I think basically when it comes to laptop-carrying, there are two options. So I have scoured my favourite bag blogs and online stores to bring you the following ---
Option 1: One-Bag-Carries-All
Get a large, roomy bag that can carry a laptop as well as charger and books and all your essentials -- a tote could work for this but I personally feel that it will be pretty harsh on your shoulders, so I'd go for a messenger bag style or if you don't mind a backpack, that's the most practical option (there are some rather stylish leather backpacks out there).
In Singapore there's a line of bags called Crumpler, there's a US website but I don't know how readily these are available in stores. These are very practical bags, not very feminine looking but they come in a huge variety of colours and sizes and styles. They're also very decently priced -- in Singapore the most expensive ones come to about US$130.
AcmeMade is very stylish but they have very few of the cute, colourful types of fabrics that I'd like for my bags. Plus they're really quite pricey, but stylish they undeniably are and they come in a host of different styles. The totes (green and pink) can be used like briefcases so they probably fit better under Option 2, but the designs I've picked are cute enough to work on a daily basis. Unfortunately, as I said, most of the other designs are very professional (read: Old) looking. And they're definitely priced to target the salaried woman.
I know I said totes are not a great idea, but these canvas totes from Gap are irresistable! And as you can see, they're HUGE so you can really take everything with you. I love the brown one, the colours are gorgeous.
Target has some cute, functional totes -- I don't know if these are actually good quality since I'm unable to physically check them out myself, but they're quite stylish, very affordable and they serve the purpose. Okay I only actually found two that I might consider buying. By the way Target do also carry some Gyms Pacific laptop sleeves (see below) so you might be able to see those yourself and pick them up at the store instead of ordering online. These are the two totes that might work:
Sorry I had to remove the direct Target link because it stopped working, but go to the section on Electronics > Home Office > Notebook Cases + Bags (under Computers + Accessories) and you'll find their whole selection of bags. Most of the bags are really just of the functional-but-ugly variety, though.
Option 2: One-Bag-and-One-Sleeve
Get a bag that can hold all your non-laptop stuff, and then carry your laptop around in a cute laptop sleeve, like these ones at GymsPacific. I love the Motel print on the top right, the pink poppy sleeve would be a fresh burst of colour in an otherwise dull collegiate day (who're we kidding? Collegiate days are always bright, right?), and the Bora Bora Hibiscus at the bottom is, well, not really my thing but it's exotic and refreshing in its own way so it might be attractive to someone else!
The best part is that the non-laptop bag can be any style that you like, because it's entirely up to you what you want to carry in it. This is why Option 2 is what I'm going to go for (evidently this is what I'm interested in considering I've picked so many bags for this option!) I believe Casey, at TeenFashionista, is planning on doing the same. For me the primary reason is that this will mean I can continue to use my current collection of bags instead of having to start a laptop-holding collection from scratch. But even so, nothing's preventing me from just looking at all the gorgeous possibilities available, right?
It has been noted by one reader that this option may make your laptop more vulnerable to theft, and also it doesn't really leave your hands free when you're carrying your laptop with you. Both are valid points, so you should really think about how much you'd like your hands to be free, and how often you're actually going to carry your laptop with you. Also if you get a chance to check out any of the following bags in person, you might very well find that some of them can take your laptop and sleeve and other things in them! Keep us posted, dear readers, about your findings and opinions!
There's this tote by Brooklyn Industries, which comes in a very pretty design and three very pretty colours, plus it's roomy enough to carry all your things. In fact, the dimensions are 18"x11"x6" so you could even consider puttting your laptop inside sometimes if you want to.
There are also these adorable messenger bags from Old Navy, which will probably carry quite a lot of things but they don't look large enough for a laptop, unfortunately.
I just realised that the Target women's section does offer up quite a few possibilities. The ones I've selected are all quite large so they might be able to take your laptop depending on the size. Most come in quite a wide variety of colours. 1. Chloe Edith lookalike, 2. Pretty patchwork tote in deep jewel tones perfect for fall, 3. Pearly coloured tote in a nice comfy shape, 4. YSL Muse lookalike, 5. Skulls-and-roses totes (very edgy, I like!) 6. Beautiful grey faux-suede tote (this comes in a lot of colours but I only really liked this one), 7. White tote with pretty design at the top (also available in orange and black), 8. Gorgeous red - every wardrobe should have a deep red bag, imho - faux leather tote, 9. Perfect tote for hardware-lovers.
From aGaiN NYC - also recommended by Pursueing - three options: (clockwise from top left) velvet and leather laptop bag, canvas and leather barrel bag, polyester hobo with suede detail. The laptop bag can probably function as a document bag as well - I love the unpredictability of the colours and textures on these bags. Really quirky pieces, though unfortunately rather pricey at around US$150 a pop.
Finally, if you and your finances are up to it, you could go for the to-die-for Jean Paul Gaultier sling bag I posted some time ago, because while it's roomy I don't think I'd want to ruin such sumptuous leather by stretching it out with a bulky laptop!
I'm off for a weekend cruise now, when I'm back I'll try investigating more bags :) You can also check out Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, American Eagle in the meantime -- there are some cute totes and slouchy hobos out there! Please post links to more college-worthy bags if you can find any!