What kind of computer should I get for school?


Computer Information

ASL does not require incoming students to purchase a computer, and the school does provide free student access to a limited number of computers in the library. However, we strongly recommend that students get a computer if they do not already own one. Keep in mind that you will be using the computer primarily for word processing, so the availability of various multimedia functions, while fun for playing games, may not be necessary. Ensure that the computer you choose meets the requirements of the word-processing program that you intend to use.

Since technology is continually advancing (and prices are continually dropping), shop around to buy as much computer as you can reasonably afford as close to the time you need one as possible. This helps ensure that your computer doesn't become obsolete too quickly.

Suggested specifications

  • Desktop or laptop - Desktops are generally cheaper than laptops with similar features. However, the portability and convenience of a laptop will allow you to take notes in class and work on assignments in the library.
  • Operating system - For PCs, Windows 7 or XP are recommended. For Macs, OS 10.5 or later with an Intel processor is suggested. Currently, ASL's exam software is compatible only with Windows XP or later, so if you purchase a Mac, you may have to install Windows separately.
  • CPU speed - The speed of the computer's central processing unit, or CPU, is one measure of its performance. Faster (larger numbers) is generally better. You should check the recommended requirements for the operating system and software of your choice. Currently, the most common processor types are Intel and AMD Dual-Cores.
  • Memory (RAM) - More memory, or RAM, also improves a computer's performance. At least 2 GB (2048 MB) should be available for the operating system and other software. More memory often improves the computer's performance more effectively than a faster CPU.
  • Disk Space - Computer software and data files are stored on hard disks in the computer; more space is better. Common hard drive (HDD) sizes are 160 to 500 GB.
  • Other hardware - The computer should have at least a CD-ROM drive since most software is distributed on CD-ROM. You should also have a quality printer capable of professional-looking output; a laser printer or a quality ink-jet printer will do (color printing is probably not necessary). Consider buying a back-up device as a precaution against losing your files such as a CD/DVD burner, USB drive, or external hard drive. Your computer should have a network interface card (NIC) and wireless card.
  • Word-processing software - Get a recent version of either Corel WordPerfect (which comes in the Corel Office suite) or Microsoft Word (which comes in the Microsoft Office suite). Microsoft Office may come preloaded on your PC, but check to make sure it is not just a 60-day trial. If you have no experience with Word or WordPerfect, begin learning one of them as soon as possible. The programs are available to academic users at many college bookstores at discounted prices.
  • Internet browser and e-mail - Windows computers come with Internet Explorer (a browser) and Outlook Express (an e-mail program) already loaded; a number of other browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and e-mail programs such as Mozilla Thunderbird are available by download over the Internet. You will be given more information about network and e-mail access when you arrive in the fall.
  • Anti-virus software - We recommended that you have anti-virus software such as the McAfee or Norton programs, and back-up software to use with the back-up device mentioned above.

A good source of information about computers, including product reviews and price comparisons, is CNET. Track deals at Price Watch.

General skills

You will need the computer skills described below in law school. If you do not already have these skills, spend some time reading one or more of the numerous books available for novice users and practicing with your computer if possible. At minimum, you should know how to:

  • navigate the computer's file system
  • open and close programs
  • save and retrieve files
  • rename a file
  • save a file under a new name
  • select a printer and print a document
  • operate your Internet browser and e-mail programs
  • send and receive a file as an e-mail attachment
  • back up files to protect against data loss
  • install and use anti-virus software

Word processing skills

Written assignments in law school must usually be typed, and, like documents filed in courts, are subject to specific formatting requirements. As a result, you need to know how to:

  • set the font and font size
  • set specified margin sizes
  • double- and single-space text in a document
  • indent paragraphs
  • number pages
  • create a header and/or footer with your name and other information on each page
  • spell-check a document
  • insert the § (section) symbol into a document
  • turn off automatic formatting, spelling, and punctuation correction
  • boldface, underline, or italicize type
  • cut, copy, and paste text
  • find and replace text

If you have specific questions about computers, contact Information Services. If you have questions about financial aid issues, including the availability of financial aid for purchasing a computer, contact Student Services.


Community Service

ASL will fuel your commitment to making a difference in the world. Through our community-service requirement of 25 hours per semester, you’ll volunteer at places like:

  • Animal shelters
  • Carnivals for disadvantaged children
  • Free medical clinics
  • Recycling centers
  • Retirement homes