Online Colleges That Offer Laptops And How to Choose – and Find Funding for – the Right Laptop if They Don’t

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Laptops are the technological tool of choice among college students today. It should come as no surprise that – according to a 2014 survey by computer company AMD – nearly 85 percent of college students report using a laptop for classwork, research, and assignments. The same survey reports that 41 percent of students regard their laptops as their most prized possession, even above their phones and cars. Despite the popularity of laptops on the college campus, costs can be prohibitive, and make it difficult for already financially-stressed students to afford what is increasingly becoming a necessary tool. Thankfully, many colleges are recognizing this need, and financial aid programs have begun to spring up to help students afford the costs of these portable machines.

Over the past year, smartphones and tablets have become powerful tools in the classroom, as well. Apps such as Evernote, Wunderlist, and Google Docs make these micro gadgets valuable for note taking, audio/video recording of lectures, and sharing information with classmates in real-time or after class. But which tech provides the most value, the largest bang for your buck, and the best way to keep education mobile? See the specs on today’s top tech, and learn which online colleges offer free laptops and iPads in 2018.

Best Online Colleges That Offer Laptops 2018-2019

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Covering the cost of necessary technology can seem overwhelming for prospective students. To help alleviate some of the financial strain, various colleges offer laptop programs and other valuable tech perks. Most programs either gift a laptop or tablet to incoming students, offer discounts towards a laptop or tablet, or loan a device to students during their enrollment. Beyond laptops, many colleges also provide complimentary or discounted software, mobile phones, and plans, software training, or cloud storage. View the 50 colleges featuring the best combination of tech perks, overall affordability, and online academic excellence below.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling ServicesFree Laptop Loaner Laptop Discounted Laptop Phone Software Software Training Cloud Storage University Information
1 Western Kentucky University Bowling Green, Kentucky$9,91241%94%54%28No Yes YesYes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

With more than 90 online degree and certificate programs, Western Kentucky University has placed an emphasis on distance learning. With the rising costs of college tuitions and other expenses, WKU has attempted to ease the burden by offering computer discounts to students. Through the campus store, students are eligible to get discounts on Apple or Dell computers. These computers all fit the technical standards set by the school, so online students should have no problem accessing their courses and completing assignments using one of these computers. For students that can't as easily afford computers, WKU also has a special program that provides a free, refurbished Apple computers to any student who earns it by completing a minimum of 40 community service hours and submits an application. Students are selected to receive awards by the program committee, and winners each receive a free computer. Typically, 20 computers are given to students through this program each semester.

School website
2 University of Minnesota-Crookston Crookston, Minnesota$10,18085%68%48%15Yes Yes YesYes Yes No Yes Yes No No

The University of Minnesota Crookston strives to be a leader in experiential and nontraditional education, and it emphasizes the importance of a technology-rich environment for students. To support this, it's taken measures to ensure both its on- and off-campus students have access to all the tools necessary to be successful in today's world. All on-campus students are given laptops once they begin their studies - an effort that is part of the UMC advantage. Students who are enrolled in U of M Crookston's online programs benefit from a flat tuition rate and low per-credit online class charge, which makes affording needed tools much easier. Unfortunately, students who do choose to study entirely online are not eligible for the free computer program; however, if students complete at least half of their studies on campus, they will receive computers. Many of the programs offered online can be completed in a hybrid format.

School website
3 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida$4,55969%47%71%24No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes

Among the largest schools in the state, the University of Southern Florida offers an affordable education, with nearly all of its students receiving some form of financial aid. For Florida residents, its online programs offer an affordable and convenient option through which to earn an education. However, students know that fees can extend beyond tuition per credit, especially with the growing need for technology for in-person and online studies. With this in mind, USF has partnered with Bell Techlogix to provide students with discounts on computers and accessories, such as software, headphones and printers. Through its computer store, students can purchase personal laptops, meaning they don't have to return them to the school after they earn their degrees. The majority of the computers sold through this program meet the standards expected for online study, but students should be sure to double check that their desired programs and computers are a good fit.

