With an enormous amount of apps on the App Store, it’s sometimes hard to decide which ones are worth downloading. I’ve been a college student off-and-on for some time now, and I’ve come to realize that certain apps can really make your life easier. 

As a current graduate student, here are the top free apps I use the most for school. Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who uses a mixture of both Apple and non-Apple devices.


I use Reminders to make to-do lists each week for studying, assignments, and other important items. It’s helpful in that I can set due dates and times, set priorities, add subtasks, and more. I use Reminders across my iPhone, iMac, iPad, and Apple Watch. Whenever I think of something to add, it’s simple to add to my list or remove when finished. 

I also use Reminders pretty heavily for both work and personal use. This helps me with time management and making my busy days as efficient as possible. I have a guided tutorial on the Reminders app if you’d like to learn more. 


While not the most popular note-taking app, hear me out. OneNote is a great option for students who have a mixture of Apple and non-Apple devices. For example, my current tech setup is nearly all Apple. However, I have a Windows laptop that I’ve had for years and sometimes use.

Because I have a class notebook on OneNote, I can easily pull up my notes on either computer. I’m not limited to an app that only works on Apple machines. This is the note-taking app I’d recommend most to students who maybe use an iPad to take notes but don’t have a Mac computer at their disposal.

OneNote can be downloaded alone or part of a Microsoft Office subscription, which many colleges and universities provide to students. Additionally, if you don’t want to download another app, you can opt for the web version. 

PDF Expert

The iPad is such a good tool for annotating PDF files. I use PDF Expert free on iPad and I can mark up presentations, documents, and more right from my iPad. It connects with the Files app automatically, so you can easily pull up documents from your iCloud. You can also easily connect it with your Windows device and other cloud storage platforms like Google Drive, OneDrive, and Dropbox. PDF Expert also lets you create a new PDF from scratch as well as convert documents, images, and web pages to PDFs. 

I use an Apple Pencil alternative from XIRON with my iPad to mark up notes on PDFs, and I love it.

Google Chrome

While I use Safari for general internet browsing on my iPhone and iPad, I prefer Google Chrome when it comes to my educational needs. I have multiple Google accounts so I use Chrome as a tool to save my bookmarks, shortcuts, and extensions for each account. Again, it’s convenient to use a student who has both Apple and non-Apple devices. It helps keep my workflow organized no matter which device I’m on. 


While I don’t use a lot of paper for school anymore, sometimes I still need to scan. Back when I had an Android smartphone, I used to have a separate app to scan papers. However, with an iPhone, that’s not necessary. The Notes app is perfect for scanning purposes. Once scanned, I can directly email, print, save, markup, or AirDrop my file. The convenience of doing all this in one app, not to mention a free app, is incredible.  

If you want to learn more on how to better use the Notes App, you can read my guided tutorial.

Which apps do you use as a student? 

Which apps make your life easier as a student? I’d like to know what works for you. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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About the Author

Allison McDaniel

Allison is a News Writer at 9to5Mac covering Apple news and rumors.

You can email her directly at [email protected] or catch her on Twitter at @aamcdani