Best MacBook for students

Thinking of buying a Mac or MacBook for school, college or university? Here, in our best Mac for students guide, we take a look at Apple’s current line-up to evaluate which Mac is best for students. We’ll compare the MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro for college and examine whether another Mac might actually be a better choice.

Choosing the best Mac for college or university depends on what you are going to be studying as well as how much you have to spend. Luckily registered students can save money on a new Mac by shopping at Apple’s Education Store, or with one of Apple’s partners. We discuss How to get an Apple student discount at Apple’s Education Store separately, although we also talk about the different ways you can save money as a student below.

You can save hundreds on a MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac mini, Mac Studio and even a Mac Pro at Apple’s Education Store all year round. Click on the following links for the Education stores in the countries where most of our readers reside:

Plus, starting in January in Australia and New Zealand, June in the U.S., and July in the U.K. and Europe, Apple runs a “Back To Uni” event, where Apple gives people looking to buy a Mac for university gift vouchers (and occasionally a free pair of AirPods).

If you’re a student, you can also get Apple Music for half price with free Apple TV+ included.

Buy a Mac or iPad for university during the summer months and take advantage of Apple’s Higher Education deal.


We’ll run through exactly how much money you can save on a new Mac if you are a student below, then we will assess which Mac to choose based on your needs as a student and the course you are taking. Note that you may be able to get even more money off your Mac purchase if you go straight to a reseller and take advantage of a discount, you’ll see the best deals for each Mac below.

If you’re doing a degree in film and video, or music, or graphic design then it might make sense to also look at one of our other Best Mac For… guides for that subject area:

We also have a guide to help you get the best MacBook deals for students.

How much can students save on a Mac?

Before we begin let’s cast our eyes over what’s available and how much you can save with the education discount.

Students can typically save $100 to $200 in the U.S., in the U.K. the savings are from £100 to £200, Australian students can save between $150 and $330 and Canadian students can typically save from $130 to $270. Savings are even bigger on high-end products like the Mac Pro, although we aren’t sure that many students need one of those.

In October 2023 Apple updated its range Macs with new MacBook Pro and iMac models.

Product U.S. U.K. Australia Canada
13.3-inch MacBook Air, M1, MSRP $999 £999 $1,499 $1,299
13.3-inch MacBook Air, M1, Student discount $899 £899 $1,349 $1,169
13.6-inch MacBook Air, M2, MSRP $1,099 £1,149 $1,799 $1,449
13.6-inch MacBook Air, M2, Student discount $999 £1,049 $1,649 $1,299
15-inch MacBook Air, M2, MSRP $1,299 £1,399 $2,199 $1,749
15-inch MacBook Air, M2, Student discount $1,199 £1,289 $1,999 $1,599
14-inch MacBook Pro M3 MSRP $1,599 £1,699 $2,699 $2,099
14-inch MacBook Pro M3 Student discount $1,499 £1,589 $2,529 $1,969
14-inch MacBook Pro, M3 Pro MSRP $1,999 £2,099 $3,499 $2,699
14-inch MacBook Pro, M3 Pro Student discount $1,849 £1,939 $3,239 $2,399
16-inch MacBook Pro, M3 Pro MSRP $2,499 £2,599 $4,299 $3,299
16-inch MacBook Pro, M3 Pro Student discount $2,299 £2,389 $3,949 $2,939
iMac M3 MSRP $1,299 £1,399 $2,199 $1,699
iMac M3 Student discount $1,249 £1,349 $2,109 $1,629
Mac mini MSRP $599 £649 $999 $799
Mac mini Student discount $499 £539 $829 $669
Mac Studio MSRP $1,999 £2,099 $3,299 $2,699
Mac Studio Student discount $1,799 £1,889 $2,969 $2,429
Mac Pro MSRP $6,999 £7,199 $11,999 $8,999
Mac Pro Student discount $6,599 £6,789 $11,309 $8,479
Apple’s discounted price for students compared to the usual price.

MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro for college/university?

