Back To School: Essential Apps for the College Bound

Five apps for smoothing out bumps in the academic road.

By Jacqueline Emigh

For many kids, college is an attractive pathway from adolescence into young adulthood. Especially if they go away to school, kids enjoy more independence than ever. They can delve into fascinating new subjects and meet new friends from around the world. Yet kids must also prepare for the next phase in their life beyond college, whether that turns out to be grad school or a "real" job. And that means getting serious about earning good grades. Here are five apps that can help smooth out bumps in the road.

Office 365

Many students bring a laptop to college, along with at least one mobile device. A $70 annual subscription to Office 365 Personal—one of several online editions of Microsoft's Office 2016 office suite—covers one PC, one tablet, and one smartphone.

With the subscription, you get Microsoft Word for writing papers, Excel for doing spreadsheets, PowerPoint for making slide presentations, Outlook for email, Microsoft Publisher, and 1TB of OneDrive cloud storage for storing copies of your work.

The subscription also includes OneNote, so you probably won't need any other note-taking app. With OneNote, you can type notes in class or in the library, use a stylus or your finger to write notes on the screen, and record class lectures. You can convert handwritten notes to typed notes later, and notes sync easily across devices.


iStudiez Pro

An excellent college-level scheduling app is essential for any student. iStudiez Pro, another easily syncable multiplatform app, runs across MacOS, iOS, and most recently, Windows 7–10 and Android.

Some students may find iStudiez Pro a useful replacement for MyEdu, a very popular scheduler that will be discontinued as of September 30,2016. Unlike MyEdu, iStudiez doesn't include recommendations about college professors or provide information about average grades and drop rates per class.

But iStudiez Pro does offer slick scheduling capabilities that can manage even block, rotating, and alternating (A and B week) schedules. You can easily add information about classes and instructors, such as a professor's office hours.

In addition, the app includes a special section for keeping track of homework and other assignments. And students can use a built-in tool to calculate their grade-point average, a crucial statistic for anyone interested in going on to grad school.


When they're out on their own, college kids churn out tons of text messages to keep in touch with friends and family. In a college environment, though, traditional SMS text messaging might not offer that much privacy. If you leave your phone turned on and walk away for a while, any nosy person within range might read your messages.

WhatsApp ups the ante on confidentiality because it's password-protected. Besides using it to exchange messages, you can use WhatsApp for free voice calling, for taking photos and videos of your life at school, and for sending the pics to the folks back home. The free app is available for Windows PCs, Macs, iPhones, Android phones, and Windows phones.


Hemingway App

When it comes to spelling and grammar, you can rely on the spelling checker and grammar checker in Word or another word processing program to catch simple typos (if they don't spell other words) and grammatical mistakes. But you still might want some help improving your writing skills.

Hemingway is a fun web app that pinpoints problematic areas in your writing such as excessively long sentences and paragraphs that drift off to nowhere. It works much like an online word counter (and, in fact, it will give you a word count, too).

Simply type or paste an essay or anything else you've written into Hemingway, and it will analyze your prose for free.



Some apps can be more useful to you than others, depending on the courses you're taking.

A flash card app might not do you much good in a creative writing or photography class, but it can be quite useful in courses that require drilling and memorization, such as anatomy, chemistry, or a foreign language.

Available free of charge for both iOS and Android, Quizlet is one of the best apps in the flash card category. You can use it to create your own flash cards, or you can select from among millions of flash cards that other Quizlet students and teachers have produced across thousands of subject areas.