By Sarah Wright
Laptop-less, But Not Lost
Believe it or not, students have successfully completed college for generations without the help of portable technology. Don't believe us? Just ask your parents. If you're currently at the right age to start attending college, your parents may belong to one of the last generations that completed school almost entirely without personal computers. Of course, it's difficult-to-impossible to get through college at this point without using any computers at all. But if you're smart about using the more affordable resources available, you'll get through college just fine without a notebook computer.
Know Your Campus Computer Lab
Often, colleges and universities have designated buildings or rooms for computer labs, and there may be computer lab banks in libraries and other student academic buildings as well. If you're not going to be bringing your own computer to campus, it will behoove you to find out where open-use computers are on campus. That way, you'll be able to do research, check email, type up papers and access the campus network without spending additional money on equipment.
Once you've found out where the useable student computers are, we suggest you make friends with the school's tech support office. Knowing the right people to ask for help in a jam can make your life a lot easier.
Take Advantage of Storage Options
Using services like Dropbox can be a lifesaver if you're not going to have your own computer on you at all times. Dropbox can allow you to store your work in a single digital space that you can then access from any Internet-connected computer. If you want some backup storage, your campus network probably allows each student a certain amount of storage space so you can keep backups of important notes and papers. And finally, an affordable USB drive can help you keep all of your documents on hand at all times.
Embrace the Analog
In some ways, not having a laptop can be seen as a benefit. If you're prone to distraction when you have the opportunity to zone out and fool around on the Internet, it might be better for you to not have a computer in front of you at all times. Instead, you can give 100% of your attention to your professor during lectures, and take notes by hand. Or you can draft your papers by hand and type them out when you've got your rough draft written. Paper and pencil are a lot cheaper than a laptop, and you won't have to worry about damage or battery life if you decide to sit outside and write your paper, rather than staying cooped up inside on a nice day.
If you're ready to get a laptop, consider whether Apple or Windows-based computing is right for you.