Best back-to-school deals 2021: Save on MacBooks, Chromebooks, more
Deal pricing and availability subject to change after time of publication.
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The new school year is upon us, and as classes start, back-to-school deals keep rolling in. As students prepare to go back to in-person classes for the first time in over a year, this back-to-school season is expected to fuel lots of spending — and even more deals.
Last fall’s back-to-school season was way different than years past. There was much more emphasis on tech due to remote learning, and most physical school supplies became obsolete in the face of virtual Zoom school. Think about it: You didn’t need pens, backpacks, or new school clothes just to sit in front of the computer at home all day.
With students going back to full-time — or at minimum, hybrid — in-person learning, we’ll definitely see more deals on traditional physical school supplies. Expect to see online discounts on everything from pens and pencils to planners and backpacks, as retailers get students excited to return to their classrooms. Amazon is already leading the pack with deals that give $10 off purchases of $25 or $100 worth of select school supplies.
Even though most schools are expected to return to in-person learning per the new CDC guidance, there’s a chance that hybrid models will be implemented for colleges, high schools, and even elementary schools. In short, we’re thinking that tech-forward learning is likely here to stay for the foreseeable future.
With the flexibility of going remote at a moment’s notice and easy (or easier) communication between students and schools, having a good laptop or tablet on hand is almost a necessity. Luckily, back-to-school season is one of the best times to purchase laptops and tablets without completely draining your bank account, thanks to widespread deals. We’re already seeing Apple’s yearly education pricing, with free AirPods offered with the purchase of select MacBooks and iPads.
Whether you’re a parent looking to check crayons off an elementary school supply list or you’re a college student looking for a laptop that will take you through four years at a university, we’ve rounded up the best sales for the upcoming school year. This list will be regularly updated, so check back frequently for even more deals.
The MacBook Pro is the laptop of choice for most college students, and for good reason. While it’s pricey, the latest edition with Apple’s exclusive M1 chip is the most powerful laptop Apple has put out to date — making it a worthy investment for your college career. With super-fast performance and graphics that beat out previous MacBook generations by a landslide, the MacBook Pro is ideal for completing assignments, running large apps, editing photos and videos, and more.
You’ll be able to choose from 13-inch or 16-inch models and customize your storage. As an added bonus, if you buy your MacBook Pro from the Apple Store, you’ll score a free pair of AirPods with purchase.
Don’t need all the bells and whistles of a MacBook Pro? Get the lighter, cheaper MacBook Air for $100 off the regular price, and get a free pair of AirPods while you’re at it. Choose the 8-Core CPU, 7-Core GPU model with 256GB storage for $899, or select the 8-Core CPU, 8-Core GPU version with 512GB Storage for $1,149. You’ll also get three months of Apple TV plus with purchase of either configuration, so you’ll have something to watch when you’re taking breaks from doing homework.
A 2-in-1 laptop offers the most versatility and portability for college students, and this Asus Chromebook Flip is a great option. It has a 14-inch touchscreen, a 360-degree hinge, and a quick processor for solid multitasking. It’s also super lightweight at only three pounds, so taking it from the dorm to class and back again won’t break your back.
At only $129, this Samsung Chromebook is a great budget laptop option for younger students who still need solid tech at home. It’s completely Google Classroom compatible, has a compact 13.3-inch display, and gets up to 12.5 hours of battery life — so it will hold up to full days of remote learning for kids who end up on a hybrid schedule for the upcoming school year.
iPad Air — Starting at $549
Portability is the name of the game with the iPad Air. Students who are constantly on the go will appreciate the lightweight design — it’s perfect for taking to class instead of lugging around a full-sized laptop. The upgraded 7MP FaceTime HD camera has improved low-light performance too, so if you end up in Zoom school again, you’re covered.
iPad Pro — Starting at $749
The iPad Pro is ideal for anyone studying digital art, graphic design, or other creative pursuits in college. The M1 chip makes for speedy performance and an ultra-long battery life, while Apple Pencil and Magic Keyboard compatibility mean that you basically won’t need a laptop ever again.
For students studying art and graphic design, a high-quality tablet is non-negotiable. The Microsoft Surface Pro 7 is endlessly versatile — it can go from your desk, to class, to the couch, to bed with ease. It boasts all-day battery life, so it will hold up to long school days, and the 10th Gen Intel Core processor will ensure all your multitasking is seamless.
If you’re studying literature (or any other major with a lot of required reading) getting it done on a laptop is a recipe for distraction, and walking around campus with physical books will break your back. A Kindle Paperwhite will solve both of those problems — it’s super light, can store hundreds of books, and will keep you focused on your reading. It’s glare-free like a real book so you can use it outdoors, and it’s completely waterproof — ideal for bath time reading.
The beloved AirPods Pro are once again nearly $60 off, just in time for back-to-school season. With a compact design, active noise canceling, and a customizable fit thanks to multiple silicone tip options, it’s no wonder everyone either has or wants a pair.
If tiny wireless earbuds just aren’t your jam, the Bose QC 35’s have great noise cancellation technology and a comfy, padded fit for a solid price. You’ll rack up three levels of active noise canceling, sound customization through the paired app, and the high-quality audio that Bose is known for.
If the college student in your life needs to stay on task from class to the gym to the library, grab them these Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. You’ll get active noise cancellation, immersive sound, water resistance, a compact charging case, and a long battery life — all in a size that’s perfect to toss in a backpack.
Named the model with the best smart features in our noise canceling headphones roundup, the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones offer superb noise cancellation, hands-free controls, and crisp, clear audio. The built-in atmospheric pressure optimizer controls sound at high altitudes, so they’re ideal for college students who will be taking frequent flights back home and need to get work done on the way. They also feature up to 30 hours of battery life, voice control capabilities, and a smartphone app that allows you to customize your sound.
