When to Buy Laptop for College (Plus Requirements & Discounts)

A laptop with hand typing and holding a credit card
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Purchases made through my affiliate links provide a small commission for me at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products that I know/use.

You know that you need to buy a laptop for college, but you don’t know when you should buy it. I get it. I have been there.

Note: If you aren’t sure if you need a laptop for college, check out our post on why laptops are required for college studentsOpens in a new tab..

Below we will go over the best times to buy a laptop for college, laptop requirements, companies that offer student discounts, and some extra tips.

Are you carrying around your laptop? You should get a protective caseOpens in a new tab., laptop backpackOpens in a new tab., or cute laptop bagOpens in a new tab.!

When should I buy a laptop for college?

Students should buy a laptop for college when they start college or when their old laptop is no longer reliable. For the best deals, students should look to buy a laptop during back-to-school season, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Prime Day, or when the new models are announced.

Let’s look at why these are good times to buy a laptop for college.

When you start college 

It is best to buy a laptop for college when you are about to start college. Don’t buy it far in advance (unless you need it right then) because there is always newer tech coming out or the price of certain features (such as RAM or SSD) going down. 

Make sure to look for and use student discounts when shopping for a laptop for college. They can help you get significant savings!

Back to School 

You can get good laptop deals around Back to School time. 

Best Buy, Amazon, and individual laptop brands, such as HP or Dell, will offer discounts. 

Black Friday 

Computer with Black Friday Sale on the Screen and a tiny shopping cart with credit cards on it

Black Friday is an excellent time to buy big purchases since you can often find substantial discounts. 

Search around for the best deal before you purchase (or buy from a store that offers a price match guarantee). 

Check out our Student’s Guide to Black Friday: Best Tips and Deals

Cyber Monday

Like Black Friday, Cyber Monday offers excellent deals. 

Check around for the best deals and compare discounts listed for Black Friday to those for Cyber Monday. 

When new models are announced

It can be a great idea to wait to buy a laptop until new models are announced.

While it is helpful to ensure that you can learn the benefits of the new model and have the option to buy the latest model, this time is particularly great to purchase the previous model. 

When new models (particularly new processors) are announced, stores discount the older model to move them quickly and clear shelf space for the new models. 

Prime Day 

When Amazon has its annual Prime Day, you can expect good discounts, including on laptops. 

However, since this is not a set date each year, I would not plan on waiting to get a laptop on Prime Day if you really need one.

When you need a new laptop

If your current laptop is no longer working or has a lot of problems and is unreliable, then you need a new laptop for college. 

College students need reliable laptops. 

This may seem obvious, but it needs to be said—if your laptop does not reliably work, then it is time to get a new laptop. 

People can be so worried about getting a laptop at the wrong time that they wait too long and are left without a working laptop. 

I get it, I waited too long to replace my Mac, and it was shutting off randomly by the time my new MacBook Air Opens in a new tab.was delivered. 

Check out this postOpens in a new tab. to learn more about how long Macs last, when it is time to get a new one, and how to take care of them to make them last longer.

Check out all the benefits of Prime StudentOpens in a new tab.. Click hereOpens in a new tab. to sign up for Prime Student.

Laptop requirements for college students

The laptop requirements for college students can vary depending on your college, major, or courses, so it is important to check your college’s tech requirements. They may specify what kind of operating system, how much RAM, or what kind of processor is required. 

Let’s look at the laptop requirements for college students so you can make sure you are buying a good laptop for school. 

Operating system

Most laptops are either Windows or Mac OS. Either of these will be good for college students. It comes down to personal preference. 

I prefer the Mac OS and recommend getting a MacBook AirOpens in a new tab., but a Mac is by no means required for college students. A windows laptop (with the recommended specs listed below) is also a great option for college students. 


RAM stands for random access memory which is a laptop’s short-term memory that determines how many programs can run simultaneously. 

How much laptop memory you need for college depends on what you will be using your laptop for. If you will only be browsing the internet or using Microsoft Word or Google Docs, then 4 GB of RAM may be enough. 