School website
4 University of Southern Mississippi Hattiesburg, Mississippi$7,54968%60%51%29No Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Whether students choose to study on campus or online at the University of Southern Mississippi, students should find USM an affordable option. The school boasts that it's one of the most affordable schools in the nation. In fact, students who study online and register to take 12 credit hours at a time - achieving full-time status -can receive an additional 7 credits per term at no additional cost. Of course, students who study online will need to have computers that meet specifications for their courses, such as the capability of running high-speed internet, the Windows operating system and high processing rates so students can make the most out of their education. Students in need of computers suited for online learning can purchase one at a discount through Southern Miss. Computers are offered by 4 different vendors and are available in pre-set bundles or can be designed by the student to fit their own technical needs. All computers are warrantied for 1 year, and students can easily research their specs to find the best option.

School website
5 Appalachian State University Boone, North Carolina$4,15936%68%71%14Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes

Students who choose study online at Appalachian State University should already have completed their first 2 years of education. All its online bachelor's degree programs are degree-completion programs designed for transfer students who have earned a minimum number of college credits already. Because many students transfer in, they may not have experience with online education, and their current computers might not meet the specifications necessary to earn their degrees online. Through the campus store, students can purchase new or refurbished Dell and Apple products, which are guaranteed to meet the specifications required by the school and its online programs. Along with computers, App State also offers discounts on software such as Microsoft Office 365, as well warranties. Students who do purchase computers - particularly older, refurbished models - may want to upgrade their wireless cards to improve their Wi-Fi service. These are personal computers, so students get to keep them after they earn their degrees.

School website
6 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Lincoln, Nebraska$6,75765%75%69%13No Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Because many of its students have a difficult time commuting to campus due to being in faraway locations or working full-time jobs, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln has created a robust distance education program. Through its online programs, students can earn degrees or certificates in more than 125 disciplines from anywhere with internet access. Accessing the internet is a problem for some students, particularly those who don't own computers or whose computers don't meet the required standards set by the University of Nebraska. If this is the case, students have a few options. The first is purchasing a discounted computer through the Huckertech store. Other technological tools and accessories are available at a discount, including tablets and smart phones. The second option is getting a laptop through the school's equipment checkout program. This allows students to borrow computers for up to 7 days at a time. After the 7-day period, students can return the laptops and then rent them out again the following day if need be.

School website
7 University of Oklahoma-Norman Campus Norman, Oklahoma$4,57580%71%70%19Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes

With more than 20,000 students, the University of Oklahoma is one of the largest schools in the state. It didn't grow that large without first gaining respect as a top educator in the region. OU holds its students to high academic standards, including nontraditional students who study through its Extended Campus Online. As part of its efforts to maintain the same academic rigor in its online programs as what it offers on campus, OU has a minimum set of standards for computers. To make things easier for its distance education students, Oklahoma offers laptops at a discount through its Dell College Store, a division of its online bookstore that sells computers and other technology gear. OU has a partnership with Dell, so students will have multiple Dell options to pick from. All the computers will meet the technical requirements mandated by the school. Accessories for laptops are also offered at a discount. An equipment checkout program enables students who visit campus to borrow needed equipment as needed.

School website
8 Sam Houston State University Huntsville, Texas$5,17225%72%56%29Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes

Sam Houston State University has a long history of educating students to become local leaders, much like the school's namesake. However, with its constantly expanding set of online programs, SHSU has had to find a way to bring the same education quality of its brick-and-mortar courses to its virtual ones. Not only has SHSU managed to keep its online academics consistent with its on-campus alternatives, but it's also made efforts to make sure online students have access to the same helpful resources. One such resource is its equipment loan program that allows students to borrow equipment, such as laptop computers, to meet assignment requirements. For online students who don't live near campus and can't borrow this equipment, SHSU offers discounted personal computers, laptops and tablets from brands like Apple and HP. All students also get free access to Office 365, which includes email, cloud storage and Microsoft Office tools.

