If you are heading to a foreign university to pursue a higher degree, chances are that you have spent a lot of money in getting there, all for the purpose of graduating with distinction. In that case, having a sturdy, reliable laptop is a must which will be your companion every step of the way till you have that degree in hand.
‘Why buy a new one? What’s wrong with my current laptop? It is as good as new,’ you’d wonder.
Just a minute! Are you referring to your current laptop which stores all your family and friends picture albums and the collection of ‘50 movies you should see before you die’? Not to forget the endless albums with the most amazing music collection you are proud to show off. Is it the same that you and your parents use to Skype chat with your distant relatives?
If the answer to all of the above is yes, then well yeah sure, you better invest in a new one. In the business school, your laptop will mostly be used for your course related work and there’d be a lot of it, for sure. You need a device that will store everything course related, your assignments, events, presentations, team projects and one that will never let you down.
Guidelines for choosing the right laptop for your MBA program
Here’s a checklist that will be quite helpful in your quest to taking the perfect fit of laptop with you.
Why do I need a laptop?
Most universities already have public workstations connected to a reliable and secure wi-fi connection. These are available in the classrooms, hallways, library and all other common areas. All the curriculum is available online too.
Students are encouraged to make use of these while on the campus. Yet, most universities themselves recommend students to bring their own notebook computer, also referred to as a laptop.
The reason is you won’t be able to save your assignments or your study notes in a personal space. You can’t take your work home on the desktop computer. Every time you need to check your lecture notes or do any search, you have to stay back in the university campus and look for one. If you wish to work on your study or assignment from the comfort of your home at odd hours, you can’t do that.
Why not use my current laptop?
Love for your old laptop coming in the way? Fair enough, but you need to make sure that you carry an extra battery, and upgrade it with all the features required. Check out the information provided by business schools on their university websites for the configurations required.
Some B-schools like that of University of Connecticut does not encourage the use of Mac as the classes and the curriculum are mostly available using windows features. It also suggests having 30 GB of internal storage space in the hard drive, with Intel Core i7 as the recommended CPU Processor.
Same goes for Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management which recommends using Windows, but if you must use Mac then it would ask you to purchase or install parallels to run the applications.
The Kelley School of Business at Indiana University Bloomington again runs on the latest version of Windows. It would not prefer cloud storage and suggests 256 GB or larger hard drive. It also wants you to get multiple flash drives as emergency storage devices.
So, why buy a laptop in the land of the B-school you are going to study in? There are two reasons for it.
Firstly, your laptop needs to have configurations in place a few days before the class begins formally. If your old laptop, which you purchased in your home country is not compatible with the technical specifications required by your school, then it is just going to waste your precious time.
Secondly, you can scout the school store to avail of some student discount for a laptop which, more or less, will be suited to the school’s technical requirements.
Your school’s technical team may be available to help you with the configurations if you get stuck.
In any case, almost all universities would prefer you not to use a laptop that is two years old as technology keeps changing even as you read this. And two years is a long time for a laptop’s configurations to become obsolete.
It is the features you look for in a laptop that will make sure you will have a nice, happy time for the next few years, and most importantly, without rushing to get it repaired every now and then in a foreign land, spending a bomb on upgrading it.
Basic checklist for selecting a student laptop
Buying a new laptop is preferably the best way to have the laptop all to yourself. Since your MBA will be a two-year affair, the laptop you buy should offer you at least a three-year warranty.
Most universities will have a student store to enable you to buy a laptop with student discount. By all means check it out. You may just find your dream laptop which can have all the configurations that your university requires you to have. It should have good amount of battery power. You don’t want to carry the cord all the time.
Ensure that your gadget is light to carry. A heavy laptop invariably means pain in the hand or shoulders as you’d be required to carry it practically everywhere, from the metro to the classroom to the coffee shop, pretty much like your passport. Invest in a smart, business like laptop bag that’s easy to carry and smart to sport.
If you plan to work while also pursuing your MBA, then make sure your laptop doubles up as your work computer as well as school computer, with the right configurations, extra memory and enhanced functions. Juggling with these two, you sure won’t have enough time to play endless games on your device.
Basic laptop software to install
After you’ve bought a brand new laptop for your MBA needs, go straight to the configuration settings. The key is not to bombard it with just about any kind of software.
Install the basics first. Figure out what kind of configurations your business school recommends and go for it. Basic MS Office is more or less a must. RAM of 8 GB and above is recommended at most places, while hard drive of 100 GB and above is preferred.
The memory required may vary from school to school. Since all these institutes have wi-fi connectivity, they’d suggest you get a wireless card or a USB dongle to connect to the internet.
Of course, don’t forget to install a firewall for possible virus attacks. Try not to get tempted by free downloads of movies, songs, games and the like, as chances are that your laptop might become susceptible to viruses. Buying original software is important too.
Avoid fancy stuff
Wish to look like Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) of the movieLegally Blonde? Yes? By all means get that snazzy pink cover for your laptop and fur covered mouse.
For those who wish to not draw attention to their gadgets unnecessarily, then it is better to go simple. The touchscreen laptops are there alright, but there is nothing as reliable as the good old keyboard and mouse.
The touchscreen laptops are believed to use up power quickly as these have better resolution. Even if you disable the option, you still end up losing a lot of battery power, according to some reviews.
These are also heavier to carry. Touch screens reflect the light back so you constantly have to adjust them, trying to keep the room/natural light away from it.
Get laptop reviews
Speak to the current and past MBA students themselves, and they’d be a wealth of knowledge. They have been there, done that.
Some of them may suggest something simple like getting an external monitor for the laptop. This, some of them say, is a very helpful thing when it comes to analysing stuff when you have to juggle between too many pages. Preparing presentations, working on graphics and also on excel sheets, these bring your work load down.
There may come that awful time when you realize your computer has crashed or simply doesn’t work or may be the screen got damaged due to some freak accident. During those dreadful times, having back up files is a life saviour.
Some students suggest running a back-up once every quarter. You could save your work on the cloud or in external memory cards.
[Optional] Invest in a printer
E-reading is the way to go for sure, but there may be times when you need to have hard copies to present, like your CV for an interview.
You may want to copy some pages from a library book or from a website. A printer and even a scanner come in as a big help.
Many universities allow students access to their own facilities, but it is always better to have these for yourself.
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