College—it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. If you have kids who are about to go off to college, it's probably the worst of times. (But maybe for some of you, the best of times?) Usually, it’s the best of times, but creeping deadlines, new responsibilities, and homesickness can make college living tough on other occasions. Thanks to technology, you can make some of those overwhelming or tedious, albeit necessary, tasks easier to tackle. Before you send your kids off to campus, be sure to have your kids read this article to ensure they are prepped with the best apps for school.
Apps for Studying
From taking notes to writing an essay, hours of typing can make you feel like you have carpal tunnel. Give those hardworking fingers a rest, warm up your vocal cords, and open your Dragon Dictation app. Talk into Dragon Dictation, and the app will convert your speech to text digitally. Copy and paste the text into another app, save it for future use, or send it as an email.
This app can also help you rock multitasking. “Write” your essay outline while cleaning your dorm room to get ahead on your chores and homework. It’s a win-win. Dragon Dictation is free of charge and available for the iPhone and iPad.
If you have trouble focusing on your homework, try out Focus Keeper’s pomodoro strategy. Pomodoro sounds like a style of dance, but it’s a productivity strategy for eliminating distractions while you work, helping you complete your tasks more efficiently.
The idea behind the technique is that you remain focused on a single task for twenty-five minutes—a pomodoro—and then give your brain a break for five minutes. After four pomodoros, you take a twenty- to thirty-minute break to recharge. Focus Keeper lets you manage your pomodoros, set goals, and review your progress. Be sure to schedule reminders so you don’t forget to use the app during your regular study or homework sessions. Focus Keeper is free to download and available for the iPhone and iPad.
Apps to Save Money
Keep in Touch
When you’re away from home, it’s easy to feel homesick or simply crave a good conversation with your parents or a friend. While limited minutes or long-distance charges are as outdated as a flip phone, cell phone bills aren’t cheap. If you’re on a budget, take advantage of a communication app like Skype. The app is perfect for chatting with or calling fellow Skypers through your laptop or smartphone.
Skype is most popular for its video calls that let you connect with any Skype user across the globe face-to-face. If you need international calling, however, it may not be as cheap as you hoped. Skype’s basic plan is free, but international calling will cost you, with prices varying by country
If you want an app that connects you to anyone through Wi-Fi, you might already have it through your internet or phone service. Companies like Comcast or AT&T both offer Wi-Fi calling and texting If you have Comcast, use the free Xfinity Connect app to stay in touch when you’re away at college. If you use AT&T for your smartphone, turn on Wi-Fi calling through your phone’s settings.
Watch Your Spending
A lot of budgeting apps, like Mint or BillGuard, are geared towards professionals balancing a bunch of bills, loans, and investments. Rather than overwhelm yourself with features you don’t need, use Pocket Budget to keep your bank account and spending on track with just the essentials.
Pocket Budget is a great starter finance app for those new to money management and budgeting. Set and track budgets, review recent transactions, categorize expenses, and more on an easy-to-use dashboard with interactive graph reports and pie charts. Pocket Budget will cost you $2.99, but it’s a worthy investment. Bonus: it’s available for iOS and Android devices.
Apps to Stay Organized
Track Your Tasks
If you prefer using lists to stay organized, Wunderlist is for you. The tagline says it all: keep your life in sync. Wunderlist lets you create lists for school and personal tasks. Set due dates and reminders so you’ll never forget about an upcoming test, class registration, or credit card bill. If you want to collaborate with classmates on group projects, upgrade to Wunderlist Pro to share lists and assign tasks.
Wunderlist works on just about every device—iPhone, iPad, Mac, Android, Kindle Fire, and the web. There’s a free version, but you’ll get the most out of the app if you upgrade to the Pro version, which is $4.99 per month or $49.99 per year.
Never Forget Your Grocery List
When you’re on a budget or studying constantly (or both), going grocery shopping can be a hassle. Luckily an app like Out of Milk makes the process as pleasant as possible with detailed lists, cost tracking, and categories for all your food items.
This app even helps you remember what you already have at home with a section to input what’s in your pantry. This is vital when you decide last minute that you deserve brownies but can’t remember if you already bought eggs. Out of Milk is free and available for both iOS and Android.
As you pack your bags and stock up on notebooks, download these apps to take with you to college so you can stay connected with family and friends, stay on top of your study habits, organize your life, and keep on a budget.