School website
9 Florida International University Miami, Florida$4,72144%50%60%33No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes

With a history rooted in serving nontraditional students and innovative education delivery methods, Florida International University has developed an impressive selection of undergraduate, graduate, certificate and continuing education online programs. The size and quality of its FIU Online program is particularly impressive considering the school was founded just 4 decades ago. Students in online programs will have certain technological needs in order to take their courses, so having up-to-date computers and equipment is important to getting the most out of their studies. FIU has leveraged its relationships with large businesses to bring students discounted products from Apple, Dell, Microsoft, Lenovo and HP, so students can pick from almost any computer style. Other products, such as tablets and smart devices, are also available with a discount through its student store, FIU Panther Tech. Along with this equipment, students also have access to repair and IT services, so any online education troubles can be sorted out through FIU.

School website
10 Washington State University Pullman, Washington$9,32472%72%70%20Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes

Located in Pullman, Washington State University is one of the top research schools in Washington state. Because of its small size and rural location, many students from faraway locations have opted to study at WSU through distance learning, offered through its Global Campus. WSU is a leader in distance learning education, but students will need powerful technology and access to the internet in order to earn their degrees online. Students who are curious whether their current computers are up to standards can check WSU's technology requirements for online students. If they don't own computers or their computers don't meet standards, WSU offers discounts on technology products, including laptops and smart phones. Products are constantly updated to keep up with changing standards, and students can find available products through WSU's CORETECH student store, whether they shop in store or online. If students have any trouble with their computers, WSU offers 24/7 tech support to its online students.

School website
11 University of Toledo Toledo, Ohio$8,05292%94%47%19Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes School website
12 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst, Massachusetts$14,59065%60%77%15Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes School website
13 Keiser University Fort Lauderdale, Florida$17,48858%0%42%34Yes Yes YesYes No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
14 Texas Tech University Lubbock, Texas$6,00043%63%62%30No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
15 Old Dominion University Norfolk, Virginia$6,33065%85%55%37Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
16 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, Illinois$9,49385%65%52%23Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
17 University of Central Florida Orlando, Florida$4,47843%50%73%43Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
18 Iowa State University Ames, Iowa$7,09878%87%70%20No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
19 Rutgers University-New Brunswick New Brunswick, New Jersey$11,40846%57%86%34No Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes School website
20 East Carolina University Greenville, North Carolina$4,36542%70%61%57No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
21 Dakota State University Madison, South Dakota$6,98461%83%43%17Yes Yes YesYes Yes No No Yes No No School website
22 Florida State University Tallahassee, Florida$4,64044%58%80%14No Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes Yes School website
23 North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo, North Dakota$6,92441%93%58%12Yes No YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
24 University of Houston-Downtown Houston, Texas$4,84333%83%24%16Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
25 North Carolina State University at Raleigh Raleigh, North Carolina$6,40748%48%78%38No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
26 Jackson State University Jackson, Mississippi$7,14139%63%48%17No Yes YesYes No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
27 Colorado State University Fort Collins, Colorado$8,71653%78%67%33Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
28 Indiana University-Bloomington Bloomington, Indiana$9,08755%79%80%10Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
29 University of Cincinnati-Main Campus Cincinnati, Ohio$9,32258%76%72%31Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
30 University of Nebraska at Kearney Kearney, Nebraska$5,46070%85%60%20No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
31 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Edinburg, Texas$5,97042%64%48%15No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
32 Ball State University Muncie, Indiana$8,99240%62%62%21Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
33 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, Missouri$5,97977%83%55%11No Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes Yes School website
34 University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri$8,28664%75%71%19No Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
35 University of Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Nebraska$5,59649%86%50%22Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes Yes School website
36 Pennsylvania State University-Worldwide University Park, Pennsylvania$16,95235%56%87%46Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
37 Tarleton State University Stephenville, Texas$3,90050%50%47%18Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes No School website
38 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities Minneapolis, Minnesota$12,54659%44%80%25Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes No Yes School website
39 Fort Hays State University Hays, Kansas$3,78973%91%44%36No Yes YesNo Yes No Yes Yes No Yes School website
40 Clarion University Clarion, Pennsylvania$7,23841%94%51%20Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
41 Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, Arizona$8,69882%78%54%55No Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
42 Ferris State University Big Rapids, Michigan$11,14469%78%51%13Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
43 University of Florida Gainesville, Florida$4,47729%46%88%56No Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
44 Mississippi State University Mississippi State, Mississippi$7,78081%56%63%15Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No No Yes No School website
45 Independence University Salt Lake City, Utah$18,02179%0%100%15Yes Yes YesYes No No No No No No School website
46 Ohio University-Main Campus Athens, Ohio$11,29882%75%69%20Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
47 New Mexico State University-Main Campus Las Cruces, New Mexico$4,95661%60%51%21No Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes School website
48 Stony Brook University Stony Brook, New York$6,47066%41%71%14No Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
49 Columbia College Columbia, Missouri$7,88727%0%40%28Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes No School website
50 Bemidji State University Bemidji, Minnesota$7,36047%64%47%16Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling ServicesFree Laptop Loaner Laptop Discounted Laptop Phone Software Software Training Cloud Storage University Information
1 Southeast Technical Institute Sioux Falls, South Dakota$2,83417%44%10Yes Yes YesYes Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
2 Northeast Community College Norfolk, Nebraska$2,70040%48%19Yes Yes YesYes No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
3 Lake Area Technical Institute Watertown, South Dakota$2,61622%67%12Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes No School website
4 Prince George's Community College Largo, Maryland$4,6324%9%11Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
5 Alexandria Technical & Community College Alexandria, Minnesota$4,76833%64%17Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes No No No School website
6 Laramie County Community College Cheyenne, Wyoming$2,13642%22%27Yes No YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
7 Lone Star College System The Woodlands, Texas$2,73610%8%15Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes No School website
8 Northwest Mississippi Community College Senatobia, Mississippi$2,80021%22%21Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No Yes School website
9 Cuyahoga Community College Cleveland, Ohio$3,9534%9%15Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No School website
10 Mount Wachusett Community College Gardner, Massachusetts$60034%20%12Yes Yes YesYes No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
11 Western Texas College Snyder, Texas$2,08844%43%15Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
12 Northern Virginia Community College Annandale, Virginia$4,89019%23%13Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
13 Southwest Virginia Community College Richlands, Virginia$4,13361%37%16Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes Yes No No No School website
14 Shoreline Community College Shoreline, Washington$3,32830%32%17Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes No School website
15 Washtenaw Community College Ann Arbor, Michigan$3,72016%15%12Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes Yes School website
16 North Hennepin Community College Brooklyn Park, Minnesota$3,9223%13%32Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes Yes Yes School website
17 Barton Community College Great Bend, Kansas$2,30469%29%34Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No No No No School website
18 Trident Technical College Charleston, South Carolina$4,4612%11%14Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes School website
19 Lakeshore Technical College Cleveland, Wisconsin$3,9106%58%14Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No No No No School website
20 South Central College North Mankato, Minnesota$4,78816%26%12Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
21 Cerro Coso Community College Ridgecrest, California$1,2881%25%23Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No No Yes No School website
22 Copiah-Lincoln Community College Wesson, Mississippi$2,39035%33%30Yes Yes YesNo No No No Yes Yes Yes School website
23 Truckee Meadows Community College Reno, Nevada$2,74521%30%17Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
24 Sinclair Community College Dayton, Ohio$3,16944%16%32Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
25 Community College of Aurora Aurora, Colorado$3,2861%25%14Yes No YesNo Yes Yes No Yes Yes No School website
26 NorthWest Arkansas Community College Bentonville, Arkansas$3,6754%13%13Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
27 Collin County Community College District McKinney, Texas$2,4603%13%19Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
28 Thomas Nelson Community College Hampton, Virginia$4,1936%17%27Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
29 Irvine Valley College Irvine, California$1,104-44%26Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes No No School website
30 Tompkins Cortland Community College Dryden, New York$4,79011%26%14Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
31 South Piedmont Community College Polkton, North Carolina$1,728-16%12Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No No School website
32 Guilford Technical Community College Jamestown, North Carolina$2,1284%13%16Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes No School website
33 Herkimer College Herkimer, New York$4,2707%36%16Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No No School website
34 Southwestern Oregon Community College Coos Bay, Oregon$4,09244%29%42Yes Yes YesNo No No No Yes Yes Yes School website
35 Arapahoe Community College Littleton, Colorado$3,28818%20%20Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes No School website
36 Cincinnati State Cincinnati, Ohio$3,56719%12%21Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes Yes No School website
37 Metropolitan Community College Omaha, Nebraska$2,62531%13%16Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
38 Central Carolina Community College Sanford, North Carolina$2,4328%25%21Yes No YesNo Yes Yes No No No No School website
39 Aims Community College Greeley, Colorado$2,53827%27%10Yes No YesNo Yes No No Yes No Yes School website
40 Stark State College North Canton, Ohio$2,79619%7%27Yes Yes YesNo Yes Yes No Yes No No School website
41 Grayson College Denison, Texas$2,08831%20%10Yes Yes YesNo No Yes No Yes No Yes School website
42 Volunteer State Community College Gallatin, Tennessee$3,7447%19%10Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No No Yes Yes School website
43 Barstow Community College Barstow, California$1,1043%9%10Yes No YesNo Yes No No Yes No No School website
44 Ivy Tech Community College Indianapolis, Indiana$4,05511%11%42Yes Yes YesNo No Yes Yes Yes No No School website
45 Lamar Community College Lamar, Colorado$3,28866%42%11Yes Yes YesNo No No No Yes No Yes School website
46 Stanly Community College Albemarle, North Carolina$2,43211%29%27Yes Yes YesNo No No No Yes No Yes School website
47 Coastline Community College Fountain Valley, California$1,104-26%19Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No No No No School website
48 Hutchinson Community College Hutchinson, Kansas$2,68866%33%24Yes Yes YesNo No No No Yes No No School website
49 Normandale Community College Bloomington, Minnesota$4,8004%22%11Yes No YesNo Yes No No Yes No No School website
50 Wake Technical Community College Raleigh, North Carolina$2,4322%16%31Yes Yes YesNo Yes No No Yes No No School website