Most schools recommend 8 GB of RAM, and online students should not get less than 8 GB even if they think that they will only be using their laptop for basic tasks because you need to be sure that you can stream for a proctored exam and have your notes, etc… open. 

Anyone who wants to multitask and have multiple tabs open or programs running simultaneously should get at least 8 GB of RAM.

If you do a lot of data processing, video editing, graphic design, or gaming, it is smart to get 16 GB of RAM (this is what I have, and I can really tell the difference between 8 GB and 16 GB of RAM in my ability to run multiple things at once).

Learn more about Laptop Memory for College: What Is RAM and How Much Do You NeedOpens in a new tab.


Man changes hard drive disk to a modern ssd

Students should look for laptops with SSD storage instead of HDD—SSD is faster, quieter, and more durable. 

College students should get 256 GB of storage to ensure they have enough storage for all the programs they use and the files they will accumulate throughout college. 

If you use an external drive or cloud storage, you can get a laptop with less storage (such as 128 GB). 

If you want to use your laptop for gaming, photo or video editing, or to store many videos, investing in 512 GB of storage may be a good idea. 

Learn more about Laptop Storage for College—Types of Storage & How Much You NeedOpens in a new tab.


College students need to carry their laptops around, which is why a smaller, lighter laptop is preferred. A 13-inch laptop is lightweight, big enough to work on, and generally less expensive than a larger laptop. 

If you have poor eyesight or watch a lot of shows or game on your laptop, then a larger 15-16 inch laptop may be better.

Learn more about Laptop Size for College—Best Laptop Screen Size for College StudentsOpens in a new tab.


If you will be carrying around your laptop, getting a laptop with a longer battery life is a smart decision. Look with laptops that last at least 10-14 hours. 


An Intel Core i3 processor is the minimum requirement for most college students. However, if you run a lot of programs, graphics, or video editing, then an Intel Core i7 or i9, AMD A10 processor, or M1 or M2 for Macs may be better. 


While not technically a laptop requirement, for pretty much all college students, price is a big factor when deciding on a laptop. 

Everyone’s budget and needs are different, so decide what you are able to pay for a laptop and look for one that fits those requirements. 

Make sure to shop around to find the best price and check for student discounts. 

What companies give student discounts on laptops?

Many companies offer student discounts on laptops, including Acer, Amazon, Apple, Dell, Microsoft, HP, and Lenovo. Best Buy also frequently offers discounts for everyone on laptops.

Let’s look at the student discounts each company offers.


Acer offers a 10% student discount and free shipping through Student Beans. Students sign up for Student Beans and verify that they are a student. Then, they can get the discount code.

Check out the Student Beans Acer discountOpens in a new tab..

Amazon student discounts on laptops 

Amazon Prime Student members get discounts on laptops, computers, and tablets. Prime Student includes a 6-month free trial which students can take advantage of if they are looking for a laptop. 

After the free trial, Prime Student costs half the price of a normal Prime membership (only $7.49 a month). 

Learn more about Prime Student from our guide: Prime Student vs. Prime (Benefits of Prime Student)Opens in a new tab., or check out the Prime Student membershipOpens in a new tab. yourself.

Apple Education Store

Opens in a new tab.

Apple offers student discounts on MacBooks and iPads at the Apple Education Store. The discounts on laptops can range from $50 off to $400 off.

The Apple Education Store student discounts are available to all college students, those recently accepted, and their parents. It is also available to educators, including all school faculty, staff, and homeschool teachers.

Learn more from our Apple Student Discounts (Best Deals and Apple Music Tips)Opens in a new tab., or check out the Apple Education StoreOpens in a new tab..

Dell University

Dell University offers price matching and exclusive deals (currently 10% off select PCs) to students. Join the Dell reward program (you create a free Dell account and opt-in), and you get free expedited delivery and up to 3% back in rewards (money back on your Dell account). 

Students can receive the coupon code hereOpens in a new tab.. They must have a .edu email address. 

