Digital Survival Guide: 10 Tools for College

Prepping for college is about more than just getting the latest dorm accessories. You’re going to need more than just a great lampshade to be successful socially and academically. Here’s a list of our 10 essential tools for the college student:


Despite its cheesy-looking website, Rainlendar is a stylish and efficient calendar app. It sits on your desktop in all its translucent glory and keeps track of events, tasks and to-do lists. Hover over a date you want to add an event to and right click to add it. Once you’re on the event screen, it works much like any other calendar app, except that it ingenuously defaults to having your events be all-day so you’re not required to pick a time if you don’t want to.

2. Google Docs, Free:

On the other side of things, if you need to work on a document simultaneously with another person over the internet, try Google Docs. Unlike Dropbox, you can both edit the document at the same time and see the changes being made as you work. Perfect for students who are taking online classes or commuting, Google Docs harnesses the cloud in one of the most practical ways. It’s also great for sharing notes, which becomes incredibly useful for lecture-based courses.

3. Spotify, Free:

If you’re not already on the next Pandora, go ahead and sign up for an invite. The music service lets you choose which songs you’d like, share music with friends, and you can drag and drop music easily to create a playlist. Like Pandora, you can only listen to a certain amount of hours before being prompted to upgrade to premium to continue listening.

4. Dropbox, Free:

At some point, you’ll have to do a group project. Though we don’t recommend using Dropbox for typing an essay together, it’s great for group members to work on a PowerPoint presentation or to compile images or research. It’s also excellent for data storage and backup. Sneakily, you can also use it to preview your friends’ music and share videos.

5. Microsoft Word, $99.95 with Office Suite for Students

It would take Moses to part the great sea of excellent word processors, but the main thing you want to look for is compatibility. Yes, you can write a great document in Microsoft Works or even Notebook, but it’s the ability to effortlessly save and share documents that makes Word stand apart, simply by its numbers of users. Sadly, many of us are still using computers that can’t read .docx files, but it’s becoming easier and easier to simply hit the save button.

6. Microsoft Excel, $99.95 with Office Suite for Students

If you’ve bought a new laptop for college, chances are good you have some sort of spreadsheet program pre-loaded on your computer. If you’ve bought Microsoft Word, then it’s pretty much a package deal. Put it to good use by setting up some simple formulas to budget your money. Simply calculating the amount of money you spend each day can go a long way towards making sure you still have enough left to celebrate weekends properly.

7., Free

At some point, you’re going to be in class and you’re either going to be very lost or very bored and want to reach out to a friend. lets you sign into your Facebook, Skype, Steam, Google Talk or AIM accounts from your web browser, all in one efficient site. The interface is decent, with conversations in boxes that can be dragged around the screen. The emoticons are lacking, but they just added group chat capability for Skype, which more than makes up for it.

8. Ottobib, Free

Remember back in middle school when websites promised to build bibliographies for you, but made you enter all the information yourself and then still managed to mess it up? Ottobib is what you were praying for back then. All you have to write down is the ISBN number of the book you’re researching from. Input all of them into Ottobib (yes, you read that correctly—all of them, all at once), and it spits out your entire bibliography. You can choose MLA, APA, Chicago/Turabian, BibTeX and even Wikipedia as your format options.

9. Bookfinder, Free to use

 It has the potential to save you more money than when you cut cable and began pirating all your television shows. Use it to easily search for textbooks, whether you’re looking for new, old or even out of print copies. You can search by author and title or ISBN number.

10. Google Plus

Yes, you should definitely have Facebook if you don’t have it already. But there’s magic happening on Google+ that you should also be a part of. As soon as the first day of class, begin following your professors, especially the ones in your field of study. Then, comment occasionally on some of the more interesting observations they may make on your industry and offer your own educated opinion. Gathering brownie points has never been more social.

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