Comparing Top Picks

LAPTOPS

Laptops range widely in price with the least expensive priced at just under $200 and the most expensive topping $3,000 in 2015. A typical student probably will not have to pay over $800 for a laptop used for college coursework.

PC Magazine recommends the following laptops for college students in 2015:

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Product Tech PC Mag Score Price Screen size Weight RAM
Asus Chromebook Flip (C100PA-DB02) Chrome OS $239 10.1 inches 1.96 lbs. 4 GB
Lenovo ThinkPad T450s Microsoft Windows $1,254.99 14 inches 3.5 lbs. 8 GB
Acer Aspire E5-573G-57HR Microsoft Windows $554.99 15. 6inches 5.29 lbs. 8 GB
Alienware 15 Microsoft Windows $1,899.99 15.6 inches 7.1 lbs. 16 GB
Apple MacBook Air 13-Inch Mac OS X $894.78 13.3 inches 2.96 lbs. 4 GB
Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch, Retina Display Mac OS X $1,234.99 13.3 inches 3.48 lbs. 8 GB
Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 (7350) Microsoft Windows $1,549 13.3 inches 1.92 lbs. 8 GB
Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series (E7450) Microsoft Windows $1,368.30 14 inches 3.59 lbs. 8 GB
Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 12 Microsoft Windows $1,572.99 12.5 inches 3.48 lbs. 8 GB
MSI GT72 Dominator Pro G-1438 Microsoft Windows $2,099 17. 3 inches 8.5 pounds 16 GB

Choosing the Right Laptop for Your Needs

The same laptop will not work for every college major or student. For example, a graphic design student needs a high-graphics laptop, complete with editing software and a powerful processor. A political science student needs a much less powerful laptop. Students should consider what they need the laptop to do, what software programs they will need and their target budget before shopping for a laptop computer.

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Arts, Film, Graphics Design Need :
  • Graphics and animation support

  • Fast CPU

  • Ability to run Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator or Final Cut Pro.

Laptop: Mac. Example: MacBook Pro

IT and Engineering Need :
  • High-speed processing

  • Ability to use AutoCAD software

  • Create spreadsheet and run program simulations.

Laptop: PC. Example: Lenovo ThinkPad

Non-Tech Student Need :
  • Word processing software

  • Moderate hard drive storage

  • Wireless Internet card.