If you have a loud roommate (or live in a noisy dorm), these Beats headphones have Pure Adaptive Noise Canceling, so you can block out all that background noise and actually focus on your homework. The Pure ANC tech works by continuously selecting external sounds to block, and automatically adjusting music playback for a high-quality listening experience. You’ll get 22 hours of use on a single charge with noise cancellation turned on, or you can stretch it out to 40 hours with it turned off.
If you need help waking up in the morning, managing your day, and getting quick help with homework, the Echo Show 5 will be your ideal hands-free dorm room assistant. You’ll be able to ask Alexa to set alarms and reminders so you’re on time for class and can keep track of your assignments. You can also quickly Google things, manage connected smart devices, and access streaming services — all with your voice. Thanks to the front camera, you’ll also be able to video call your family when you’re feeling homesick (or when you need cooking tips from Mom).
If you’re lucky enough to live in a dorm with a kitchen, you’ll need a good pan. This Rachael Ray nonstick frying pan is deep enough to boil pasta and rice and even simmer sauces, so you can save precious storage space. It also heats evenly and is easy to clean, so you’ll look like a pro cook even if you don’t know what you’re doing in the kitchen.
Credit: Rachael Ray
We couldn’t imagine a better appliance for reheating cold fries and chicken tenders from the dining hall. This compact Dash air fryer is a dream for the busy college student who doesn’t want to be stuck eating soggy microwaved food all the time. It has a 2.6-quart capacity, so it’s roomy enough to heat food for one, but not too bulky to store in a small dorm room.
Make your school lunch more eco-friendly by packing it in a Stasher bag. These silicone storage bags are dishwasher-safe and can be reused for years to come, unlike single-use plastic bags. This starter set comes with four different sizes, so you can pack a sandwich, multiple snacks, and more.
For weekend Netflix marathons and kicking back after long study sessions, a TV is a must. This 32-inch Insignia TV is the perfect size to fit in small dorm rooms, and it comes equipped with Fire TV smart integration, giving you easy access to all your favorite streaming sites.
If you’re planning on bumping lo-fi study beats while you cram for an upcoming exam, this Bose bluetooth speaker is a dorm necessity. It gets up to eight hours of playback on a single charge, and allows you to take calls and access your phone’s virtual assistant for hands-free control. You can also pair two or more speakers together for more wide-ranging sound, ideal for all your college parties and hangouts.
From microwaves to bathroom decor, Wayfair has everything you need to make your dorm room feel like a home. Invest in pillows and mattress toppers that will make the hard dorm bed more comfy, show off your personal style with printed duvet covers and sheet sets, or grab some organizational tools to help you keep all your belongings in order.
Amazon Prime Student — Six-month free trial, then $6.49 per month
Prime Student gives you access to exclusive Amazon deals and free shipping, but you’ll also get a ton of other perks. When you sign up for Amazon Student, you’ll score a free Grubhub+ membership, three free months of Calm Premium, one free month of Course Hero, discounted premium Prime Video channels, and more.
If you’re a Prime Student member, you’ll also be able to get Amazon Music Unlimited for less than a dollar per month. Listen to your favorite podcasts and music in HD audio for way less than the price of other music streaming services.
Making time for working out is important to a lot of students, and a Peloton digital membership gives you access to tons of guided workouts that you can follow at your school’s gym, or in your dorm. It’s worth it even if you don’t have access to a spin bike, since there are over 10 different class genres with live and on-demand classes. The hype trainers will get you excited to crush your fitness goals, too.
If you rely on YouTube for help with homework or entertainment, YouTube Premium will give your watching experience a boost. You’ll ditch ads for good, unlock the download feature for offline watching, and finally be able to play videos in the background (even if you open another app on your device). You’ll also get access to YouTube Music Premium to listen to all your favorite bangers.
College can be rough, and students should definitely prioritize their mental health. A Headpsace membership will offer college kids the tools they need to relax and remain mindful, even when they’re cramming for a big test or writing those long research papers. Currently, annual memberships are half off, so they’re price-accessible for college students, too.
Let’s be real, college isn’t all studying and going to class — students deserve to stream their favorite shows and movies, too. Hulu offers $1.99 monthly memberships to folks who are enrolled in a college or university, so even if you’re a broke college kid, you can still watch and rewatch all the episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale.
Teachers and students alike know that dry-erase markers get pricey. This bundle deal gives you 16 chisel-tipped Expo markers in vibrant colors and a whiteboard eraser for over 50% off — perfect for stocking the classroom.
Just need a few things for this school year? This Amazon promo will give you $25 worth of select school supplies for just $15. Save on dry-erase markers, felt tip pens, mechanical pencils, and so much more.
If you’re buying supplies for multiple kids or just have an extra-long school supply list this year, this Amazon promo will save you a bit of cash. When you add $100 worth of select school supplies to your cart, you’ll automatically get a $10 discount. There are over 100 qualifying items (You’ll find everything from glue sticks to highlighters), and most of them are on sale, too.
From sticky notes to tape to glue sticks, this Amazon deal offers everything you need to stay prepared and organized this school year. For older students, grab a classy Post-It set to stay on top of your school assignments in style, or stock up on non-toxic glue sticks for little ones to fuel all their school crafts and projects.
JanSport is the go-to student backpack brand for a reason, and this one is an upgrade from the classic style. The Cortlandt pack caters to college and tech-forward students with a padded laptop sleeve that fits computers up to 15 inches, and it has multiple organization compartments. You’ll get the sturdy functionality that JanSport is known for, plus a little bit of added style with a vegan leather base and trim details.