Has your college experience been anything like what you expected when you were preparing for college? Having a successful college career is more difficult than many people realize. Sure, schedules tend to be more relaxed than they were in high school, since college classes aren’t necessarily back-to-back, all day long. Sometimes, it’s even possible for college students to arrange their schedules to only have classes two or three days a week. If they live on (or near) campus, they don’t have to endure long commutes to school. They can access designated study areas and helpful student services, such as tutoring and academic advising, too.
But college also comes with considerable responsibilities. For many students, this is their first time away from home for any length of time. Unlike in high school, no one is going to wake them up every morning and make sure they go to class. Off-campus living comes with additional challenges– preparing meals, living with roommates, taking care of rent and groceries, and other household tasks. Students may be holding down a job or raising children while attending school too. Having that kind of workload can make it seem as if there are never enough hours in the day, and staying on top of everything may sometimes seem impossible.
There are also more distractions than there were in the “old days.” Before social media and smartphones, the only interruptions students might encounter were the occasional instant message or phone call (from a landline). Now, the average student has multiple social media accounts, with at least two devices connected. When they’re trying to study, they’re likely to be bombarded with notifications and updates. Of course, these can be turned off, but it can take a great deal of willpower to disable alerts or unplug altogether.
For students, one major advantage of going to college in the digital age is that there are a host of online resources, right at their fingertips. Rather than serving as a distraction, the top productivity tools help students stay focused and make the most of their time. And the good news: These tools can be had free of charge, saving students the hassle of paying for apps or keeping up with potentially costly subscriptions.
The Best Free Online Productivity Tools for College Students
Want to learn more about the top productivity tools for college students? Of course you do, and you can find what you’re looking for in these profiles of the best free online productivity tools. The apps listed here rank among the top 25 of their kind. Many users have already tried them and rated them as making the grade. Students who want to do likewise can take advantage of these resources, and hopefully take their GPA to the next level, or keep it there if it’s already off the charts. Go ahead and take a study break to explore these top productivity apps, and then see how much easier time-management becomes.
College is a great time to launch a website, especially for students promoting a “side hustle” to pay for school. As one of the top productivity tools, bitly is a link-management app that does it all — from shortening links to enhance their “clickbait” value to letting users see when people are visiting their site, and from what location. Advanced analytics make it possible to know what content is resonating with visitors, and what isn’t. Bitly users can customize their site’s link by replacing bit.ly with their chosen domain name. Taking advantage of bitly can increase traffic toward their brand by as much as 34%. What’s more, members can securely integrate bitly with virtually any digital marketing tool, even when managing multiple links.
Despite its name, bookwormhub isn’t just for bookworms. It’s one of those free online productivity tools that’s ideal for tackling overwhelming loads of homework. With bookwormhub, students can submit assignments for free. From there, they can see the profiles of experts who can help, and select the one they want. The site is especially helpful for completing challenging writing assignments, and features experts in several subject areas — from economics to biology. Students do have to pay for the expert assistance, but rates are reasonable and clients can expect a good return on their investment. They can track the progress on an assignment, offer suggestions, and leave reviews once it’s been completed.
As a college student, sometimes there’s nothing more frustrating than having to create a graph or table, especially when it has to be formatted within a research paper. Canva simplifies the process, allowing students to create professional-looking visual representations of data in minutes, without the drudgery of learning to use new software. Users can select their preferred template from among more than 20 types of graphs, incorporate their data, add illustrations, and adjust fonts and colors. Drag -and-drop options allow for ease-of-use, even for the non-graphically inclined. App users can download, share, or publish a high-resolution display of their data in a form that’s easy to understand. It’s also possible to seamlessly embed graphs and diagrams within presentations. Canva includes photo-editing and other design features, too.
Chegg is ranked as one of the top productivity tools because it’s a jack-of-all-trades when it comes to the best of its kind. Have math problems that seem impossible to solve? Chegg not only provides the answers, but also walks students through the process to arrive at them. Students can select from thousands of study flashcards, or create their own. As anyone who’s ever written a paper knows, attempting to paraphrase, or thinking they paraphrased when they didn’t, can result in unintentional, random acts of plagiarism. Chegg flags those mistakes before professors do, so students’ grades and academic reputations aren’t put in jeopardy. Human help is available 24/7, and students can even use Chegg to search for internships, customize cover letters, and get job interview-prep help.