Laptop: Chromebook. Example: GP Chromebook 11

If you do not need a high-powered laptop, the following key features should be powerful enough for most college-related applications:

  • Wi-Fi readiness: minimum 802.11g Dual-Band wireless card

  • Lightweight for easy portability: 3-5 lbs

  • Screen resolution: minimum 1024×768

  • Ram: minimum 4 GB (8 or more is best)

  • Hard drive: minimum of 128GB solid state drive or 250GB hard disk drive

  • Backlit keyboard with a number pad

  • Battery life: minimum 4 hours

  • Ports: At least two USB 3.0 and an HDMI

  • Screen: 11 inch minimum

  • Operating system minimums: Mac OS 10.6, Windows 8.1

PC vs Mac

Since the invention of the personal computer, there has been extensive debate over whether the PC or a Mac is the better option. Today, there is little difference in capabilities between the two – except where it concerns software. Mac computers are typically loaded with software designed for creative applications (like video editing and audio recording); personal computers are usually come stocked with software designed for business use, such as spreadsheet programs and word processors.

Other Tech

Students also depend on other portable electronics during class, such as tablets, smartphones, e-readers or hybrid machines. According to a 2015 report from PC Magazine, tablets are used as secondary devices but have limited software selection and processing power. However, students have successfully used tablets and other devices for classwork without the need for laptops or traditional desktop computers, depending on their majors and course requirements.

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Before You Buy

Shopping for a notebook? Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Do you offer student discounts?

  • Do you offer payment plans?

  • What kind of warranty comes with the laptop?

  • What is the laptop’s processing power?

  • How long is the battery life?

  • Can additional RAM or a larger hard drive be added?

  • What kind of wireless card is installed?

  • Does the laptop have a dual-band wireless card?

  • What is the screen size and resolution?

  • What software comes installed on the laptop?

  • What kind of DVD, optical, Blu-Ray, player/burner does it have?

  • How many USB ports does the laptop have?

  • Are the USB ports 3.0?

  • Does the computer have a dedicated graphics processor? (Especially important for design students.

TABLETS & READERS

Tablets and e-readers are also popular choices for college students. A 2013 survey conducted by Pearson Education revealed that over half of college students claim they perform better in the classroom because of tablets. Two-thirds of students surveyed believe the tablet will replace printed textbooks in the near future. Nearly 90 percent of college students own laptops, Pearson found, but almost 40 percent of college students own a tablet.

Tablets are limited in processing power and may not be suitable when visual design, animation, data crunching or academic research is required.

PC Magazine selected these top-performing tablets for 2015:

Product Tech PC Mag Score Price Dimensions Weight Storage Capacity
Apple iPad Air Apple iOS $339 9.7 inches 16.86 oz 16 GB
Apple iPad Air 2 Apple iOS 8 $449.88 9.7 inches 0.96 lb 16, 64, 128 GB
Asus Transformer Book T100TA (64GB) Microsoft Windows $256 10.1 inches 1.44/2.4 lb 64 GB
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 Android 4.4 $399 8.4 inches 11.68 oz 16 GB
Apple iPad mini 2 Apple iOS $259 7.9 inches 11.68 oz 16, 32 GB
Asus VivoTab Note 8 Microsoft Windows $289.99 8 inches 0.85 lb 32 GB
Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 Series (7140) Microsoft Windows $799 10.8 inches 1.6 lb 128 GB
Microsoft Surface 3 Microsoft Windows 8.1 $599.99 10.8 inches 1.37 lb 128 GB
Samsung Galaxy Tab S 10.5 Android 4.4 $448.99 10.5 inches 16.47 oz 16 GB
Google Nexus 9 Android 5.0 $305.37 8.9 inches 14.99 oz 16, 32 GB

SMARTPHONES

A 2014 survey from Infographics Commons found that many college students use their phones to study. The survey indicated that 65 percent of college students rely on phones to get their news and 82 percent use their phones for research. Students also use smartphones to take lecture notes, dictate papers, use scientific calculators, coordinate their school calendars and streamline study time.

