How to Get a Free Laptop for College

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Updated June 27, 2022

The best computers aren’t cheap. Whether you’re a doe-eyed high school senior getting ready for your first foray into college or a seasoned grad student, you’re probably asking yourself how to get a free laptop for college.

After all, the whole college experience is all about ramen dinners and saving money wherever you can, which is why we’ve compiled a list of various resources that you can use to get a laptop for little-to-no cost upfront. You might also be interested in our e-pad laptop pillow desk if you’re doing work from home.

Check With Your School

The first step in this process for anyone who’s entering higher education should be to check with the school to see if a laptop or tablet is included as a part of your tuition costs.

Many design and computer science degrees will automatically provide you with a laptop that’s made to suit the demands of your prospective career. While this isn’t technically a “free” laptop (it comes out of what you pay the school), it’s still a device that you can start using before the first day of class for no charge upfront.

Free Laptop for College
Laptops are an essential part of the learning process in the modern age.

There are also a number of online colleges that offer free laptops. Whether you qualify or not will depend on the major you plan to pursue (i.e – a sociology major probably won’t have as good of a chance as an engineer might), but either way there are still a number of options here that wouldn’t be available if you were attending a brick-and-mortar campus alone.

Other options here might include a discounted laptop program that the school offers up, or a laptop that’s given to you to use while you’re actually enrolled (as a loaner), but will need to be returned once you’ve earned your degree.

Apply for Educational Grants

If your school doesn’t offer any such program, your next step should be to start scouring the web for potential educational grants.

A good place to start on this front would be the Partners in Learning Grants, a program started by Microsoft which works with schools, educators, and students to get laptops in the hands of those who need them the most.

Your school also might provide their own educational grants to those who qualify. Upon enrollment, be sure to ask your class counselor if your specific institution has any “lease-to-own” programs, or contests that you can enter which might have a laptop as the first prize.

Use These Websites

If you don’t have a shop in your neighborhood, you can also check out your local chapter of Freecycle.org. Although it’s rare that a laptop (or anything with a value of $50 or more) would pop up, you never know what you might get if you happen to sign in on the right day!

Another site offering programs which help to get tech in the hands of the less fortunate is the On It Foundation. It’s important to note that this network is only open to children currently enrolled in K-12 education, so unfortunately if you’re an adult who’s going back to college, this won’t be an option for you.

The two last reliable sources of working computers and laptops are Computers With Causes and the Computer Technology Assistance Corps, which work to provide technology to families and kids who may not be able to afford one on their own. Keep in mind that in order to get a free laptop for low income families from either one of these organizations, you’ll need to submit your family’s tax returns which show they’re under a certain limit for the year (no more than $35K in the case of CTAC, for example).

Check Your Local Tech Shops

This option rounds out our list on the bottom because while it’s a choice if you’re really looking for a free college laptop, it may not be viable for anyone who lives in a more rural area. Higher density cities will usually have several tech shops run by hobbyists and locals, where old PCs and laptops are refurbished/resold for pennies on the dollar.

Here in Portland we have a shop called “Free Geek”, which will give you a laptop for “free” after volunteering a number of hours either working the counter or breaking down old PCs in the back. Programs like this are more unique than the rest, but still a viable way to get a free laptop if none of the other options above are possible for your particular situation.

Wrap Up

Look, there’s no getting around it: going to college is pricey these days, and saving money anywhere you can is a must for any student who’s eager to learn during their time on campus.

Luckily, there are a number of available programs, grants, local resources and more that can get a free laptop for college. Technology is an essential part of the learning process in our modern age, and no child or prospective student should be left without a viable way to get their hands on all the tools they’ll need to enter the job market prepared and ready for any challenges that life throws their way.

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