It’s likely that this is the question you are hoping to get an answer to: should I buy a MacBook Air or a MacBook Pro for college? We compare the MacBook Air vs MacBook Pro in detail separately. Below we’ll evaluate the different MacBooks from the perspective of a typical student in the order that we recommend them for students.

1. MacBook Air, 13.6-inch, M2, 2022

MacBook Air, 13.6-inch, M2, 2022

You might assume that the MacBook Air is low-powered in comparison to the MacBook Pro, but now only does this 13.6-inch MacBook Air offer the same M2 chip as the 13-inch MacBook Pro, it also has a bigger and brighter screen, better FaceTime cameras, is thinner and lighter than the Pro, and has other benefits when compared to the alternative.

If you’re looking for a MacBook that doesn’t break the bank and offers the ultimate in portability and great battery life, then this MacBook Air is the perfect fit. The model we are recommending here is not the cheapest MacBook Air, but it offers the best value for money and the price difference between this and the older M1 model is so small that it is one of those cases where spending a little more gets you a lot more. This is even more true since Apple reduced the price of this June 2022 MacBook Air in June 2023.

This MacBook Air offers 18 hours of battery life, according to Apple. This is less than the 13-inch MacBook Pro’s 20 hours, but it is bound to be more than enough to get you through a day and an all-nighter at university.

There are no USB-A ports on the MacBook Air or MacBook Pro, just two USB-C and a headphone jack. However, the M2 MacBook Air does offer a MagSafe port (which isn’t found on the cheaper M1-powered MacBook Air) so you can charge your laptop and still have two USB ports free.

You may feel that you need more storage than the entry-level model offers (in which case the MacBook Air will cost a little more). There are benefits to choosing the 512GB version, in fact, we’ve found that Apple’s smaller SSDs aren’t as fast as the larger ones, but the speed of the SSD is likely to only matter if the kind of apps you are using access the SSD frequently, which is unlikely if you are just typing essays or researching on the internet. Rather than fork out for extra storage built-in you may find external storage, or even iCloud storage, works out cheaper. (If you have a big Music library, for example, pay for iTunes Match so you can keep your music in the cloud. If you have a big photo library turn on iCloud Photos and get additional iCloud storage).

How much can students save on the 13-inch MacBook Air, M2?

MSRP: $1,099 / £1,149 / AU$1,799 / CA$1,449
Student: $999 / £1,049 / AU$1,649 / CA$1,299

Students save: $100 / £100 / AU$150 / CA$150

You’ll see the best prices right now in the block above, which may be even better than Apple’s education pricing.

Read our full Apple 13-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2022) review

2. MacBook Air, 15-inch, M2, 2023

MacBook Air, 15-inch, M2, 2023

There is really only one reason not to buy the 13-inch MacBook Air with M2, the 15-inch MacBook Air with M2. The 15-inch MacBook Air costs $200 more than the entry-level 13.6-inch M2 model, but it offers a better M2 chip as standard with a 10-core GPU, rather than an 8-core GPU. There’s also a bigger screen, obviously.

Another benefit relates to the speakers, which are better than the smaller MacBook Air’s: a six-speaker sound system with force-canceling woofers rather than the four-speaker sound system of the 13-inch M2, and the stereo speakers of the M1 model.

The 15-inch MacBook Air weighs a little more and will take up more space in your bag, but if you want a bigger screen then that’s a fair price to pay.

Battery life is the same 18-hours as the other 13-inch MacBook Air models.

How much can students save on the 15-inch MacBook Air, M2?

MSRP: $1,299 / £1,399 / AU$2,199 / CA$1,749
Student: $1,199 / £1,289 / AU$1,999 / CA$1,599

Students save: $100 / £110 / AU$200 / CA$150

You’ll see the best prices right now in the block above, which may be even better than Apple’s education pricing.

Read our full Apple 15-inch MacBook Air (M2, 2023) review

3. Apple 14-inch MacBook Pro, M3, 2023

Apple 14-inch MacBook Pro, M3, 2023

The 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 is quite a leap up from the MacBook Air in terms of price. It’s furnished with the M3 chip, which is a generation ahead of the M2 chip in the MacBook Air, but when the MacBook Air is refreshed with the same chip the difference will be less tangible.

