iPad vs Paper for taking notes in college

a picutre of a college student taking notes on paper, and another person taking notes on his iPad

Written by Charaf Mrah

Hi there! I'm a Software Engineering major currently studying in college. The purpose of this website is to share my learnings and insights with you, in the hopes of providing value and assistance to those who may need it.

Updated Mar 27, 2023

Choosing between taking your notes using an iPad or on paper can be confusing at first. I personally used paper my entire life until last year when I got a new iPad. I completely ditched paper for an entire year since I got the iPad and I think that I have enough experience to give you my thoughts.


Table of Contents


iPad Vs Tablets


Pros & Cons


Why choose paper to take notes?


Why Choose an iPad to take notes?



Why I use the word “iPad” and not “Tablets”?

iPads are way better than any of the competition in the tablet market. So when it comes to digital notes taking, iPads are a no-brainer. This is due to the great battery, operating system, and most importantly the Apple Pencil. The Apple Pencil is miles ahead of the competition as well. It’s relatively cheap compared to the high-end pencils used by professionals. So when it comes to comparing tablets with paper, I had to choose the best tablet in both value and performance.

What’s the difference between an iPad and Paper when taking notes?

While taking notes is the end goal, it can be achieved differently depending on what option you choose to use. iPads and paper both have advantages and disadvantages. So let’s take a look at their key differences:

iPad Pros:

  • Saves space
  • More organized
  • Easy to modify data
  • Cheaper in the long term

iPad Cons:

  • Can feel weird at first
  • More costly if it breaks
  • Batteries
  • Needs more care
  • Has built-in distractions (social media apps)

Paper Pros:

  • Feels familiar
  • No batteries to charge
  • Harder to break
  • Cheaper in the short term

Paper Cons:

  • Harder to edit data
  • Harms the environment more
  • Limited storage space
  • Heavier
  • Limited functionalities

Why Choose Paper to take notes?

There are still valid reasons for choosing paper over an iPad. The most important one in my opinion is the battery. Obviously, you won’t have to worry about charging your papers (but you need new pencils though).

Another major reason why you would choose paper over an iPad for note-taking is the natural feel of paper. This is very subjective in my opinion since I prefer writing on glass over paper. I should note however that my font is very bad, like really bad. I generally don’t write with a pen a lot except for solving math, physics, or chemistry problems.

Another factor is the price as well. While getting an iPad might save you money in the long term, it’s more expensive to buy at the beginning. This will go back to your financial situation and your priorities of course. Paper is also easy to replace if you forget it somewhere or something, you easily buy a new notebook.

Paper has been the go-to medium for note-taking for centuries. Here are some of the advantages of using paper for note-taking:

  • Feels Familiar: Many people find that writing on paper feels more natural than writing on an iPad.
  • No Batteries to Charge: With paper, you don’t have to worry about running out of battery power or finding a charging outlet.
  • Harder to Break: Paper is durable and can withstand rough handling better than an iPad.
  • Cheaper in the Short Term: Buying a notebook and a pen is much cheaper than buying an iPad.
  • No Distractions: With paper, there are no built-in distractions like social media apps to tempt you away from your notes.

Why Choose an iPad to take notes?

iPad notes

I might be biased here but from my experience, there’s no reason not to choose an iPad except for the feel or price. While writing on glass might feel weird at the beginning, I personally got used to it. I don’t think that the glass feel is inferior to paper. I just think that they’re different, and I actually like glass more. This is a personal preference, however, so I would advise you to try it for yourself a couple of times.

An important factor that could make someone choose an iPad would be the amount of data you can store in a thin device. I have all of the class books, notebooks, a calculator, google, editing software…etc in a relatively small device. This would have seemed insane just ten years ago.

Being able to go to college just holding an iPad and an Apple Pencil in the pocket is amazing. It’s also easier to organize all of your classes, as well as your studying plan in one place. Do you want to study at the coffee shop today? no problem, you’re just gonna carry this little magic device with you.

The iPad is a powerful tool for taking notes. Here are some of the advantages of using an iPad for note-taking:

  • More Organized: With an iPad, you can keep all your notes in one place. You don’t have to worry about losing pages or notebooks, and you can easily search for notes by keyword.
  • Easy to Modify Data: With an iPad, you can easily edit and modify your notes. You can change the font, add images, or even record audio notes.
  • Saves Space: An iPad is a thin device that can store all your notes in one place, saving you space in your bag.
  • Cheaper in the Long Term: While an iPad may be more expensive initially, it is cheaper in the long term. You don’t have to buy new notebooks or pens, and you can store all your notes in one place, reducing the likelihood of losing them.
  • Versatility: An iPad can do much more than just take notes. You can also use it for research, email, and even social media


Ultimately, the decision between an iPad and paper for note-taking comes down to personal preference. If you prefer writing on paper and don’t need the additional features of an iPad, then paper is the best option for you. However, if you prefer the convenience and versatility of an iPad, then an iPad is the way to go. Regardless of your choice, the most important thing is to take notes consistently and effectively to help you succeed in your studies.

Personally, I don’t care much about how my handwriting looks as long as I can read it easily. So for me, an iPad is the superior choice. I started using the iPad one year ago for revising at home. And this year when I joined college I used the iPad for everything that involved writing. So in my opinion, the iPad is a much better solution for note-taking than paper in the twenty-first century.

In case you are considering getting an iPad you can check our guide on the best iPads for college students.

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