Hello Renegades! I hope you’ve all had a good first month back at school! I know I have- all of my classes are pretty manageable, and my professors are all pretty great.
Today, I want to share with you some of the apps that I find most useful in making my college life a little easier. Most of us have smartphones- but not all of us use them to their full potential when it comes to productivity.
myHomework is a phenomenally useful app. Most phones have native reminder/calendar apps, but don’t have many features past simple date and time alerts. myHomework allows you to set up your individual classes, either through the app or its website, and then schedule assignments and test that are color-coded based on the class they belong to. There are multiple ways to view assignments: By Date, Class, Priority, & Type. Additionally, there is a companion service called Teachers.io that allows professors to set up schedules and assignment due dates for their students.
Waze is probably the app I use the most on this list. It’s similar to Google and Apple’s native Maps applications in that it allows you to get directions to your destination. However, unlike those other Maps apps, Waze gives drivers real-time traffic information. What does that mean? Well, when people are traveling somewhere while using directions from the app, their mph is automatically uploaded to the service. If there is traffic that is causing the average speed of a certain road to drop, the information is sent to the service which then takes it into consideration when giving other people directions and travel time. Also, it allows passengers using Waze to report hazards such as accidents, objects on the road, potholes, vehicles on shoulder, and construction zones. Other people using the app are then alerted to these things when they near the location of the reports. I use Waze every morning before I drive to school, and it’s helped me avoid extra long traffic delays- which can be very helpful, especially when you’re already short on time.
Mint is a great app for tracking your personal finance. I would be willing to bet that most of us do not budget or “balance our checkbooks” very often. Mint takes the legwork out of it— you just add your bank(s) and credit card(s) to the app by using your login information from each service and it automatically updates your balances and transactions. You can customize how much you want to spend on certain categories every month, and it’s pretty good about automatically knowing what transactions belong to which category. (Though sometimes, you have to fix it.) It also provides you with charts and graphs that let you see your monthly spending and income habits so that you can improve on them. The company behind Mint is Intuit, better known as the makers of TurboTax and Quickbooks, so you know you are in capable hands. They also provide a website and PC/Mac program, which I’ve found is better to use when setting up your budgets and goals. Considering how important it is for College students to keep track of our money, Mint is something I recommend everyone try out!
While we’re on the subject of Finances, I’d like to tell all of you about this app called Venmo. I originally heard about this app over the summer, while my girlfriend and I were hanging out in Santa Monica. While waiting outside for a pizza order, a street artist walked up and asked her if he could do a few sketches. When offering to sell them to us, he mentioned the app to me but I didn’t think much of it afterwards.
My past experiences with ‘money transfer’ apps (such as PayPal) had always been convoluted. You had to sign up for the service, add your bank information, wait for them to deposit small amounts into your account, go back and enter what the amounts were, etc, etc. I dismissed Venmo because I assumed it was going to be just like that. But, I was wrong. A couple of weeks ago, I put up an extra concert ticket for sale because my friend ended up not being able to make it. I got a pretty quick response from a girl in Los Angeles, and she asked me if I could accept payment via Venmo. ‘Well, does it take long to set up?” I asked. “No no! It’s suuuuper easy” she assured me. Sure enough, it was.
All I had to do was sign up with my Facebook account (this isn’t required, but it makes it faster), confirm my email, and simply add my bank account by logging in with my online banking info. No routing and account numbers to look up. No waiting period. She told me to look up her name, which I did, and submit a “request” to her for the money. I did so, and within a few minutes the money appeared in my Venmo balance. The whole process took 10 minutes, including waiting for her to respond. I couldn’t believe it— it really was an incredibly easy and convenient way to send and receive money from friends. I don’t know about you all, but I often find myself spotting my friends for things and vice versa. That con sometimes get complicated, since you have to wait until the next time you two see each other, and hope that you remember to have the cash on you they’re owed. It becomes even more complicated when you use the “I’ll pay for you next time” method of repayment. Venmo keeps things simple, clear, and easy. I’ve already used it a few more times, and I suggest that everyone who frequently exchange money between friends download it and try it out. It costs absolutely nothing to use the service, another plus over PayPal (that charges a transfer fee in certain cases).
WolframAlpha is what is known as a Computational Knowledge Engine. It is similar in operation to that of a calculator like the TI-89, but on a much much larger scale. As you can see in the picture above, you can enter an equation and it will give you the solution, a graph, and much more (derivatives, roots, integrals, etc). I mostly use the WolframAlpha.com website, and it has been an absolute lifesaver in doing my Precalculus and Calculus homework. Although a knowledgeable tutor is definitely the best option for when you are stuck on your homework, Wolfram|Alpha is a great tool for when that is just not an option. In fact, it is so useful that my professor uses it in class and encourages we use it to check our answers or whenever we run into a particularly difficult problem. WolframAlpha also calculates a lot of different information, not just math. For example, entering “How much iron is in a cup of orange juice” returns “.34 mg” as well as a ton of other information about iron intake and orange juice nutrition. Typing “Myoglobin” gives you the protein sequence, molecular weight, and structure. You can even enter “Lexington and Concord”, wherein it spits out the exact date of the Revolutionary War battle, the cities and important people involved, and the Wikipedia summary of it. WolframAlpha is a powerful tool with a lot of potential for any student in need of quick answers, no matter the subject of study.
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See you soon Renegades,