How to Find the Right Computer for College

Most students today need a computer for college. Whether you are typing notes on a laptop during class, or writing a 20 page paper from your dorm room, having your own computer is more than just handy – it’s almost a necessity.

It’s much easier to finish and print a last minute assignment from your own computer than going to the library (assuming it’s open).

happy student with a new laptop

Determine What You Need in a Computer

Computers have become much more affordable in general, especially if you don’t need the added bells and whistles. There are plenty of student discounts available from most of the major computer manufacturers.

Before you start shopping for a computer, you need to determine what you will be using the computer for and what kinds of hardware and software you will require. If you are just going to be writing papers on your computer, you might see if a relative or friend has an old computer that you can use or borrow for college.

Here are some of the questions you might ask yourself before purchasing a computer:

1. Will you be using the computer for a major like Computer Science or IT?

If you intend to use your computer for coding or web design, check to see if your school offers recommendations on the hardware and software you might need. Although software can be expensive, you may be able to find a student version for less.

2. Will you be using the computer for a college major like Photography, Architecture, Art or Graphic Design?

If you intend to store large items, like pictures, on your computer you will need to make sure you have enough memory and RAM to meet your needs. In addition, if you plan to edit or create things on your student computer, you may need special software like Adobe Photoshop. Keep in mind that most professional graphic designers prefer the computing power of a desktop computer.

3. Do you want to take your computer to class or around campus?

A laptop is very convenient if you want to type notes in class, or bring your project to a group meeting. If you are always on the go, and you don’t need massive computing power, a laptop might be the best option.

4. Will you be using the computer for entertainment purposes, like watching movies or playing video games?

If your college dorm or apartment is tight on space, a computer that is properly equipped can easily provide for your entertainment. You can purchase a computer that has a DVD or Blu-ray player so that you can watch movies, or you can get online and watch many television programs for free. You will want to check a computer’s video card and sound capabilities to make sure they can handle your entertainment and gaming needs. If you are going to use your computer for entertainment purposes, you might want to consider purchasing a larger monitor.

5. Am I going to need accessories, like a printer or scanner?

Sometimes you can find a package deal for a computer that includes a monitor and printer at local retail stores or on a manufacturer’s website. Just remember that a printer has upkeep costs associated with it, such as purchasing paper and ink. If you aren’t ready for those expenses, you can check the cost to print at your school’s library.

You’ll also want to compare each computer’s features, to make sure you are getting what you need. If you don’t understand the difference between certain computer features, ask a customer service agent on the website or in your local retail store. Here are some of the computer features you will want to compare:

  • Processor
  • Memory
  • Hard Drive
  • Graphics Card
  • Sound Card
  • Media Reader
  • Mac or PC
  • Software/Antivirus Included
  • Internet Capability
  • CD/DVD/Blu-ray Drive
  • Speakers (are they included?)
  • Monitor Size/Display Quality

Shop for a Computer

Once you determine what you will be using the computer for and understand the features that you want, you can begin shopping for a new computer.

Even if you are looking for a specific computer brand, it’s smart to check multiple retailers and the computer manufacturer’s website to compare prices on the computer you want. Your school or professional organization may offer special student discounts from certain computer manufacturers, so check there and on our student discount page.

If you are in need of money for a computer, you can use your private student loan funds to purchase one and don’t forget to check out our saving tips.