Readers often ask me what tools and resources I use for getting things done, managing money, educating myself, and running this blog. I’ve created this page so you have a handy reference to those resources. This page will evolve over time as I discover new resources, so I’d recommend bookmarking it!
Most of the resources here are completely free. Of the few that aren’t, some contain affiliate links. If you use them, I’ll get a small commission — though there is no extra cost to you. I recommend these resources because I use them myself and have a lot of experience with them. Remember that for each resource, there are other options out there – these are simply what I use and love.
I'm a HUGE fan of audiobooks - they're a great way to basically double your productivity if you spend a lot of time commuting, running, or doing tasks that don't require much mental effort. Audible is probably the best place to get them, and you can use this link to get a free trial that includes two free audiobooks.
An awesome platform for learning new skills. I use it to learn new animation techniques, but they also have courses on photography, graphic design, music production, and more - over 17,000 in total, all at one low monthly price. I also love how most of their courses include hands-on projects to try. Use the link below to get a 2-month free trial!
Want to learn how to study better and become more productive? This is a free book that I wrote with the goal of helping you do just that. Includes chapters on reading textbooks, taking notes, planning better, beating procrastination, writing papers, and more.
Sometimes you get stuck on a homework problem and no one's around to help you with it - and that's when Chegg Study comes in handy. With a massive database of step-by-step solutions to problems in thousands of textbooks, Chegg Study can help you check your homework answers and finish assignments more quickly.
I get interested in new books easily, which means my to-be-read list gets really big, really quick. Blinkist is a site that creates 15-minute summaries of non-fiction books; I really like it because it lets me vet books before buying them, as well as learn things from books that are overly long.
Brilliant helps you learn math and science concepts through application, not rote memorization. It's a great tool to supplement what you're learning in your STEM classes, or to learn on your own if you're curious about a topic. Pair with Khan Academy for the ultimate STEM self-study combo.
The best SRS (spaced-repetition) flashcard program out there. If you need to learn a bunch of facts for a test, or are learning language vocab, you’d be insane not to use Anki.
If you want to learn how to code and you like working through guided courses, Treehouse is an awesome resource. They have courses on programming, web development, and more. I even learned how to build iPhone apps using Treehouse. Use the link below to get a free trial!
A site that offers online courses developed by professors at real universities - and many of them are free (I took a free Game Theory course that was excellent). It's not the only MOOC out there, but it's the one I have the most experience with.
A site that helps you learn how to code through guided, hands-on coding projects. They only focus on web development, but if that's what you want to learn, it's an essential resource (and a great companion to Treehouse).
Like audiobooks, podcasts are a great way to learn while you're working out, commuting, cooking, etc. Both iOS and Android come with default podcast apps that work well, but as a podcast addict, I think Pocket Casts is the best podcast manager out there.
A site that offers free video courses on a ton of academic subjects - math, science, humanities, economics, etc. Their math courses are particularly good, integrating challenges and badges to keep you motivated. They also offer prep courses for tests like the SAT, MCAT, etc!
A "computational knowledge engine" that can solve a variety of problems you feed it - math equations, engineering problems, etc. They also have the BEST step-by-step math solution engine, but it costs about $5/month. For free options, check out Symbolab.
A beautifully simple task-tracking app. It’s free (with premium features for less than $2.50/month), syncs across all platforms and devices (and the web), has recurring tasks, multiple lists, and is pretty to boot.
This has been my trusty calendar ever since my freshman year. Learning to use it early on helped me become a pro at managing my time - an essential skill in college. As a bonus, you can also show your Wunderlist tasks as calendar events if you want.
I study far, far more effectively when I'm listening to music - as long as it's the right kind of music. This is a playlist of 160-odd songs I've been building; it's got a ton of variety, and features music from video game soundtracks, movie/anime scores, and artists from many genres.
Going one step further than a study playlist, Brain.fm is an app that features music explicitly designed to help you focus on your work. It's got a ton of research and engineering behind it, and as you use it, it'll survey your performance and tailor what it plays to help you improve even more. I find it to be really effective when I'm writing.
"What gets measured gets managed." When you don't track the time you spend working, you're prone to overestimate how long you actually work. When you do track your time, you'll start to realize just how much you actually work. That, in turn, lets you make targeted improvements. Toggl is a simple, free time-tracking tool that lets you gain those insights.
