Your program should have a list of required specifications for laptops and generally will request it being within 2 years old from start date. Many programs do not enforce this, but it’s something to keep in mind. Laptops are going to be the bulk of your required item expenses during the program as well as the most used item, therefore, you should not cut corners with your laptop, ie. buying a 5-year-old laptop to save money.
The biggest debate is between Mac (OSX) and Windows (PC). DO NOT change operating systems if you are starting school in a couple months. You do not want to learn a new operating system and navigate your way through a rigorous program–take the path of least resistance. There are pros and cons to both. I am a Mac user, therefore, I am biased– fair warning.
Mac laptops have airdrop and iMessage, which tend to be the features I personally use the most. Airdrop is a great way to share notes, books, or videos to classmates quickly and wirelessly with a few clicks. Using iMessage during class is a more discrete way to talk to classmates without having your phone out. This can be a gift and a curse; just depends on how you use it. Mac’s do have limitations with certain programs and websites, therefore, it almost always requires having Google Chrome or Firefox downloaded. I have an affinity for Apple products, because of the Apple ecosystem and how electronics communicate with each other flawlessly which is very beneficial for PA school.
I personally cannot speak about Windows laptops, because I have not used them often. Many classmates are used to Windows laptops, therefore, they did not change operating systems. The Windows laptops have features that are unique compared to Macs, ie. touch screens. A few classmates will use Noteability or write on PowerPoint slides rather than typing which is a very useful tool for certain classes. Windows laptops cannot communicate with Macs, so Airdrop and iMessage will not work. Typically, I will have a flash drive or SSD hard drive to transfer over documents or files to classmates.
The biggest concern when buying a laptop is reliability–you do not want your hard drive to crash when you’re 4/5 finished with the semester and you have 4 final exams to study for with zero notes (thinking about this gives me anxiety). This has happened to some classmates and it created unwanted stress and wasted time.