I’ve talked at length about how useful having a smartphone or tablet can be for students, but without the right apps, smartphones are basically just little brick-shaped flashlights. (Yes, even smartphones as shiny and advanced as the new iPhone 6s.) They have the potential to be useful, but that potential needs to be unlocked. Luckily, that’s what loading all the right apps onto your phone is about!
School is expensive enough as it is, so most of the apps in this list are available free of charge. Any paid apps will be denoted as such in this post.
Apps to help you manage your course load
The toughest challenge that comes with school (no matter what level of schooling you’re in) is time management. Whether you’re in high school, full time undergrad, or even doing part-time graduate studies, it’s important to stay on top of a schedule!
Smartphone apps are excellent for scheduling because they’re always with you. They’re easily updated and can send you reminders, so unlike a planner, you can set up little alerts to remind you of future deadlines before it’s too late. Evernoteis popular for intensive schedule and lifestyle management because it lets you do everything from make to-do lists to recording voice memos and attaching photos, and it syncs across devices so you’re always up to date.
I’ve always found Evernote to be a little unwieldy, but I know tons of people who can’t live without it. My advice? Download it as soon as possible, then poke around for a few days before deciding if you’ll keep it. That way, it can help enrich your school year if you love it, and you’ll have time to download an alternative app before midterms if you don’t.
Studious is another great scheduling app (although it isn’t a free app), and it’s designed specifically for students. You can manage your homework deadlines as well as studying schedule with Studious, which is quite handy.
On top of a general studying, scheduling, or calendar app, I like to have a specific app that I use only for immediate, pressing deadlines. I use Finish because it’s so simple and clear, and I only put in 1-2 items each month in my Finish. Because it’s categorized separately in my notifications, I know that whenever I see something in Finish, it can’t be put off until later or rescheduled another time–it has to be done THEN.
Apps to help you sort out everything else
Sometimes, the one thing that will really make going to school easier is getting everything else out of the way first. If you have less to deal with outside the classroom (or better ways to deal with it), then you have more time to focus on your actual classwork. When you’re not stressing out about anything else, your brain has the luxury of focusing on your school work 100%.
That’s why I use a separate app like Finish for immediate deadlines, and why I keep things like grocery lists and medication reminders on my phone as well. The less “other stuff” you have to worry about, the more you can focus on what’s important!
The grocery app that I use is AnyList, which is wonderful because it’s easily shared and easy to use. Sadly, it’s only made for iOS at the moment, so you can only share family/household/roommate grocery lists between iPhones, but it does sync everything from the each list’s notes to items being checked-off in real time. (For Android devices, I hear Grocery Pal is a good alternative.)
For getting to school, Google Maps is a must–it quickly maps out walking paths, train schedules, and bus stops, so you can finish cramming for your early morning exam instead of comparing three different paper transit schedules. No other map app is quite as good!
Apps to help you with your homework
Once you have the time and organization to really get into the schoolwork part of school, there are plenty of academic apps that can make both your studying and in-class experiences easier.
For starters, a file-sharing app like Google Drive is a must for all students. They’re a great way to share files between devices or between people, making them essential for digital assignments and group projects. You can’t accidentally leave your slideshow presentation at home if it’s on the internet, and if you have three or four students working on a project together, sometimes mass-editing the same Google Docs document is an easier way to exchange ideas than meeting in person.
Apps like Quizlet are also helpful, not just for scheduling but for studying itself. It creates digital flash cards that you can use to quiz yourself and review whenever you have a free moment, no matter where you are. You can even use flashcards that other members have created if you don’t have time to make your own (or you just want to learn some terminology from a subject that you’re unfamiliar with!)
Flash cards are great for learning terminology and dates, but not as helpful for courses that are based on analysis and essays rather than facts. For those, tools like EasyBib can be helpful for streamlining the essay-writing process. Most students today are already familiar with EasyBib, but for those who aren’t, allow me to introduce you: it’s a website (now in app form) that builds your bibliography for you.
I personally prefer to use EasyBib on a desktop, but if you’re using a lot of physical reference materials, the app lets you scan the barcodes of each book and automatically adds the known titles to your list. It sounds too good to be true, but I promise that it’s a real thing!
Finally, for anyone who won’t be going back to school this term but wishes they were, Duolingo is a great way to learn things on your phone without having to take a daily course. It’s a very popular language learning app that teaches both vocabulary and grammar with a game-style design, and it’s a pretty fun way to get a beginner’s grasp on a language.
I’ve used Duolingo to brush up on my French vocabulary, and it’s pretty fun–but fair warning, it’s a little funky. Some of the sentences are things that you’d never say or things that must have been put in the app to be hilarious (there are entire blogs out there that are dedicated to sharing funny Duolingo phrases), from “there is blood on the ticket” to “these instructions make no sense.”
Have fun filling up your brain with brand new knowledge this school year!