As over 70 percent of this fall’s college freshmen crop own smartphones, it goes without saying that they are pretty much lost at doing their schoolwork without them. Being up to speed on which apps are the best bets for taking notes, managing schedules, swatting, prepping and studying upcoming exams can be a full-time job.
If you’re rich, depending on your location and budget, you can literally hire a concierge service. Indeed, for about the price of a private college education, you can hire a concierge to not so much do college for you (because that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?) as do four years of college with you – you know, like JFK at Harvard and Dubya at Yale! A service like Elance.com promises to take care of you “every which way”
Most of us, however, don’t want to cheat. We want the full naked experience. Here are the most downloaded apps for undergraduates.
Writing research papers is a yawn. You could be drinking ice-cold shots of Don Julío. Don’t worry. Think about that cold tequila as you tweedledee-versus-tweedledum in crisis over MLA-versus-University of Chicago Manual of Style. Oh, but wait! You’ve got RefMe, a free app for Android and Apple devices. How convenient! The app allows you to scan the barcode on books and journals or copy and paste a URL to get citations in various styles, including Harvard, American Psychological Association and MLA. These citations are stored in the cloud, so students can access them from anywhere using the application’s Web platform. Wow! Almost makes me want to go back to college. Really!
Colleges like my alma mater Penn State are already deeply committed to the brutal competition they are in with schools like the University of Pittsburgh, Ohio State, the University of Indiana and Rutgers. M.I.T., Carnegie-Mellon, CaseWestern Reserve and Ohio State all produce a multiplicity of apps which allow students to check grades, manage their various university accounts, connect to campus security instantaneously and track campus bus lines
There are scores of note-taking apps you can experiment with for smartphones and tablets. The standout, however, is Evernote. Simply put, this is a nuclear notepad. Record notes, make notes, take photos, draw, record lectures, store, classify, organize, label: It really is the best note-taker ever and it makes you look like an intuitive genius. Evernote is yours for free on Apple, Android, and Windows devices. The app also has a Web version, so students can jot down reminders or search for notes on multiple platforms.
How much time precisely do you figure you’re losing to bullshit digital distractions? This useless app will inform you exactly how much. As guilt fuels me vis-a-vis my obsession with micro-managing time, the RescueTime app enables you to snitch on yourself, tracking the time spent on email, social media, websites, and identifies in my case the English Premier League and Manchester United F.C. ‘top distractions.’ Cringe! If you’re guilt-driven you can manipulate Rescue Time to set productivity goals to make sure they are using their time productively and not screaming at Angry Birds. Thus far exclusively available only for Android, RescueTime also comes as a desktop version that tracks time spent on websites and can even synch with your mobile. RescueTime is free. Although the Web application offers a deluxe premium version for $9 per month, which will block access to distracting sites for periods you can set at will.
Group projects used to be a mostly high school thing, but now seem an accepted part of college life. Google Drive is a big help with collaborations. Students use the app to create, share and collectively edit presentations, spreadsheets and documents. Google Drive offers its suite of tools in a manner similar to Microsoft Office, allowing any allotted group of students the ability to edit any document, separately or simultaneously. Since Google Drive is a cloud-based app, each member of the group can store up to 15GB of documents, images, music, or other files for free, and then access them from any device. Communication through Google +. Available for free on Apple and Android devices.