I'll tell you a little about my computer knowledge/background and what I'll be using my PC for.
This Christmas I'm planning to build a computer (sub 500 with upgradability in mind, parts already chosen) for primarily school work (lots of labs, essays, etc...). I use mainly word and excel for my work and am extremely familiar with both of them having used them all my life and having taken a course in how to maximize efficiency in those programs. Aside from work (because all work and no play makes me ), I will be doing some casual gaming (LoL, SC2, WoT, G-Mod, D3, etc...). I've also got a large iTunes library that is important to me. I will be using the internet lots (I prefer chrome) and watching a few videos.
I've been using computers since I was 4 starting off with windows 98->xp->7. Currently I'm 16 and in IB. I have no programming experience but I am proficient in many computer-like things.
The leading reason for me beginning to consider linux is my budget. I LOVE that it's free and it saves me $100. The only worry I have is in compatibility and possibly the adjustment I will have to make to a new OS. Will I be able to maintain doing what I need to do and is linux right for me?
...but be aware that you will have to put in a bit of work to get games and iTunes to work. They are never going to run as smoothly as they do on Windows.
Do you mean something like the installation being more difficult or just simply running the program? Any example of what I might encounter? This will be my first time using linux so I just want to see what the OS is able to do today because I know there have been some major developments.
Also, would you recommend I use Linux Mint 13 (Cinnamon) ? I've done a little research and it seems that this distro seems to be just as good as ubuntu.
I recommend that you Google "iTunes Linux" and "Wine Linux" to find out what is involved in running Windows programs on Linux. Some programs run well, some not so well, so you need to read the Wine documentation to see what the status is of any particular programs you are interested in.
The plus side is that you can always try Linux without cost and, if you find it doesn't suit your purposes, later dump it and install Windows. I just want to warn you that installing Windows programs on Linux is not as seamless as using them on Windows.
As for particular distributions, I can't make any recommendations. I'm afraid the distributions that I use are not really suitable for newcomers to Linux.
You will suffer, one way or another. If sleepless nights with Kernighan @ Ritchie are worth $100 then by-all-means dive in. Dipping your toe into the Linux maelstrom assures only that you will suffer greatly.
Thanks again. You've been a huge help.
Anything else I can do to make the transition as smooth as possible before I install?
I think you just have to try it and see. Ubuntu and Mint are both very popular and have huge online support, so probably good choices. You have nothing to lose; as I said, if it doesn't work out you can always then go for Windows.