Monday, May 5, 2008

Buying the computer for college

I recently sent this reply to a mother of an incoming freshman. It can apply to most campuses and most freshman computer purchases.

Dear Mrs ________,

Our campus does offer a computer purchasing program through the Bookstore, but this is to provide students with a discount option and is not an endorsement for any one company.

Computers have become a commodity, so you may do better through specials on the internet, but this is a good starting place. Our campus does have a repair service that runs through the Bookstore on campus. Its convenient and modestly priced. We do not have a loaner program, but do have many labs on campus where students can get access to a computer if they have to send theirs out for service. We even have sign out laptops in the Library.

Here are some things to think about when purchasing a computer. Laptops have become the norm, with over 70% of our students opting for a laptop. Wireless access has pushed these numbers up along with falling prices for laptops in general. If you look for a computer with the specs below, it should last four years.

1.8Ghz dual core processor
120 to 160 GB hard drive
14" to 15" monitor size
A DVD burner. These will play both CDs and DVDs
Gaming: some students are into games. If this is the case add a 512MB graphics. Otherwise 256MB is fine.

Weight: a laptop will generally be in the 5 to 7 pound range. If your daughter will be lugging it around a great deal she might want to consider a lighter model

Carrying case: a padded back pack is often best. The light weight attractive bags are generally a bit flimsy

Warranty: you can pay extra for a three year warranty. I generally don't, but you might want the peace of mind. Laptops depreciate in value quickly.

Theft insurance: generally not needed ( if the student is careful), but you might check with your insurance agent. It might be covered under you homeowners insurance.

This is a lot to digests. I would look to pay in the $800 to $1000 range. By the way, over 40% of our students own Dells, 25% HP, 10% MAC, and 25% other.

Let me know if you have any other questions.