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College life hacks: tips, tricks for studying, productivity, saving money


Imagine this: graduating from college in four years, debt-free, with an impressive résumé filled with involvement and experience, and good grades to top it all off.

College is meant to prepare students for the “real world.” However, sometimes adjusting to college life can be difficult. Between sharing a small dorm room, living on a tight budget and balancing classwork with clubs, activities and a social life, students can become overwhelmed.

However, students don’t have to figure this all out on their own. Sites like BuzzFeed, Puckermob and have resources for students to help them save money and remain productive. Some students have found their own ways of making the system work for them as well.


Finding the best way to be productive may not always be easy. Different people have different methods that work for them and may not work as well for others.

Freshman English education major Emily Mack sets a timer to help stay productive. “I usually do like 30 to 45 minutes and do homework or projects or something like that for that amount of time and then set it for the same amount of time to do whatever I want,” says Mack. “I’ll do something else that’s productive but is not homework like my own writing or a job application.”

When reading from textbooks, it can be difficult to stay motivated to continue reading. Setting rewards at certain points in the text, like a piece of candy every two or three paragraphs, can help motivate students to continue reading or studying.

Productivity doesn’t just have to do with homework or projects. Balancing work with relaxation and a healthy social life is also an important part in staying productive. Effective organization can help student from becoming overwhelmed.

Freshman English and Spanish major Madison Lyon says having the right balance between work and play keeps her from being a boring person. “I have found that keeping checklists everyday of the things I need to do really helps keep my life organize. There’s something oddly rewarding to checking one of my boxes,” says Lyon. “I also think it’s important to make time for yourself.” Lyon enjoys watching shows on Netflix and painting. She says even though these things aren’t related to her majors, she makes time for them.

Tricks like the ones used by Mack and Lyon aren’t the only ways that students can help themselves to stay productive. Technology can also be an effective resource for productivity. Several apps have been created to help students be more productive and more easily balance their lives.



Apple users like junior psychology major Tori Foster can use this app to keep certain websites from distracting them while they are doing their work. “SelfControl lets you lock yourself out of websites like Twitter and Facebook for a time period so you can’t access them while you’re working on a paper or project,” says Foster. “ It really helps me stay focused.”


Foster says she also uses iProcrastinate to keep track of assignments throughout the semester. “I load all of my assignments off of the syllabus into a timetable at the beginning of the semester to make sure I don’t forget anything. It’s essentially like an assignment planner.” Foster added, “It’s especially helpful for online classes.”

Google Drive

Students are able to create and back up files on Google Drive. Since the files are saved on the web, they can be accessed from mobile devices as well. The app makes accessing those files quicker and easier. Individual apps within Google Drive can also be downloaded separately for quick access to a specific type of document.

iTunes U

According to Apple, “The iTunes U app allows you access to complete courses from leading universities and other schools – plus the world’s largest digital catalog of free education content – right on your iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch.” This allows students to access textbooks and other course materials from other universities, which could help them better understand materials or find resources for research.


The CliffNotes app allows students to access the same materials from the website on mobile devices. Some instructors may frown upon the use of sites like Sparknotes or CliffNotes, but the sites can be a helpful supplement to the reading material for classes.


There are a number of translating apps out there that do the same basic thing: translate words and phrases from one language into another. However, Duolingo is a language-learning app. It offers a variety of languages and was named App of the Year in 2013 by Apple.


Correctly citing sources is always important, but sometimes it can be tough to get it right. Easybib has created an app version of their website that allows students to scan a book’s barcode or type in the title of a book that they need to cite. The app then generates the citation in MLA, APA or Chicago style depending on what the student needs. This is an accurate way to create citations, but it is always beneficial to check the citation for missing information or errors.

There are also some Ball State apps that have been created for the sole purpose of helping its students. Once students have logged into the bConnected app using their Ball State username and password, they have access to their class schedule for the semester, midterm grades, testing lab availability, contact information for their instructors and even the names of the other students in their classes. The app is able to connect students to their classmates. Students have access to classmates’ Ball State e-mail addresses and, if provided, their phone numbers.

The Recreation app tells students what facilities are open and how crowded each facility is at that time. It includes all of the facilities at the Jo Ann Gora Student Recreation and Wellness Center and Ball Gymnasium as well as the Cardinal Creek Tennis Courts.

Rider is another app that students can benefit from. It includes a map of campus with real-time shuttle updates. Students are able to see exactly when the green loop will reach the Shafer Tower-North stop, or any other top, and where each shuttle is at any given moment. The app also informs users when the buses are not running.

Saving Money

Apps can also be helpful when it comes to saving money as well. Cartwheel by Target, RetailMeNot and Groupon are just a few apps that offer daily deals and discounts.

Using a phone isn’t the only way to receive discounts. There are also a number of businesses that offer discounts to college students both online and in store or restaurant. Many of these require students to present a student ID in order to receive the discount. Also, there are some stores that only have this discount during certain times of the year, normally around the time when students are getting ready to begin classes for the year or semester.

  • Apple gives students a $100 Apple gift card when they purchase a Mac computer and a $50 Apple gift card for an iPhone or iPad.

  • Academic Superstore is a website that offers up to an 85 percent discount on a variety of school related products. In order to purchase any of the discounted items from the website, students must fax a copy of their student ID to Academic Superstore or any other documents specified on their website under “How to Buy.”

  • AMC Theatres offers discounted movie tickets to students every Thursday with a valid student ID.

  • Chevrolet and General Motors offer preferred pricing to college students and recent graduates. Students must be able to provide evidence of enrollment and there are other specifications as well. For more information on this offer, go to

  • Allstate, Geico, Esurance and State Farm all offer a discount on insurance to students. However, some have certain grade requirements and discounts vary between companies. Check their websites or call for specifications.

  • AT&T offers discounts to students at select universities, including Ball State. Verizon and Sprint also offer student discounts, but these may vary in type and by university.

  • Amazon offers free two-day shipping for students when they join Amazon Student. Students also receive a discount on Amazon Prime. Both of these deals require a valid university e-mail.

  • Buffalo Wild Wings, McDonalds, Arby’s, Burger King, Subway and Waffle House give students a 10 percent discount when they present their student ID.

  • Many clothing stores like H&M will give students who have a valid student ID a discount on their total purchase as well. Some stores, like Charlotte Russe, only offer a student discount during specified periods of time. It is best to check with stores to find out if they offer a discount to students. Many retail stores do not advertise student discounts, but it does not hurt to check.

Resale and consignment shops are also a good way to save money. Goodwill in Muncie offers 50 percent off of the entire store the first Saturday of every month. Keeping an eye out for sales and promotions as well as using coupons can help save money over time.

Makeshift appliances and simple life hacks can also help students save money. Coke tabs can be used to connect hangers and make more closet space without having to buy extra storage or hangers with multiple levels. Instead of purchasing air fresheners, students can tape dryer sheets to a fan or air vent to spread the scent throughout the room. Tea bags can be used in place of shoe deodorizers.

Finding the things that work best for each person as an individual can be challenging and may take some time. These tips and tricks won’t guarantee perfect grades, zero debt or graduating in four years, but implementing them can help in the long run.

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