Sound the alarm – summer is almost over.

As students scramble preparing to head back to school, high-tech items are topping shopping lists.

From computers to cell phones, modern school supplies are far more costly and complex than they were during the fashionable days of No. 2 pencils and ruled binder notebook paper.

And consumers will pay for that change —- spending an expected $2.7 billion on back-to-school electronics this year.

But first, experts suggest parents do some research of their own before dishing out the cash for needed supplies. Some colleges and universities even require that students purchase their own personal computers for their studies.

"This is a big investment,” said Ron Baime, vice president for technology and audio and video products of Circuit City. “You want to make sure the student can use it through their four years in college."

Dorm room computer wish lists include the capability to word process, burn CDs, watch DVDs, listen to and download music, store and edit photos and maintain a speedy Internet connection.

"[Consumers need to] make sure the computer has enough memory, it has enough power and it has the functionality that the student may need for their four years in school," Baime said.

But the big question is: Should students buy a laptop or a desktop? Technology expert Robin Raskin said there are many factors to consider including cost, convenience and capabilities.

"Desktops are very affordable,” said Raskin. “They're rugged and can also serve as your dorm-room entertainment center."

While laptops are more expensive — the average cost is $1,500 — they allow more flexibility.

Students can “access wireless access points all over your campus,” Raskin said, adding that many professors take advantage of students bringing laptops to class by asking them to take notes with them or giving out electronic handouts.

Other gadgets, such as digital cameras, can also be handy for piecing together class presentations and help youngsters prepare for the professional world.

"Now kids are turning in all types of multimedia reports,” Raskin said.

All-in-one devices, such as printers that double as scanners, copiers and fax machines, are also big on students' wish-lists and can be especially useful in cramped dorm rooms.

And don’t forget cell phones, which not only allow students to avoid having to split landline bills with roommates, but have many other usages as well.

“Now every student wants their own cell phone, but not just a phone to take calls,” said Katlean De Monchy, of Nextpert.com. “[They want] a phone that acts as a digital camera, allows them to send and receive e-mail and to download games.”

Even with all the tech gadgets in the world, though, many parents agree that good old-fashioned studying is the best tool to make the grade.

Fox News' Amy Sims contributed to this report.