Seven Ways to Hack College with Apps and Online Tools

You have your laptop to take notes, e-mail to keep up with assignments, and Facebook to distract yourself from assignments.  But what about nontraditional uses of technology to enhance the college experience? Here are some of my top suggestions for Student 2.0.

  1. Grades

Grades 2 is an application for iPhone, iPod, and iPad users that makes tracking your progress simple.  You enter the classes you’re taking, fill in all your semester assignments and relative weights, and then feed the app your grades as the course progresses.  Grades 2 will then average the scores and tell you your current grade, GPA, due dates, sub-grades, etc.  Unfortunately, the app won’t be able to inform you whether or not it’s worth it to sleep through your boring 8 A.M lecture –even so, this is a free application that could save you some of that end-of-semester panic.

  1. Books

If you’re looking to save money and stress on textbooks, avoid the crammed, under-stocked campus bookstore and go online, obviously, online retailers like can help you buy, rent, or sell textbooks back. And it’s not just for buying: when you’re done, selling books back online will also help you recoup your losses and avoid getting ripped off at the bookstore.

Don’t forget to explore resources like open-source and free books, like at Flat World Knowledge and other sites as an alternative to textbooks.

  1. Studying

As enjoyable as 3 A.M cram sessions in the library can be, there are a host of tech services to help improve the efficiency of your studying.  Companies like Evernote, StudyBlue, and Cramberry are online flashcard-storage services that let you create a digital note card stack which can then be synced with a smartphone and studied on the go: in line at Starbucks, at the gym, even–radical as it sounds—in the library.

  1. Projects

Ah, the group project.  We’ve all heard horror stories of the group members who mysteriously vanish, only to claim immunity because they “didn’t get the e-mail”.  Luckily, several services will help you streamline the group project for minimum drama and maximum efficiency. is a site that presents you with a blank corkboard and a private URL—you can then create sticky notes that can be shared between multiple group members.  You can then plan meetings using, which converts potential time slots into a poll that can be e-mailed to the group.  Soon enough, you’ll have a sense of what time will work best for the group, keeping everyone accountable.

  1. Taking Notes

If you’ve been cursed with poor organizational skills, abysmal penmanship, or simply would rather spend class time napping than taking notes, there’s hope for you yet.  JotNot is an app that uses the camera feature on your phone as a document scanner, converting a picture of a page of text into a PDF file for storage and easy review later.  Scanning class-related documents can save a lot of stress further down the line, acting as an insurance policy against misplaced papers.

  1. Staying focused.

For every helpful website or application to keep you on track with your academic goals, there are a thousand other blogs, hilarious Youtube videos, cute cat pictures, and status updates threatening to derail your study efforts.  Not to fear- for the student who simply can’t resist the infinite fascinations of the web, there’s a Mac application called Self Control that will disable certain websites and email accounts for a specified period of time.  Even restarting your computer or deleting the program won’t make a difference. For the impending deadline and or the student with attention span issues, a little artificial Self Control might do the trick.  For those who still want to stay on track in a less extreme way, there’s always Instapaper, which allows you to queue up whatever cool article you’ve stumbled upon for later reading at your leisure.

  1. Flirting

Yep, there’s even an app for that. is a site for bashful college students, allowing anyone to post an anonymous shout-out to a crush, stating where you are on campus, the “target’s” hair color and gender, and a flirty message which may be as poetic as you’d like.  Be warned though, as the site is wildly addictive– during finals, it might be best to use this Likealittle in conjunction with #6.

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