When it’s time to head off to college, it’s time to get a laptop – or at least upgrade your existing one. Between taking notes, class projects, essay writing and the myriad other computer-dependent things you’ll need to do, you can’t rely on those Stone Age cubes collecting dust in the library. Everyone on campus has a laptop these days because having your own portable computer is just so darn convenient. When you’re on the hunt for a machine that will satisfy your college technological needs, here’s what you need to consider:

What Do You Need it to Do?

First and foremost, consider what you’ll be doing on your laptop. If you’re simply planning on writing papers, browsing the web, streaming video and building PowerPoint presentations, a basic laptop will provide all the functionality you need. If, however, you’re majoring in an engineering or technology field and need to run more advanced software, you’ll need a system with a few more bells and whistles. For more advanced, technical programs, look for a laptop with substantial RAM, a dedicated graphics card and a high-performance CPU.

What Do the Reviews Look Like?

One of the best ways to move the needle forward in your decision-making process is to take a look at real, honest reviews of the product you’re considering. Independence University advises that the most recent reviews should be considered more valuable than older reviews, as they provide perspective on how things currently stand as opposed to how they used to be in the past, including things like product quality and customer service. Since technology is changing at a breakneck pace, even reviews that are only a year old may not paint an accurate picture of laptop performance in the context of current standards.

What’s Your Budget?

Your budget is ultimately the greatest determiner of the type of laptop you’ll end up with. If you can only spend $300, you’ll have to settle for far fewer bells and whistles than if you can easily drop $1000. If you’re willing to go the secondhand or refurbished route, you may be able to score a great deal on a high-performance machine, but you probably won’t get a warranty. If you’re a budget-conscious college student – who isn’t? – another option is to purchase bells and whistles on the side. You can opt for a speedy, smaller notebook and then purchase an external hard drive for more storage. If you get creative with your budget, you can almost always get the performance you need at a price point you can afford.

What Kind of Battery Life Does it Have?

Laptop battery life has improved tremendously over the years; even so, as a college student, you’ll likely need at least 10 hours of functionality, if not more, according to Wired. Your laptop will need to power you through taking notes in class, group projects, late-night study sessions and hours of library time. Good luck finding an open outlet when hundreds of other students are scoping out the very same thing. Rather than wallow in the frustration of claimed outlet after claimed outlet, look for a laptop with substantial battery life. When you’re down to the wire on that project due by midnight, you won’t need to worry about rushing around campus to find that ever-elusive open outlet. Score.

With thousands of options to choose from, selecting the appropriate laptop for college can be overwhelming. But with considerable research and a solid idea of what you’re looking for, you should have no problem finding the perfect laptop for your needs. If you really do some digging, you can usually score one for a great deal, too!