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10 Best Apps for Students in 2021

How many times have your parents, grandparents and teachers made comments about how smartphones can be a terrible distraction?

And if we’re being honest with them, they aren’t entirely wrong. But in the modern world, there’s (almost) an app for everything, making it easier, cheaper and more fun to be a student in the 21st Century.

Whether you want help with finding the best note taking apps for students, keeping focus during study sessions, or even finding discounts to help keep you under budget each month, we’ve got a comprehensive list of apps for your smartphones, tablets and laptops, to help you navigate through your student years

Take a look below at our list of the 10 best student apps for 2022 – and turn your phone into the ultimate study buddy.

1. RefME

Best for: Referencing

Hate having to reference your essays and other research work? Join the club.

Referencing can be a tedious process, especially if you lose track of what books and resources you’ve used along the way. Fortunately, RefME has developed a clever app that makes the process of finding and citing resources much more efficient, saving you time (and endless headaches).

For new students, the app has thousands of open educational resources which can be a great place to start your academic reading and prompt further research. This saves hours spent scrolling through Google, trying to find relevant papers for your studies.

But its main highlight is the ability to automate citations, reference lists, and bibliographies with ease – again giving you plenty of extra time to spend improving your work. How? Simply scan the barcodes of all the books and journals you’re using and RefME will automatically generate the citations within seconds.

Even better, the app can export references into hundreds of different styles, including the most commonly used:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Harvard
  • Chicago
  • RSC

So you don’t need to worry about making sure whether your references are unified.

2. Evernote

Best for: Note-taking, task management

Looking for an app that helps you create, compile and organise notes, while also making sure you time manage all your other tasks? Evernote truly is an all-rounder and one of the best apps for students in 2021.

It’s also considered to be one of the best note taking apps for students; as these can be created from text, drawings, photographs, online web content, and even audio footage. Once you’ve created them, your notes will be stored in electronic notebooks which again, can be annotated, tagged with labels, edited, searched, have attachments linked to them, and even exported for you to use on other devices.

With an intuitive task management system, it’s easy to assign tasks within your notes and give them due dates, flags and reminders – so none of your academic work falls through the cracks. You can even connect your Google Calendar to the app, so you never miss a class or important appointment!

Available on all major operating systems, the base app is free to use with monthly usage limits, and also offers paid plans for those who wish to expand their usage of it.

3. Office Lens

Best for: Note-taking

How many times have you flipped through your notebooks from school or university, only to realise you can’t read your scruffy handwriting? Gone are the days of having to scribble down messy notes in class with the arrival of Office Lens from Microsoft Windows.

Office Lens has been specifically designed as an app for students, helping to make note-taking that little bit easier. With the ability to take pictures of documents, whiteboards, blackboards, journals, and other printed documents, it then converts them into editable, shareable text that you can doodle on and share with others.

Bad lighting? The app also has an auto feature that removes glare and shadows from your images and also allows you to read images that have been taken from a bad angle.

Available on iOS, Android, and other major operating systems, Open Lens is widely accessible, easy-to-use, and saves so much time on writing out notes.

4. Motion

Best for: Focus time

For university students, much of your study time will be spent on your laptop. Most often, this time is spent online, browsing academic websites and taking notes. Or, for many students, spent accidentally browsing our social media networks.

We know that notifications release dopamine – after all, their very design was backed by the intention to distract and draw you into their sites. So it’s no wonder that so many of us often struggle to get through a study session without having checked our notification tabs at least once.

Motion is a free web browser extension that will block distracting sites, including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, removing the temptation to click on them when your time should be better spent elsewhere. It’s totally customisable, allowing you to block certain pages on set times and days, or even certain types of websites, such as social media networks or shopping sites.

But what if you need to access a blocked site for academic purposes? Fear not, as the app will give you 60 seconds to quickly look for what you need before removing it from your browser again.

To help keep you motivated, you’ll also receive regular reports to let you know how much time online has been spent in either a productive or distracting way. It’s the ultimate study companion.

5. Oxford English Dictionary

*Best for: Academic reading and writing

Fed up of carrying heavy books around with you all the time? Take your dictionary on the go with the free mobile version of the Oxford University Press’ Oxford English Dictionary.

With more than 150 years of research behind it, The Oxford Dictionary of English is recognised as the highest authority in the study and reference of the English language – and an essential tool for all academics.

The mobile app contains over 350,000 words, phrases and meanings, as well has over 75,000 audio pronunciation of some more difficult-to-pronounce words. You can even expand your vocabulary by learning a new word each day, courtesy of the apps’ daily notifications.