With the exponential growth of the STEM field, increasing numbers of people are learning how to code. Others want to learn, but don’t know where to start. Codeacademy is a go-to app for students of all experience levels who want to master this skill, whether they’re building websites, honing their programming prowess, or breaking down data for research. This site walks them through what they need to know, allows them to apply and test their knowledge along the way, and provides feedback to keep them on the right track. Thinking of launching a coding career to pay off those student loans? Codeacademy helps with that too — landing your dream job, that is; sorry, not the student loans.
Digital distractions are the ultimate recipe for procrastination. Willpower alone may not be enough to avoid mindless web-surfing. That’s where ColdTurkey comes in. One of the top free online productivity tools around, ColdTurkey allows users to block websites, apps, games, and Google searches, or the whole Internet. If going “cold turkey” on all online engagement seems too extreme, users can whitelist certain sites or set time limits for their browsing, so a short study break doesn’t turn into a binge-watching blitz on YouTube. Even better, this app blocks selected sites on all supported browsers, so there are no workarounds for cheating. Users can choose a pre-selected list of sites to block, or create their own. Motivational quotes even remind them to stay focused.
What to learn more about something or pick up a new skill? Coursera offers massive open online courses (MOOC) from top universities. Courses are available for free, all students need is a reliable Internet connection, so they can study anywhere, anytime. Each course typically lasts 4-6 weeks, though some are longer. Students can access high-quality course materials, instructional videos, discussion forums, and interactive lessons that would otherwise be out of reach. The platform includes paid courses, too, and those come with additional projects, and, upon successful completion, a certificate that may count toward a master’s degree. For those who want to enhance their career prospects, specializations give them the opportunity to acquire a new job skill, with challenging, self-paced courses that include real-world assignments and projects.
Studying for a test can be overwhelming, especially when it’s a final exam or a specialized, standardized assessment such as the MCAT. Offering thousands of flashcards on a host of subjects, Cram makes it easier to memorize all that information. Students can create their own flashcards too, and share them with their study group or everyone else who uses the platform. One reason Cram ranks among the top productivity tools is that it allows college students to take their studies on-the-go. With its mobile feature, users can access flashcards from a smartphone or tablet. Sample essays and research papers are available here, too. The app works with PCs, MACs, iPhone, Android, and Windows operating systems, so users don’t have to worry about whether it’s compatible with their respective devices.
The second-largest MOOC-provider after Coursera, edX offers more than 2500 courses from 140 prestigious colleges, universities, and top-tier companies. as one of the best free online productivity tools, this app was founded by Harvard and MIT. It connects more than 20 million like-minded learners from around the world. Removing geographic and cost barriers, edX meets learners where they are with rigorous, self-paced courses on subjects ranging from computer science to communication. EdX operates via an open-source platform, so educators can leverage technology to regularly add new features that enhance the learning experience. Paid courses are also available that allow students to work toward master’s degrees in engineering, IT management, marketing, and several other fields, with more programs in the works.
Need to keep up with class notes and other stuff, but don’t want to deal with piles of paper or isolated computer files? Evernote transforms the way busy people in general, and students in particular, keep track of important info. Evernote provides a single, secure source for storing and readily accessing files, photos, and voice memos from any device. Even better, Evernote is compatible with digital assistants Siri and Google. As if all that isn’t enough, users can share their info with others, even if the recipients don’t have an Evernote account themselves. Evernote’s browser extension makes it possible to capture everything from PDFs to full webpages, and other online items. Students can also get to-do list reminders so they don’t miss important deadlines for term papers and projects.
