We encourage students to bring a computer to campus for personal use - but we do not require students to purchase or own a computer. SFA has hundreds of computers available for students to use.
If you will be attending SFA for the first time, as a freshman or transfer student, please consider waiting to buy a computer for college and simply bring the computer you currently use. You probably won't need a special computer during your first months here, and you will have access to college and university computers. With time, you will be able to better decide what you need in our environment.
Below, we discuss a few additional considerations for engineering and physics students:
- Do I need an especially good computer to handle engineering coursework?
Probably not. A standard, middle-of-the-road personal computer is usually sufficient for most students and for the majority of academic work - preparing written assignments, accessing online class materials, sending and receiving messages, collaborating on class projects, etc.
SFA uses Microsoft Office 365 for all faculty, staff and students, so just about any web browser on any computer will be all that is needed to use the "cloud" version of Microsoft's office suite. You can have your own copy of an office productivity suite on your computer if you wish, but it won't be necessary, and the online "cloud" version will offer opportunities to share and collaborate with other students or instructors.
Keep in mind that a lot of specialized engineering software is not available in student versions and/or not licensed for personal computers. For that reason, the college and its departments provide computers for student use. But when engineering software is available for use on personal computers, you may want the convenience of having a personal copy.
- Can I use a Macintosh for engineering coursework?
This is a matter of personal preference; the answer is a qualified "yes, but not recommended". A Macintosh is fine for general-purpose use, but is not a good choice if you want a computer that can run engineering-specific software, which is mostly Windows-based.
You will need to run Microsoft Windows on your Macintosh if you want to run Windows-based engineering software. This requires purchasing a separate license for Windows, and installing it on a separate partition on your Macintosh hard drive. You can then run Windows on your Macintosh computer by selecting Windows when you boot your computer, or you can install third-party software to run Windows in a virtual machine as a "guest" operating system, hosted by the standard Mac OS X operating system. But you may still run into performance limitations if you run graphics-intensive Windows software, such as AutoCAD or SolidWorks.
- What about iPads, Android tablets, netbooks etc?
These are too limited to serve as your only computer, but they can be very useful as a portable "second computer" to carry on-campus for communications, note-taking, internet browsing, reading online class materials, etc.