Back to School: The Best College Apps To Help You Study And More

i-peopleIf you’re out of college, especially if you have a years between those days and this, a couple of things stand out. The first is possibly how much you enjoyed that first real taste of freedom and independence. The second is that you can’t believe that freedom and independence was given to you as an 18-yr-old. It’s actually kind of crazy to do so, given the importance of college. Your present author wasn’t often invited to do typical college things like ‘’go to parties” or “play video games all night” or “date.” I still managed to waste an extraordinary amount of time. It’s a wonder any studying ever gets done at all.

One would think that it would be even more difficult now, given the explosion of distractions thanks to smartphones, tablets, and any other internet-enabled device. The ability to stream movies and TV at anytime, to talk to friends via IM or Facetime, to tweet and check Reddit and Facebook constantly all should add up to making college basically impossible. Thankfully, mobile tech manages to balance itself out. Those same amazing, well-priced, and affordably-planned smartphones and tablets that seem to provide a distraction also give college students ways to make the most out of their education. Here are some of the best college apps to get you through those four years.

Apps for Studying

For a lot of people starting college the actual studying is the most difficult part. Classes are harder, teachers expect more, and there is an increased “sink or swim” mentality. There are apps that can help with the studying portion of it. For instance, science apps like Engineering Professional help you store formulas. These include ones for hydrological, engineering, civil, electrical, and environmental research so they are easily accessible and don’t have to be memorized. RealCalc Scientific Calculator allows you to actually work all these formulas (without spending hundreds on a real calculator).

In addition, there are all sorts of apps that are able to explain concepts in science, art, literature, or history. Babel helps you translate—not for language classes (where you’ll need to actually remember how to speak and write in other languages), but for science or literature, where Latin or French terms, or texts from other countries, are not uncommon. Mobile quickly finds and defines those tough words that you need to know.

There are also apps that give you more to study, like iTunes University or Coursera. These are ways that you can learn more about the concepts around your immediate work, which will give you a richer and more full perspective. Studying astronomy? Why not watch a lecture on quantum physics by Brian Greene? Economy 101? Maybe take a quick course on business from Paul Krugman.

It’s important to remember that these aren’t a way to circumvent research; they are research. It isn’t cheating to use a faster way of doing things. I personally liked all the time I spent in the library, but technology is more efficient now, and there are better and more numerous ways to get information. College is about learning, and not about adhering to old methods. If apps can help you learn, they are the right thing. It isn’t about how you obtain knowledge; it is about how you use it. Cheating on tests and papers is always, always wrong. Acquiring the knowledge you need to fairly succeed on those tests and papers isn’t.

Apps for Time Management

This might be the most important thing, especially for those away from home for the first time. You’re suddenly overwhelmed with work, with friends, with clubs and activities, with parties, with events, and are trying to balance school with occasionally getting some sleep. There are great apps for scheduling, like iStudiezPro or ToDoIst. These apps help you set a rigorous schedule, with time for fun. They offer reminders, alerts, and timers so that you can have the spur you need. They allow you to bookmark links and notes so that everything is correlated and collated.

There are also great apps, like SelfControl, which allow you to block your own access to websites. Can’t write a paragraph without sneaking back to Facebook or YouTube or Reddit? Block them during designated study hours. There is actually no workaround for this unless you uninstall it, which gives you great defense against yourself.

Also look at apps like Sleep If U Can Alarm, which require more than a swipe to turn off. Some make you take a picture of an object in another room, or to physically shake your phone. The harder it is for you to shut off your alarm while still 90% asleep, the harder it is to miss class.

Don’t forget to have fun in college. It’s a great time to explore yourself and the world, and to find what really interests and challenges you. You can discover new passions and set your life on the path you desire. Mobile tech can help you balance that with making sure that you are on the right track, and have the tools you need to succeed. Just as you might transform from a shy wallflower to a campus political leader, the ultimate distraction can just as easily change into the ultimate study device.

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