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My kid is going to college. Which Mac should I buy him or her?


I got an email from a client today–her twin girls are heading off to college in the fall, and she wants to buy them both Mac laptops. She asked me which Mac I recommended for this purpose.

Here are what I consider the essential requirements:

  • sturdy (it should last all 4 years of college!)
  • light enough to carry back and forth to the library easily
  • camera for Skyping with parents (all the Macs have this now)
  • enough RAM (memory), so they don’t see the pinwheel of death all the time
  • a big drive, for all the pirated music they’ll be downloading

Another option is to look at Apple’s refurb page, where they sell refurbished versions of slightly older models. There are some great deals to be had here; things change fast so check often.

There are a few additional items to consider getting along with it:

  1. AppleCare, to get a full 3-year warranty on the computer, including hard drive failure. (It doesn’t cover breakage from sitting on it or spilling milk on it though.) The computer itself comes with a 1-year warranty; this extends it by 2 years.
  2. Microsoft Office for Mac, if they think they’ll need Word, Excel, or PowerPoint. If they’ll be using Google Docs and the Mac applications (Pages, Numbers, Keynote) then they don’t need Office, but if they’ll be exchanging a fair number of documents with non-Mac users, it may be necessary.
  3. External hard drive, to use for Time Machine backup.
  4. DropBox, free for up to 2GB of data–so that their most important files are automatically backed up in the cloud.

Now is a good time to purchase the new Mac for your high schooler, so that he/she can spend a few months setting everything up in advance so he/she can dive in to the courseload in the fall.

Great photo by Greg Burkett, from Flickr Creative Commons.

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