There is still a reason to buy the MacBook Pro rather than the MacBook Air though and that’s basically if the MacBook Air won’t be powerful enough for your needs. The thing about the MacBook Air is that it lacks a fan, which means that if you really push it then the Mac might slow down to avoid overheating. For this reason, if you want to use your Mac for heavy processing then you might be better off with a MacBook Pro. In which case, if you have the budget, you might actually want to consider the M3 Pro option (discussed next).

One other benefit the MacBook Pro is the wider selection of ports than on the MacBook Air, including HDMI and an SDXC card reader. But if you aren’t doing anything too demanding then the MacBook Air is going to be more than powerful enough for your needs and we’d suggest that you save the money you’d be spending on the MacBook Pro and buy an external display to plug into when you are back in your dorm room, or something equally as useful (like food).

How much can students save on the 14-inch MacBook Pro, M3?

MSRP: $1,599 / £1,699 / AU$2,699 / CA$2,099
Student: $1,499 / £1,589 / AU$2,529 / CA$1,969

Students save: $100 / £110 / AU$170 / CA$130

4. MacBook Pro, 14-inch, M3 Pro, 2023

MacBook Pro, 14-inch, M3 Pro, 2023

It is unlikely that students need the power of the M3 Pro in the 14-inch MacBook Pro (or 16-inch MacBook Pro for that matter) and the price is likely to be prohibitive anyway. But we do see some very good MacBook Pro deals from time to time, so if you can get a bargain then these more powerful MacBook Pro models are worth considering.

If you need a more powerful Mac because your course calls for it, or perhaps because you are a gamer looking for a machine that can meet those demands, then you can save a bit of money by choosing the 14-inch MacBook Pro over the 16-inch model. Both models offer the same specs, so you aren’t forfeiting any high-power options. Read: 14-inch vs 16-inch MacBook Pro.

How much can students save on the 14-inch MacBook Pro, M3 Pro?

MSRP: $1,999 / £2,099 / AU$3,499 / CA$2,699
Student: $1,849 / £1,939 / AU$3,239 / CA$2,399

Students save: $150 / £160 / AU$260 / CA$300

5. MacBook Air, 13.3-inch, M1, 2020

MacBook Air, 13.3-inch, M1, 2020

Students looking to spend as little money as possible may well be considering the M1 MacBook Air, which is just $899/£899 for students. That’s $100/£150 less than the newer M2 MacBook Air ($999/£1,049 for students).

That’s not a huge saving, so, if it’s all you have to spend, we suggest you shop around a bit before you buy: you may find a discount on the M2 13-inch MacBook Air that beats Apple’s Student discount on the older model.

We recommend spending that extra $100 because the M2 MacBook Air is the better purchase. The M1 MacBook Air, which launched in November 2020, will be three years old before the end of 2023, it doesn’t offer the bigger screen or the superior FaceTime camera of the M2 MacBook Air, and the newer M2-chip is superior to the M1 inside this MacBook Air. The M2 model also benefited from a redesign.

That said, the M1 MacBook Air will be more than adequate for a student, especially those predominantly writing essays and conducting research.

If upgrading to the M2 MacBook Air isn’t possible, this will still be a good purchase that will stand you in good stead for a few years.

How much can students save on the 13-inch MacBook Air, M1?

MSRP: $999 / £999 / AU$1,499 / CA$1,299
Student: $899 / £899 /AU$1,349 / CA$1,169

Students save: $100 / £100 / AU$150 / CA$130

Read our full Apple MacBook Air (2020) M1 review

6. MacBook Pro, 13-inch, M2, 2022

MacBook Pro, 13-inch, M2, 2022

Apple discontinued the 13-inch MacBook Pro when it introduced the 14-inch MacBook Pro with M3 chip at the end of 2023, but if you find one on sale there is a good reason to buy it instead of a MacBook Air.

