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It’s time for students to head back to school mantra, and that no longer means just stocking up on spiral notebooks, pens, pencils, glue, and Post-it Notes. The item that will pack the biggest punch in a student’s life fits right inside a jacket pocket. Today’s smartphones deliver a huge degree of functionality and support for any level of student or field of study.
Student lives become increasingly complex once they hit middle school and beyond. Thoughts turn to college, and for students already there, having to manage disparate classes, professors, and requirements throws some lives into chaos. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The best apps for students can help sort out everything from assignments to taking notes to buying books. Below are a few of our favorites that should prove to be quite helpful.
It’s also time for teachers to head back to school, and we’ve already scoped out plenty of resources for them in our roundups of apps for educators and general educational utilities.
CliffsNotes have long been the bane of teachers’ existence, as they give students a shortcut on their literary assignments. But let’s twist that around a bit because, for students, it doesn’t have to be a cheat. CliffsNotes can propel them to see different sides of an assignment, in addition to actually doing the reading. So without judgment, we recommend CliffsNotes to assist students with its selection of multiple-choice quizzes, bookmarking of important passages, interactive character map links for reference, and yes, audio plot summaries. The app is free, but in-app purchases of $2 per guide offer specific classic literary selections.
Despite so much about schoolwork going off the digital deep end, books are still often required, and many thick texts can be super-expensive. It’s especially true when updated editions supersede older ones and are even more costly to purchase or cannot be found used. Campus Books gives you the lowdown of where you can comparison shop for the cheapest editions of the texts needed for class, including any libraries that may lend them for free — and whether it’s more advantageous to buy or rent the required tomes. The app also features a section on where to sell texts you no longer need for the best prices to help the next student along.
There are plenty of news aggregators out there, but Feedly stands out from the crowd in providing a place to organize, read, and share the precise information you need to stay ahead of myriad topics of study. The app connects with more than 40 million feeds from publications, blogs, YouTube channels, and more, letting you access everything in one place, in a clean and easy-to-read format. Learn new topics and track keywords, brands, and companies as you delve deeply into your subjects in an organized way.
Everyone — especially students in higher grades — faces the challenge of staying organized and keeping track of assignments and associated academic tasks. That’s where WunderList enters the scene. This app takes the work out of keeping students on schedule. You can share your lists and collaborate with family or study groups, and the app lets you sync between your phone, tablet, and computer to access your to-do lists from anywhere. You can also converse about to-do items and attach photos, PDFs, and presentations, as well as share work or delegate tasks. Setting a reminder ensures you never forget — or miss — deadlines. You can also organize projects for home and school with the app’s Folders feature.
Once the province of graphic artists and designers with dedicated desktop flatbeds, scanning went mainstream years ago with popular desktop printer combos. Today, scanners have evolved even further into mobile apps that are hugely useful for academics. TurboScan lets you scan multipage documents into high-quality PDFs or JPEGS that you can easily store, search, print, name, and share in various ways. Powerful but easy to use, the app uses advanced algorithms to detect document edges, correct perspective, remove shadows, and set a pleasing contrast for text or photos, even in low-light conditions.
With the Mega app, you never have to stress about how to store excess files from your mobile device as you go through your busy day. The app gives you 50GB of free cloud storage, with all files transmitted and stored with end-to-end encryption. Mega makes it easy to access, view, and share files even if they were not uploaded from your mobile device. The app lets you collaborate securely by chat, text message, or interface with individual or multiple contacts. You can also link up with the app’s end-to-end encrypted cross-platform audio and video calls and verify the cryptographic fingerprint of your contacts via a separate channel to make sure they are authentic. Paid subscriptions are available if you need more storage space.
Cash-poor students need a way to make sure that they always have enough on hand for emergencies and unexpected events. With Venmo, you get a fair and equitable way of paying for what you need, while splitting costs with your companions and paying off what you owe in a timely fashion. In addition to quickly sending money to friends, you can communicate with them, annotate expenses, pay for merchandise in stores, track your spending, and even use a Venmo card that lets you shop anywhere Mastercard is accepted — no fee or credit check needed.
Circle of 6
This app makes the world a bit safer for anyone out and about when the campus gets dark, quiet, and deserted. If you’re studying late in the library, you should be able to feel safe, and Circle of 6 lets you connect with up to six trusted friends nearby who you can count on to have your back if you find yourself uncomfortable with your surroundings for any reason. With two taps on your phone, Circle of 6 automatically sends your circle a preprogrammed SMS message, including your exact location. Circle of 6 also connects to 24-hour hotlines for safety and information, as well as Scarleteen.com, an online sexual health resource. Students at UCLA, Williams College, Hobart & William Smith, the University of Houston, and Prince William County Public Schools can use a specific map of their own campus in the app.
Whatever your subject of study, staying informed is a critical part of the educational process. PodBean supports that effort by providing a huge range of podcasts on almost any topic. The app has resources that let you search for specific podcasts or browse new and trending ones by category, as well as get customized recommendations for new resources. You can also hear audiobooks — bestsellers or classics — for free. The app lets you stream programs or play them offline and stay organized with your own playlists. A speed mechanism removes silences from episodes without distorting the sound, while volume boost and normalization features make podcasts easier on the ears. The app includes an audio recorder and editing tools so you can produce your own broadcast as well.