First-Year Student Laptop Requirement

The College of IST requires that all new first-year students enrolled as a pre-major (INFST) in the college at University Park beginning in the summer or fall 2021 semesters have their own laptop that meets or exceeds minimum technical specifications.

This requirement is effective beginning in the fall 2021 semester and is intended to equip students with a device designed to last for four years, ensures they have access to a minimum level of technology needed to complete their coursework, and allows instructors to effectively incorporate a standard of technology into their courses. Students may be required to bring their laptops to class.

Over time, having a personal laptop that meets minimum standards better positions students to complete assignments, collaborate effectively with classmates, receive hands-on instruction, and make use of flexible educational environments. Ultimately, it supports an equitable Penn State experience and prepares students with the digital fluency needed to create new knowledge and thrive in emerging careers.

Questions? Email us!

As an incoming first-year IST student at University Park, you must have a laptop that meets or exceeds the following specifications:

PC Laptop

  • Minimum Specifications: Windows 10, i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB hard drive, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Recommended Specifications: Windows 10, i7 processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB hard drive, WiFi, Bluetooth, Hardware service warranty

Mac Laptop

  • Minimum Specifications: Mac OS Big Sur, i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 256GB Hard drive, WiFi, Bluetooth
  • Recommended Specifications: Mac OS Big Sur, M1 processor, 16GB RAM, 256GB Hard drive, WiFi, Bluetooth, AppleCare 

The Penn State Bookstore will have several recommended laptops available for purchase at a discounted rate in late summer 2021, which can be shipped to the student or picked up on campus. While students can purchase any laptop that meets these requirements from any vendor, we strongly encourage that they be purchased through the Bookstore as some of these solutions come with multiyear support plans.

We recommend that, if possible, students do not buy any new computer hardware or software until a month before their first classes to maximize the warranty and longevity of the machine.

More details will be available soon.

We recognize that purchasing a laptop can be a considerable expense. As such, College of IST students who have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the University that shows demonstrated need will be considered for a one-time $1,500 technology scholarship to help offset the cost of this requirement. Eligible students will receive additional communications from the College of IST about using the scholarship to secure a laptop through the Penn State Bookstore.

If you have not submitted a FAFSA, or if you need to amend your original submission to account for new financial circumstances, we encourage you to do so as soon as possible to verify your potential eligibility for the scholarship.

If you are not eligible for the scholarship, you can still purchase a laptop through the Penn State Bookstore at a discounted rate later this summer.

What if my laptop does not meet the minimum requirements?

Faculty have built courses based on each student having a standard level of technology to participate in class assignments, complete coursework, and progress through the degree program. Not meeting the requirement may result in a suboptimal experience and negatively impact the student's academic performance.

Who will be considered for the one-time technology scholarship?

Students who have a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on file with the University that shows demonstrated need will be considered for a one-time $1,500 technology scholarship to help offset the cost of this requirement. If you are eligible for the scholarship, you will receive notification via both email and a letter sent to your home address by mid-April. Additional communications will be sent over the summer with instructions on how to use the scholarship to purchase a laptop through the Penn State Bookstore.

What is the amount of the one-time technology scholarship?

$1,500.

I’m eligible for the one-time technology scholarship. When will I get it?

If you obtain a laptop directly through the Penn State Bookstore, the scholarship will be directly credited toward your purchase with any surplus (i.e., if the computer costs less than $1,500) being distributed to your Bursar account by October 2021. If you don’t purchase a laptop from the Bookstore, funds will be distributed to your Bursar account by October 2021.

I’m eligible for the one-time technology scholarship. Do I need to do anything else to get it?

No, the scholarship will be automatically applied to your Bursar account or, if you obtain your laptop from the Penn State Bookstore, credited toward the purchase of it.

However, you must contact the Penn State Office of Student Aid to submit a one-time cost of attendance increase for a computer purchase to ensure that any existing financial aid package is not impacted. This increase will be covered by the one-time technology scholarship.

There are two ways to request a "Cost of Attendance Increase for a Computer Purchase.” You must initiate this process, but it can be done before or after you purchase a laptop.

  1. Email the Office of Student Aid. In the Inquiry box, select "Other." In the Question or Comment box, enter "I request a Cost of Attendance increase for a computer purchase" and ask to have the paperwork sent to you.
  2. Call the Office of Student Aid at (814) 865-6301 to request a Cost of Attendance increase for a computer purchase, and the paperwork will be provided.

Will receiving the one-time technology scholarship impact my financial aid?

If you receive the scholarship, you will need to submit a one-time cost of attendance adjustment request with the Office of Student Aid to ensure that any other financial aid you receive is not impacted. This increase in the cost of attendance will be covered by the one-time technology scholarship. You must initiate this process, but it can be done before or after you purchase a laptop. You will need either your receipt or a printout of your planned purchase.

I already bought a laptop that meets these requirements but am eligible for the scholarship. Will I still receive it?

Yes, awarding decisions will not be influenced by whether a student already owns a laptop. Students will be notified via email and mail if they are eligible for the scholarship.

While intended to be used toward the purchase of the required laptop, funds can be used toward any charges applied to your Bursar account to offset the prior purchase of a laptop.

What if I never completed the FAFSA?

If you have not completed the FAFSA, we encourage you to submit it as soon as possible so you can be considered for the one-time technology scholarship. Visit the Office of Student Aid website for more information.

How do I buy a laptop through the Penn State Bookstore?

The Penn State Bookstore will have recommended laptops available for purchase later this summer. Laptops will be available to purchase on campus or online and can be shipped to the student. More details will be available soon.

What if the laptop I purchase through the Bookstore is more or less than the scholarship?

If the laptop costs less than the scholarship amount ($1,500), the difference will be deposited into your Bursar account. If the laptop costs more than the scholarship amount ($1,500), you are responsible for any remaining balance.

Do the different majors in the college have different technical requirements?

No, the minimum and recommended technical specifications are the same for each of the college’s undergraduate programs.

If I have a laptop that meets the required specifications but isn’t on the college’s recommended list, can I still use it?

Yes, you can use any laptop that meets or exceeds the minimum technical specifications.

Will my tablet meet this requirement?

There are currently no tablets that will meet the minimum required specifications.

Does the technology requirement apply to summer courses?

No. The laptop requirement begins in the fall 2021 semester. You are encouraged, but not required, to have a laptop that meets the minimum technical requirements for any summer 2021 courses.

What happens if my machine has technical problems or suffers a security breach?

The IST Helpdesk will be available to consult for software problems related to coursework and can loan you a machine if you have a temporary problem with your laptop. Visit the IST Helpdesk website for more information.

I’m a student-athlete or on another full scholarship and am eligible for the one-time technology scholarship. What should I do?

Please contact us at laptop@ist.psu.edu.

Are there any additional hardware, software, or accessories I need?

No, though some courses may require the installation of various software to complete assignments. Your instructor will guide you in any course-specific software needs.