We thought it would be a smart idea to put together the best apps for college students, and especially college freshmen. After all, when parents send our kids off to college — whether close to home or across the country — you really want them equipped with all the things they need to navigate life without you.

Besides, as a mom who’s readying to send my third kid to college, I know first-hand that the more prepared your kids are, the better you can sleep at night.

So in addition to all of the dorm room essentials I’ve shared, I rounded up the very best apps for college freshmen, all recommended by other students — including our own. They’re all designed to make life a little easier during that first year away from home. And some of them are even smart downloads for kids at commuter schools or attending local community colleges.

The best apps for transportation and navigating a new city
The best apps for money management
The best apps for independence and self-management
The best apps for healthcare and well-being
The best apps for feeding themselves
The best apps…to delete

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The best apps for college freshmen to help navigate life away from home.

Because an 18-year-old is technically an adult, you can’t force kids to add any of our list of best apps for college students to their phone or tablet — which is why I suggest you bookmark this post. That way, when you get that text saying, “Hey Mom, remember that alarm app you told me about and I didn’t download? What was it called?”– you can quickly find the reference.

A note about payments and paid apps: Some of these apps require a credit card on file for purchases. While many kids have one by freshman year, my own kids did not, and I did not want them putting their debit cards on file.

One option is to use a card like Greenlight, which can serve as a credit card with training wheels — you can deposit a set amount, like an allowance, and they can tie the card to their accounts as with any Amex or Visa. You can also deposit money specifically for say, “GrubHub” or the college bookstore.

Another option is to use your own credit card. This is what I did with my own kids — their purchases were billed to me and then they were obligated to return the money to me at end of the month for any purchases or monthly fees.Of course, this is a family decision that you can make with your young adult on how best to help them get started.

Related: A clever way to organize your apps on your phone


The best apps for college students:
Apps for transportation and navigating a new city

The best apps for college students to help navigate a new city | Cool Mom Tech

Even if your college student is only living a few miles from home, their new campus will be an entirely different world from what they are used to. Learning how to navigate that new world may come super easy, but they may also need a bit of help. and these apps are great for college students in that regard.

City Mapper is our favorite map apps for 27 of the top cities around the US and Canada, and especially for public transportation options. It even shows bike paths and the best navigation options for scooters and bikes.

If your student will be in a more rural area, or a smaller city like Albany, Syracuse, or Sacramento, stick to the Google Maps App or Waze for getting around. If your student is taking a car to campus, GasBuddy is a fantastic app for students on a budget. (i.e. all of them.)

No car? Uber or Lyft are what my kids used to get around campus when they weren’t walking or riding bikes. Just be sure you have the conversation with them about ride service safety rules, like making sure the driver knows their name before they get into the car.

While Uber and Lyft apps have options for scooter and bike rentals is many cities, my kids prefer Lime for its “group ride” options, so they can rent more than one scooter or bike on a single person’s app. (As a mom, I like that the app reminds you to wear a helmet several times during the renting process.)

Finally, most universities and colleges have their own interactive campus map app that your student has probably already downloaded. But if for some reason they haven’t, double check and see if one is available. They’re typically really great and may include tabs for local transportation options, campus resources,  security and more.

The best apps for college students:
Apps for money management

The best money management apps for college students | Cool Mom Tech

By the time most kids head to college, they have probably had a few jobs and some experience managing money. But just in case, make sure they have the newest version of the app for their bank and/or credit cards… and know their passwords! Also, if they tend to forget their passwords (like all of my kids do), encourage them to create a strong password and use an app like 1Password to keep track of it. The family account on 1Password is a lifesaver because you can specify certain passwords for sharing with other family members, while keeping other private.

Some colleges and universities use an app like GET Mobile to allow students to order food, make purchases, and make dining reservations on campus. Double check with your kid’s institution to see if they offer an app like this — or better yet, your student should be doing this themselves, right?

And of course, if we’re talking best apps for college students, Venmo or PayPal probably get plenty of use on your kid’s phone now; but if not, it’s really the essential app for college freshmen. It’s how they pay each other when splitting meals, gas bills or paying a friend back for something. In my experience, no one really uses cash any more — except for my husband, but that’s a different story.

Related: How to create a strong password and protect it.

The best apps for college students:
Apps for independence and self-management

The best apps to help college students learn independence and self-management | Cool Mom Tech

Calendar Apps
A calendar app for college kids is a necessity, and most everyone just uses either their Apple Calendar or Google Calendar, both of which are are super solid choices and easily sync with other apps they use.

However, I’d also suggest the MyStudyLife app as one of the best all around apps for college students. This is a free app created specifically for college students and is designed to keep track of all of their classes, tasks, assignments and exams, anywhere and on any device. It’s a great tool to help any college student bump up their organizational and time management skills.

Weather Apps
For some families, it will be a big change not to be around your kid every morning when they ask, “what’s the weather like today?”  Encourage your kid to download their very own weather app — my favorite is WeatherUnderground but if your kid has a sense of humor, What’s the Forecast?!! is a great app for college kids that will not only make them smile every morning but help them dress accordingly. And if they have an Apple Watch, they can also add the temperature complication right to their watch face for easy checking.

