iMore’s ultimate back to school guide

iMore back to school
(Image credit: Future)

Though it's an important part of the year, going back to school can be a bit daunting. Prospective and returning students can get the most out of Apple with new deals, software, and more if they know what to look for. 

Going over the best backpacks, scheduling apps, and more, iMore's ultimate back to school goes everything you need to know.

Best high school and college backpacks for students

kids wearing Dickies backpacks

(Image credit: Dickies)

With all the supplies, books, and electronics that they need for school, students need a sturdy and roomy backpack to start the year off right. There’s quite a lot students need to consider when putting the cash down. Some bags sell themselves on how easy they are to pack up, others have more than enough pockets to fit all your things. 

All that, and you still have to think about style — you want something that looks good too. Hop online to try and find one, however and you’ll soon notice a problem; there are too many to count. There are way too many choices for just one student to search through, leaving you aimlessly wandering around the proverbial shopping aisles of Amazon looking for one to tick off every box. 

Best iPhone and iPad apps for college students

iPad (2022) with keyboard

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Apps aren’t just a nice way to spend your time when you’re bored — they are also an excellent way to more efficiently manage your day, learn new information, and manage all of your work. To get the most out of your tech (and your school experience), you will need a broad range of apps.

Going back to school can be a little bit overwhelming if you aren’t fully prepared for everything, so it’s worth taking the time out now to learn how the App Store’s impressive suite of apps can better help you out. 

How old of a MacBook is still good for a student?

MacBook Air in leaves

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Though MacBooks have always been impressive devices, they start to get a little powerful with age. As apps get better and better, the tech needed to run them needs to catch up. This means, as time goes on, older devices no longer run the same old applications. You want to make sure you are paying for something strong enough to get through everything a student needs to do. Older devices, however, ar often cheaper, which can leave you with a dilemma.

If you’re picking out the perfect MacBook for a student but you’re working on a budget, you have to account for specs, compatibility, and value. That will, eventually leave you looking for older models, and leave you asking a question:

Should a student buy a Mac mini?

Apple Mac mini M2

(Image credit: Apple)

Traditionally, the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro have been the computer of choice for students but there are plenty of great reasons to commit to a Mac mini. Thought it’s not quite as portable and you’ll need to pick up a monitor and keyboard, you get impressive power at a very reasonable price. 

If you’ve heard about how great Mac minis are but don’t know if it’s right for you, there are plenty of things to consider. A student needs apps capable of running work and needs to be fast enough to not cut into efficiency.

The best scheduling apps for students

Two students sit in front of a MacBook laptop.

(Image credit: Apple)

Going back to school can be a very hectic time for students. Each new year comes with brand new lessons, friends, and distractions. Luckily, your iPhone or iPad are fantastic at helping you organise your life a little better. With so many scheduling apps available, it can be tough to find the best ones. As you get into the school year, you may be wondering: 

The best HomeKit lights for students

Nanoleaf essentials

(Image credit: Nanoleaf)

Bringing the smart Apple ecosystem into the home, HomeKit has some really cool ways of playing with lights. From Nanoleaf Hexagon shapes to a standard smart bulb, lighting is a choice that really brings a room together. When a student will spend most of their study time in their room, it makes sense to commit to a setup that feels comfortable and cool to live in. 

On first glance, it is easy to miss how customizable lights are and students should pick out lighting that gives a very broad feature set. 

The Mous Extreme Commuter backpack is perfect for students

Mous Extreme Commuter backpack on a wooden floor in a living room

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

The Mouse Extreme Commuter backpack has many selling points. It’s a secure backpack that keeps your items safe even if you drop it from a high height. Smart pocket design leaves room for tonnes of books, bottles, electronics and more. Accessories and devices are all kept in separate compartments, allowing you to smartly pack things into their own specific sections. 

If you're looking for the perfect backpack to keep all of your items safe while you are at school:

Does your high school or college student need a MacBook?

At home with 15-inch MacBook Air, on a mosaic balcony table and on a wooden floor.

