10 essential apps for VCU students

This story ran as part of a VCU Student Media Center summer special publication, The Compass, which serves as a guidebook for new students.

Scott Malone, Contributing Writer

If you’re an incoming VCU freshman starting your university journey or a veteran Ram heading into your last semester of graduate studies, a successful college experience comes down to a few things: organization, networking and, of course, stress management. But don’t worry, there are many apps aimed to help everyone have a productive, educational and smooth ride to getting that hard-fought degree. Here’s a list of some of the best apps to help you get the most out of your college experience.


  1. Blackboard Mobile Learn

Let’s start with the basics. Everyone should be familiar with Blackboard. It’s the go-to site for assignments, lecture notes, grades and course work that every student must use to get through college. That being said, the more a student stays up to date with grades and assignments, the better off they will be. This cannot be done without Blackboard, which has a mobile app that some may be unfamiliar with. It’s free, its compatible with both Androids and iPhones, and it’s a no-brainer for the serious student.

  1. Venmo 

This is a well-known app and another no-brainer. College students are going to be tight on funds — there’s nothing to be ashamed about. That’s just the way it goes. But with Venmo, students can easily send money to each other, split funds on purchases and transfer money between accounts. Money will always be an important, albeit limited, factor for college students, and Venmo can help.

  1. VCU Mobile 

To stay involved as a student, you should be aware of university-related activities, and this app does just that. With the VCU Mobile app, students can connect instantly to university resources, which include looking up student and faculty information, learning about upcoming events and sending news and alerts directly to your phone. Unfortunately, the app is only compatible with iOS smartphones and iPads, but any VCU student with Apple products should definitely check it out.    

  1. RamSafe

By far the easiest way to order a RamSafe — VCU’s evening to early morning shuttle service — students can use the mobile app to enter their pickup and drop-off locations. The app also indicates the average current pickup time, giving students an idea of how long they’ll have to wait for their ride, though the times aren’t usually exact. It also shows how many riders are ahead of you and offers a tracker for the vehicle. If there’s even a fleeting possibility that you might need a RamSafe at some point, download the app. You never know when you’ll be stuck somewhere at night in need of transportation to or near campus, and no one likes to download an app with their data. 

  1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary 

It might seem strange or “uncool,” but Merriam-Webster’s smartphone compatible dictionary app is actually a great tool to have. Of course, it wouldn’t be hard to just buy a dictionary, but this app is free. It wouldn’t be hard to simply Google the definition of a word, but this app is faster and easier. And not only that, it comes with vocabulary quizzes, example sentences, a “word of the day” feature, a built-in thesaurus and much more. Although some might not think it’s the coolest app ever invented, it deserves much more praise than some would think. 

  1. Evernote

While it’s free to use, the limited amount of storage space almost requires you to get the few-dollars-a-month subscription or other in-app purchases. If you can afford the $7.99 a month for a premium account, the app is worth the price. Evernote allows users to combine notes and access them all on any device. Another neat tool is the ability to scan handwritten notes taken from lectures and upload them to the app. It’s a perfect tool to help a student stay organized — the only drawback is that it’s not free. 

  1. WVCW Radio At VCU

What better way to stay connected than by simply listening? Radio was a monumental invention that shifted the course of human history — let’s not forget that. VCU’s WVCW radio app allows anyone to tune in to the college’s student-run independent radio anywhere at any time. Keep up with the news and listen to music while studying, passing time between classes or eating at the Commons. It’s free. It’s 24/7. It’s a win-win.

  1. StudyBlue  

StudyBlue is a flashcard study guide app that connects the notes of more than 10 million students and more than half a billion flashcards, all accessible anywhere on your smartphone. You can also create your own flashcards on the app. Any student — or individual hungry to learn, for that matter — should really check out this app when studying on the go. Oh, and it’s free, all you have to do is make an account.

  1. Google Docs

This one really is a must. It’s likely most people have already heard of this app, if they don’t already have it downloaded. Google Docs allows multiple people to share, edit and communicate in real time on the same document. It’s perfect for group work when that one person — none of you, obviously — sleeps in and misses the group project meeting. All you need is internet access and every group member can work on their paper or project at the same time, no matter where they are. 

  1. Pocket 

Last, but definitely not least, Pocket is an app that allows you to save and curate all the information thrown at you throughout any given day. Save and collect news articles, videos and more for later viewing. In the age of the internet and instant access, the overload of information is daunting, especially if you’re in the middle of finals. This free app allows users to save and mark that news article they need to read to stay on top of important political issues, even when they might not have the time to read it until after their study session ends. 

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