A couple of months ago, Clarkson College, a smallish (3,500 students) four-year institution in Potsdam, N.Y., with an emphasis on technical and managerial training, made a decision:

Beginning the 1983-'84 school year, the college would provide all students with a personal computer of their very own, one that they could keep in their rooms.

The year before was Clarkson's best ever in terms of numbers of applications received for the freshman class. But since the personal computers announcement this school year, applications from high school seniors to some of the college's schools have topped that record by as much as 15 percent.

"The response has been heavy," says Steve Schoenholtz, Clarkson's director of News Services. "Our high school recruiters say the response has been up a hundredfold."

Clarkson may be the first post-secondary school to provide a personal computer to every student (there will be a one-time $200 deposit required, plus a $200-per-semester user fee), but it is not the only one where personal computers are appearing in college dorms.

Carnegie-Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, and Drexel, in Philadelphia, are either requiring freshmen to own their own computers or are planning to provide them with computers in the years to come. Other schools are already requiring students in some technical courses to own personal computers.

But the explosion in personal computer usage in the nation's colleges and universities isn't limited to the undergraduate level. Junior colleges and local universities are offering personal computer courses that you and I can take. And they don't cost the $9,500 a year a student must pay in tuition and other fees to attend Clarkson.

In fact, a call to your local community college will likely reveal a wealth of basic, hands-on courses designed for adults who want to know how to use a personal computer.

At four of the five Northern Virginia Community College campuses, for instance, you can take such courses as "Buying and Owning a Home Computer" and "How to Operate a Home Computer." Cost of the courses, most of which are offered in the evening, run from $10 to $100. There are similar offerings at other area community colleges.

But local colleges aren't the only source of such courses. The personal computer boom has spawned yet another new industry: the personal computer school. It's the rough equivalent of the driving school. You pay a fee and work with the personal computers in the school and learn your way around bits and bytes well enough so that you can put your home computer to individualized use.

Right now, the problem is finding personal computer schools, because the industry is so new that the Yellow Pages don't even have a specific catagory set aside for them yet. Don't despair. Call your local personal computer store and ask if there are any schools in your area.