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Best iPads for College Students in 2024

For many, college is the first time they have to juggle independent living, studying, socializing, and everything in between. If you let one ball drop, the others will come tumbling down. 

To solve this problem, college students often invest in organizational tools. Unsurprisingly, iPads are one of the best organization options available. You can create daily planners, tick items off your to-do lists, and take entertainment breaks, all from the comfort of your iPad. 

why you should choose an iPad for college 

iPads have earned a reputation for being ahead of the curve, and for good reason. The creative brains at Apple work tirelessly to regularly release groundbreaking features and new tablets. 

  • All-in-one tablet. iPads have everything: apps for organization, streaming services, fun games, and more. 
  • Customization options. Once you have found the best iPad for college, you can customize it inside and out. 
  • Constant updates. Updates are pretty common, which shows that the dev team at Apple cares about your experience. 
  • User approved. Latest estimates show that two billion people across the globe actively use Apple products. 
  • Lots of apps. The Apple App Store might only have the second largest number of apps behind Google Play, but it still has a great variety of organization, entertainment, and skill-based apps. 

iPad Air (2022) – overall best iPad for college

flat lay of ipad air showing front and back of tablet
Image from Apple

Specifications

  • Price: $549 – $849
  • Dimensions: 9.74 x 7.02 x 0.24 inches
  • Display size: 10.9 inches
  • Processor: M1
  • Space: 64GB or 256GB
  • Resolution: 2350 x 1640
  • Compatible stylus: Apple Pencil 2 for 4th generation and later

The iPad Air is our top pick for the best iPad for college students. It is almost as powerful as the newer iPad Pro, but it comes with a less daunting price point. Both iPads contain an M1 chip, meaning you can expect efficient energy consumption, superfast surfing, and support for more power-intensive note-taking, video editing, and graphic design apps. 

Art students love the chip because it contains an 8-core CPU that guarantees 60% faster performance than the previous generation. Also like the iPad Pro, the iPad Air has a 120Hz refresh rate, which guarantees very little lag. In short, the iPad Air is the fastest option for the least amount of money. 

This iPad supports Slide Over and Split View features, which allow you to use multiple apps at the same time. College students can surf the internet while they take notes, just like they can on a full-scale laptop. Of course, the iPad Air is much easier to transport. 

Pair this iPad with the Apple Pencil 2 for a seamless note-taking experience. The 2nd Gen stylus is known for its ergonomic, matte textured grip. On top of that, it’s far easier to charge a 2nd Gen stylus. Just clip the flat side of your stylus to your iPad and watch it charge wirelessly. 

The iPad Air is the ultimate all-rounder. Apart from all the fancy frills, you can expect everything that you’d usually get from an iPad. An endless number of note-taking apps, customization options, and entertainment platforms await. 

Don’t know where to start? Explore the 5 best note-taking apps for iPads in 2024

Pros:

  • Battery. Enjoy up to 10 hours of battery life, ideal for a full day at college. 
  • Colorful display. The display does not disappoint! 
  • Color options. Colors might not be a deciding factor for many, but it’s important to know that the iPad Air has some of the most aesthetically pleasing colors on the market. You can choose from Space Gray, Blue, Pink, Purple, and Starlight.
  • M1 chip. The M1 chip makes this iPad comparable to the more expensive, newer iPad Pro. 

Cons:

  • No Face ID. Unfortunately, this iPad does not support Face ID. If you want added security, you’ll have to pay more for the iPad Pro.
  • Still expensive. Despite being a cheaper alternative to the iPad Pro, the iPad Air is still relatively pricey compared to other tablets. 
  • Little storage. The base model only comes with 64GB of storage, which might not be enough for busy college students. 

iPad (9th Gen, 2021) – best iPad for college students on a budget

iPad 9th gen 2021 attached to a keyboard with an Apple Pencil 1 laying across
Image from CNET

Specifications

  • Price: $329 – $609
  • Dimensions: 9.8 x 6.8 x 0.29 inches
  • Display size: 10.2 inches
  • Processor: A13 Bionic 
  • Space: 64GB or 256GB
  • Resolution: 2160 x 1640
  • Compatible stylus: Apple Pencil 1

On the surface, the 9th Gen iPad seems a lot like the iPad Air. The display size is almost identical, as are the storage options. But a few key features set these iPads apart and make the 9th Gen iPad the best iPad for college students on a budget.

You can grab the 9th Gen iPad for just $329. The 10.2-inch screen is decently sized, making it feel like a laptop rather than a tiny tablet. This tablet also guarantees 10 hours of battery life, just like the iPad Air.

