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You don’t need a MacBook for college — Save your money for the good times

MacBook Pro
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Going to college? Here’s why you don’t need to buy a MacBook, to be a proper student.

Congratulations! You got the grades you needed to take the next step and head off to college or university. Chances are you’ve been busy preparing for the big move to campus by buying up everything you need. 

Don’t worry if you haven’t started yet, we’ve done the hard work and found the best back to school deals (click here if you live in the UK). When you arrive on campus, you’ll notice a sea of glowing apples. Granted, that’s not happening so much nowadays given Apple’s move away from its backlit logo, but you get the idea. 

You’ll see a lot of MacBooks in lecture theatres and you’ll feel that FOMO-esque temptation to get one of your own. But take it from me, don’t do it! Yes, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro are fantastic laptops, but you really don’t need to spend so much on a notebook to get you through school and into your first full-time job.

Speaking from personal experience…

Macbook

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Here was my pride and joy: the plastic MacBook. It was a damn good laptop with a decent battery life, good durability and a nice keyboard. Its specs included a 2.4 GHz Intel Core Duo CPU, 2GB RAM and a 250GB HDD. Thinking back to these days while working hard on my lightning-fast M1 MacBook Pro makes me feel ancient! Oh, and yes, despite my advice in this op-ed, I currently own and love my MacBook.

Most people who pick up a MacBook do so for two reasons: it was the de facto choice for creative pros, and they were drawn in by the light-up logo and the simplicity of macOS.

But what did I use mine for? Typing essays, Spotify and going down YouTube rabbit holes. I could have done that on laptops that cost a fraction of the price, and even when I finally taught myself to use Photoshop, working on Adobe’s app didn’t need the most expensive notebook — cheaper options would’ve been just fine. 

Yet, I had to buy one. I fell for the marketing. I crumbled to peer pressure. The 10% student discount was more tempting than recoiling at the price, and sure, I had fun using it over the years, but buying it rinsed my bank account and kept me permanently in my overdraft, further compounded by Freshers’ Week and the impending onslaught of nights out.

Jason England

Caption: Here I am, looking at the drinks I wished I could afford. (Image credit: Jason England)

Chances are most of you have an identical work output to my own or if you need something more, access to machines on campus with the necessary power requirements. University loan repayments aside, it took me a long time to get my finances back in the black after shelling out on the bitten fruit. 

While choosing the right laptop is important for any student, it doesn’t mean you need to pay through the nose for one that goes above and beyond what you actually need.

What would I recommend instead?

Good question! I can’t just tell you not to buy a MacBook, and then not give you recommendations to purchase instead. If you live in the UK, I have a list of the best back to school laptop deals.

And yes, there are two MacBooks on that list. You deserve the freedom to choose one if you have the money to afford one, or if you have use cases beyond things any cheaper laptop can do.

HP Envy 13 (2021) review

The HP Envy 13 is a great laptop for students. (Image credit: Laptop Mag)

But if I had to pick from the best college laptops for myself, you could get away with a decent Chromebook for the bare essentials. On the Windows side, HP’s Envy 13 or Envy x360 13 are ideal options if you need an ultra-portable with versatility.

My advice? Don’t do it

What I’m saying here comes from my personal experience. For others, even some on the Laptop Mag staff, those alternative laptop recommendations may look different. And, of course, many folks absolutely loved their time with a MacBook over the years in education, and that’s absolutely fine!

But most people entering college have a limited budget. There’s a lot of fun to be had during your time at college or university, and much of that fun requires money — from dinner with friends to club nights. You don’t need to follow the herd and blow all that cash on an Apple laptop unless you can seriously prove you need one. If you opt for something else, you won’t be putting more pressure on your bank balance than you already will be with the student life.

So take my advice on three things. Smoking a pipe does not make you like the most interesting man in the smoking area, it makes you look like a prat; if someone is attracted to you, they won’t care about your braces, which you should wear  like a badge of pride; and a MacBook is not essential for a fulfilling student experience.

Jason England

 Jason brings a decade of tech and gaming journalism experience to his role as a writer at Laptop Mag. He specializes in finding the best deals to make sure you never pay more than you should for gadgets! Jason takes a particular interest in writing and creating videos about laptops, headphones and games. He has previously written for Kotaku, Stuff and BBC Science Focus. In his spare time, you'll find Jason looking for good dogs to pet or thinking about eating pizza if he isn't already.