The 13-inch MacBook Pro had a few advantages over the MacBook Air including a 20 hours of battery life that beats the 13-inch MacBook Air by 2 hours. In fact, it beat the 14-inch MacBook Pro by 3 hours.

The other reason to choose the 13-inch MacBook Pro over the Air, as we have already explained in the sections above, is that the MacBook Air lacks a fan and may therefore be throttled to slow it down and stop overheating.

While you won’t find student pricing on this modal anymore, you may well see a good deal as resellers clear out old stock. Take a look at our Best MacBook Deals.

Read our full Apple 13-inch MacBook Pro (M2, 2022) review

MacBook vs Mac desktop for students?

Student life normally involves a fair amount of mobility – traveling to lectures, libraries, the occasional coffee shop, and then possibly home for weekends and term breaks–so it makes sense to consider a laptop rather than a desktop Mac.

While the screen sizes in MacBooks are smaller than iMacs, you can always buy a cheap screen and use that with your laptop when you are home. Or, if you also have an iPad, you might be able to link your iPad to your MacBook and use the iPad screen too (here’s how to use your iPad as a second screen for your Mac). You could also use that iPad for taking notes when you are at lectures (read our guide to the best iPad for students).

However, there are some benefits to buying a Mac desktop. Generally, it is the case that you pay more for a Mac laptop, compared to the same specs on a desktop. The Mac mini, for example, is Apple’s cheapest Mac despite having some pretty impressive specs. However, if you compare the 24-inch iMac with a similarly speced Mac laptop the iMac is considerably more expensive. 

iMac vs Mac mini vs Mac Studio for students

While we appreciate that there are plenty of benefits associated with choosing a laptop for university, you may be better off with a desktop.

1. Mac mini, M2, 2023

Mac mini, M2, 2023

The Mac mini was last upgraded in January 2023 when it gained the M2 chip (and the M2 Pro chip option discussed below). Apple also reduced the price to $599/£649 so the cheapest Mac going is now even cheaper! The only real compromise is the lack of monitor and keyboard.

The Mac mini is about as portable as a desktop Mac can get. You could, in theory, take it home on the train, as long as you had a spare monitor waiting for you when you got there.

If you are on a budget the Mac mini is the way to go. Get an entry-level Mac mini and ask around for an old keyboard, mouse and monitor.

How much can students save on the Mac mini, M2?

MSRP: $599 / £649 / AU$999 / CA$799
Student: $499 / £539 / AU$829 / CA$669

Students save: $100 / £110 / AU$170 / CA$130

Read our full Apple Mac mini (M2, 2023) review

2. Apple Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023)

Apple Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023)

The M2 Pro Mac mini offers all the benefits of the Mac mini discussed above along with the more powerful M2 Pro chip which brings more GPUs and support for more RAM (unified memory).

If you need an M2 Pro chip the Mac mini with M2 Pro is a lot cheaper, at $1,199 (student price) than a 14-inch MacBook Pro, which starts at $1,849 for students.

How much can students save on the Mac mini, M2 Pro?

MSRP: $599 / £649 / AU$999 / CA$799
Student: $499 / £539 / AU$829 / CA$669

Students save: $100 / £110 / AU$170 / CA$130

Read our full Apple Mac mini (M2 Pro, 2023) review

3. Mac Studio, M2 Max, 2023

Mac Studio, M2 Max, 2023

Like the M2 Pro Mac mini, the M2 Max Mac Studio brings a more powerful chip, with more GPU cores and support for more RAM, at a much lower price than similarly specced Mac laptops.

If you need a powerful Mac, either because your course demands it, or because you want to spend your free time gaming, the Mac Studio is worth consideration, and the student discount is pretty good.

As with the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models though, we’d suggest that you probably don’t need this much power and could probably use the money for something more important, like accommodation or food.

How much can students save on the Mac Studio?

