10 Free Apps and Websites to Make College Life Easier
June 30, 2014 - 10:47am
As a tech-savvy college student, you’ve no doubt had lots of experience with a wide variety of websites and apps from Angry Birds to JSTOR. You know first-hand how much influence this technology has on your day-to-day routine, whether you’re playing a game to pass the time waiting for the subway or doing research for the final project that’s worth 60% of your grade.
Technology can immeasurably enhance and simplify your life, if utilized wisely. There is a huge selection of websites and apps for the student to choose from, some helpful, others merely distracting. Here are ten apps and sites that will help you to stay organized and studious if you incorporate them into your college lifestyle.
Best of all, each app and website is free to use.
Mint is a budgeting app that syncs up with your bank account and allows you to easily set up a personal financial plan. Mint incorporates all of your accounts to give you a big-picture view of your financial situation. Although it takes an initial time investment of 15 to 20 minutes to set up a budget, Mint makes the process painless and simple.
Mint can then help you stay on your budget and send you alerts when you’re in danger of exceeding your plan or running out of money—an extremely useful feature for the busy, penny-pinching college student. This app is available for a variety of platforms.
When to Use: Before the semester starts, set aside 15 minutes to link your bank account (and credit cards) with Mint and set up a monthly budget before you even return to college. Remember to include categories like Groceries, Public Transportation, Entertainment, Restaurants, and Travel!
Have you ever found a fascinating article that you wanted to come back to and read later—only to completely lose track of it, never to find it again? Pocket solves that problem by allowing you to bookmark any articles you come across for later reading.
Perfect for both entertainment and learning, you can bookmark fun articles and research in one convenient, easy-to-locate place. Pocket makes writing research papers much easier, as you can tag relevant articles with the paper name and access them easily and quickly while you write. Never lose an article again.
When to Use: As soon as you begin researching for a paper or presentation, use Pocket liberally so you don’t lose any information. Because Pocket allows you to view articles offline, you’ll be able to catch up on your reading while you’re stuck on the 4 train or your next flight home.
3. Google Docs
Google Docs are a tool that every student should be familiar with-- these easily shareable documents are invaluable at every step of the learning process from peer-editing to study guides and reviewing. The Google Docs app makes this service available on-the-go so that you can edit, view, and share documents even when you don’t have your computer with you. Make sure you have this app before your next study session!
When to Use: Anytime you need to work on a class project as a group. When working on a group research paper or study guide, Google Docs allows you to share the document with multiple people and edit in real-time, so there’s no need for emailing back and forth. Conveniently, as a King’s student, you’ll have automatic access to Google Docs as a part of your King’s Gmail account.
Evernote is designed to facilitate easy and organized note-taking, which makes it the ideal app for college students trying to keep track of what’s going on in their classes. Not only can you type in notes with your keyboard, but you can also take pictures, record audio, and organize all of it into tidy files.
Evernote can sync files across your devices, which means you’ll be able to access your class notes from your computer, phone, tablet, or practically any other medium, so that whenever and wherever you need them, you’ll have them.
When to Use: Evernote’s strength is the ability to add multiple types of files into the same note. Next time you’re in class, type your notes and record the lecture at the same time and organize them into the same note. When it’s time to study for your test, look over the notes and listen to the lecture again--reviewing information across multiple mediums helps you to absorb it better.
This popular to-do list app helps you to manage your time effectively. Any.DO allows you to make and review a checklist of daily tasks and will then send you reminders when those tasks need to be accomplished. While there are many list-making apps, Any.DO is simple, streamlined, and effective, helping you to accomplish all your tasks on time.
Any.DO is also helpfully equipped with geolocation--which means that you can set it to send you a reminder every time you are in a certain place (for instance, you can have it remind you to buy a textbook that you need when you walk near the bookstore).
When to Use: Take advantage of the “Any.DO Moment” feature at the beginning of your day--a time when you can review your tasks for the day, see what you actually need to accomplish, and plan accordingly.
IFTTT (If This, Then That) acts a personal, virtual “assistant” that allows you to create “recipes” for your smartphone—you can train it to combine different apps and tasks in causal relationships.
For example, you can set your phone to text you a daily weather report, or to send you a notification when an important professor sends an email. This app is almost infinitely customizable, and allows you to organize your life on both a micro- and macrocosm.
When to Use: There’s nothing worse than being caught in a downpour in NYC without an umbrella. Use this recipe to have a text message (or email) sent to you the day before rain is expected.
An invaluable resource for finding relevant articles, Buzzsumo allows you to view the most popular recent articles in whatever area you’re researching as well as how many social media shares they have. Customizable filters allow you to pick what kind of content shows up in the search (articles, infographics, etc), and you can set the time frame to anything from one week to six months of past articles.
Use this site to find well-received articles on a subject you want to know more about—it’s a great way to discover what kind of content people are interested in reading and sharing.
When to Use: If you are writing an op-ed about something like anti-bullying campaigns for a class, you can use Buzzsumo to find content and influencers. Search Buzzsumo to see what articles or infographics are most viral, then pick out the common elements of each and include that in your op-ed. You can also find influencers and get quotes from them on Twitter or to let them know about your new op-ed—you might get a few retweets and new followers to boot.
8. Wikipedia (the right way)
Most professors’ #1 piece of advice is to not use Wikipedia--and while you shouldn’t use it as a primary source in your research paper, there is actually a right and helpful way to utilize the site. Don’t take the information in the main entries for granted, but go directly to the “References” section at the bottom. That way, you can see where the people who wrote the article originally got their information.
This is a great place to find well-known, respected articles on the topics you’re researching that are more reliable than the Wikipedia page itself.
When to Use: Wikipedia references are perfect for when you’re writing a research paper and you need dependable sources or when you need help brainstorming a topic to write about. Wikipedia links to many scholarly sources about a wide variety of subjects, so you’ll be able to find some useful information.
Although it’s a very simple website, EggTimer can still help to optimize the college student’s life. Not only does it function as a count-down egg timer, but it can also measure timing for miscellaneous everyday tasks like brushing your teeth.
It also features fun, helpful extras such as the “pomodoro” setting—pomodoro being a popular and effective method of studying where you study for 25 consistent minutes, then take a 5-minute break—and a “morning exercise” setting that assigns different timed exercises to do when you wake up, both of which are extremely useful for students.
When to Use: Anytime you’re studying at your computer, so that you’ll know when you can take a break!
Most students recognize that studying is important, but it’s just so easy to get distracted by interesting news and articles on sites like Reddit, BuzzFeed, and Facebook. The rather-ironically-named “Self-Control” tool blocks sites that you tell it to for a set amount of time—so that even if you’re tempted to check them while studying, you won’t be able to.
Once your allotted study time is over, you’ll once again be free to procrastinate via the internet. Unfortunately, Self-Control is only available for Mac--but if you don’t have a Mac, you can find other focus-boosting apps and websites here.
When to Use: When you have a big paper due, it’s both tempting and frustrating to get distracted on the web. Set up Self-Control anytime you have an important project due that requires serious focus.