It's so easy to procrastinate when you have easy access to distracting websites and apps. Freedom is a program that solves this problem by simply blocking them when you're working. Among all the apps that do this, Freedom works best for me because it works on ALL my devices - no sneaky Redditing on my phone.
One of the most effective ways to immediately stop procrastinating is to use the Pomodoro Technique: set a timer for 25 minutes, commit to one task, and do nothing but that task until the timer dings. I do this almost every day, and I use TomatoTimer - a free browser-based app - as my timer.
A habit tracking app that I use every single day. I use it for smaller habits – remembering to floss, doing pull-ups, juicing, reading 30 minutes a day, taking vitamins, etc. Without it, I’m prone to letting work take over my life and forgetting to do these things. With it, I’m a small-habit superhero.
This is the best tool for managing group projects that I’ve ever used, and it’s free. It uses a task management method called kanban, which essentially works by making each task a "card" that you move from list to list based on its status. If you have a big, complicated project to tackle, you should use Trello for it.
This is probably the best tool you can use if you want to force yourself to stay productive. It’s called Beeminder because it’s got consequences for goal failure that sting. After failing a goal once, you’ll have to start pledging real money to try again. I've been using it to track my publishing schedule for years.
Using the same passwords everywhere is a terrible online security practice. However, remembering tons of passwords is nearly impossible, which is why you need a password manager. Dashlane is the best one I've ever used, and it also has other useful features such as form auto-filling and a VPN.
The most essential app ever for anyone who uses a computer. Keeps your files backed up and synced across all your computers and devices, as well as on the web. Forget your paper on your home computer? No worries, it's in Drive.
Gear and Physical Tools
Guaranteed to make you at least 27.4% more attractive, College Info Geek t-shirts are an essential addition to any student's wardrobe. I don't compromise on shirt quality - these are tri-blend, ultra-soft shirts that fit awesomely. P.S. - We also have stickers!
My whiteboard is an essential part of my productivity system; it's where I write my daily task list for the next day right before I go to bed, and it's also where I do a lot of planning and mind-mapping. You should have one, and I think this 8.5"x11" board is the perfect size.
I freaking loved this thing as a student. It’s a combination of the best elements of both a notebook and a 3-ring binder. Instead of carrying multiple notebooks, I used this for every subject. When I ran out of paper, I just added more and removed old stuff (often digitizing it - see the Writing/Note Management section below) to keep it slim.
A good pair of headphones are almost indispensable when you're a student - they're an easy tool for keeping outside noise at a minimum, which will help you concentrate. If you're looking for good isolation and awesome sound quality, these are probably the best headphones under $50 you'll find.
My current favorite notebook. It's a step beyond the Five Star Flex, because it's actually erasable. Additionally, every page has a unique QR code; scanning a page of notes with the Rocketbook app will use this code to automatically upload it to your favorite cloud storage app (such as Evernote).
Writing and Note-Taking Tools
This app can be described as my second brain. All my class notes, ideas, blog post research, important scraps of information, non-important scraps of information, half-finished rap lyrics, story drafts, and everything else is stored in Evernote. As a guy who works across Windows, Mac, and iOS, I still have not found a better option for general note-taking and information capture. Also, they offer a 50% student discount!
My favorite app for distraction-free writing. It uses Markdown, a writing method that seems dumb at first but becomes amazing after about 5 minutes. Instead of needing to format your text with menus or keyboard shortcuts, you can simply mark it up with symbols - and Typora will auto-magically format your text on the fly. When I need to do some serious writing with proper formatting, this is the app I use.
One of the coolest things about Evernote is its optical character recognition - you can scan in paper notes, and it'll make the text searchable. Don't go and buy a scanner for this purpose, though - the Scanbot app will do it for free on your iPhone or Android. It auto-finds documents, scans them, and sends them wherever you want - Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, and even Todoist.
Notion is one of the most flexible and powerful apps I've ever used. It can be a note-taking app, but there's also a database feature with multiple views (including Trello-style kanban boards and calendars) the ability to make anything into a template, and great collaboration features. At CIG, we use it for all of our team documentation, and I also manage every YouTube video I make with it.
