Looking for that Perfect High School Graduation Gift? How about an iPad?

by Sarah Dobson on March 02, 2020

Although most college students will need a laptop for serious academic work, an iPad can be a welcome addition to any college student’s backpack. It can be easier to carry around campus than a laptop while still being useful for reading class assignments and taking notes. And, since all work and no play makes Joe College a dull boy, students will appreciate an iPad’s entertainment and communication capabilities. It’s a perfect graduation gift! So what’s an iPad good for, and which model should you consider?

First, any iPad makes an excellent ebook reader. Along with Apple’s bundled iBooks app, students can install various ebook-reading apps, including the free Kindle app. These apps are ideal for digital textbooks and other class materials since they can store thousands of pages of text and offer useful highlighting and note-taking tools.

For students who prefer handwritten notes or those in fields like fashion or architecture, an iPad Pro with an Apple Pencil is a great note-taking tool that combines the best features of handwritten notes (which encourage better retention) with quick digital access. In a comic-style review for iMore, Serenity Caldwell called the Apple Pencil the “best stylus I’ve ever used.” Even better, iOS 11, due this fall, will bring handwriting recognition to the iPad’s built-in Notes app, so students will be able to search for text in their handwritten notes.

The iPad also works wonderfully for playing video. For a student, that could mean replaying a recorded lecture, relaxing with a favorite movie after a big test, and even calling home via Apple’s FaceTime app.

For a lot of modern-day college work, two screens are better than one. A student might work on a research paper on a MacBook while using the iPad to read reference materials or view a related video—or to chat with fellow students about a group project. With current Macs, it’s possible to copy and paste between an iPad and a Mac, making it easy to transfer information back and forth. Or, with special software like Duet or AirDisplay, an iPad can act as a second Mac screen.

It’s faster to type on a physical keyboard than on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. Many iPad-compatible keyboards are available, but for the iPad Pro, Apple’s Smart Keyboard doesn’t require fussing with Bluetooth and charges automatically without extra cables. It functions as a padded screen protector when not in use, but opens into a screen prop and keyboard, making the iPad look like a mini-laptop. 

Which iPad should you buy? Here are your options:


  • A good entry-level iPad that will work nicely for ebook reading and videos is the popular iPad mini ($399). The beloved 7.9-inch iPad mini is more capable than ever. A beautiful Retina display with True Tone for easier viewing in all kinds of lighting environments. Support for Apple Pencil.2 Wi-Fi and Gigabit-class LTE.3 An 8MP back camera and 7MP FaceTime HD camera. 
  • For a bigger, more versatile iPad, check out the iPad Air ($599). The stunning 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display with wide color lets you see photos, videos, and games in vivid, true-to-life detail. And now with support for Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil (2nd generation),2 fast, easy, and secure Touch ID and Apple Pay, a 12MP back camera and 7MP FaceTime HD camera, USB-C connector for charging and accessories, all-day battery life, the iPad Air can do it all. 

  • Our favorite iPad for a college student is the reliable iPad Pro ($799). Choose between 12.9 inch or 11 inch Liquid Retina display. The new pro cameras, Wide and new Ultra Wide, combined with the all-new LiDAR Scanner enable entirely new experiences in the next generation of augmented reality (AR) apps. Faster Wi-Fi and Gigabit-class LTE, plus all-day battery life makes this the best all-around iPad for your college student. You can add a second generation Apple Pencil and Apple Magic Keyboard to trick it out just like a regular laptop.

If you’re looking for a graduation gift that’s both fun and practical for a college-bound student, look no further than an iPad. If you’re lucky, you may even get regular FaceTime calls from it.

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