PC Magazine recommends these smartphones for 2015:

Product Tech PC Mag Score Price Dimensions Battery Life Screen Size
Apple iPhone 6s (T-Mobile) iOS 9 $649 5.44 by 2.64 by 0.28 inches 4 hours 21 (LTE streaming) minutes 4.7 inches
Apple iPhone 6s Plus (AT&T) iOS 9 $799.99 6.23 by 3.07 by 0.29 inches 4 hours 11 (LTE streaming) minutes 5.5 inches
Motorola Moto X Pure Edition (Unlocked) Android 5.1 $399.99 6.06 by 3.0 by 0.44 inches 4 hours, 42 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5.7 inches
OnePlus 2 (Unlocked) Android 5.1 $329 5.98 by 2.95 by 0.39 inches 5 hours, 19 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5.5 inches
Samsung Galaxy S6 (T-Mobile) Android 5.0 $579.99 5.65 by 2.78 by 0.27 inches 7 hours, 48 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5.1 inches
Alcatel One Touch Idol 3 (Unlocked) Android 5.0 $279.99 6.01 by 2.96 by 0.29 inches 4 hours, 12 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5.5 inches
Motorola Moto G (2015, Unlocked) Android 5.0 $149.99 5.59 by 2.85 by 0.48 inches 6 hours, 32 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5 inches
Samsung Galaxy Note 5 (Verizon Wireless) Android 5.0 $349.99 6 by 3 by 0.3 inches 7 hours 35 (LTE video streaming) minutes 5.7 inches
ZTE Grand X Max+ (Cricket Wireless) Android 4.4 $199.99 6.38 by 3.27 by 0.31 inches 5 hours, 49 (LTE video streaming) minutes 6 inches
HTC One (M8) for Windows (Verizon Wireless) Windows Phone 8.1 $480 5.7 by 2.8 by 0.37 inches 10 hours, 50 minutes 5 inches

Other Resources to Help Pay for Laptops

Many top computer and software manufacturers, big-box stores and resellers offer student discounts on technology. Some companies may require students to join a consumer club, and other companies may offer free trial programs for software or services. NOTE: Students must provide a student ID or an .edu email address when applying for most discount programs.

  • Amazon Student

    is offered to students through a free six-month trial through Amazon Prime, with exclusive promotions in technology, two-day shipping and access to movies, TV shows and music. After the trial, Prime membership costs students $49 per year.

  • Apple Store for Education

    offers student discounts up to $20 on a new iPad and $200 on a new Mac computer.

  • Best Buy College Student Deals

    sends e-mail updates regarding upcoming sales. Recent specials included a $50 discount on iMacs and MacBooks, including free shipping. Students can also save $80 on the Microsoft Surface 3 128GB, keyboard and pen package.

  • Dell University

    is Dell Computer’s online membership purchasing club for college and university students. Discounts are available for desktops, laptops, gaming PCs and monitors. All Dell PCs come with a one-year warranty.

  • HP Academy

    offers members savings up to 20 percent on HP products, free shipping and student-tailored product recommendations through its free PC MatchLab service.

  • InterConnection

    is a charitable computer reuse organization designed to help students find PCs, Macs, laptops and monitors. A refurbished laptop including Windows 7 Pro, Office Home 2007, Wi-Fi Card, Spyware and Antivirus software sold for $99 in 2015.

  • Lenovo’s Academic Purchase Program

    offers discount tablets with prices reduced by as much 47 percent. Laptops are up to 53 percent off of Lenovo’s original list pricing.

  • Newegg

    ’s student-only store offers deep discounts on new or refurbished notebooks, tablets and other electronics to members. Students need an .edu email address to apply. Students can get up to $100 off a new Surface Pro 3 through the program.

  • Notebooks for Students

    (NSF) is a nonprofit organization created by students for students in 1998 as a way to provide students with dependable, powerful laptops at affordable prices. Deep discounts are available through the program on select computers.

  • Sony Education Store

    offers 10 percent-discount student deals on Xperia tablets, laptops and smart devices. Students must provide student ID to qualify for student discounts.