Back to School: 15 Essential iOS Apps for Students

“Forget Sharpies and highlighters, the new back to school essentials this fall are apps for your iPad, iPhone and iPod touch. While cellphones used to be classroom contraband, the burgeoning market of educational apps means iOS devices are as welcome as loose leaf and pencils.

This school year, free iOS apps can replace your pricey graphing calculator and clunky dictionary. Inexpensive planners will organize your homework, grades and finances.

SEE ALSO: Back to School: 42 Digital Resources for Students & Parents

We’ve rounded up the essentials for the season, so you won’t go back to school unprepared. These 15 apps will keep your academic and extracurricular life on track.

1. Amazon Student

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: No one likes to waste money on textbooks — especially after putting your John Hancock on an increasingly fat tuition check. Amazon Student is here so you can avoid overpaying for your pile of books. Use the app to scan barcodes in the bookstore and compare your campus hub to’s prices. Likewise, at the end of the term, exchange your used books, games, movies or gadgets for credit by scanning their barcodes. The icing on the cake? Free two-day shipping for college students.

2. AroundMe

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch (with limited functions)

Why you need it: If you’re headed to a new town to study, AroundMe is a great tool to help you get the lay of the land. The app finds the nearest banks, hospitals, bars, gas stations, hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, taxi companies, theaters and supermarkets. With AroundMe on your iOS device, you’ll limit the perpetual U-turns and mistaken directions that come standard with learning a new city.

3. Dictionary & Thesaurus

Cost: $2.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Don’t consider buying a dictionary for your dorm room with this app on the market. Without an Internet connection, this mobile dictionary and thesaurus gives you access to nearly 2,000,000 words. Turn on the popular Word of the Day notifications to improve your vocabulary.

4. Documents To Go

Cost: $9.99

Supported devices: iPad and iPhone

Why you need it: Create, edit and share Word (.doc, .docx), PowerPoint and PDF files from your iOS device with Documents To Go. Add last minute edits to your papers or takes notes on presentations without lugging around your laptop. The mobile app now includes intricate formatting options, so even work done from your iPhone can look polished.

5. Free Graphing Calculator

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Don’t think about dropping $100 on a ti83 now that this app in on the market. This free calculator includes your standard arithmetic and exponential functions, and can graph up to four color-coded equations at once. An added bonus is a bank of equations stored in its reference section. The only downside is we can’t guarantee your professors will let you have your mobile device out during an exam.

6. Grades 2

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Are you the type that likes to know exactly where your grade-to-date stands? Grades 2 is designed to compute those pesky calculations for you, assuring you know what scores you’ll need on each assignment to achieve your sought after A. You can personalize the app with each of your courses’ syllabi. The app also works as a personal organizer, reminding you about deadlines and upcoming exams.

7. iHomework

Cost: $1.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Before you invest in a leather-bound planner, vowing to religiously log all your to-dos, consider iHomework instead. The app will keep your schedule and workflow streamlined, alerting you with all your deadlines and assignments. If a friend sleeps though class (the app alerts you for class so you’ll never be the one sleeping late) you can share missed assignments though email. Log your grades so you know what your report card will look like in advance.

8. iStudiez Pro

Cost: $2.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Organize even the most complicated course schedule with iStudiez. Visualize your classes, activities and assignments on this well designed color-coded calendar. Like many of the other organization apps, you can set reminders for major events and track your grades and GPA.

9. Personal Finance

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Many students are first-timers when it comes to money management. This app helps you establish and stick to a budget, factoring expenses from bar tabs to laundry change. The app can house your checking, credit, savings and retirement account information. Worried about what could happen to your personal finance information should you lose your phone? The app gives you a four-digit pin code to access the website and block access to your app should something happen to your device.

10. Papers

Cost: $14.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: You’ll never need to do a mass printout again with Papers, the app that digitizes your academic library. The PDF viewer is designed for easy reading, especially on the iPad. Papers comes with eight academic search engines — ACM, NASA-ADS, arXiv, Google Scholar, IEEE Xplore, JSTOR, Pubmed and Web of Science — so you have many resources for finding articles.

11. Penultimate

Cost: $1.99

Supported devices: iPad

Why you need it: If you are a die-hard believer in writing notes by hand, try Penultimate, a notebook simulator allowing you scribble notes into your iPad. This app is great if you’re a science or math student, using symbols that are difficult to input into a word processor. Some of Penultimate’s fancy features include different colored gel pen style tips, importable paper styles and a true to life eraser. You can organize your notes into different notebooks, making your iPad a seamless replacement to paper note taking.

12. Snoozerr

Cost: $0.99

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Even the sharpest students’ minds can wander during a lecture. With Snoozerr you can record your lectures to revisit points of a class you missed the first time around. The app includes a time-stamped photo function, so you can take pictures of a graph or diagram on the board which corresponds to class notes.

13. Stanza

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Book lovers and literature students alike should make room for Stanza on their iOS devices. The app includes 50,000 free classic titles as well as another 50,000 contemporary titles from partner stores. Add your favorite books to personalize your digital library. If you’re someone who rapidly breezes through books, hopefully Stanza’s vast collection will satiate your reading bug for a while.

14. USB Disk

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone and iPod touch

Why you need it: Eliminate your tiny, easily misplaced USB drive with the USB Disk app. Store and view all your documents and PDFs from your mobile device. USB Disk is also a great way to back up photos and videos from your computer, so you can always have your essential files at your fingertips.

15. VocabPlus Lite

Cost: Free

Supported devices: iPad, iPhone, iPod touch

Why you need it: If you’re preparing for a dreaded standardized test this year, use VocabPlus Lite to integrate new words into your vocabulary. The app teaches 1,500 words through digital flashcards. Once you’ve mastered a word, the app removes the card from your regular drills, so you an focus on new information.

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