Today, I’m going to be sharing with you guys one of my biggest insider tips for success in school. And no, it’s not a planner or a notebook or a special pen — it’s something that you keep with you all day long. Yep, I’m talking about your smart phone/tablet/computer! No matter how far you are in the semester, it’s always a great time to discover some new apps that will help you get the grades you want! Whether you’re looking for a way to stay organized with all of your assignments, stay in touch with your classmates or find some new tunes to jam out to while you’re studying, I’ve got you covered with the list of the top 8 apps you need this semester to succeed.
I cannot stress just how important it is to have a Dropbox account as a college student. Basically, the app is another online “cloud” for you to store anything and everything on. You can have it on your computer, your phone, your tablet, probably even a carrier pigeon. Plus, it has this nifty feature that allows you to download the constantly updating files to your computer instead of having to “upload” it through the website. It saves a lot of time and since college students print pretty much everything in the library, it’s awesome to be able to log in quickly and print on-the-go. Just be sure to log out when you’re done!
Though I did switch over to a paper planner a few months ago, I was using iStudiez for a good three years throughout high school and in the beginning of college. It’s an app that helps you keep track of class schedules and assignments, from the first day of classes to the last, and integrates them into your regular calendar all while syncing them on your various devices. For me, the calendar syncing was the niftiest part, because having to look at two different apps for homework and my personal and work life got very annoying before I found this little gem. Also, it has a feature to be able to keep a track of every single assignment so that you can calculate your own grade for the end of the semester. Then, if it doesn’t match up with the professor’s, you might be one grade-grub away from an A! This one has a free version, but it’s totally worth it to upgrade to the Pro version.
Alright, so having a homework manager is important. But, I also highly recommend having a regular old to-do list app to use for things that don’t fit directly in with homework. Especially at the beginning of the semester, they’re great for picking up stuff you’ll need for the rest of the year, like dorm essentials and notebooks. So, if you have studying to do or just want to go over something again, that might not be a particular assignment, but you still want to make sure it gets done! For this, I use Wunderlist, because I also use it for my personal and work to-do lists, as well. It syncs nicely and has different categories and list names, as well as having sub-lists for things like school supply lists! It even has an adorable background of a puppy that you get for free! I call that inspiration!
Having a word processor is definitely a must-have for the semester, especially when it comes to writing papers or doing projects. This particular app might be a little biased because I am an Apple child through and through, but I like Pages better than Word and GoogleDocs. It loads faster, you can have Tables of Contents that function and link you to the correct position in the text, and for some reason, Microsoft Word bogs down my computer like a right old nightmare. So, when I can, I work on my essays and research on Pages, then I copy and paste it all and format it all pretty for my professors in Word, since that’s still the preferred form for papers to be turned in with. A note on the formatting though, I would be careful if you think you’ve typed enough for a word count, you might be sorely mistaken when you plug it into Word.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “Alexa, why are you bringing up a messenger in a post about school work?” However, there’s one part of school that I have grown to dislike that makes this app come very much in handy — group projects. Especially before I had unlimited texting and iMessage, my groups were always trying to manage over email and over the boards on our class site. Then, when texting became a thing with me, but I was very protective over my number. I didn’t want any weirdos finding it and abusing it, so a lot of us ended up using Skype messenger. It’s a messaging system, like most others, but I’ve found it to be the one most reliable that doesn’t have to go through Facebook, because let’s be real. There’s definitely some people that have been in group projects with that I didn’t want to be friends with on Facebook. It’s a nice, neutral territory and it’s an app you can have on your computer AND your phone!
Related: How to Ace Group Projects in College
If you’ve never heard of either of these study and task-completing methods, you need to jump on the bandwagon, stat! There’s not a whole lot of “new” science to it or anything, but basically, they both have the idea that you need to work, continuously and rigorously, before taking a break, doing something completely different to distract you. Then, you continue this over and over again until all of your tasks are completed. You then have to take a longer break after four of these rounds. It sounds like a really simple theory, but these apps help you stay disciplined with it. You can have different time settings on each of them, but the default on Pomodoro is twenty-five minutes working, five minutes distraction. Of course, you could set up your own alarm and everything, but these apps are free and you certainly need to take advantage of them! Plus, you don’t just have to use them for studying. I’ve used it for cleaning, writing, anything you could possibly think of!
No, these aren’t your parents’ old recordings of their favorite bands. The 8tracks I’m talking about happens to be a playlist app where people can make their own playlists for genres, moods, themes, whatever you want! I have a few favorite playlist creators, and I’ve found that with studying, I work best with movie soundtracks or instrumentally inspired music playing in the background. Especially near the beginning of the semester when you find yourself getting distracted, it’s nice to have something to help you focus on your newly-assigned school work. It’s nearly impossible for me to do anything but sleep with silence around me, so having productive background noise is crucial!
Netflix (Or Another Way To Veg Out)
I think it’s expected that most of us already either watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, or stream stuff otherwise online. For me, I use Netflix pretty often as a reward for completing a task. I also have different shows for different timed study breaks (Greys Anatomy for hour breaks and Awkward and Modern Family for 30 minutes). It’s really not fair to yourself to lose your mind over work when you don’t give yourself any reward time after a job well done! Besides, Pavlov and his dogs had the right idea — if you start rewarding yourself in positive ways after doing something “good”, it registers in your memory as positive reinforcement and you’re more likely to continue the habit!
If you’ve used any of these, or if you have some more that you absolutely cannot live without, let us know in the comments below! Until next time, good luck studying!
Alexa is a contributor for The Young Hopeful, as well as a lifestyle blogger from New York City (born and raised in California). She is on her way to getting her BA in English and her MS in Publishing, with the dream of working in a publishing house in the city. She loves her friends and family, YA novels, and staying up until 3am watching Gilmore Girls. You can find her on her blog, Facebook and Twitter!