Amazon app…with Prime Student 
Kids hit Amazon hard in college! Consider setting up an Amazon Prime Student account for the Amazon app, which is free for the first 3 months, and then $8.99/month after that. It’s a good alternative to giving them access to your own Prime account.

Alarm Apps
Yes, I know most devices come an alarm built in, but let’s be honest, how often does that alarm actually get your kid out of bed? All of my kids have had great success with the Alarmy app (for iPhone or Android), which requires that to turn off the alarm, they actually have to get out of bed and do an activity like solving a math problem, completing a puzzle, or taking a photo of something in another room. (It may also challenge them to do several rounds of squats, although this option requires a paid subscription which I don’t love.)

And while I know I started out by saying that you can’t force your kid to download any of these apps, this one may be the exception — especially if you are paying for those early morning classes.

The best apps for college students:
Apps for healthcare and well-being

The best apps for college freshman to learn how to care for themselves | Cool Mom Tech

Medical Providers, Hospital, and Pharmacy Apps
If your kids are like mine, they may have no idea who their doctor is or where to get medications. (Yes, some kids are more independent in that sense.) Help your college kid download the app for their medical provider/hospital and pharmacy of choice, particularly if it’s a chain like CVS or Walgreens that is also near campus. This way they can manage their own appointments, find medical records and refill any prescriptions they may need — all by themselves.

If you are switching your student to the college’s health service system, most likely there is an app available for appointment requests and other services.They should be able to find it with a quick Google search.

(Also, suggest that they take picture of their insurance card, Covid vaccination records, medication labels and so on, which they can save to a dedicated album on their phone photo library for easy reference.

Mental Health Apps
As for mental health needs, most campuses have 24-hour access to counselors or mental health services, which all kids should have on their phones. If they more comfortable reaching out to someone off-campus, there are many mental health apps available such as Better Help or Talk Space, which they can download…just in case. (If they’re reluctant, let them know a friend may need it one day.)

Things will inevitably get stressful for your kid as we all know and self care is something we all learn way too late in life. Encourage them to download  one of our favorite meditation and mindfulness apps — or even just create a playlist of music on Spotify or Apple Music to help them relax on those days they need it.

First Aid App
My son has been a daredevil since the minute he was born (for real, he rolled all on his own 20 minutes after they laid him in the bassinet). Since then, we have had many trips to the emergency room and sending him away makes me a bit nervous. So I’ve strongly encouraged him to download the American Red Cross First Aid App, which is free, and provides expert advice on what is or isn’t an emergency, and suggestions actions you should take.

In Case of Emergencies
Finally, the ICE Contact app is a terrific just-in-case app for college students. (ICE as in In Case of Emergency, not the border patrol.) This free personal safety app delivers instant and scheduled messages to friends and family In Case of Emergency. And yes, it does help me sleep better at night.

Related: The very best self care apps

The best apps for college students:
Apps for feeding themselves

The best apps for college sudents: Food apps so they feed themselves! | Cool Mom Tech

Finally, I have to look out for my kids and making sure they’re eating. I’m a mom, right? While many universities and colleges have apps that allow students to order food or make dining reservations at all on campus food services, here are a few standard apps for college students to consider as well:

The Yelp app would be the reco of my first-born, who has become quite the expert in finding the very best local places to eat and drink by scrolling through the reviews.

Uber Eats is an easy one since it’s already available to kids who have Uber on their phones — perfect for ordering  late-night munchies on cram nights, or food for dead week so they don’t have to stop studying to go to the dining room.

Grub Hub, DoorDash and Seamless all fit here too; college kids can figure out which one works best in the area they will be living. (In fact, some college food courts even have ordering that’s done right through one of the apps.)

If your student has a shared kitchen or will be cooking for themselves, Instacart for grocery delivery is amazing, especially if they don’t have a car. Also, as it turns out, my daughter learned that it saves her money to order groceries online because she’s less likely to make impulse purchases.

Related: Best app for making a grocery list

What apps to delete if you’re a parent

As long as we’re talking about building independence, we just want to cover some of those apps as you gave your child tech training wheels that might have run their course.

We are big believers in respecting our kids privacy and boundaries. While they will always be your baby, we need to allow them to transition to real independence. That may mean deleting tracking apps like Life 360 or even Find My iPhone on your kid’s phone when they leave for college. If you use parental controls on social media or through family sharing, or have any app time limits set, probably a good idea to consider whether you really need those any more.

This is a conversation for you to have with your child and decide together. In fact, when I asked my daughter if she wanted me to remove her from my find my iPhone, she got upset and said “but how will you know where I am?!”

So, do what is best for your relationships of course. Just  don’t put some sneaky tracking app on your college student’s phone. That’s not cool. Besides — you’re still only a text, call, or DM away.

Top Image: Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash