July 11, 2019

How I made a Chromebook work for me in college

Hey guys! Today, I have a guest post from someone who’s very special to me — my brother! He just graduated with his undergrad and is starting his master’s program in August. And he’s used a Chromebook as his primary computer the entire time. I asked him if he’d be willing to share his experience and clear up a lot of the common misconceptions regarding Chromebooks.

Chromebook in college

As an aside, I should mention that I used a MacBook Pro at my day job, but when I launched out full-time as a writer I decided to buy a “high-end” Chromebook (I put high-end in quotes because it still cost me less than $500). I run this blog and my entire freelance writing business from a Chromebook. And even as long-time MacBook user, I don’t regret the decision one bit.

Here’s the Chromebook that I use every day: HP Chromebook x360

This is the Chromebook that Clayton’s used throughout his college career: Samsung Chromebook Plus

A Chromebook in College…Really?

What?! A new MacBook costs $1,800! Holy cow! How am I gonna afford that!?

Yeah, I feel ya. Sometimes what you want isn’t what you can afford…at least without going into credit card debt for it, and please don’t do that.

“What can I do? I mean, I’ve gotta have a computer for college. Do I just bite the bullet?”

Thankfully, when I was entering the college stage of my life and buying a computer started to draw near on the horizon, Clint recommended that I try a Chromebook.

“What’s a Chromebook? Oh, wait… isn’t that the computer where you can’t download anything? You know, the computer that all my friends with MacBooks say is just a glorified web browser?

Yes, that’s the device I’m referring to, but I know from experience that Chromebooks deserve much more credit than people who’ve never used one give them. And, much sweeter, there are a ton of great Chromebooks that cost less than $500.  Saving on technology, equipment, and books in college is one of the things that helped me graduate debt free.

But the question is… can you use a Chromebook in college and survive?

My answer — you most certainly can! In fact, you can thrive in college with a Chromebook! Heck, I have. Stay with me here, folks, because I’m about to give you the steps for succeeding in college with a Chromebook!

The Misconceptions

Let me start out by talking about two of the biggest issues people raise against Chromebooks.

1. You can’t download anything.

Not true. Any file (image, document, PowerPoint) that is on the internet can be downloaded to your Chromebook.

What you cannot download are programs that are designed for Windows or Mac (you know, things like Microsoft Word or Skype).

WAIT!!! Do NOT leave this page in terror thinking, “AH!! I can’t download Word! I’m ruined!!”

Hold up. I’m simply clearing up the misconceptions with honesty.

Later in this article, I’ll explain why the “problem” above is no biggie. Trust me. Just wait and see.

2. You can’t do anything besides surf the web.

Nope. Not even close (sorry for the Tangled reference).

Although Chromebooks are designed to fly through web browsing, they also have access to millions upon millions of apps from the Google Play Store.

Not an Android user? Think App Store. Remember how I mentioned Word and Skype earlier? They just happen to be two programs that have apps on the Play Store that you can download on your Chromebook (see, aren’t you glad you trusted me).

How do I know? Easy — I’ve done it. And they work really well! For help on getting Play Store apps running on your Chromebook, click here.

To check out some of the best apps, watch the video below.

Another exciting feature was added to Chrome OS recently — the ability to run Linux apps. This feature is more for the technologically advanced, but if you’re feeling brave, check this article out.

Using a Chromebook for School (The Important Part)

So… you can do some cool stuff with a Chromebook, but what about actually using it for school? Glad you asked! What’s the thing college students do with their computers the most? Easy, of course, write papers.

Can a Chromebook do this? Oh yeah!

1. Writing Papers

I mentioned earlier that you can indeed use Microsoft Office on a Chromebook, but in all honesty, I hardly ever used it during my time in college. My choice for writing papers was not Word, but Google Docs.

Google Docs is Google’s Word alternative that allows you to write papers till your little hears tires of doing so (which should happen pretty quick in college). Why did I use Google Docs?

  1. It does everything I need it to do for writing papers (talking about formatting such as APA or MLA, kind of important).
  2. It saves everything I do AS I DO IT. Forget your battery dying and you losing your whole paper. Google Docs saves everything to your secure Google account so that even if your computer is stolen, you’ve still got access to all your files on any other connected device.
  3. It’s free.

But don’t just trust me. If you need more convincing, click here.

Now, you’re probably wondering about turning in your papers online. Wonderfully, many online learning platforms support turning in your papers directly through Google Docs. My college’s platform, Canvas, was this way. I simply connected my Google account, and I was able to turn in every paper through Google Docs afterward.

However, even if your college does not support this, Google Docs allows you to download your document as a Word file or PDF (or some other file choices), and then you can upload that downloaded file onto your college’s learning portal.

2. Creating PowerPoints

Another important thing we do in college… Solution? Google Docs once again comes to the rescue. Google Slides is Google’s alternative to Microsoft’s PowerPoint. It has all the same advantages that I mentioned above. And once again, you can always download the PowerPoint app from the Play Store if you feel so inclined.

Turning in Google Slides also follows the exact same instructions that I listed above for Google Docs.

3. Creating Videos

Honestly, writing papers (including taking notes and doing research) and creating presentations are about all that happens in the life of a college student.

However, sometimes we are required to create videos. This was pretty rare for me, but it could happen more often depending upon your major. Granted, a Chromebook won’t be as good as creating videos as a PC or Mac; so if you’re gonna be doing a LOT of video editing, I would recommend one of those options.

However, if this is going to be rare for you, believe me, you can make it work with a Chromebook. Take a look at this article to see some great video editing options on your Chromebook.


So there you have it. Is succeeding in college with a Chromebook a possibility? Heck, yeah it is!

I did it and you can too!

And the best part is that whenever you have questions about your Chromebook, there are lots of answers to be found online. In fact, if you’re wanting to continue your Chromebook research right now, I highly recommend that you check out ChromeUnboxed. I’ve learned so many things from them that have helped me get the most of out my Chromebook.

The bottom line? If you’ve been on the ledge, it’s time to jump off and run on down to Best Buy or hop on Amazon and pick yourself up a brand new Chromebook.

Then start knocking down some college classes with that baby! Yes, it may seem like a whole new world at first, but you’ll quickly adjust and you will survive…I promise.

Related: How I Graduated Debt Free With Three Degrees

About the author 

Clayton Proctor

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