Not sure how to spell a word? The app even has an incredibly intuitive ‘voice’ and ‘fuzzy’ search feature – where you can find a word even if you don’t know exactly how to spell it.

6. Google Drive

Best for: Storage, task management

Google Drive is a cloud-based storage solution and one of the best apps for students currently available on the market. Save and store all of your documents online – and access them from any smartphone, tablet or computer.

Using a cloud storage service like Google Drive has plenty of advantages for students, such as removing the risk of your computer crashing and losing all your work (we all know someone that’s suffered that tragic fate).

You can store up to 15GB of files for free, including notes, images, PDFs, audio and video files. The Drive automatically saves as you go, so you never need to worry about losing your work without hitting that pesky save button. It’s also easy to share, edit and collaborate on files, which can be great for group projects and proof-reading your classmates’ work.

Know you’re going to struggle with WiFi? No problem. You can also select files to access ‘offline’ so you can download and use them on the go – great for those who like to work while commuting to and from college.

7. Forest

Best for: Focus time

How often do you sit down for a productive study session, only to find that 10 minutes into the process, you’re already on your phone and scrolling through Instagram?

Forestis a time management app, which takes a creative approach towards helping you stay focused and leave your phone alone during short periods of time. How? By encouraging you to plant a tree.

Whenever you want to start a study or focus session, you plant a tree in your ‘forest’ on the app. As you study (leave your phone alone), the phone will begin to grow. However, as soon as you pick up your phone and click onto another app, your tree will die. The more you focus, the more trees you can collect and add to your forest.

What’s even better, the company behind the app even plants real trees around the world based on downloads and app usage. It’s a win-win for both your study periods and the Earth!

8. Todoist

Best for: Task management

If you’re looking for the best planner apps for students, one that works across your devices, tracks your productivity, and lets you organise every aspect of your life, then you must acquaint yourself with Todoist.

Essentially, Todoist is a task management tool which combines tasks, projects, comments, attachments and more, so you can streamline your productivity and complete your work more effectively – without ever letting anything slip off your radar. You can add powerful labels, filters and tags to each of your tasks, which the app will then transfer into easy productivity workflows that work around you.

It’s clean, intuitive, and super easy to understand – making it easy to keep on top of your tasks and understand what you need to prioritise.

Planning group work? No problem. Users can also manage, collaborate and assign tasks to other members by sharing their boards or lists.

Even better, Todoist is a cloud-based app, where all your tasks and notes sync automatically to any device where you use the app. Even if you choose to use the app offline, such as when you’re on the move, your app will automatically sync the next time it’s connected to the internet.

9. Mathway

Best for: Solving homework headaches

For students who are likely to encounter number crunching and other Mathematics equations during their studies, Mathway is one of the best student apps for not only helping you solve problems, but also understanding how you get to the solution.

All you have to do is type your problem into the app (or upload a picture of it) and Mathway will solve it for you. You can also read the detailed step-by-step guide to help you understand how to solve the solution for similar equations in the future.

This feature is possibly one of the most rewarding. The explanation section of the app is like having a virtual tutor with you 24/7, who can help explain the workings of any equations you’re struggling to understand.

Best for: Budget control

One of the great perks of being a student is getting access to discounts, freebies, and other exclusive offers – just for being an academic. Unidays is one of the most established apps in the student discount-world, partnering with some of the globe’s biggest brands to offer free discounts for sixth form, college and university students.

Unidays is a hugely popular student app, helping you to save loads of money on some of the things you love most! (It’s a firm favourite of ours, and one we’ve featured on a previous blog post too!)

Once verified – it’s as simple as signing up for an account with your student email address – you’ll have access to offers on food, clothing, technology, and more, from brands like Microsoft, Apple, Asos, SuperDry, Uber Eats, Pizza Express and more. There’s so many brands and offers to choose from, and all discounts can be applied simply by entering a unique code into the checkout which you can copy and paste from the app.

Although it was developed in the UK, the app operates across over 100 different countries around the world, including the USA, Australia, Canada, Japan and China. It’s free to use and available on pretty much every smartphone operating system.


There’s no denying that there are some definite advantages to being a student in the 21st Century, including access to some cutting-edge apps and technologies to help make your note taking, task management, and other aspects of student life easier.

From the best note taking apps for students, to helping you keep focus and even save money, we’ve featured some of the best on the market for students in 2021. Get searching, downloading, and get ready to really make the most out of your smartphone.

Discover more student advice and tips on our blog

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