As a college student, I would be lost without my laptop. I use it to take notes, write papers, read for class, and stream Netflix. It’s fair to say that you can’t survive college without one.
But what about tablets? Until this year I had believed that anything a tablet could do, my laptop could do better. But as a growing number of students have embraced tablets, they have become more difficult to ignore. And in June, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s school board approved a $30-million contract with Apple to equip 31,000 students across all grade levels with iPads. Clearly LAUSD, the country’s second largest public school system, believes tablets are necessary. So what’s the deal? Are students disadvantaged without a tablet?
What tablets do that laptops can’t
Obviously, the main draw of tablets are their portability. Sometimes I daydream of iPads when I’m lugging my 6-pound MacBook Pro to class with an accompanying charger — not to mention the textbooks that I still prefer to mark up with a real, ink-dispensing pen.
Which leads me to another tablet advantage: Touchscreens. You can download apps in which you draw and write directly on the tablet’s screen with your finger or stylus as a pen.
A lot of students also prefer the reading experience on a tablet to a laptop. Why? Because you can hold the tablet like a book and use apps to mark up and highlight pages with your hands. And, at least for students in the humanities, getting the best reading experience is pretty important because you spend a lot of time reading.
Bottom line: Tablets are an intriguing companion to laptops, and certainly can make some aspects of academic life easier. But for most students, they’re not a one-for-one replacement for laptops, and tablets are not something that you should feel obligated to buy — not yet, anyway.
Want one anyway? The best tablets for students
Apple iPad ($499). The iPad is a favorite of many because of its display, design, software – and most importantly – access to a larger, better selection of apps. For students, the iPad is a great tool for reading, and with the right keyboard accessory, writing and taking notes.
Nexus 7 ($199). The Nexus 7 is a compelling alternative for those who can’t quite justify the iPad’s steep price. Slim, with a high resolution and full HD display, Google’s 7-inch tablet is an option for those looking for a good tablet reading experience.
The best apps for college
Evernote. Evernote helps you both take notes efficiently and organize your life. The app is available on the iPad and Nexus 7, and any notes you enter sync automatically with your smartphone, laptop, and the Web. You always have access to all your stuff, no matter what device you’re on.
Goodnotes is an app that really utilizes the iPad’s touchscreen. Use this app to take handwritten notes (perhaps not the most efficient way to take lecture notes) as well as organize PDF’s, highlight them, and annotate them easily.Goodnotes.
Quizlet. Quizlet is something I wish I’d known about sooner — it would have made prepping for exams much easier. Quizlet allows you to quiz yourself easily without having to break out index cards.
iStudiez Pro. iStudiez Pro helps organize a hectic student schedule. It’s aesthetically pleasing and has built-in push notifications synced to your calendar to ensure you never miss a deadline.