Buying the Right Computer for an Online Private School Student


When you are the parent of an online private school student, you might find yourself in a role that you never imagined: Information Technician. You are now in charge of ensuring that your student has all of the correct technology he or she needs to complete the schoolwork.

Buying a computer is like buying a car. Your selection is dependent upon your intended use. A family of six living in Alaska might choose an SUV, while a retired couple in Florida may purchase a convertible. Your computer purchase should compliment your lifestyle.

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Chromebook - Affordability

Starting price: About $250
Security: High (Forbes)
Audience: Students who will use it for school…and not much else.


  • Works perfectly with the Google lineup, including Docs and Sheets.
  • With few exceptions (such as running massive applications), a very fast computer.
  • Cloud-based storage only. Some might see this as a negative, but there are some major benefits to the cloud.
  • Due to the simple nature of the Chromebook, battery life tends to be longer.


  • Students cannot take the Stanford 10 using a Chromebook as Pearson requires downloading a lockdown browser; it is recommended that families that want to purchase a Chromebook for their student have another computer available for taking the standardized assessment.
  • The lifespan of the computer may not be as long as you are used to with more expensive computers. Of course, it depends on how you treat your computer as well as the materials in which the Chromebook is made of (plastic or metal).
  • Low storage options (This comes back to the cloud-based set-up.)
  • Printing difficulty, unless you use Google Cloud Print.
  • Limited applications can be downloaded.

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PC - Freedom

Starting price: About $700
Security: Low (Forbes)
Audience: Students who will use it for gaming and other high-demand activities


  • Countless programs and applications are available.
  • Students who want to install their own hardware or software have the power to do so. They tell the computer what to do, not the other way around.
  • Backwards compatibility with most programs.
  • Gaming - quantity, quality, compatibility.
  • Students can dissect and reassemble their computer to make it better, faster, and stronger.


  • PCs will run any program, so you could find yourself with malware. Think of a Swiffer for viruses.
  • PCs are not the most stable pieces of technology. You may find yourself turning it off and back on, or uninstalling and reinstalling more times than you hug your child.
  • Low-end support. This can be chalked up to the “run wild and free” option of PCs, but trying to find a solution to even basic issues can be maddening.
  • Those who want to add more resources to their computer, such as a faster processor or more internal memory, will need to pay more. In some cases, a lot more.

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Mac - Creativity

Starting price: About $1,300
Security: High (Forbes)
Audience: Students with their hand in media


  • Phenomenal for students interested in video editing, audio manipulation, music recording, and other multimedia projects.
  • Less malware threats (largely due to the lower volume of mac users over windows users).
  • Connects great with all other Apple products. If you get a text on your iPhone, you can answer it from your Mac desktop.
  • The speed is typically great considering the programs it can run.


  • In terms of options and pricing, PCs are more “free market America”, while Macs are more “one option NK”.
  • Despite the great retina screen and speakers, Macs pale in comparison to PCs for gaming.
  • It is not as easy to make upgrades to a Mac (compared to a PC).
  • Less backwards compatibility (A much older Mac may have more difficulty running the newest operating system.)

making a decision:

  1. Do additional research on the computers you are considering.
  2. Talk as a family about your price range, your student’s hobbies, and your student’s post-graduation plans.
  3. For many families, buying a computer is the first major purchase for the student. Use it as an opportunity for teaching responsibility.
  4. Test out the product before you buy. Go into a store, log into the student’s account to ensure everything works (then sign out!), and ask the store representative any questions you may have.
  5. Be safe. Purchase malware protection if needed. Talk to your student about safe internet practices, including avoiding inappropriate sites and being responsible when talking to other people.
  6. Have fun and educate yourself! Computers are here to stay, so embrace the beast.



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