The best-known name in textbook rentals for a good reason. If you don’t need to keep your books, renting can save you a ton of money – and they also offer an online version of many textbooks you can use while you wait for the physical version to arrive. If you don't want to rent, you can also buy books on Chegg.
Typically you’ll find that even new textbooks are cheaper here than they are at your school’s bookstore, and used editions are often far, far cheaper. But the best thing Amazon offers are Kindle editions of textbooks – that you can rent.
Chegg and Amazon are generally my favorite places to get textbooks, but sometimes other sites will have cheaper prices. This is a search engine that will let you compare prices across a wide variety of sites.
Tools for Getting Hired
As a student, my personal website helped me impress recruiters, show off my skills and accomplishments, and formed the core of my online presence. I think it's absolutely essential that you have your own personal website, and this guide will show you how to easily build one.
Once you have your first internship or major-specific job experience under your belt, it's a good idea to have your own business cards when you go to networking events - they can help you make a great impression. Moo's cards are really high quality, which helps to cement that impression.
LinkedIn is a bit like Facebook for professional, business-y stuff. A lot of recruiting gets done on it, so it's a good idea to set up a profile, fill it out as completely as you can, and link it to your personal website.
A site that you can use to search for internship postings all over the U.S. They also have tools for building a resume and cover letter, as well as lots of career tips. It's worth checking out when you're hunting for internships.
Student Discounts and Money Tools
I ordered a lot of stuff from Amazon as a student, including probably half of my textbooks. As a result, I loved having free 2-day shipping with Amazon Prime. With Amazon Student, you can get 6 months of Prime for free - and after that, you still get it 50% off as long as you're a student.
Mint is an awesome tool for keeping tabs on how your money is flowing. After you've added all of your accounts, Mint can show you your net worth whenever you want to see it. Beyond that, it will also pull in your transactions, create automatic budgeting categories that you can tweak, and let you set and track financial goals.
Once you've started earning a stable income and paid down your debts, it's crucial to start investing for the future. In my opinion, Vanguard is the best place to start doing that due to their extremely low management fees and good historical performance. For most students, I believe a Target Retirement Date fund in a Roth IRA is the best starting point.
Betterment offers a simple, no-brainer approach to get started investing, and their management fee is fairly low (0.25% plus fund fees). If you have at least $1,000, I recommend going with a Vanguard Target Retirement Date fund instead. But if you don't, and want to start investing now, Betterment is a good starter option.
StudentRate is a website that aggregates student discounts for all kinds of different things - clothes, laptops, travel, etc. If you're looking to save some money, it's a good idea to check StudentRate to see if what you're buying can be had at a discounted price.
If you live on campus or are near wi-fi most of the time, using Republic Wireless as your cellular provider can save you a ton. Their plans start at only $15/mo and prioritize wi-fi use, but you can add cellular data if you need it. For example, their $20/mo plan gives you 1GB of cell data. If that's all you need, don't pay for more with another company.
When you're in college, you do a lot of split payments between friends - rent, pizza, giant inflatable tube men, etc. Venmo makes paying your friends back (or getting paid) really easy, and there are no fees at all. Much better than trying to scrounge for cash.
My absolute FAVORITE method of booking lodging when I’m traveling. People put up their spare rooms or entire houses/apartments, you stay in them. Staying in an Airbnb is like getting to live in the place you’re visiting, which is a feeling you don’t get with hostels or hotels. If you use that link, we’ll both get $30 in Airbnb credit!
Before I discovered Airbnb, I always stayed in hostels while traveling. They’re like bare-bones hotels – depending on the place, you can book your own room, or you might get a bunk in a room with 10 other people. There’s also usually a common room and a communal kitchen. They're great for meeting people, and best of all, they're cheap.
I'm not a huge fan of flying, but what I like even less is having to pay more than the bare minimum for it. For that reason, I'm a huge fan of SkyScanner - it's a tool that lets you compare flight prices across different dates, times, and airlines. I've saved hundreds by using it to do my research before booking tickets.
Wikitravel is probably my favorite general resource for getting information on a new destination. I used it to learn a ton about Japan before each of the three trips I took there, which helped me to find really fun things I would have otherwise missed out on. It's also just a massively fun site to browse.
Other Useful Pages:
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