategy in place.

More than half (54 percent) of students visit a social network every day. Four years ago, the number was too small to report. And 27 percent of students say they prefer to keep in touch with friends via a social network over face-to-face communication.

Finally, a third of this group believes they have an innate ability to change the world for the better and say they are more likely to buy brands that are socially and environmentally responsible. Harris didn't report the earlier figure, but it's heartening.