I don't believe you could make a bad decision by purchasing either the MBP 13 or the Air. Outside of the optical drive question your only concern is storage capacity and weight. As far as computing power (i.e. processor speed ) and RAM (memory - the more the better) unless you're heavily into graphics processing you should be served well by either one. Given your age I'd choose the MBP 13 for storage capacity. NOTE: The MBP 13 with optical drive will allow you to add more memory the Air will not.
As far as needing an optical drive. All manufacturers are moving away from the optical drive in order to cut cost, remove weight and reduce size (i.e. Mac Book Air). Furthermore, most of the software programs you purchase today are available via download and allow you to burn the Executable File (aka Setup or Install file) to USB Flash drive. So, the answer is purely subjective...do you need an optical drive built-in or do you not mind carrying another piece of hardware in your backpack or having an external drive on your desk for when you might need to load something off a disc or burn to one? There's no right or wrong answer it's merely a personal choice.
There are other factors to consider so please continue reading.....
First of all you're probably not going to like the following comments but they're things you should consider. My advice is don't waste yours or your parents money on an expensive Apple product unless you or your parents have unlimited financial resources. There are a lot of less expensive Laptops on the market that will serve your needs and give you a sense of style. At the very least you'll have a few dollars leftover for a nice pair of sneaks.
I say this for several reasons the first being that you admittedly know nothing about all the "tech" stuff. Well my friend knowing how to evaluate a product for your specific need(s) is key to making the right choice.
Secondly, unless your high school's computing platform is "OSX centric" (look it up if you don't get the meaning) then I see no need to buy an expensive Apple Laptop in your freshman year other than as a status symbol. Also, if your high schools computing platform is Windows centric then in addition to buying the Apple Laptop you will have to invest in MicroSoft Office for Mac which is another $100 dollars or use something like Google Docs or some other conversion program. Then again you could run Boot Camp or a virtual machine like VM Fusion or Parallels ($79.99) on you Mac product which means you'll have to purchase a copy of Win 7 ($199.99) and still have to purchase Microsoft Office ($149.00) or use and alternative productivity method as I mentioned earlier. FYI, Windows 8 will not run natively in Boot Camp at this time. Oh....even if you decide to purchase a non-Apple product you will still have the cost of Microsoft Office which can be purchased at a student discount.
Finally, lets talk about the "abuse" factor. Lets assume that your laptop will always remain at home. It will never be subjected to the rigors of a backpack which means limited abuse (i.e. bumps, scratches, dings, nicks etc). If you're like most 14 to 15 year olds I know once the newness wears off things start to happen to that once prized possession.
My point here is this.... as this seems to be your first laptop why not consider something less expensive (with style) for your initial venture into the world of laptop computing. That way the bumps and/or bruises that the laptop may incur won't have cost you over $1000 to learn how to handle and care for your prize possession. A very expensive lesson, by-the-way. Believe me when I say..... dents in aluminum are not pretty and don't add character.
I hope this helps with your decision making process. It has not been my intent to steer you away from Apple as I am an Apple product enthusiast. However, I also own other brands of computing equipment including a Dell Laptop. Thanks for participating in the forum. Good luck and I wish you the very best!
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I am going to get a laptop, but I want to get the right one. I was leaning toward the 13 inch Pro but now I'm reading the reviews and I'm seeing that the air is a better laptop but it lacks an optical drive and hard drive storage. But it is a lot thinner, and faster. I want to know which is better. I would decide my self, but I don't know what all this "tech" stuff means. My budgets $1200