The A13 Bionic processor isn’t comparable to any of the latest iPad chips, but it is good enough for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/Max. It guarantees a 20% performance boost over the previous generation, so if you’ve only ever had the previous models you’ll notice a big difference. Then again, if you are studying graphic design, you might struggle with the somewhat outdated tech. 

There is no USB-C and the big round home button that might seem unsightly to some. This iPad doesn’t support Magic Keyboards and (one of the worst setbacks) it isn’t compatible with the Apple Pencil 2. 

Despite all that, the 9th Gen iPad still gets the job done. If you are willing to wait a bit longer for pages to load and you aren’t bothered by the clunky Apple Pencil 1 charging process, you can bag a bargain.

There is talk of this iPad disappearing from the Apple lineup, so get yours ASAP.

Pros:

  • Affordable option. If you’re on a budget, the 9th Gen iPad is ideal for you. 
  • True tone. The 9th Gen iPad automatically adjusts to changes in ambient light to give you a customized experience. 
  • Headphone jack. The built-in headphone jack allows you to use older headphone models, without splashing out on wireless headphones.

Cons:

  • Processor. The A13 Bionic processor pales in comparison to the M1 chip. 
  • Only supports 1st Gen stylus. The 1st Gen stylus gets the job done, but it can be frustrating to charge. 
  • No Face ID. This iPad model doesn’t offer Face ID. 
  • No Magic Keyboard. You can’t use a Magic Keyboard with this iPad model, but you can purchase other compatible keyboards. 

iPad Pro (2022) – best iPad for college students doing a creative course

iPad Pro 2022 with magic keyboard
Image from CNET

Specifications

  • Price: $799 – $2,099
  • Dimensions: 11.04 x 8.46 x 6.4mm
  • Display size: 12.9 inches
  • Processor: M2 
  • Space: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, 2TB
  • Resolution: 2048 x 2732
  • Compatible stylus: Apple Pencil 2, Apple Pencil 3

The iPad Pro might be pricey, but it’s the best iPad for college students who are studying a creative discipline. Before we get into all the artsy features that can help you excel at digital illustration, graphic design, and video editing, let’s talk about the basics. 

We’ve included the 6th Gen iPad model in our list because it has an M2 chipset. It has an 8-core CPU, 10-core GPU, and 16-core Neural Engine. In plain English, this means that the iPad Pro works faster than any other iPad on the market. You can run apps such as Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, and Photoshop without a problem. 

On top of that, you can enjoy Face ID, Apple Pencil Hover, and a number of other interesting features. You can choose the 11-inch option, but the 12-inch screen provides more real estate to artists. 

The only noticeable downsides are the price and the weight. This iPad comes in at 1.5lbs (and an extra 0.01lbs for the Cellular models) making it pretty hefty. It can be difficult to maneuver this tablet, meaning it might not be the best option for college students who need to run from one class to another. Then again, with a good keyboard and case, traveling should be easy enough. 

Read 10 iPad tips and tricks you need to know to jumpstart your iPad experience. 

Pros: 

  • Unbeatable speeds. The M2 chip guarantees unbeatable processing speeds, meaning your workflow will run as smoothly as possible. 
  • Supports creative apps. Creative apps use much more power than standard note-taking apps, and this iPad can meet the demand. 
  • Range of storage options. With everything from 128GB to 2TB of storage on offer, there is no limit to the amount of art you can create. 

Cons:

  • Few color options. Only available in Space Gray and Silver, which can seem a bit dull in comparison to the iPad Air. 
  • Heavy. At 1.5lbs, the iPad Pro is much heavier than the iPad Air, and it could cause wrist strain. 
  • Expensive. There is no denying that the iPad Pro is extremely expensive, which is one of the biggest cons of this otherwise impressive tablet. 

Rock Paper Pencil: A Pen-On-Paper Experience for iPad

Whether you’re using your iPad for art, notetaking, or planning, the slippery feeling of Apple Pencil on glass just isn’t cutting it. Rock Paper Pencil is the best iPad drawing accessory for students who are looking to get a realistic pen-on-paper feel for their iPad. 

Rock Paper Pencil packaging with ballpoint pencil tips, and nanocling screen protector hovering over ipad
Rock Paper Pencil – Draw and write on iPad like ballpoint pen on paper

This product includes a reusable, paper-feel iPad screen protector and two ballpoint Apple Pencil tips. Built with nano-texture technology, Rock Paper Pencil adds subtle friction between your screen and Pencil, giving you more control while drawing or writing.

  • NanoCling Screen Protector: Securely bond your screen protector to your iPad using static cling. Easy application, non-adhesive, removable and reusable.
  • Matte Texture: Subtle friction mimics the feel of paper (no more slippery glass!)
  • Precision Apple Pencil Tips: Smoother, more controlled strokes