Buying a Laptop for College – Quick Tips

While it’s nearly impossible to say exactly which laptop you should buy, we have taken the time to compile a list of tips that might help inform your decision making. These are “guidelines” at best, but we hope you find them helpful.

We’ve found that the “Professional” or “Business” line of laptops tend to hold up better over time, are easier to service, and ultimately present the better value in the long run, even though they cost more up-front. Some examples of professional lines from manufacturers include the “ThinkPad” series from Lenovo, the “ProBook” and “EliteBook” series from HP, and the “Latitude” and “Vostro” series from Dell.

In reality, any new computer (Mac or PC) you can buy at the store will work just fine. There are, however, some things worth considering:

  • It’s a good idea to stick with Intel Core i3, i5, and i7 processors.
  • We highly recommend a laptop with an SSD (Solid-State Drive) instead of a HDD (Hard Disk Drive). It’s WAY faster and more reliable.
  • 8GB of RAM is recommended—it's generally enough for most students.
  • If you will be crunching numbers (math, accounting, business majors), consider getting a notebook with a 10-key number pad built in.
  • We're reluctant to disparage any brand by name, but we have seen enough Toshiba and Acer notebooks come to our helpdesk having died just beyond the warranty period that we would recommend looking elsewhere.

If your budget allows, it’s actually not a bad idea to choose an extended warranty that adds “accidental damage protection” for additional peace of mind. The useful lifespan of a college student’s laptop seems to be about 4 to 5 years on average, but accidents happen (and fairly often among college students).

Northwestern College provides Microsoft Office 365 for our students, completely free of charge. Instructions are provided that enable you to easily load the software on up to five of your personal devices. Mac, PC, iOS and Android versions are available.

If you have any questions, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to email our staff or call our help desk at 712-707-7333 during normal business hours. We’re happy to consult on individual purchasing decisions or help you find an affordable used model! We’re open Monday to Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. during the school year and 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer.