Once you touch down in the never-never land of summer between high school graduation and freshman year, the time you spend with your teen in the very same room is rare and precious. Though you want to nab him to shop for dorm provisions and to complete his college paperwork, all he really wants to do is check his group texts to see where and when his friends are gathering next. But snare your illusive teen, ask him to sit with you, phone in hand, and take a look at a these great free apps to download now before he’s truly gone.
We asked our teens and young adult kids what they used and did some research* to see what the experts recommend. The result is this list of thirty apps that, we hope, might help your teen as he embarks on his life at college. But tell us, in the comments, if there are others that your kid can’t live without.
1. College App – Does your son’s college have their own app? This is a one-stop shop for almost everything your freshman will want and need to know. My daughter’s favorites were the map function she could look at discretely to find her classes, especially helpful since they included photos of the buildings. Want to plan a weekend to meet your freshman for a football game this fall? Sports schedules are there along with a variety of events for the rest of the year. Loads of information here for freshmen and their parents.
2.Venmo – Roommates and new friends can’t wait to escape the dining hall to try out the rumored best pizza or splurge on sushi. Venmo makes splitting checks a breeze. Also, you will need to transfer money to your college freshmen? Download the app and never worry about writing and mailing a check to him again.
3. Splitwise – For expenditures that roommates split – rent, groceries, electric bills – splitwise is an efficient way to keep track of who has paid up and those who are not exactly on top of their financial responsibilities to others.
4. Major Commercial Banks – Banks all have apps which is another excellent way for kids to deposit checks and review their balances, often razor-thin during their college years.
5. Mint – This is a popular tool to help your college kid learn to live within a budget. All accounts, cards and investments are pulled together in one place. Plus, Mint will send customized tips for saving money.
6. Cash4Books – Believe it or not, the end of the semester comes shockingly fast and there is no reason or room for the stack of expensive textbooks you just bought for the fall. Campus bookstores might re-purchase them but typically at big discounts. Your daughter can use her phone to scan the bar code of books to see what price Amazon offers. With free shipping, all she needs is a box and the ability to get them to the campus post office.
7. Chegg – If your student wants to have the option to rent, buy or download an e-book, Chegg is one stop shopping for that.
8.Uber – At some point in freshman year, there will be a need to call a cab. Whether it is after a late night with many alcoholic drinks, or a ride to the airport, Uber cabs can be a real lifesaver. Look to see if your son’s college town is included and, if so, sign up now to create the account before he needs it after midnight sometime this fall.
9. TransLoc Rider – You daughter arrives on a sprawling, unfamiliar campus and needs to master her way via the school bus system. Rider shows routes and estimated time to when the next bus will arrive, making the walk vs ride decision an informed one.
10. Amtrak – Is your college kid taking the train home for Thanksgiving and have you made reservations yet? Popular routes sell out, so book now. One benefit of Amtrak is the easy and cost-free way to make changes to ticketed reservations. Further, if there are delays, the app provides more information about expected arrival time than comes through inaudible announcements at the train or station.
11. Major airlines – The airline apps are a great source of information about routes and any reservations you’ve made on it. One airline estimates the amount of time your student needs to get to the airport from his dorm – a great reminder for the kid who has relied on his parents to make sure he has never missed a flight.
12. Seamless/GrubHub/Order Up – The days of calling out for dinner with choices of pizza or Chinese are long gone and these apps will make it effortless for your college student and friends to treat themselves to delivery from local restaurants. Trust us, the dining hall gets very old so ordering out, on occasion, is a nice treat. Look now to find out what is available in your daughter’s college town.
13. Mr. Gabriel – This security app will ask your daughter to pick three “angels” who she can send an alert to with her location if she is in distress. It is also sensitive to changes in her pace of movement when she’s out for a walk or a run and will ask her if she is ok? No answer and an alert goes out to the angels.
14. Circle of 6 – Winner of lots of awards, including one from the White House, this safety app can send out a distress signal, geo-tracked to your location, letting your trusted group of six know you need help and where that help is needed.
15. Skype – Texting back and forth will be the basis of your communication with your freshman, reassuring us that he is alive and well! However sometimes what you (and he) both need is a face-to-face conversation. Skype is the way to do it so this is one that you both need to download now. PS. Even if they don’t want to talk to you, tell them the dog wants to say “hello.” Works every time.
16. Viber – Is your student going abroad to study? Though this may not be an app you need if the answer is “no, not this semester,” you will want to remember this for when she does fly across the world in the future. A free method for texting, calling and sending video messages.
Academics and Productivity
17. Google Drive – Your student can work within google drive and have a place for all of his files – documents, spreadsheets, videos, photos, etc – that he can access from any device. Plus, this is the go-to way to collaborate with other students he may be assigned to work with on group projects.
18. Evernote – For college freshmen, it can be overwhelming to keep track of articles, documents, photographs, especially across devices. Evernote can help her store all.
19. StudyBlue – Does your student like to study with flashcards? StudyBlue makes it easy to make flashcards, or find those created by other students at thousands of other colleges, to quiz yourself before your next test. With lots of other study technology, this was app is highly recommended in the articles we researched.
20. EasyBib – We all remember how annoying it was to type up our sources with the correct teacher-approved methodology when we were students. EasyBib has a way for students to scan a bar code or type in a book title where the information will be stored as a correct bibliography listing.
21. Dictionary.com – This is the leading free English Language dictionary and the app works offline, too, in case WiFi disappears.
22. Dragon dictation – This voice recognition app instantly types out what you speak into text or email messages. For the student who can’t slow down to stop and type, this is magic.
23. Self-Control – We all wonder how our high schooler will adjust to the new-found freedoms at college. Self-control can help your student set up a daily schedule to help him get organized and, we hope, stay organized.
24. Ted – Sometimes your student may be assigned to watch a TED talk in a class or might find one while doing research on her own. However, she might want to simply be inspired and we can’t think of a better source of wisdom and magic than TED.
25. Any.do – Tasks and to do lists have never been easier to manage than with this app that is shared across platforms and with others.
26. Duolingo – Does your student have a foreign language requirement to complete in college? Duolingo might be his new BFF app as it uses mini-games to test reading, writing and speaking skills. BTW, this was Apple’s 2013 App of the Year.
27. Istudiez – Paper due dates, lectures once a week, field trips, labs, and tests are crucial entries in any student’s calendar. This app will help your student make up a schedule, track assignments and never miss a deadline.
28. Sworkit – Staying fit helps college freshmen stay focused and well. This app has a seemly endless supply of video exercises demonstrated by professional personal trainers.
Parents Back Home
29. High Low Glitter – Created by a mom who wanted her kids to talk about the good, bad and “glitter” moments in their days, High, Low, Glitter is a way to share the great, not so great and amazing things about the college experience.
30. Mumsy – Created by three recent college grads, this brand new app (launched last April) is a site for moms and their away-from-home daughters to consolidate their social updates, share pictures, recipes, and more.
*Sources of App Recommendations