MSRP: $1,999 / £2,099 / AU$3,299 / CA$2,699
Student: $1,799 / £1,889 / AU$2,969 / CA$2,429

Students save: $200 / £210 / AU$330 / CA$270

Read our full Apple Mac Studio (M2 Max, 2023) review

4. iMac, 24-inch, M3

iMac, 24-inch, M3

Back in May 2021 Apple introduced an M1-equipped 24-inch iMac with a brand new design in a choice of seven different colors, it then took until October 2023 before Apple updated the machine, adding an M3 chip and nothing else. We weren’t recommending the iMac for students then and we aren’t fully recommending it now. But the iMac does have a few qualities that might appeal to you.

Thanks to its design it’s certainly a Mac that will make a statement to anyone entering your dorm room. That 24-inch display could also be a great screen for streaming your favorite shows and movies.

The iMac is a non-portable Mac though, which might deter many students from purchasing one. You won’t be able to take it with you to lectures–or cart it home on a train for the holidays–but you will be able to work more efficiently thanks to its 24-inch screen.

How much can students save on the iMac?

MSRP: $1,299 / £1,399 / AU$2,199 / CA$1,699
Student discount: $1,249 / £1,349 / AU$2,109 / CA$1,629

Students save: $50 / £210 / AU$330 / CA$270

Read our full Apple 24-inch iMac (M3, 2023) review

Which Mac should you get for university?

MacBook Air

Our pick of the entire Mac range, if you’re a student, is the M2 MacBook Air. It will give you a better screen, better webcam and an attractive new design to show off in lectures. It’s light, fast, and with student pricing starting at $999/£999 it’s very good value.

You could save by opting for the older M1 MacBook Air, but, if you are looking for the cheapest Mac you can get, the M2 Mac mini is a very good option. It’s powerful and with Apple’s education discount, it’s just $499/£539. You just need a monitor, mouse and keyboard.

The only reason to delay buying is the fact that a new M3 MacBook Air and Mac mini may be coming soon.

How to get a discount on a Mac for university or school

You can get a student discount at Apple’s education stores, but you have to qualify as a student in higher education, be a teacher, someone buying for an education institution, or a home educator. School-age children can only take advantage if the equipment is being purchased by their school or if their parent is home-educating them. If you are a registered student you’ll be able to get a discount on a new Mac if you shop in Apple’s various Education Stores (below). You can find out all about it in more detail in our Apple Education Store explainer.

Getting a student discount from Apple’s education store isn’t the only way to get a cheaper Mac as a student though. There are various ways to get a bargain:

Look out for reseller discounts: Another way to get a bargain is to look out for deals at Apple resellers and Amazon, where we have see Macs with as much as $500 off the price. Take a look at our round ups of the best Mac deals to get the best prices right now:

Buy a refurbished Mac: Take advantage of Apple’s refurbished store where the company sells ex-display, returned, and previous-generation Macs at a discount. The benefit of buying refurbished from Apple is that the products are fully checked and come with a one-year warranty. You can also get a refurbished Mac elsewhere with many resellers offering the same service, but beware that not all refurbished Macs are equal. Usually refurbished means that the Mac is guaranteed to be in full working order, but do check with the reseller. Here’s a guide to how to buy a refurbished Mac. We also look at why you should buy a refurbished Mac.

Buy second hand/used: One advantage of buying refurbished is that it should be guaranteed to work and you should have no problem returning it if there is a problem. These are reasons why we don’t recommend buying a second hand Mac. If you do see a deal on a second hand or used Mac just be especially cautious.

The best Mac bargains are usually on older models, although we do see discounts on current Macs as well. If you see a good discount on an older Mac it’s important to be aware of what the newer models offers so that you know what you are missing out on and can judge whether the deal is as good as it appears to be. For one thing, older Macs are likely to feature Intel processors rather than Apple’s M1, M2, M3 or their variants, which could put you at a disadvantage in the future (and will certainly mean your Mac depreciates in value very quickly). If you are picking an Intel Mac then make sure that it is a relatively recent Intel chip to ensure that Apple will at least support that Mac until the end of your course. See: How long does Apple support Macs for.

If you are a student here’s how to get Apple Music for half price. Plus students with an Apple Music student subscription also get free access to Apple TV+ for a limited time.

Source : Macworld