Tech guide: From life hacks to self-care

Finishing college can be overwhelming so what apps can make your life easier?

What apps can make your life easier? Photograph: iStock

What apps can make your life easier? Photograph: iStock

 

Many will already be familiar with the apps and websites that got them through the Leaving Cert, with the likes of Studyclix and Duolingo among those that many will have used. But now that you are in the final years in college, what apps can make your life easier?

Life hacks and self-care

Living: MyRoomSwap.com

This is one to watch for students who are struggling to find and afford the right – or indeed, any – place to live. The idea is so simple, it’s beautiful. Let’s say a student is travelling from their home in Galway to attend college in Dublin while, in Dublin, a student is getting ready for college life in Galway. MyRoomSwap allows them to simply swap rooms in their family homes, saving their families thousands and thousands of euro in rent.

Cooking: Allrecipes.com

Some students might leave college with excellent culinary skills. Others won’t know how to fry an egg. Allrecipes is a useful and user-friendly site that aggregates different recipes from across the web, and contains meals to suit all budgets.

Fitness: Couch to 5K

Moving out of home for the first time, lots of cheap junk and processed foods, and nights out on the session all add up to a heavy load of calories, and students can gain a few kilos in their first year. There’s no end of Couch to 5K apps available online, and they usually start by sending users off on a brisk walk, then a short run, then a walk, and so on until, nine weeks later, they’re running 5km – so which one to use? Most of these apps are, broadly, the same, but offer slightly different features. Probably best to start off with the free versions and buy a paid version if it has features that appeal to you.

Apps available across most platforms.

Mental health: Headspace and Insight Timer

The first few months after college can be overwhelming. The Headspace app is a popular way of getting into meditation, with hundreds of themed sessions focused on sleep, stress, focus and anxiety, as well as emergency or SOS exercises for the most difficult or panicked moments.

The first 10 sessions – 10 minutes of meditation over 10 days – are free. After that, subscribers pay a fee of €71.88 a year.

Headspace is available on iOS and Android.

Can’t afford Headspace – and the cost stressing you out? Insight Timer is an excellent and completely free meditation app full of free guided meditations from top teachers – and no ads.

Managing files

Google Drive

If you’re not already using Google Drive, it’s possibly the handiest way of storing and keeping track of documents. Whereas Microsoft requires a licence, Google Drive is free to use, and students can build folders to separate subjects, projects or assignments. Google Documents is analogous to Microsoft Word, whereas Google Sheets doubles up for Excel. Best of all, Google Drive allows you to access your documents from anywhere in the world and there’s an app you can keep on your Android or iPhone.

The basic version is free and should be enough for most students.

For safety and privacy reasons, it’s always a good idea to use two-step authentication before logging into your account on a desktop or laptop.

Dropbox

Another one that may be familiar to most students, this is a great app for storing and sharing files. Users are provided with 2GB of storage space before they have to pay.

Dropbox apps are available across most platforms including iPhone, Android and Windows.

Referencing and research

EasyBib

One of the biggest issues facing any student is how to properly reference and build a bibliography. What is the Harvard referencing system and how is that different to Chicago? Why does one lecturer insist on you using APA but another demand Oscala? EasyBib makes the process a whole lot easier. EasyBib helps you to manage your existing projects, scan to make sure you have not committed plagiarism and makes sure your grammar and spelling is on the right track.

The free version of the site can contain a lot of ads – and has a few restrictions on referencing styles – but the paid version gives you a free three-day trial followed by $9.95 a month (at time of writing, that’s about €8.92).

Available online.

Mendeley

This app helps students to manage and share research papers, collaborate on group projects and discover good sources. It’s handy for viewing PDFs and popular with many lecturers. Students can import documents and research papers from other websites, including Google Scholar. But it has had problems: in 2018, an update resulted in some users losing their PDFs and annotations, although the company behind the app did fix the problem. And it’s not free, with students paying from $55 to $165 (about €45-€148) for an annual subscription. Available on iPhone and Android.

Zotero

Similar to Mendeley but open-source and free, this is another tool to help students collect, cite, organise and share their research sources. Available online.

Learning

Khan Academy

Perhaps more than any other app or website, Khan Academy has changed the landscape of education across the world. Since 2006, its YouTube channel has been running mini-lectures on a range of subjects, touching on science, arts, law, engineering and so much more. And while it might not be the most acceptable or favoured reference among lecturers, it can be particularly useful to get a grasp of complex or difficult subjects.

GoConqr

Mind maps, flashcards, quizzes, notes, slides, study planners, course builders and flowcharts are some of the main features of GoConqr. It’s not available as an app, with the company recently making the decision to focus on its mobile site.

It’s one of the cheaper study tools, with the free plan allowing access to all the tools and up to 50MB of storage. The premium version contains some extra features and is billed at €2.50 per month (€30) a year.

MyHomework

This app promises to help third-level students track assignments, projects and tests; track classes; receive due date reminders; and synch between different devices. For the fairly reasonable price of €4.99 a year, students can get an ad-free version with some extra features. MyHomework is available on all major platforms including Android, iOS and Windows.