Ready for College? Download These Essential Apps First
Wherever you are, college means new challenges and new responsibilities. While you should reach out to trusted people and take advantage of the resources offered by your school, a whole world of guidance also lies in the palm of your hand. These apps can help you manage your money, time, mind, and more.
Office 365 Education
Two certainties of college are that you’ll be writing papers and doing presentations. Office 365 Education can help; it has Word for writing, Excel for plotting things out, PowerPoint for presenting, OneNote for organizing, and Microsoft Teams to coordinate with classmates. It’s also free for college students. Another option: Office on the web, which offers free standard editing and formatting commands, and some additional features for Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and more.
Though Google ditched free, unlimited storage for its productivity apps, you still get 15GB across your Google account, which is a lot of Docs and Sheets. Access files on the PC and via Google’s mobile apps; changes will sync across devices. (Here’s how to get started with Docs.)
Sometimes you can study as much as you want but you’re still not going to grasp a concept or even an entire class. Before you despair, try tutoring. There are lots of online options and some, like Tutor.com (iOS, Android), are available in app form to take anywhere.
Good communication can save you from so many problems in life. Good grammar can do nearly as much when you’re in college. Whether you’re submitting a paper, writing an email to a professor, or applying for a job, make sure your words are free from error. If you’ve got Grammarly on your laptop, it’s a smart idea to also put it on your smartphone. Grammarly Keyboard (iOS, Android) works with your other apps to check for spelling mistakes and keep your grammar on point.
Flashcards are a very effective way to study. Cram.com has a database of millions and an easy-to-use feature to make your own. Take or create your flashcards on the go with the site’s app (iOS, Android), which also lets you review your cards in four different modes (including game mode) to maximize your memorization.
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Bazaar – Apartment Therapy
If you’re in campus housing, you likely have a furnished room. But if you need more storage or have an off-campus apartment, you’re going to need to shop for some furniture. Avoid couches or dressers left on street corners. Open Facebook (iOS, Android) and go to the Marketplace section, where you can find low-cost or even free options. Just be sure to take a friend or meet in a public place when you’re picking up your purchase.
Everyone’s flat-pack favorite has an app that lets you see how furniture and other decor will look in your room using AR. Ikea Place (iOS) also lets you search using your camera; so if you’re looking for a new desk, snap a photo of the one you already have for related matches.
Social Print Studio
Solve the problem of bare walls and homesickness in one go by turning to Instagram. You can turn your snaps into wall art with Social Print Studio (iOS). Put up giant photo strips featuring your hometown friends or make metal prints of places you miss.
College students love discounts and brands love college students. This mutually beneficial relationship is reflected on Unidays (iOS, Android), which directs you to online and in-store discounts on clothing, shoes, food, tech, travel, and events.
Whether you’re shopping online or just browsing in a store, RetailMeNot (iOS, Android) is a great companion. The app has discounts for over 35 categories, including travel and food. Visit the site itself for a list of discounts for college students.
Standing in a store, holding a product in your hand, you wonder if you should buy it now or if you can get it for less elsewhere. One scan with ShopSavvy (iOS, Android) can tell you. There are also plenty of other apps to check prices.
Gas is expensive but you’re often at the mercy of the closest gas station if you’re in a new place and don’t know what other stations are around or how much they’re charging. With GasBuddy (iOS, Android), you can check both and sign up for savings.
(Disclosure: RetailMeNot is owned by PCMag parent company Ziff Davis.)
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Free Video Streaming Services
Free video streaming services are a welcome relief for budget-conscious consumers. Don’t expect many originals or the latest conveniences, but our top picks—including Peacock and Tubi—are good options for free entertainment.
Amazon Prime Student
Netflix doesn’t have a student discount, so if you want to spend your streaming dollars more wisely, go with Amazon Prime Student, which includes Prime perks like Amazon Video. You’ll get new shows and movies every month for just $59 a year (Prime is normally $119 a year).
Spotify (and Hulu and Showtime)
Spotify Premium gets rid of those annoying ads, but Spotify Premium Student adds subscriptions to Hulu (with ads) and Showtime for $4.99 a month. The deal is for 12 consecutive months, but you can renew it three times.
If you live on campus, it’s often mandatory to subscribe to a meal plan, particularly in your first year. Those points often go to waste since it’s not often that you’ll eat three meals every day in a dining hall. You can send your points to a food-insecure student who needs them more with Share Meals (iOS, Android) and also post notices about leftover food from club events.