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

MacBooks have been the device of choice for lots of students for years now. With great integrated software, a clean feel, and a nice screen, it makes sense they are so popular., Apple is also somewhat a fashion statement for those who are tech aware. It can be hard to decipher if students really need something quite so flashy for their schoolwork. If you are unsure, you may be wandering:

The best student MacBook for 2023

MacBook Air 2022

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / iMore)

If you've decided a MacBook is the best choice for students, you may struggle to find one that does what you need in your budget. With so many options out there and tonnes of different specs, you want to pick MacBook that has some life left whilst being able to do all a student needs it to. You may be wondering what is the:

Does your high school or college student need an iPad?

iPadOS 17 and Stage Manager being used outside, with dog in backgroundiPadOS 17 and Stage Manager being used outside, with dog in background

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Fitting somewhere between a laptop and a phone, the Apple iPad’s touch screen can be very handy for students who need to create schedules or have art modules in their course. Though you may want an Apple Pencil to go alongside it, the creative possibilities with an iPad are truly great. There may be better options out there for new students, depending on their needs and how they plan on using it. 

Now that we’re only a few weeks away from school starting up again, you may want to know: 

Does your high school or college student need an iPhone?

a close up of the lens for the Apple iPhone 13 Pro Max

(Image credit: Future / James Bentley)

Being one of Apple’s most recognisable bits of tech, the iPhones take up 8 of the 10 most sold phones in 2022, according to Forbes. With the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Pro, and iPhone 15 Pro Max just around the corner, it makes sense that a student may want a nice new upgrade to go into the school year. Potential students and customers need to know what an iPhone is capable of and which of Apple’s devices are the best choice for a student. With so many alternatives available, it’s worth asking:

SkyView 2 is the perfect dorm room lamp for improved sleep and work-time concentration

The SkyView 2 connected lamp on a wooden bookshelf

(Image credit: Gerald Lynch / Future)

If you've ever found yourself with waning concentration or difficulty getting to sleep, then you're just kind of person that should be looking at the SkyView 2 lamp. Designed to help you throughout the day by matching your light sensitive circadian rhythm, the lamp dims and changes color throughout the day to keep you engaged, and to help you wind down at the end of all your studying. Perfect for a college student looking to solidify a routine.

Everything else a student might need

Secretlab Magnus Pro

(Image credit: Future)

There are loads of things you'll need as a student from a new desk, chair and books to a potential new iPad — or even some useful accessories to go with the tech you've already got. We're the experts in what you should be buying for yourself before back to school, and our amazing buying guides will help you find just what you need.


What is an app that helps with school work?

Khan Academy is one of the best apps for schoolwork as it has a bevy of lessons from math and computing all the way up to arts and economics. It can take you through an entire course but can also be used to supplement your traditional lesson. No matter where you start in your educational journey, you can get something out of it. 

Do students get a discount on MacBooks?

While Apple doesn’t do direct discounts on MacBooks at any time of year, it does offer gift cards to the Apple store when you buy a MacBook or Mac. The deal also tends to come with accessories like a pair of AirPods. If you are planning on studying in a library or cafe, it's an excellent combination.

If you really want a discount, then you should head over to a big-box retailer like Amazon or Best Buy, which do reduce the prices on Apple products. If you absolutely have to buy a Mac or MacBook from Apple, but still want a discount, you’ll want to check out the Apple refurbished store, where you’ll find older, refreshed Macs at slightly lower prices.

Is there an app that creates a study timetable?

Istudiez Pro is a great app that allows you to add in classes, dedicated study time, and more. If you find yourself losing track of certain lessons or can’t seem to plan out everything you need to do in a day, this is a fantastic way of doing so. It gives you an overview of your day but also has a planner for long term planning. 

James Bentley

James is a staff writer and general Jack of all trades at iMore. With news, features, reviews, and guides under his belt, he has always liked Apple for its unique branding and distinctive style. Originally buying a Macbook for music and video production, he has since gone on to join the Apple ecosystem with as many devices as he can fit on his person. 

With a degree in Law and Media and being a little too young to move onto the next step of his law career, James started writing from his bedroom about games, movies, tech, and anything else he could think of. Within months, this turned into a fully-fledged career as a freelance journalist. Before joining iMore, he was a staff writer at Gfinity and saw himself published at sites like TechRadar, NME, and Eurogamer. 

As his extensive portfolio implies, James was predominantly a games journalist before joining iMore and brings with him a unique perspective on Apple itself. When not working, he is trying to catch up with the movies and albums of the year, as well as finally finishing the Yakuza series. If you like Midwest emo music or pretentious indie games that will make you cry, he’ll talk your ear off.