11. Google Docs
Google Docs is a top productivity tool that enables users to create documents in a variety of styles and formats (with helpful templates included). Plus, users can convert documents back and forth between Google and Microsoft Word. Another feature that makes this app one of the top productivity tools is its versatility. Students can easily create and store documents on any device, even when they don’t have Internet access — a plus when service is down or there’s no wi-fi and users are worried about maxing out their data plan. Google Docs saves changes automatically and maintains revision histories so students can look up different versions of the same document. Real-time editing and chatting allow for seamless collaboration.
Gradesaver is one of those free productivity tools that makes it a whole lot easier to get through tough reading assignments. On this site, students can find study guides on a variety of literary works, from modern-day novels to Shakespeare plays. Gradesaver is essentially an online Cliff Notes. Writing a research paper or a thesis? Gradesaver offers expert editing services for a host of writing projects, including scholarship application essays. Another bonus: the app features a collection of sample essays students can use when crafting anything from literature essays to medical, law, or business school applications. In fact, Gradesaver has such a fantastic reputation that it’s been recognized for its treasure trove of essays by major publications such as The Washington Post, The Economist, and more.
13. Insight Timer
Research shows that productivity is higher when students take time to rest and rejuvenate. If you’re looking for free online productivity tools that help you do that, look no further than Insight Timer, the free meditation app. With an extensive library of more than 30,000 titles, this site features a collection of guided meditations for relaxation and restful sleep. The free timer feature allows users to customize settings to incorporate meditations into their daily routine. Students can also adjust settings to more easily access their favorite meditations and talks. New to meditation? This app includes a free 7-day course on the fundamentals of the practice. What’s more, Insight Timer’s resources are available in 30 languages, so they’re available to students worldwide.
MyHomework ranks as one of the top free online productivity tools because it’s easy to use and helps students stay organized, which is key to making the best use of available time and getting better grades. This cross-device platform also works with Kindle and allows students to access info about their classes and assignments anywhere, anytime. They can set reminders about tests, quizzes, and projects so they can be well-prepared and never miss a deadline. Since it’s so simple to use, there’s no learning curve, saving time and effort. What’s more, the app comes with a reward system for submitting assignments on time. The paid version of this app is available at minimal cost and comes with extra features.
Some people need to tune out unwanted noise so they can concentrate. But noise-canceling headphones are expensive and not practical for everyone. That’s where myNoise comes in. It provides enjoyable white noise to boost productivity and creativity or help people dial down. For instance, students can listen to the sounds of a busy coffee shop, even when they’re stuck in the library. Tune in to the whisper of the wind in a Japanese garden, or chill out with a Gregorian chant. Having trouble sleeping or need to block out the noise of a snoring roommate? Drift off to the soft sound of rain dripping in the middle of a quiet forest, or the whoosh of a tumbling waterfall.
Another of the top productivity tools that provides white noise is Noisli. Students can go to the site and select whether they’d like to improve their productivity or relax. Then, they can start listening. Sounds include a crackling fire, chorusing crickets, a cacophony of dishes clinking and people talking in a restaurant, and more. Before creating an account, prospective users can sample some of the sound selections, not unlike testing out the ringtones on a new phone. Color therapy (technically known as chromotherapy is another key feature of this app, providing color-changing backgrounds to help students tune in and concentrate. Noisli is so effective and easy to use that it’s been recognized by Lifehacker, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as an invaluable tool for increasing productivity and/or reducing anxiety.
17. Purdue OWL
This productivity tool gives students access to the online writing lab (OWL) at Purdue University. It’s open not only to Purdue students, but also members of the community and the world-at-large. The OWL connects students to resources to help them with just about any type of writing project. Some of the most popular resources include writing exercises, citation guides for MLA, APA, and Chicago style, and subject-specific writing tips. Students looking for an internship or getting ready to graduate can find help with job-search writing, too. Members of the Purdue University community can also use the site to learn more about on-campus resources, such as one-on-one writing help, English as a second language (ESL) groups, and workshops.
