On a college campus, anything goes. Late-night partying, day-time studying, maybe a protest at the student union and perhaps the most common linking all three: students playing on their Smartphones.
While these gadgets have their academic downside -- disrupting the flow of class with an awkward ringtone or distracting students from actual work -- they also present opportunities. Smartphones give students access to a wide array of apps, many geared to help their owners study and learn.
According to Danny Tu, iPhone product manager of Smartphone app Documents to Go, an increase in organizational tools, productive tools, and communication capabilities continue to advance the industry. “It’s incredible how far this stuff has gone,” said Tu.
After talking with students, friends, classmates, scouring message boards, reading reviews and personally test-driving a bevy of applications, I chose five apps under $20 that will help a student succeed in college.
1. iStudiez Pro: $2.99 on iPhone, may soon be available on other platforms
Created specifically with students in mind by Ukrainian developers Andriy Kachalo and Michael Balashoff, iStudiez Pro offers a way to stay well organized. Students enter classes by semester with dates and times, insert professors and their information and assignments with priority alerts and due dates. According to the creators, the application started as a simple tool for students to remain organized, then evolved from there.
“We got lots of useful information about what students really need from different parts of the world; from the U.S., China, Germany,” said Olga Tsisarenko, iStudiez pro communications manager. “This way we started developing lots of additional features].”
The app recently integrated use of the push system, a newly incorporated system that alerts phone users without entering the application itself. For iStudiez Pro, the app constantly alerts you of assignments and class times. With iStudiez Pro, mistakenly skipping class or forgetting assignments becomes almost impossible.
2. Evernote: Free
Have you ever been in the situation where an idea for a paper or assignment strikes you, but an hour later the thought disappeared? Or stare straight at something that would be great for a project only to forget where you saw it?
Evernote allows people to take advantage of those situations with text, voice and photo note taking options. Once these notes are recorded, the app organizes and tags each note to create an easily accessible and searchable system.
Evernote also works with the Internet (and most desktop computers), allowing you to retrieve the notes taken on your phone at any time on the computer or to add additional notes from the computer that sync right back to the phone.
3. Documents to Go iPhone price $9.99; free versions available on other phones
Since 1996, the company DataViz has created applications for personal digital assistants. One of the first to enter this industry, the company’s app Documents to Go allows Smartphone users to create and edit documents right from the phone.
If you have a few minutes before class or spare time away from home, the app presents an opportunity to constantly update your work.
“The ability to open up Word documents and edit them is very beneficial along with PowerPoint and Excel,” said Ben Farkas, grad student at Florida Atlantic. “Especially since I work during the day, I have the ability to look at my school work.”
While the standard version only allows you to create new or edit existing Word and Excel documents, a student can also store and look at their PowerPoint and PDF files.
“To develop Documents to Go for multiple platforms, let’s make sure we design this product to keep the code as core as possible so that it becomes nimble,” said Tu. By creating a base for the software coding, the company has the ability to update their product constantly and create new versions across the evolving Smartphone platforms.
Documents to Go stands as an important tool for production and working on assignments.
4. Dictionary.com: Free for Blackberry and iPhone, not available on all platforms
Sometimes simple gets the job done. For students, the dictionary and thesaurus often add an extra tool to use for reading or writing papers. Dictionary.com offers a free app that downloads the entire dictionary and thesaurus to a phone.
This allows offline access, even without Internet and useful search tools to quickly find what you would need.
The application also offers up a word of the day for those looking to increase their vocabulary, students studying for the GRE, or those looking to impress a potential mate with big words. Don’t worry; pronunciation is also included.
While not a whole lot of fancy comes in the app itself, the Dictionary.com app will help you figure out the right words.
5. Papers: $9.99 for the iPhone; works best with the desktop application (free 30-day trial available and student discounts through Mekentosj)
“By being able to have my entire scientific repertoire with me anywhere has helped me succeed,” said University of Wisconsin grad student Liz Percak-Dennett.
Papers merits its name because it brings a library of personal and research articles into the pocket of a student. While the app leans towards helping graduate students and research scholars as opposed to undergrads, Papers offers the chance to read journal articles while taking notes on the go. Another added benefit exists right in the classroom.
“Its amazing to sit in seminar and be able to pull up papers that people are referring to; the mobility has really helped me in grad school,” said Percak-Dennett. Papers can also be useful for students with other needs. It acts as a well-organized storage app and comes in handy for the occasional research paper.
While the app remains at a decent price, the desktop program exceeds my $20 price ceiling, but with the debt a grad student accumulates, what’s an extra few bucks?