Learn more about Dell UniversityOpens in a new tab.


Microsoft offers students 10% off select products and Office 365 for free. The education discount is available to K-12 and higher education students, faculty, and parents.

Learn more about Microsoft EducationOpens in a new tab..


Lenovo offers college students and all teachers 5% off. Shoppers should add the items to their cart and then click the verify button in the cart to verify their identity using ID.me. 

Learn more about Lenovo’s student discountOpens in a new tab..


HP offers student discounts from Unidays, including 50% off select products right now. Sign up for Unidays and verify you are a student, and then you can get the coupon codes.  

Check out HP deals on UnidaysOpens in a new tab..

Bonus: Best Buy discounts

Best Buy used to offer discounts specific to students and required students to verify enrollment, but now they offer discounts on school-related items to everyone. 

These discounts can make buying a laptop more affordable. 

Check out Best Buy’s Student Hub pageOpens in a new tab. to see their available discounts.

Tips for buying a laptop for college

Let’s look at some tips for buying a laptop for college.

Try to get student discounts 

As stated above, many companies, such as Apple or HP, offer student discounts, so make sure that you look up what student discounts they offer when deciding on your purchase and ask them about student discounts if you are in person.

Ask about free software

Another perk that you can get as a student is free software such as Microsoft Office.

Only buy from sites or people you trust

With a purchase as expensive as a laptop, you need to ensure that you only buy from a company or person that you trust. 

This is not the time to try some unknown website. 

Don’t buy off Craiglist (or at least know that you are taking a bigger risk and factor that into how much you are willing to pay).

What kind of laptop should I use for college?

The specific laptop you should use for college is a personal preference.

You will be good to go as long as you make sure that it:

  1. Meets your college’s minimum technical requirements
  2. Meets the requirements listed above
  3. Has good reviews

My laptop recommendation: MacBook Air

I always recommend Macs first and foremost. They are more expensive, but they are lightweight, high quality, easy to use, and work great with your iPad and iPhone.

I used a MacBook Pro throughout college, and I loved it. Now I use and love my MacBook Air.

Since the Macbook AirOpens in a new tab. is cheaper but still offers almost all of the same benefits, this is the Mac that I recommend.

HP laptops

If you don’t want a Mac, I recommend HP laptopsOpens in a new tab.. This is what I used during my time at my local community college, and it worked great!

They have a wide variety of laptops with different specs and price points, so you can find something that works for you.

Best laptops for college students under $500

Often, people recommend Chromebooks as a good option for a cheaper laptop. Don’t get a Chromebook for college. Certain software you use for school or tests/quizzes you have to take online are incompatible with Chromebooks.

You would be better off checking out many of the HP laptopsOpens in a new tab..

Best laptop for online school under $300

Finding a good laptop for college under $300 is going to be challenging (and honestly, I would not recommend it). However, if this is all you are willing to pay, check out:

Now you know when you should buy a laptop for college, laptop requirements, and companies that offer student discounts. Share this with a friend that is looking to buy a laptop for college.

My favorite products for your laptop

Thank you for reading this article—I hope you found it helpful! Here are some of my favorite products for your laptop that I hope you’ll also find helpful.

External drive: Back up your laptop with an external drive. I have used Seagate drives Opens in a new tab.for many years, and their drives are great quality, and their customer support is very helpful!

Lap desk: Lap desksOpens in a new tab. make it easier to use your laptop anywhere, including your couch or bed.

Cleaning brush for electronics: Use a brush to clean electronics to keep your laptop clean.

Travelings case and/or bag: A protective laptop case Opens in a new tab.is a hard case that keeps your laptop safe when you are carrying it or traveling with it. Another way to carry around your laptop is with a laptop backpackOpens in a new tab. or over-the-shoulder laptop bagOpens in a new tab.. Use one (or even better, both) to protect your laptop when on the go.

To see all of my most up-to-date recommendations for tools and products for students, check out this resourceOpens in a new tab. that I made for you!

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