App must-haves for online students

Graphic depicting an iPhone containing app must-haves for online students as well as the title of the blog post

This academic year has been a challenge for all of us and now that most of us will be finishing the academic year as online students we have to make the most of it. Throughout last semester I tried out various apps aimed at simplifying university life, some were extremely helpful and others not so much. I have done all the hard work for you and now I present my app must-haves for online students. The focus of these apps is either productivity or self-care, two essential ingredients you need to add to your semester!


An illustrated graphic depicting the app Notion, a must-have app for online students, on both an iPhone and a laptop.

Notion has gained popularity among students and professionals alike in 2020 and while using this app it’s easy to see why. Notion is a fully customisable desktop and phone/tablet app that allows you to make notes, create databases, set up calendars and much much more! the best part is that students can get a free pro plan when signing up with their university email. The free option is just as great and accessible to everyone. There are loads of youtube videos on how to personalise your Notion and a lot of the video creators include templates that you can use to create your perfect productivity and organisation hub.

Available for iPhone, Android and Desktop.

Focus keeper – Time Management

An illustrated graphic including an iPhone, which has the app Focus Keeper, a must-have app for online students, open. Shows the timer screen.

Focus Keeper is a simple Pomodoro timer that has helped me so much with avoiding burnout while studying. It’s just a timer that ticks away while you work. After 25 minutes you have to. stop working and take a 5-minute break. After 4 of these cycles, you are rewarded with a longer 20-minute break. I find that while using this timer I rarely feel the urge to browse on my phone. As an avid procrastinator, I can highly recommend it.

Available for iPhone and Android.


An illustrated graphic depicting two iPhones showing two different views of the app Flora.

If you know you won’t be able to say no to distractions on your phone try Flora. This app lets you choose the duration of. you study session and reward you with a virtual tree if don’t exit the app during the session. By starting the timer you plant a virtual that grows while you study and will die if you get distracted by your phone. You can also study with friends and work on growing a tree together. Social distanced motivation? Yes, please! Another cool feature is the option to donate money to planting actual trees!

Available for iPhone. There are an Android app and Chrome extension on the way.


A gif of the app Headspace being scrolled through to show its different meditation features.

This one might actually be my favourite app on this list. I’ve used it for more than 2 years now and I love it so much that I bought a subscription.
Here’s some good news! You can purchase a reduced student subscription through Spotify by using your University email. You can find out more information about other apps and services that you have access to through the university here. The free features are fantastic on their own too. If mindfulness and meditation are on your to-do list this year, download headspace immediately. I found making time to do a short meditation every day has really helped me stay calm and grounded during the chaos of 2020 and I almost always use the Sleepcast feature to wind down before bed.

Available for iPhone and Android.

Done – Habit Tracker

An illustrated graphic showing the interface of the app Done, a must-have app for online students, on an iPhone.

Done entered my life last year after I really struggled with the lack of routine while studying online and being home. This app is very simple, makes practising habits a breeze and it’s so satisfying to use. Done allows you to create habits and you record your progress in colour by simply tapping your habit. What is not to love.

Available for iPhone.

Daily Haloha

An illustrated graphic showing the app Daily Haloha, a must-have app for online students, open on an iPhone, showing different positive messages.

Last but not least is Daily Haloha. This self-reflection app helps you feel a little more connected to yourself and the rest of humanity, something I am sure we all could do with. Every day you receive a prompt with a blank space to fill in, like “What my heart truly wants is ________.” You fill in the prompt and indicate your mood (represented by different colours). This app is completely anonymous and users can then reply to your answer with positive affirmation, and vice versa. Daily Haloha is a lovely way to check in with thoughts and feelings and it’s a great reminder that you are never alone.

Available for iPhone and Android.

That’s all for today folks! I hope you find these apps just as useful as I have. My wish for this new semester is that we all experience growth and happiness. If you are interested in more advice for online students head on over to our post on tips for studying from home.

Be sure to head over to the University of Edinburgh PPLS Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to follow the PPLS journey and become part of the family.

Feel free to share any other app recommendations in the comments.

Till next time!

Stay happy and stay healthy.