I will say up front that I am a devoted Apple customer. I find that for me, personally, Macs are easier to use, and all my other devices are Apple products so I can easily switch from one to the other and sync them. Almost all of my friends have Macs for the same reason. It is extremely helpful to be able to go to the Apple Store and have the person helping you know exactly how to fix your computer. Apple is known for excellent customer service, which is a huge plus, especially if something goes wrong and you need the notes that were on your “desktop” for the midterm you have on Friday! I have had my MacBook Pro for three years and it hasn’t failed me yet.
The downside of Macs is that they are often more expensive than PCs. The new 13-inch MacBook Pro starts at $1,199; you can buy a PC laptop from $299.99 and up at Best Buy. If you feel like your freshman might be a little careless with his or her belongings, or if he or she might not use a laptop very often, it might be beneficial to spend less money and go with a PC. Certain majors also suggest using a PC because programs such as Excel are designed to operate on PCs. (Microsoft Office for Mac is also an option.)
Though most schools support both platforms, it is important to find out if the school your child is attending has a preference. Gordon Wishon, chief information officer for the University Technology Office at Arizona State University, says, “ASU’s computing environment is equally supportive of one over the other. Either will work well in our environment, so it’s really a matter of personal choice. ASU’s University technology office works very closely with the ASU Bookstore to ensure computers from various manufacturers, MAC or PC, meet the minimum campus standards for hardware and software performance”.
The University of Arizona appears to have a similar policy. I have found that most schools, including ASU and U of A, suggest checking with your specific department, school or college to see if it has an official preference for one or the other.
Certain academic programs, such as the Design School and the The Herberger Institute School of Art and Intermedia at ASU, suggest you buy specific hardware and software for your Mac or PC. The University of Colorado, Boulder, where I attend school, strongly suggests that students purchase The Microsoft Office Suite, regardless of which laptop they choose. If you opt out of buying a laptop altogether (which I would not suggest), ASU and U of A have computing centers around campus. (Both state on their websites, however, that while students are not required to purchase laptops for college, it is recommended.)
Many universities offer special deals and discounts for computers through campus bookstores, so it would be beneficial to see what your child’s school might offer. Companies also have certain promotions that will help you save when purchasing a laptop. For example, I received a free printer with the purchase of my MacBook Pro in 2009 through the Apple Store. This year, if you buy a Mac for college you can receive a $100 back-to-school gift card for apps, books, movies and music. Apple also offers special education pricing for college students, teachers and parents buying laptops for their kids.