Choosing the Right Laptop for College

In our ever-evolving world of technology, the use of laptops and other devices is on the rise. If you haven’t already been using some version of this tech in high school (and chances are, you definitely have), you’ll certainly need to look into purchasing a computer of some sort for college. Gone are the days of mere paper and pen—laptops are now essential for everything from typing a paper to doing research for a project to taking notes in class.

So with all the options out there, how do you know which device is right for you? We’ve compiled a list of some helpful aspects to think through as you consider what type of laptop to buy. We know they’re expensive, so you want to think through the different ramifications and the situations you’ll need to use it in.

1. Check with your campus IT department

Different schools have different recommendations for what their students should have as far as a laptop should go. While some may have a list of minimum specs and requirements for devices, others may have fairly specific software required of college attendees. Some schools have different suggestions based on major, so it’s important to consider the kind of work you’ll be doing on your computer as well.

While it’s helpful to get recommendations from your school’s IT department, remember that it’s just a baseline, and you have the freedom to choose the device that’s right for you. If you’re still feeling uncomfortable about your particular choice, run the device/model by the IT gurus at your university and see if they give their seal of approval.

2. Think about your major

There’s a good chance that if you’re a computer science major or a graphic designer, you’ll need a particularly specific kind of device. A bigger screen, a larger amount of storage, the capabilities to run certain programs or applications, as well as many other considerations are all important things to consider as you purchase your computer.

If you’re majoring in writing, perhaps a lighter-weight computer with less of a focus on clarity of screen or storage amount is a better pick for you. That way, you can cart it around to coffee shops without it weighing your backpack down. Will you need an external monitor? A separate laptop or mouse? Your IT department should be able to make recommendations based on your major as well, but be sure to check in with your academic advisor to see if there are any specifics you should consider.

3. Windows PC or Mac? 

Ah, the great debate. You might have a definite preference before you go into your laptop search, but it’s important to consider a few things before making your decision. Check with your school about the software you’re required to have for classes. For instance, some engineering software requires a Windows PC, while some design software operates more efficiently on a Mac.

Overall, Macs tend to be rather effortless in their quality, and Apple Support will quickly and efficiently solve any issues you run into with your computer. On the flip side, Windows PCs have a lot more wiggle room for customization and selections, so if you’re a gamer or coder, you might find more enjoyment with a Windows.

4. Top priorities include battery life, storage, and durability

There are certainly a lot of extras you can spend money on when it comes to purchasing a laptop. However, it might not be worth your dollars to buy a computer with a top-end processor or graphics card just to make video gaming more enjoyable. When it comes to academics, focus on prime considerations, like laptops with long battery lives, a reasonable amount of storage, and great durability—unless, of course, you’re majoring in video game design.

Getting the biggest battery you can manage is important, as you don’t want to be tethered to an outlet with your charging card each and every time you have homework to do. Most students think they can squeak by with the minimum amount of battery life, but trust us—you’ll regret that later on. If you’re going to be streaming a lot of videos, downloading music, or managing a photo library, a large hard drive is equally as important. While these additions may cost extra, they’ll be well worth it in the long run.