Should You Buy a New Computer or Use Your Campus Computer Lab?
Apr 10, 2012
Prospective college students often feel the need to buy a new computer before heading off to school. Many people, though, are able to save money by avoiding owning a computer during the postsecondary years. Learn about factors to consider in deciding whether or not to buy a computer for college.
A Choice Based on Individual Circumstances
Ask students whether it's important to buy a computer for college and you're likely to get a wide range of opinions. Many will be adamant about the need to own a computer, be it a desktop, laptop or netbook. Others are likely to be more specific in their recommendation, suggesting that the mobility of a laptop or netbook is essential for the college lifestyle. Select people will also advocate for desktops, citing that one is likely to get more computing power at a better value than with portable machines.
While most students seemingly advocate for owning a computer during the college years, many others do get by without having to purchase one. The money saved by this approach, of course, is a major reason some students choose not buy a computer. Other considerations, however, can go into any cost-benefit analysis. All told, the decision of whether or not to buy a computer will be a very personal one based on select individual factors. Here are five questions to ask:
1. Is a computer required?
Some colleges and universities demand that incoming students bring a computer to campus. These institutions may also have specification requirements for computer equipment. Students may, for example, need to have laptops so as to be able to participate in specific classroom activities. Schools often provide a list of technology requirements on their websites.
2. How can I access a computer if one isn't purchased?
Students living at home may have regular access to a family computer. Access may be less certain for students living on campus. Individuals should check on how many school computers are available for use in residence halls, computer labs, libraries and other locations. Students should also try to get an idea of how heavily this equipment is used and whether there are time limits on when and how long students can access it. Talking with current students who use school computers is a good way to find out if an institution's technological facilities are adequately meeting student need. Some schools also have laptop checkout programs that should be explored.
3. What are learning and lifestyle preferences?
Even if campus labs are open 24 hours, some students won't feel they can be productive working in designated technology areas. They may feel more comfortable working on a desktop machine in a residence. More mobile types could work more efficiently in student lounges, coffee shops or other laptop-friendly places. Alternatively, some students will feel more focused and productive in libraries or computer labs. The sterile environment may lessen the impulse to monitor Facebook updates or peruse time-wasting websites.
4. What are coursework demands?
While some college students can get away with not buying a computer, others may be forced into purchasing one by virtue of their majors. Computer science and graphic design are two examples of technological disciplines that could make it necessary for students to buy their own computing equipment. Individuals in such computer-reliant academic areas should note the specific equipment used within a discipline before buying a computer. For example, designers often work on Apple computers, and some design software may be specifically engineered for that platform.
5. What are your communication needs?
If a computer isn't needed for course-specific work, the options are likely to be much more open when it comes to buying - or not buying - one. Any laptop or low-cost netbook is likely to suffice for students interested primarily in taking notes, keeping a calendar, communicating with professors, surfing the Internet or completing other basic functions. Other individuals will be able to get by perfectly well using college equipment to meet their computing needs.
Decided to buy a computer? Find ways to save money on your next computer.