Saylor Academy offers more than 30 courses (up to 97 credit hours) that students can take for free, then possibly transfer those credits to their respective schools and apply them toward a degree. Like other top productivity tools that connect students with college coursework, Saylor’s courses are recognized by accredited schools and universities throughout the US. The online academy has partnered with more than a dozen schools to guarantee college credit for its courses. Offerings include Introduction to Psychology, Micro and Macroeconomics, Project Management, Comparative Politics, and Software Engineering, to name a few. Students can secure transcripts and earn certificates for successfully completed courses, too. They can access coursework on-demand and work at their own pace for maximum convenience and flexibility.
Schooltraq is one of the best free online productivity tools due to its ease-of-use. Keeping track of coursework by writing things down on paper presents additional challenges to staying organized; digital tools are a hassle-free alternative. Schooltraq is a digital planner that helps students stay on top of assignments and tests by seeing them at a glance. This app features a dashboard that lists assignments alphabetically, by due date, or by course. Schooltraq responds to natural English, so students who are searching for an assignment can just provide the basics of what they’re looking for and the app figures it out. Users may view tasks and projects on a monthly basis and keep a record of completed work. Schooltraq for Android allows for mobile access, too.
20. Study Guides and Strategies
The Study Guides and Strategies site is a gold mine of tips for learning how to learn and making the most productive use of study time. Guides cover topics such as succeeding in continuing education, active learning, and how to approach different learning styles. Students can even find tips on learning and studying with ADHD. Visitors to this site can also discover strategies for effective online learning, project management, decision making, and studying with a group. Students who are struggling with a research proposal or lab report can look at strategies for tackling these types of writing assignments, and many more. This site even features pointers for making the grade in math and science — from using the scientific method to succeeding at sudoku.
For college students juggling work and family responsibilities or other endeavors, keeping up with everything can be overwhelming. When it comes to top productivity tools, Todoist stands out because it enables students to manage tasks in every sphere without having to maintain separate to-do lists. This invaluable app allows students to see at a glance what needs to be done and in what order so they can prioritize and stay organized. Todoist makes it possible to list projects and the tasks and subtasks associated with them to ensure nothing is overlooked. Tasks can be updated in seconds. Students working on a group project can share project to-do’s with other members to more effectively delegate tasks. The app awards points for completing tasks on time, too.
College is a great time to pick up new skills, both inside and outside the classroom. Udacity is one of those free online productivity tools that helps students accomplish that. The site offers free courses and non-degree programs in fields such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, autonomous systems, and programming. These industry-leading courses have been recognized by top-tier companies around the world, such as AT&T, IBM, and Google. These tracks equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to launch or advance their career, or achieve other personal goals. With Udacity, students have access to career coaching, flexible learning, mentoring, and projects that reflect the real world.
Another of the free productivity tools online that allows for flexible, self-paced learning is Udemy. The site offers more than 100,000 courses available at a tiny fraction of the cost of a typical college class. Topics include just about everything from English to engineering. Not sure where to start? Just answer a few questions and Udemy will provide personal recommendations. College students can connect to this site from anywhere in the world. And lifetime access makes it possible for learners to study at their own pace, on their own terms. All this makes Udemy an excellent resource for students who want to take courses that may not be offered at their college or university, or want to pick up a new skill without breaking the bank.
Doing life on a college student budget calls for a little innovation and creative couponing. But who has time for all that? UniDays offers student discounts on popular sites, such as Grubhub, giving students a little more leg room to stretch their resources and enjoy a few perks once in a while. This students-only site makes it possible to save money on everything from technology to health and fitness products and services. Discounts are available for in-store and online purchases, and students can save big-time on more than 150 brands. The site provides games and college survival tips too, not to mention awesome opportunities to win prizes and connect with other members.
College is the ultimate time to take advantage of opportunities to travel the country or the world, whether it’s a road trip with friends or a semester abroad. Hundreds of thousands of travelers visit this site daily to share their experiences canvassing the globe, and learn from others who are doing the same. Students (and others) can see travel alerts about areas that are in the midst of severe weather or political disturbances, so they can make an informed decision before heading to their destination. Wikitravelers can create an account to ask questions or join discussion groups. Similar to Wikipedia, members can edit or add to info on the site. This free productivity tool is an excellent resource for new and experienced travelers alike.