Four game-changing apps every student needs at university

As of 2017, almost every undergraduate student (95%) owns either a laptop or a smartphone. Most students today are digital natives; technology is no longer just a convenience, it is a necessity and an inevitability, fully ingrained into every aspect of life, including higher education. 

The transition into university means different things to different students. Whilst new-found independence is exciting, it can also be overwhelming, with a range of new financial, social and academic responsibilities to navigate. However, with your trusty tech accompanying you into this next chapter, there are some free, amazing and accessible apps available for making the new experience run a little more smoothly for all students. 

“Mobiles can’t be labelled ‘tool’ or ‘toy’ for many of our students. They are so much more…it is a completely natural progression for mobiles to be an integral part of their education”. Dr David Parker, University of Hull

Integral is the word, with Ellucian revealing that over three quarters (85%) of surveyed students said centralized campus apps eased the transition into university. These apps are an invaluable source of information and engagement, providing access to digital resources, grades, facility updates, easy communication with tutors and signposting the social aspects of student life.  Some pioneering institutions are even introducing the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of chat-bots to offer students 24/7 personalised support

Beyond the institution, the diversity of apps is a requirement of a diverse digital age which has given the younger generation the freedom to develop unique ways of living and learning. A 2017 Education Technology survey revealed that as many as 87% of students rely on apps to help them study.

Bearing this in mind we’ve pulled together an essential university app starter pack including the apps you need for focus, note-taking, organisation and wellbeing. Whether you’ll be a returning or new student in September, why not get ahead of the game and try them out over summer? 

Struggling to put down your phone and focus? Forest is the app for that!

This is a focus app with an environmental edge. Whenever you really need to get your head down and stay away from your smartphone, Forest creatively helps Iphone showing the Forest appyou to prevent procrastination by planting a seed and watching your productivity tree grow. If you leave the app your tree will be killed. How fruitful your digital forest becomes is dependent on you, with each tree representing a period of focused time. 

We love this app for not only it’s creativity, but it’s relevance. It is perfect for students who need a little visual stimulation and extra incentive to be productive. The incentive? To use coins earned in the Forest app based on your focus to plant real trees on earth! 

Struggling with note-taking in lectures? OneNote is the app for that!

Iphone screen showing OneNote - Organize your notepad

This multiplatform digital notepad which really shines for its inclusivity. It caters to a range of diverse studying styles and personalised learning patterns, so much so that Dyslexic Advantage named it one of their Top Dyslexia apps of 2016! 

Speak to type your thoughts with the dictation tool, annotate on top of web clippings or PDF printouts with digital ink, and highlight or tag important notes. Categorise your notes into colour coded digital notebooks, share them to virtually collaborate on group projects in real-time and proof-read essays by having them read back to you in Immersive Reader! 

There’s more! Check out these previous instalments our hack-in-the-box series for more detailed top tips on the ways OneNote can help reduce stress and support students with dyslexia.

Is staying on top of deadlines a source of stress? Microsoft To Do is the app for that!

A fully integrated part of Office 365,  this is a multiplatform app you’re not going to be able to imagine doing anything Example of a reminder being set in Microsoft To Dowithout. With a calming and uncluttered interface, you can type or draw to create colourful, personalised to-do lists with attached notes and hashtags to quickly filter down to the most important information. Stay one step ahead with due dates and reminders- don’t let deadlines, bills or birthdays sneak up on you ever again! 

It is normal to become overwhelmed, but Microsoft To Do’s smart suggestions frees up some mental space by scanning your various to-do lists and giving you a realistic and achievable focus each day. With your daily tasks prioritized watch as your stress levels decrease and your productivity increases! 

Is it all getting a bit too much? There’s an app for that too…

Iphone screen showing reviews of the What's Up? appIn January 2018, 94% of universities reported an increased in students demanding counselling services. What’s Up? Is a free mental health app which puts a safe space directly in your pocket, giving you access to the support you need to cope with overwhelming thoughts and feelings. 

The app identifies unhelpful thinking patterns, enables you to keep track of how you feel and provides access to help in the moment. Support on hand includes methods for staying in the present, controlling breathing, links to external websites and anonymous forums. We particularly like the fact the forums do not include any like/dislike buttons or post view count. Plus, before you even fully access the content of the app you are told something many students need to hear: “it’s not just you”.

Want to know more about the many other free and accessible apps out there which can make your life easier?

Sign up for our ‘Free Training on Inclusive Technology for Students’ webinar on 20th June!

Not going to be able to attend live? Register and you'll receive the recording!

How else can AbilityNet help?

  • If you are a UK student with a disability, long-term condition or specific learning difference such as dyslexia you may be eligible for extra support. Check if you’re eligible for Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) now by using our free Higher Education Support Checker.
  • If you have questions about disability and technology you can call us on 0800 269 545 or email