Learning to manage your time well and hold yourself accountable for completing assignments is one of the most important aspects of college life, because these are vital skills to develop before entering the workforce. Finding the right productivity tools can be a huge help, and fortunately, there’s no shortage of these tools. But if you’re on a college student on a budget, you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for these tools either.
Thankfully, there are lots of options. While some are made specifically for college students, there’s no reason to limit yourself to college-specific productivity tools.
These software apps are great options for college students on a budget, whether you’re a freshman who needs to learn the basics, or a senior in need of a productivity boost to carry you through to the end.
No list of productivity tools for college students is complete without Evernote. At first glance, it seems like a fairly basic note-taking app, but it’s packed with features that make it truly special. First, it has apps for mobile devices, laptops and desktops, and the app syncs across all devices. No matter what device you take your notes on, they’ll be available on every device you use. You’d be surprised at how useful that feature becomes.
In addition to the notes you take, you can save files, images and even voice memos in Evernote. For group projects, Evernote has a built-in sharing feature that allows you to share even with people who don’t have Evernote, making group work much easier.
An Evernote browser extension is vital for research projects, as it allows you to save whole webpages or articles right in your notes. Evernote has a to-do list feature as well, so you can put your study and homework assignments into the same app as all of the notes you need to complete them.
IFTTT stands for “If This Then That,” and it’s a remarkably useful tool. It’s an app that puts the internet to work for you. Essentially, IFTTT gets all of your apps and devices working together to make your life run as smoothly as possible.
For example, you can set IFTTT to send you a reminder to leave for class early if the weather forecast includes snow (If:snow Then:remind me to leave early, get it?). If you live off campus, you can even set it to call you an Uber if the weather is going to be bad.
Or, if you get an email with an attachment, automatically save it to Dropbox, Google Drive, or import it to Evernote. If you make a to-do list in Evernote, then add it to your Google Calendar with reminders. The possibilities here are almost endless.
If you have a Gmail account – and it’s increasingly unlikely that you don’t – you already have a Google Drive account. Drive syncs automatically across devices and is compatible with nearly every file type, including PDFs. The beauty of using Drive is that for laptops and desktops, there’s no need to install an app. This makes it very useful for college students who don’t want to buy a printer and need to use the school’s printer. Just log on to your Drive account on one of the computers connected to the printer, and you’re good to go.
OneDrive is Microsoft’s answer to Google Drive. The main reason it’s important for you to know about is this: if you use Microsoft Office products, then you have a OneDrive account (included for free with Office, but you do need to set up the account). With OneDrive, your work automatically saves as you go, eliminating the possibility of losing your work. Your project will automatically save to the cloud every few seconds as you type.
This app runs in the background on your computer or smartphone and tracks how much time you spend using each app and browser, giving you a clear idea of how much time you spend on time-wasting sites and apps. You’ll probably be surprised by how much of your homework and study time is wasted on Facebook or YouTube.
A lot of students find that they have trouble focusing without some kind of background noise, but that playing music is often too distracting. Enter: Noisli. This app provides background noise that will help you focus without distracting you. The sounds include thunderstorms, trains, crickets, and campfires, and you can mix different sounds together to create the ideal soundscape for you.
Working on your homework or a big research project inevitably leads to having more browser tabs open than you can count. This slows down your computer so much that switching tabs becomes impossible, but each tab has crucial information that you need so you can’t close them. OneTab is a browser extension that generates a list of every tab you have open, so you can close them. You can then restore one tab at a time or all at once.
Rev Voice Recorder.
This app turns your phone into a quality voice recorder, with automated transcription and even a human transcriptionist service. With this, you’re freed from the need to write down everything the professor says during class, and you’re able to simply listen to the lecture, confident that you’ll have a full transcript of it later.
Google Calendar is indispensable. In your calendar, you can write down when each class is, what building it’s in, and add reminders that come to your phone as notifications or as an email so that you never forget a class. You can also color code your calendar so that it’s easy to see when each class is scheduled at a glance. If you’re applying for scholarships, Google Calendar can keep you organized and on schedule, so you don’t miss important deadlines.
This is probably the best communication tool for group projects. In addition to a text chat function, it also has a built-in video chat capability. It’s easier to use than Skype and, unlike Facetime, it’s available on any device and, like Google Calendar and Google Drive, pretty much everyone has a Gmail account, which means they can access Hangouts.
PowerPoint is fine, but Prezi is so much better. Prezi allows you to create the exact same presentation as you would in PowerPoint, but it looks a lot cooler. The animations and templates are much more engaging and will help you to keep an audience’s attention a lot longer than a standard PowerPoint presentation.
There are so many budget-friendly tools out there to boost your productivity as a college student. If you’re trying to stay on track of your classes, scholarship applications or busy college life, give them a try.