Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Top 10 Useful Sites for College Students

1. Google
There is a reason that Google is one of the top companies in the world — they produce useful products.  These are a few of their innovations I found most helpful in my studies.

Google Chrome is surprisingly helpful for research projects. Booking marking sites under your Google Chrome account allows you to access them through any computer you use. So if you have done a ton of work finding helpful websites online for a research project, bookmark them all into a folder so when you go to campus you can access them on a campus computer or your laptop. I don’t use other browsers so they might be able to do the same thing on other browsers, but it is very simple to figure out in Google Chrome.

Google Calendar can help you plan your time, and share a schedule with other people to figure out a time to plan something.

Google Docs were oftentimes used in many of my classes to collaborate on study guides, and to put together groups projects. There are a lot of different formats you can create a document in Google Docs, and even makes it possible to avoid buying Microsoft Office.
Obviously the Google search engine is helpful for basic research, and for finding just about any information you need.

Google voice is a free VoIP phone service which is helpful if you have to pay much to call home, or if you have a limited number of minutes, as you can use it over WiFi. If you get a number it will try to transcribe messages that people leave you (They’re kind of funny because they can be so wrong sometime). This can be helpful if you are doing an internship that requires a lot of time talking on the phone.

Google Translate can help out with language classes — Use the translation software as a guide, because unless they have improved a lot recently, it won’t be super accurate.
So, if you have just started college and have avoided getting a Google account go ahead and get one now. You’ll probably have to do it eventually. One of my classes used Blogger as our method of composing and turning in assignments.

2. Quizlet
Quizlet is a flashcard website. For most classes, someone has already created a list of flashcards on Quizlet that you can flip through. Generally they might not be exactly what you need, but they will be close enough. You can print them off. It can create practice tests. You can play games that make the learning more interactive. You can have it read the flashcards to you. Plus, you don’t have to buy anything and lug around a giant stack of flashcards. There are probably other sites like this one out there, but this is my favorite.
note from Katie here: This is the only way I passed one of my classes this last semester, because someone had previously created an amazing study guide. Just sayin’.

3. SugarSync
SugarSync is an online data storage site. However, you can create a file on multiple computers (including a smartphone) through the SugarSync app that will update if you make a change to the file on one of the devices. So, if I was working on a paper in Microsoft Word (or your program of choice) on my desktop at home I could simple save it as a SugarSync file, and I would be able to access it at another computer on campus in order to continue to work on it. This is especially nice if you don’t have a printer at your apartment, and you have to print from a campus printer. Instead of going to through the whole process of always emailing everything to yourself you can just have you computers sync your files.
Sugarsync is a paid subscription, though you get 5 GB for free, which will probably be satisfactory for just occasionally using it.

4. Rate My Professor
This is a classic site to see how other students viewed their professors. This can be very helpful when trying to put together a class schedule. They can even be rated with little chili peppers if students think the professor was attractive. Obviously every student has something different that they expect and want from a professor, so be careful how much importance you place on other people’s opinions. Teachers are ranked on a number of central attributes, plus students can write their own personal comments.

5. Wikipedia
Wikipedia is becoming slightly more acceptable in academic circles, but it is by its nature not a high level source suited for higher education. It is user generated, and the users could be just about anyone. However, it is a helpful place to start a research project. It can introduce you to the general ideas and issues involved in a topic, and it can provide you with links to more credible sources. However, I would not cite Wikipedia in paper unless a profess or specifically says it is allowed.

6. School Library Websites
Colleges and Universities generally pay for their students to be able to access different databases of scholarly journals, news articles, and books online. Through BYU I was able to access JSTOR which I used extensively during research projects to find those sources you actually could cite in a research paper. JSTOR  allowed me to store a list of different articles I found that I wanted to return to easily in the future. I’m sure most schools and most majors have similar resources for students.

7. RefWorks
Refworks and cites like it help you to attempt to skip the tedious and boring process of putting together your own citations. This may not seem like a very helpful resource if you have never written a paper like I have that required at least thirty sources. I was never able to figure out how to use RefWorks well myself, so I got very good at looking up the rules for all of the different types of citations.

8. Audible
Audible.com is an audio book website. You can get a free audio book when you sign up.So if you have multiple email address you could potentially get multiple books for free. I had a job as a janitor for a while where having a audio book of an assigned book from one of my classes allowed me to essentially be studying while I was working. You could listen to books while you run or drive as well. Time is precious during college so anything you can do like this will help you stay on top of your classes. I’m sure there are not audio books for textbooks, so only certain types of books will work.

9. Half.com and Amazon.com
Buying and selling textbooks online can make the cost of your books much cheaper. I generally used Half.com the most. It usually wasn’t too complicated, and if you ordered books from the same source you can save on shipping. If you have Amazon prime I believe shipping is free.

10. Fill My Team
This applies specifically to BYU, but there may be equivalent sites for other schools. It is a site where people can try to put together intramural teams. Intramural sports can be a lot of fun, and it is a good, healthy way to blow off some steam and stay in shape. Sports help motivate me to exercise, and exercise is good for the mind and body. Basically, playing sports is probably good for you. However, being in charge of a team or finding a good team can be a bit of a pain. Fill my team makes it easy to put together a team so you don’t have to waste too much your precious time pestering people to play on your wheel chair rugby team – we really had that one year.
With deadlines and all the things that I had to worry about as a college student who worked, got married and started a family before I graduated, time was very important. These sites made my life more manageable, and I probably got better grades because of them.

Are there any sites you’ve used in college that you found particularly helpful?