unboggling, looks like i'm a bit late to comment (i just joined yesterday), but a couple of points that might still be useful:
1. I can guarantee you she will not be using this computer eight years from now! The technology will advance so much in that time, that she will certainly replace it before then. And that's a good idea. This is counter-intuitive to most people, but by regularly upgrading your computer, you'll save money in the long run. By selling your computer when it's only a couple of years old, you'll get a much better price for it, and only pay a small difference for a newer model. For example if you pay $300 every two years to upgrade, after eight years you'll have paid $1200 for the latest model, rather than paying full price (i.e. $2000) for the latest model because your eight-year-old computer is worthless. This is true especially if you buy second-hand almost-new models. If you think about it, by upgrading your computer every few months, buying low and selling high, you could actually earn money at it...
2. I have a 15-inch MacBook Pro (I need it for the high-performance 3D graphics chip). And I can tell you it's really just too heavy to carry around in a bag all day long, especially if you have books, clothes, (and an iPad!) you need to carry along too. I think she will find this out very soon. But I think with her plan to keep it for eight years, she'll be too attached to it to think about changing it when she realizes the decision that "performance, upgradability, and display size were more important than weight" was probably not the best. It seems like a reasonable decision, but it's not based on experience, which she is about to get... The performance of a MacBook Air is certainly more than adequate for anything other than intensive 3D graphics. There is very little "upgradable" about the MacBook line in general, and you're better off just trading it in if you need something better. The 15" screen seems very nice, but after a month or so of shoulder pain from lugging it around, the 13" (or better, 11") screen suddenly seems very attractive. And adding an external 1080p monitor and wireless keyboard at home is much better (and better for your body) than hunching over the laptop screen. And finally, she won't need the DVD drive at school, and you can get an external desktop USB DVD player very cheap.
3. the iPad - not seeing the point of that. With the wireless keyboard, it weighs just as much as an 11" MacBook Air, but has nowhere near the capabilities. Of course, what's not to like about an iPad? But for a student on a budget, it doesn't seem really necessary. On the other hand, I would really consider a Kindle or similar e-reader for reading textbooks on the bus or in the park...
Of course I could be wrong and she'll be thrilled with everything she bought. But just tell her some random guy on the internet said not to get overly attached to it, and not to be afraid to sell it and get something else anytime she wants, and even then, sell it and go back to what she had if that doesn't work out. Just don't let yourself get locked into a particular setup just because you paid a lot for it and you'd feel bad that you spent so much on the wrong thing. It's just a tool, you're not married to it!
Hope this helps!
Last edited by sumguy; 06-26-2012 at 11:57 AM.