There is no denying that a laptop is invaluable for college. A desktop computer may not be enough because today’s education often involves creating and doing presentations from a laptop, for at least some classes. Students find laptops handy for note-taking and communicating with other students and faculty while on campus, but busy adults enrolled in online college programs also benefit from having a laptop. They can listen to lectures, participate in class discussions and do schoolwork wherever and whenever they catch a break between work and family responsibilities.
Many careers that college graduates expect to pursue make extensive use of laptops and tablets, such as health care, education and business. The global economy depends on technological competency. Students who become comfortable with this basic piece of technology are preparing for the world beyond graduation. That’s why some colleges require their students to have gear for mobile computing, and others highly encourage it.
An increasing number of schools have programs in place to help students shoulder the additional expense of acquiring a laptop and the software necessary for the program of study in which they are enrolled. The cost of a laptop loaded with the appropriate software for the specific course of study can usually run between $800 and $3,000. Some college “laptop programs” provide laptops or tablets for free or on loan until graduation. Others offer discounts for the purchase of certain brands.
College programs that offer free laptops to students may require that they fulfill certain conditions such as maintaining a certain grade point average, while laptop ownership at some schools is contingent upon graduation. Other schools tack on a technology fee for “free” laptops and tablets. It is a good idea to check with the schools to find out about any stipulations or additional costs.
Some colleges offer special laptop pricing from one or several vendors to encourage use of this important piece of technology. Enrollment is usually a prerequisite to access pricing information, and costs may not be available during the decision process.
The following list summarizes 20 popular college laptop initiatives for online and campus programs:
For a student whose college or school does not supply laptops, all is not lost. Many of the major brands featured in the laptop initiatives listed above are also available at a discount to students through the brand websites:
Notebooks for Students (NSF) is a nonprofit organization created by students for students in 1998. Since then they have been providing students with dependable, powerful laptops at affordable prices, including free service shipping and free warranty.
There are so many laptops to consider for students who are buying their own or have more than one choice offered from their institution. Often a faculty member in the department of the student’s major course of study may be a good source of advice. Students need to research the most likely uses for their tech equipment, e.g. for video streaming lectures or for assignments with heavy number-crunching. Online laptop buying guides offer comparisons of everything from price to the latest desirable features, but these may or may not be relevant to an individual student’s needs.
In general, students of graphic arts, music, film-making and other creative disciplines historically have preferred Apple products. Running Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and other editing software and designing multimedia presentations typically require more computing power than note-taking, researching online and composing term papers. Studies at some schools, however, are crossing subject boundaries to encourage learning–and applying that learning beyond school–as an interdisciplinary experience.
The following factors may also be of importance to students who are buying their own laptops:
Familiarity with the operating system
When it comes down to choosing a laptop vs. tablet, the question might be whether or not to have both. Tablets have come a long way in the last couple of years, and some may be a worthy alternative to a laptop, assuming the student has access to a good desktop for certain types of productivity.
As technology continues to evolve at its usual break-neck speed, more institutions of higher learning may include either laptops or tablets–or both–as part of their technology initiatives. As they compete for dedicated students, such offers, contingent up on degree completion, may be a powerful incentive if they can save students another substantial college expense.
|Product||Technology||PC Mag score||Price||Screen Size||Weight||RAM|
|MacBook Pro with Retina display||Apple Laptop||$1,999||15.4 inches||4.46 lb||8 GB|
|MacBook Air||Apple Laptop Ultra Notebook||$1,099||13.3 inches||2.91 lb||8 GB|
|Acer Aspire||Windows Ultrabook||$1,450||13.3 inches||2.87 lb||8 GB|
|Dell Latitude E7440 Touch||Windows Laptop||$1,949||14 inches||3.85 lb||8 GB|
|Dell Chromebook 11||Chrome OS||$ 299||11.6 inches||2.84 lb||8 GB|
|Lenovo G580||Windows Laptop||$479||115.6 inches||5.09 lb||4 GB|
|Lenovo ThinkPad X240||Windows Laptop||$1,495||12.5 inches||3.2 lb||8 GB|
|Lenovo G580MSI GS70 Stealth||Windows Laptop||$1,999||17.3 inches||5.8 lb||16 GB|
|Product||Technology||PC Mag score||Price||Dimensions||Weight||RAM|
|iPad Air||Apple Tablet||$499||9.4 x 6.6 x 0.29 inches||16.86 oz||1 GB|
|Amazon Kindle Fire HDX||Amazon Fire OS||$379||9.1 x 6.2 x 0.31 inches||13.5 oz||2 GB|
|Lenovo Mix||Windows Tablet||$299||8.5 x 5.25 x 0.3 inches||0.75 lb||2 GB|
|Dell Venue 11 Pro||Windows Tablet||$499||11 x 7 x 0.4 inches||1.65 lb||2 GB|
|Samsung Galaxy Note||Android Tablet||$549||9.57 x 6.75 x 0.31 inches||19.75 oz||3 GB|
|Product||Technology||PC Mag score||Price||Dimensions||Weight||Total Storage|
|Apple iPhone 5s||Apple Phone||$649||4.87 x 2.31 x 0.3||3.95 oz||16 GB|
|Samsung Galaxy S5||Android Phone||$660||5.6 x 2.85 x .3||5.1 oz||16 GB|
|Nokia Lumia 925||Windows Phone||$529||5.01 x 2.77 x 0.33||4.9 oz||29 GB|