How to Choose a Laptop for College
College students spend thousands of dollars every year on computers. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are several different types of laptops designed specifically for college students. If you’re buying a laptop computer for college, it pays to shop around and do some research. There are a lot of factors to consider, including how much money you want to spend, what type of computer you’ll use most often, and what features you need. Here are some tips to help you choose the best laptop for college.
- Consider the curriculum
When it comes to computing, students have different needs. Depending on their degree program, they might be able to get by fine with an inexpensive system — something that’s proficient at word processing, web browsing, and email.
If you’re buying a computer for school, there are a few things to remember. First off, what exactly do you plan to use it for? Suppose you’re planning to take full advantage of the latest technology. In that case, you might want to look into buying a MacBook Pro or MacBook Air. These laptops come with high-performance processors and excellent battery life, making them perfect for creative work.
On the flip side, if you want to surf the internet, check out a Chromebook; they’re cheap, easy to set up, and offer a clean OS experience. They won’t play games well, though, and they don’t support many apps beyond Chrome.
Students with course loads that include graphics-intensive processing, 3D modeling, CAD drawings, or video editing will want to make sure the laptop has a higher-end processor (like an Intel Core i5 or better within the last two generations), plenty of RAM (shoot for 16GB), a speedy solid-state drive. An excellent discrete graphics card is a plus feature. Expect a price tag near $1000 or more.
.2. Budget wisely
A budget computer isn’t necessarily bad. You don’t always need the fastest machine around. Sometimes you’d instead save money and go with a slower model. But if you’re strapped for cash, you might want to think about getting a refurbished computer.
3. Know your options
There are lots of ways to customize a computer. For example, some schools require you to access specific operating systems, while others let you choose your operating system. And some colleges allow you to bring your device.
4. Think about storage space
Most mid-level and higher laptops have a 256GB SSD (solid state drive). In addition, most universities provide students with some cloud storage. There are free amounts of cloud storage available from Microsoft, Google, Apple, and other vendors. It’s also good to have an external drive to backup critical files.
You should consider getting more storage if you’re into video editing, photography, or programming.
5. Screen Size
The size of a laptop’s screen will influence its weight and price. Laptops are typically categorized in stores and online by the size of their screens. Standard screen sizes for laptops usually start at 12 inches and continue up to 17 inches.
Again, ask yourself where and how you’ll use your new laptop to help you decide on screen size. For example, does your schoolwork or interests require you to use an external monitor?
Suppose you have your laptop connected to a more prominent display in your room while studying. In that case, your eyes will enjoy the screen real estate.
Choose the correct battery.
Generally speaking, the bigger the screen size of your laptop, or the heavier the model, the less battery life it will provide. Smaller laptops and Ultrabooks use lower voltage processors explicitly designed to offer better battery life. Go online to manufacturers’ Web sites to research battery life or read online reviews. Typically, mid-sized to larger laptops will deliver between four and six hours, while ultra-portable models can go for as long as ten hours.
Most students will need software productivity tools — word processor, spreadsheet manager, presentation builder — to handle the basics of school work.
You may be able to get Microsoft Office 365 for Education for free. Microsoft currently offers the suite at no charge for students and teachers; all you need is a valid school email address. Suppose the school doesn’t specifically require Microsoft Office. In that case, most students can get by with the likes of Google Workspace, which has a free student version.
Consider a free Office alternative for a more “traditional” productivity software experience. LibreOffice and WPS Office are excellent choices if you’re already acquainted with Microsoft Office, as it has a similar interface.
College campuses have computer stores that may claim to offer the best discounts on student laptops. Do your homework before shopping; however: These stores don’t always have the best prices, and their selection may be limited compared to what you can find online or in big-box stores such as Best Buy, Walmart, Apple, and Dell’s websites. For example, some have reported campus prices to be 35% higher than sale prices elsewhere.
Refurbished laptops can be excellent choices for students. These computers have been thoroughly cleaned and repaired to function essentially like new, but without the new computer price tag. This can work well for those looking for budget laptops without sacrificing build quality.
Scholarships For Laptops
Believe it or not, scholarships are available for students specifically for laptops. For example, Dell has a laptop scholarship that students can apply to receive laptops, financial aid, and textbook credits.
Try different scholarship search engines like Scholly, Fastweb, and Scholarships.com.