Is there a specific computer that I should get for my classes?
Having a computer of your own is going to be helpful in your studies, but the Biology department does not have a specific computer brand or model that it recommends. In fact, though it will require discipline on your part, it is possible to use computing resources that are available to all students to work on your assignments and not buy a computer at all. There are very large Open Access Labs located all over Texas A&M’s campus, including the Student Computing Center. The SCC is very close to the buildings that the Biology Department is located in.
But, if you would like to get a computer of your own, here are some things that you might take under consideration:
Do you want to take it to class with you?
Many students do opt to get a laptop computer for this exact reason. Just realize that not every classroom is going to have room for a bigger laptop (15" screen or larger) and some won’t have sufficient room for every student to have a laptop. Also consider how much weight you’re willing to carry around added to all of the books you’re going to be carrying.
If you are still sold on the idea of a laptop, realize that they present a tempting target to the less-honorable among us – both on-campus as well as in your apartment or dorm room. You are going to want to get a lock to secure your computer from would-be thieves.
Is there a specific brand I should look at?
Many companies offer discounts to Texas A&M students, including Apple, Dell and Hewlett Packard. Frequently the discount is limited, but there are good deals to be found. There is no specific brand that stands out and Texas A&M students are seen using almost every computer brand sold.
What should I look for?
Assuming that you want your computer to last for your entire undergraduate time at Texas A&M, you probably want to be buying a computer that has a good amount of power rather than the most inexpensive model you can find. You will want as much RAM as possible, as RAM is more important to your system’s ability to process things than any other component. If your know your way around a computer, you can save some money by getting the system with the basic amount of RAM that the manufacturer provides and then upgrading the RAM yourself. You might also consider getting an external hard drive of some sort to use for backing up your data (that way a sudden hard drive crash on the computer isn’t going to cause you to lose that paper you were working on all semester). And, as mentioned above, if you are getting a laptop, get a lock for it. You might consider an extended warranty for your computer, especially if it is a laptop. If you are rough on computers or think someone living with you might be, look into a warranty that includes accidental damage such as Dell’s CompleteCare.
Will I be able to use the internet on campus?
Texas A&M has an extensive wireless network and all of the buildings that the Biology Department is in have excellent coverage. This is also true of almost every classroom on campus.
Can I get help with my computer if it breaks?
Help Desk Central provides both software and hardware support for current students. Help Desk Repair offers several services free of charge, and a variety of important repairs for very resonable rates. HDC also offers a variety of free short courses designed just for students which will help you to improve your skills in some of the most popular software available.
What sort of software will I need?
Different classes may require different software. Most software required for use in class is available for use in the Open Access Labs. If you would like to purchase software of your own, the Texas A&M Software Center has a wide variety of deeply discounted software for current students, including Adobe Creative Suite and Microsoft Office packages for both Windows and Mac.