There is absolutely no escaping the fact that technology has become integral to the way we function as a society. With the internet literally at your fingertips, it’s easier than ever to waste hours of your life in an Insta scroll or a YouTube binge. However, there are plenty of helpful apps and services that are designed to make your life easier and encourage you to build healthy habits.
Below are eight apps that I personally have found to be useful in my own life, as well as my job mentoring young people at a sixth form college:
The Cloud is a hosting platform, making your files easily accessible from any device, anywhere, anytime. Google Drive includes Google Sheets, Docs and Slides, which are essentially lightweight versions of the Microsoft Office programs that we are all familiar with. Although lacking in some of the more robust functions, these are perfect for essay writing, making presentations, and putting together basic spreadsheets. You can share your files with other people, create collaborative documents, and export them in formats that can be easily opened by desktop programs, as well as PDFs for printing.
More importantly – it autosaves your document as you go! So losing a night’s worth of work because your computer crashed is a thing of the past.
Gameify your revision! Quizlet is an app that allows you to create subject-specific flashcards, and then put your knowledge to the test using game like quizzes. You can share your resources with classmates and turn it into a friendly competition, making revision less of a lonely and gruelling task. This is a particularly useful tool for revising vocabulary or terminology.
So you’ve finished that massive essay, hit the word count, made a compelling argument, and supported it with convincing and reputable sources, all you have to do is hand the beastie in. Right?
The world of academia is full of sneaky rules that can often catch you off guard. Including a bibliography as part of your work is one of them. Not only that, but there are often specific formats that your citations need to be presented in. Back in the analog days, you would have to write each source out individually, making sure you’re following whatever convention your university required. Getting it wrong could legitimately lose you marks. EasyBib takes all the hassle out of creating a bibliography: simply choose your preferred method of citation, scan the barcode of the book, journal, or magazine, and the app puts it in the correct format for you. Once you’ve scanned everything, you can simply email the bibliography to yourself and paste in your document. Easy!
A maths tutor in your pocket. Struggling to understand a particular mathematical concept? Simply point your phone camera at the problem, and Photomath shows you the working out. The subscription version of the app can provide more detailed explanations of each step. An incredibly useful tool to any student dealing with maths as part of their course, either for revision or to check over their own work.
Disclaimer: while it is tempting to cheat and simply copy Photomath’s answers and pass them off as your own, it is a dark path to go down and I don’t advise it. What if you end up getting hired for your allegedly superb maths skills, only to be ousted as a fraud? Pretty embarrassing.
Sometimes you just need to sit down and concentrate on one thing. But you’ve just received 50 likes on your recent insta post, 10 snaps, and your group chat on Whatsapp is blowing up. What’s a digital native to do?! Forest: Stay Focused employs the pomodoro technique with the added incentive of planting a cute little digital tree. You earn coins if you stay off your phone long enough for your tree to fully grow, which unlocks options that allow you to customise the types of trees and plants you can grow next. If you give in to temptation, your tree dies.
The app also has a browser extension, which lets you block certain websites to prevent you from getting distracted while on your laptop.
If you care about the environment, which you definitely should, there is the option of donating the coins you earn to Trees for the Future, a charity that partners with the app developers to plant real trees in Sub Saharan Africa.
Whether you are studying a language at Uni, or just want to brush up on your Spanish before a big holiday, Duolingo is a fantastic tool for expanding your vocabulary and learning the basics of grammar and sentence structure. Similarly to Quizlet, the app teaches you through a series of gamelike quizzes, which test your writing, speaking and listening skills. You earn points and unlock new topics when you get things right, and lose lives when you make mistakes. The app also employs a streak system which encourages you to log in and study daily – a great example of harnessing the addictive powers of gaming for good.
University isn’t all fun new friends and costume parties, sometimes it can feel truly overwhelming. Mental health is hugely important, and I have outlined in a number great resources for seeking help if you find yourself struggling while at NTU in my previous article. However, just because you’re not on the verge of a breakdown, doesn’t mean you may not need a bit of help. Recent studies into neuroplasticity show that regular meditation and mindfulness practice can help rewire your brain, and ultimately lead to a more peaceful and resilient mind, capable of coping with stressful situations. Headspace is an award winning guided meditation app aimed to encourage users to develop their own mindfulness practice. There are many meditations to choose from, so you can tailor it to your specific needs, be it sleep, anxiety, or lack of concentration.
Managing money is tricky, especially if you’ve just been handed a massive chunk of student loan, maintenance grant, and maybe even a bursary. Chances are, your bank also tricked you into getting a credit card “to start working on your credit score”.
It’s likely the most money you’ve ever had access to in your entire life, and it is so very tempting to go and spend it all on lavish dinners, stylish clothes and possibly a tattoo. But wait. Don’t do it. Not all at once at least.
Developing good financial habits early on will save you from having to make embarrassing phone calls to mum halfway through the term, asking to transfer you some cash so you can buy food. Monzo is a new way to bank that can help you with that. Applying for a Monzo card is free and easy, and you should receive it within 2 weeks. The Monzo app tracks your spending in real time, and breaks it down into categories such as Shopping, Eating Out and Travel. So you can see exactly where your money goes and make good choices. There are options to set category specific budgets, as well as an overall monthly one, and a recently added function which allows you to create savings pots. Taking control of your finances has never been easier.
Hopefully one or two of the apps I’ve mentioned will have sparked your interest, download them and try them out. They might change your life!
This is by no means an exhaustive list – new apps are being developed all the time to solve all sorts of daily problems or make certain tasks easier. It’s always worth checking out the App Store or Google Play for new releases and recommendations.
By Polina Bakh
Polina is an NTU Alumni Fellow. You can find out more about how to get involved with the Alumni Fellowship Programme here
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