Even though most colleges have computer labs, having your own personal computer can help a lot if you don't want to be confined to a public area when you're working. With your own computer, you can stay up all night in the comfort of your own home or apartment.
Step 1: The first question you need to answer is whether you want a laptop or a desktop computer. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. Desktops are great when it comes to value because you get a lot for your money and they're typically more powerful than laptops. They're also pretty easy to modify if a new product comes out, which could be helpful if your degree program requires the latest technology. The downside is that they're often big and not portable. You won't be able to bring it to the library or to a study group. If it breaks, you might have problems shipping it.
A laptop is a good option for a personal computer if portability is one of your main concerns. You can take a laptop anywhere on campus and connect to a wireless network. Laptops don't take up a lot of space and you can ship it to the manufacturer easily if it has a problem. The downside is that you might have to pay more for the same quality of equipment that a desktop would give. Laptops are also easier to steal and more likely to break since you'll be carrying it around and could drop it.
Once you decide on a laptop or a desktop, you'll need to figure out if you want a Mac or a PC. Take into consideration that your degree program may prefer one or the other. Make sure the model you choose has word processing programs so you can write papers and a DVD drive in case your course materials come with a disc.
If money is an issue, many computer manufacturers offer discounts for college students. Here are a few discounts below: