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Students from across the country spend their high school years just waiting to go to college. Once you get your acceptance letter, you can start thinking about all the things you need to take with you. You should consider whether you can use an iPad in place of a laptop for college.

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Can I Use an iPad Instead of a Laptop for College? – Is It Enough?

While Apple is far from the only company that makes tablets, more people use its iPad models than they do other tablets. It’s lightweight enough that you can easily take it with you, unlike a laptop that takes up more space and requires more space on your desk.

You don’t need to worry about carrying a charger either because the iPad battery is strong enough that it will last through several lectures. An iPad lets you take notes in class and send emails to your friends and professors. For many students, an iPad is enough for their classes and needs.

What Can You Do With an iPad in School?

If you want to know if an iPad is enough for school, think about some things you can do with it. An iPad is great for taking notes because it is compatible with so many apps. You’ll even find apps that let you send copies of your notes to friends from your classes.

It lets you keep all of your work in one convenient place that you can use anywhere on campus. Many schools now use digital documents or e-books that you can download right to your iPad.

It wasn’t that long ago that students needed a lot of notebooks and pens when they headed to class. You don’t need to worry about leaving your notebook at home or having a pen that doesn’t write.

The iPad lets you take notes with your stylus. You can even change the color of the background to make it look like notebook paper. Many students also like that they can use an iPad to read books, watch movies, and play games.

What are the Pros and Cons of Using an iPad for College?

Looking at the pros and cons of using an iPad for college is a good way to get an idea of what you can do with one of these devices and its limitations. Keep in mind that you may still need a laptop, even if you have an iPad.

9 Pros of Using an iPad for College

Can you really replace a laptop with an iPad when you go to college? Check out some of the pros of using your iPad in and out of the classroom.

1. Read Books

Kindle and other apps help you turn your laptop into an e-reader. The problem with those apps is that they make it clear you’re using a computer and not reading a book. Many book lovers have a hard time reading on larger screens. Using the same apps on your iPad is much easier.

Your device is not much larger than a book and is easy to hold in one or both hands. Not only can you read books for fun, but you can download some of your textbooks on it. This lets you take your textbooks with you without worrying about damaging them.

2. Portability

One big advantage that an iPad has over a laptop is that it can go anywhere. Many of the new models are much thinner and lighter than standard laptops. You don’t need to wait for it to boot up the way you do with a computer because the iPad springs to life much faster.

It usually only takes around 60 seconds until the iPad is ready to use once you press the power button. No matter where you need to go on your college’s campus or nearby, you can take your iPad with you.

3. Save Money

When you compare the cost of an iPad to a Mac from Apple, it’s clear that the iPad helps you save money. Many schools also get a discount from Apple. Before you move onto the campus, see what you need to do to get a cheaper model.

You might find that your school has a shop with different models in stock. At the same time that you pick up a school hoodie, you can snag a new iPad. Other schools let you buy one online and have it shipped to your home. This lets you try it out and learn how to use it before classes start.

4. Track iPad

Losing your laptop will fill you with dread. Despite its larger size, it’s easier to lose a laptop than you might think. You can leave it behind at the school library or a coffee shop after hanging out with friends. Someone can also steal your laptop when they break into your room or see it unattended on campus.

Using an iPad allows you to connect it to iCloud. This gives you access to Find My iPad, which uses GPS to find the current or last known location of your device.

5. Easy to Use

Have you ever tried talking to a friend or petting your dog at the same time that you tried to do a task on your laptop? The chances are good that you hit the wrong button a few times.

With an iPad, you get a user-friendly design. You don’t need to press multiple buttons or try to drag a mouse around the screen. The touchscreen display lets you draw and type in seconds. This design also helps you more easily use some of the top apps for students.

6. Apple Pencil

One of the top reasons to buy an iPad is that you can use it with an Apple Pencil . While this type of stylus is expensive, it turns your device into a drawing tablet . If you take art or design classes, you often need to create drafts of your projects and show the work that you did before you give them to your professors.

Apple Pencils help you easily write and draw on your touchscreen and edit whenever you want to make a few changes. You can even keep a few backups on hand in case you lose one.

7. Long Battery

The long battery life of the iPad also makes it great for students, Even if you buy one of the newer laptops, you may find that the battery doesn’t last nearly as long as you want. You’re lucky if you can go two or three hours before the laptop reminds you to charge the battery.

An iPad battery usually lasts for four to six hours between charges. This is more than enough to get through one or two of your classes and still have some battery power left. When you bring a charger with you, you can easily charge it in the classroom or the library.

8. More Security

Both you and your parents worry when you head to school with an expensive piece of technology. When someone steals your laptop, you have little recourse unless you installed an app that tracks it. If you didn’t back up your hard drive recently, you’ll also lose all of your valuable work.

Not only does an iPad come with a built-in tracker, but it gives you more security because you can set up a passcode. No one can open your iPad unless they know that code. As a bonus, you can back up all of your data to iCloud and access it, even if you don’t have your iPad.

9. Tons of Apps

Thanks to all the apps available online, you’ll never run out of ways to use an iPad. Start with some of the apps you can use at school to take notes and keep track of your assignments. With a planner app, you’ll never forget about an upcoming quiz or test again.

You can download a word processor to create documents and papers for your classes and apps that test you on your subjects. You’ll find just as many fun apps that are compatible with your iPad. Have fun playing games and watching the hottest shows on your screen.

5Cons of Using an iPad for College

While there are plenty of benefits of using an iPad for college, consider all the cons and the top reasons some students prefer laptops.

1. No USB Ports

When you want to share a funny video with your friends or catch the latest flick on your laptop, you can plug in a set of speakers to the USB port and make sure everyone can hear it. USB ports also allow you to connect other devices like a backup external hard drive or an external mouse.

One of the biggest disadvantages of an iPad is that it doesn’t have USB ports. To use standard peripherals, you need an adapter that you plug into the iPad to work with those devices.

2. Cost

As you learned above, buying an iPad is much cheaper than buying a Mac. When you compare the cost of a laptop to an iPad though, you’ll quickly find that some laptops are cheaper. You can usually buy an iPad for around $300, but the cost will go up if you need more memory or other features.

Some of the current models sell for as much as $500 to $800 or more. You can easily get a laptop with more storage for much less, especially if your college has a campus store.

3. Too Many Distractions

Some schools prefer that students use laptops because iPads have so many distractions. As much as you love that you can play a game or watch a video before your next class and send emails as your professor talks, some of the features can interfere with your education.

You might find that your alarm keeps going off in the middle of class or that your games keep sending you reminders about things you need to do when you’re in the middle of a project.

4. Multitasking Limitations

Multitasking with a laptop is easy. You can use Word to write a paper at the same time that you search for resources online. If you need to clarify an issue with your professor, simply open your email and send a message without losing your work.

You can even take a break and watch a TV show or play a quick game and then go back to your assignment. Multitasking with an iPad is much harder. Many students find that they keep closing some apps when they open others and that they can’t do as many things as they want to do.

5. Poor Text Editing

Using an iPad to take notes might sound great until you sit down at your desk or table. While the device comes with a built-in keyboard, it is quite small. Students with longer fingers or bigger hands often have problems pressing the right key as they type their notes.

While you can use an Apple Pencil, it’s akin to taking notes by hand. Not only does it take longer, but you might miss out on some valuable information.

Many students have just as many problems for writing papers because the iPad has such a small keyboard. To get around this, some students opt to purchase Apple’s Magic Keyboard or a similar accessory.

Does an iPad Support Word and Excel?

Two of the top apps that students use today are Word and Excel, both of which are Microsoft products. Though Apple and Microsoft had a rough relationship in the past, you can now use the company’s apps on your iPad.

Microsoft announced the introduction of its Microsoft Office suite for Apple users in 2021. This suite now includes features designed for Apple users to enhance their experiences.

The old version of Microsoft Office used a new window that opened when you launched it. This made it hard for you to go back and forth between the app and another window. The new version now makes multitasking a little easier.

You can use Excel for math and accounting classes and switch to Word when you need to write papers. The suite also includes PowerPoint for presentations. Another bonus is that it lets you store your work in the cloud. One major downside though is that you need to pay for a subscription once your Office trial expires.

Do Colleges Provide Free iPads?

Though it may seem hard to believe, some colleges offer free iPads for incoming students. Delaware State University provides students with a free iPad when they register for classes and has tech support on hand to help students set them up.

Duke University gives those in its Global Health Institute free models they can use for field research. Independence University takes things a step further because all new students receive both a free iPad and a free laptop.

Before you celebrate your free gift, check with the school to see if you need to do anything special to qualify. Some schools only offer free iPads to students enrolled in online or hybrid classes.

Others award them to students who come from poor families or those who receive certain types of financial aid. You might find that you need to fill out a form or stop by the campus shop to get your iPad, too.

AdobeStock_468535199 Online studying concept the classic white T-shirt man being busy for trying to finish his projects which makes his desk messy with iPad, laptop and books

Do I Really Need an iPad for College if I Have a Laptop?

Let’s make one thing clear, you do not need an iPad for college if you already have a laptop. Many students find that these devices come with so many benefits that they buy a new one before classes start or pick one up to use in addition to a laptop.

You don’t need to worry about distracting other students as you try to find an open outlet or stretch your laptop’s charging table across the room.

It gives you access to the internet when you’re in the middle of class or relaxing in your dorm room and lets you read your textbooks and complete assignments on a touchscreen. If you have a laptop though, you might find that an iPad doesn’t offer much beyond what you can already do.


A laptop is still a good choice for students who want to save money and those who do a lot of multitasking. Students who want a more portable device that works with dozens of apps will go with the iPad. Make sure you weigh the pros and cons to find out if an iPad is enough for your college experience.