Should you be lucky enough to have access to a kitchen or at least an in-room approximation of one, save some money by cooking. To avoid eating ramen every day, use Budget Bytes (iOS, Android), which has step-by-step, voice-guided recipes for low-cost but tasty meals that you can easily prepare. Aside from sorting by cuisines and dietary needs, you can set a cost per serving in your search. The more you use the app, the more credits you earn to unlock new recipes.
Ramen to the Rescue
Maybe the only kitchen appliance you own is a hot pot to boil ramen in, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat well in a small space. Download the Ramen to the Rescue cookbook to your Kindle app (iOS, Android) and make the most of that packet of noodles.
GrubHub Campus Dining
If you don’t want to cook, there’s Seamless, DoorDash, or any other food-delivery app. But GrubHub has a campus dining option that lets you order and pay ahead to pick up food fast from on-campus restaurants. You can even pay with your campus card.
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Figuring out how to get from point A to point B and then to points C and D could be harder than any calculus assignment you have. A new town means you need Citymapper (iOS, Android) to figure out public transportation. It maps out routes, shows you service disruptions, lets you find bikeshares and scooters, and connects to rideshare options.
For those who are driving from place to place in a new place, there’s Waze (iOS, Android). You won’t be alone on the road with other Wazers out there reporting on traffic, hazards, and police activity. The app has lots of other features, including alerting you when you should leave to get to your destination on time. As Waze is owned by Google, many of its features have been incorporated into Google Maps, another helpful app to have on hand (here are our top tips).
Health and Wellness
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Put aside panic about the freshman 15 and focus on just feeling healthy. Fooducate (iOS, Android) lets you track what you eat and rates the quality of what you’re putting into your body. It also gives you alternatives for healthy substitutes.
Sometimes you just need to still your mind. Headspace (iOS, Android) is much more than a meditation app. It has full meditation courses for all sorts of life situations, multiple methods to help you sleep, workouts that include cardio and yoga, and focus music playlists from world-renowned artists. Normally $69.99 per year, Headspace is only $9.99 with a student plan.
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Campuses and their surrounding areas can unfortunately be dangerous places. Stay safe by using an app like Noonlight (iOS, Android), which can silently send for help. It’s one of a few apps and gadgets that are useful campus companions.
You can use the Peloton app with (or even without) your school’s gym facilities. It’s filled with on-demand cycling, running, bootcamp, stretching, strength, cardio, and yoga classes. Students qualify for a half-price subscription that’s $6.99 per month.
Mental health counselors on campuses are in short supply. If it’s difficult to find help at your school or from a therapist nearby, you can try online therapy services. Talkspace (iOS, Android) is a popular option that comes with the convenience of texting a therapist.
If meme stocks aren’t your thing, take up investing with Acorns (iOS, Android). The app, which is free for college students, rounds up your purchases and invests the extra for you. Over 10,000 brands partner with Acorns so you can add to your account any time you shop with them.
You might think it’s impossible to save money when you’re spending so much on school. But Digit (iOS, Android) examines your spending every month and stashes away any extra cash. You can create goals, like saving to pay off your student loans or rent your first apartment.
Budgeting is not fun, but it can be one of your greatest assets in college. Use Mint (iOS, Android) to budget, keep track of bills, and to know how much you have in your account. You’ll also be able to see your credit score, which is a good thing since credit card companies bombard college students with bad offers that can hurt you down the line.
Whether you want some extra cash or need a job to pay for classes, Snagajob (iOS, Android) is the go-to app for part-time employment. Fill in the profile once and use it to apply to jobs in a click. In some cities you can use Shifts by Snagajob (iOS, Android) to pick up shifts in retail stores and restaurants.
There should be a degree in putting together a class schedule that works each semester. The complicated procedure is made easier with Coursicle (iOS, Android), which lets you map out your classes and notifies you when a spot in a previously full class opens up.
There’s an endless list of things to get done when you’re in college. Keep track with Todoist, one of our favorite to-do list apps. It lets you be hyper organized, is super easy to use, and integrates with and syncs across all your devices. It’s free, but you can upgrade for more features.
Transitioning to the Real World
After you’ve figured out what city you’re going to live in post-college, you need to find an actual place to live. Apartments.com (iOS, Android) has a huge database of available places and lots of ways to search. It also has a feature that lets you figure out how much time your commute will take (assuming those become a thing again). If you’re eyeing the Big Apple, Zillow’s Street Easy (iOS, Android) is a popular way to snag a NYC abode.
That rent’s not going to pay itself. Get yourself on LinkedIn before you graduate so you have a career history and network before you start job hunting. The site has plenty of tips for how to make the most of it while you’re in college.