Today, iPads are incredibly capable devices that can handle most types of schoolwork for college and grad students alike. Yes, it’s true. Depending on your field of study, you might be able to get by with just an iPad alone — no need for a laptop at all!
Of course, an iPad on its own (even if you have the best iPad for schoolwork) is unlikely to be able to do everything a student needs to make it through their program. Whether you’re in undergraduate or graduate school, you’ll need some of the best iPad apps for students to help make your life easier all around.
The best iPad apps for students in 2023 include a wide variety of applications meant for all sorts of purposes. The vast majority of these apps are productivity-focused, and if not, they’re still helpful to schoolwork somehow.
So, what exactly are the best apps for iPad if you’re a student who wants to use your tablet for coursework?
Read on to learn some of our top recommendations for apps you should install on your iPad as a college or graduate student. We included free and paid options too, so let’s get right to it!
What Makes an iPad App for Students Special?
There isn’t anything inherently special about iPad apps for college students. In fact, many of the apps below are useful not just for college students but for students of any level — and for professionals and casual users alike.
That said, there are apps that are simply more useful for students overall. These apps include some of the top iPad apps for education and productivity.
If you’re wondering how we decided on which iPad education apps to include on our list of recommendations below, these are the factors we considered:
We looked at whether the apps are affordable. Most college and graduate students may have trouble fitting several paid/premium apps into their budgets, which is why we looked for the most affordable options where possible. If we could find free apps, we included them as well. Additionally, we ensured that many of the apps included have a free forever tier that allow students to use them without paying for anything (albeit with limited functionality).
We included apps that are incredibly useful for performing schoolwork-related tasks. That includes various types of productivity apps like word processors, calculators, Pomodoro timers, and more. The best iPad apps for college students are those that allow students to complete their assignments, projects, readings, etc. Some apps like Zoom are even great for attending online classes.
The apps included below are useful for more than just schoolwork. We also included apps that allow you to create art or other graphics, make notes, journal, track your finances, and more. To help you select apps more easily, we divided the apps below into two sections – premium and free.
Forest is one of the best apps for college students on iPad. It’s extremely cheap and is available through a one-time purchase, which means no expensive subscriptions that balloon up the price. There are some minor microtransactions within the app itself, but none of them are absolutely necessary for you to use Forest.
If you aren’t sure what Forest is, it’s a focus app that also works well as a time tracker and Pomodoro timer. You can set however long you want your focus hours to be, starting from ten minutes and going at five-minute increments all the way to one hundred and twenty minutes.
Forest allows you to label your focus time so you can look at reports, later on, to see where you spent your time. Additionally, successfully completed focus time allows you to plant your flowers and trees and fill up your forest. Growing a plant also nets you some coins, which you can then use to purchase more plants in the store or to plant a real tree in real life!
If focusing is an issue for you, Deep Focus will allow you to block certain apps unrelated to your task so you can minimize distractions.
Simple and easy to use
Earn coins to plant real trees
Collect various types of trees and plant as desired
BeFocused is another school app for iPad users. Although not exclusively for school, this Pomodoro timer and focusing app allows you to stay on task for a set amount of time with breaks in between. You can also block certain apps to minimize distractions.
One of the best things about BeFocused is its Pro version syncs with Focus Matrix, which means you can more easily track your time, manage your tasks, and more. There are plenty of settings within the Pro app that allows you to fiddle with timing, alerts, and more.
On its own, BeFocused isn’t the best at managing tasks. But when synced with Focus Matrix, this app is able to do much more. The only thing we’d say could use some improvement is the fact that you have to purchase it separately for your Mac and iPad, if you want it on both machines.
Simple and easy to use
Syncs with Focus Matrix on macOS and iOS for easier time tracking and task management
Set your own Pomodoro session timing
Use included sound alerts to be alerted of sessions finishing
Requires you to purchase the macOS version separately
Although not exclusively for the pro version of the iPad, Procreate is arguably one of the very best iPad Pro apps for students. This app is amazing for creating art, making graphics, painting, sketching, and more. It has a robust set of tools (with the possibility for more) and allows you to work seamlessly with the Apple Pencil.
Procreate is always topping the list of the best iPad apps overall, but we certainly believe that it’s also one of the best iPad pro apps for students around.
One of the very best art-related apps on the iPad
Works seamlessly with the Apple Pencil (1 and 2)
Regularly updated with new features, so it never feels stale
Create animations within the app
Allows you to export your files easily and without a hassle
May not be able to handle as many layers or as large a canvas depending on the iPad model
GoodNotes 5 is one of the top iPad apps for schools, thanks to how useful it is for notetaking, PDF annotation, organization, and more. GoodNotes 5 is chock full of features that allows users to handwrite their notes and organize them properly. It works seamlessly with the Apple Pencil, but also allows you to use other styluses if you prefer.
This app is quite affordable, only $7.99 as a one-time purchase. You can use all the features with this singular purchase, though if you want additional templates, elements, stickers, assets, and more, you’ll likely end up paying quite a bit more by purchasing third-party content.
Tons of third-party content available on websites like Etsy, but you need to purchase them separately
Use stickers, elements, templates etc. to personalize your notes
Focus Matrix uses the Eisenhower Matrix to help you organize your tasks and to-dos as perfectly as possible. On its own, Focus Matrix is easy and simple to use, so you don’t have to deal with a steep learning curve. The only issue is the interface isn’t the best, so if you’re looking for something pretty, then you might not find it here. And, like BeFocused Pro, you need to buy Focus Matrix on your iPad and your Mac if you want to sync between the two. Fortunately, it’s affordable, sitting at around a $10 one-time purchase.
There are many better planner apps for students, but if you want something simple that won’t break the bank, it’s hard to overlook Focus Matrix as a solid option.
Syncs with BeFocused (Pro) to make task management and prioritization a bit easier to do overall
Uses the Eisenhower Matrix to make task prioritization a breeze
Syncs with your Calendar so you can see when your tasks are due
You’ve probably already heard about Canva before, but if you haven’t — Canva is a web-based design app that allows you to create all sorts of graphics, designs, documents, and assets. It’s available not just on the web, but also on iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS, so you can install the app on your preferred system. Your account also syncs on your devices, so you get to work on your design on whichever device you have handy.
Canva also comes with a massive amount of assets, templates, elements, and more. However, you’ll need to pay for Canva Pro to be able to take advantage of these copyright-free elements.
Has a free forever tier, albeit somewhat limited
Incredibly versatile — create graphics, prints, documents, presentations, and more
Use on practically any platform
If you have a paid account, you have access to an incredible amount of content to use in your designs
Much of the content (templates, assets, elements) is locked behind the Canva Pro paywall
Microsoft 365, formerly Microsoft Office, is the golden standard when it comes to productivity apps. It’s not just for students, either — this software suite is used in homes and offices worldwide. Microsoft 365 is available on iOS, Android, macOS, and Windows, allowing you to use your apps on any device you choose. Unfortunately, 365 requires a subscription to use, and it can get quite pricey. Luckily, you can use one account on up to five devices.
A family subscription also allows up to six users to use Microsoft 365 on up to five devices each.
The golden standard when it comes to productivity suites
One subscription gives you access to all the Microsoft 365 apps, including Microsoft OneNote
There’s not much to say about PCalc other than the fact that it does literally everything you need in a calculator. It’s quite an odd decision by Apple, but the iPads do not come with a built-in calculator app. There are many free options available, but you’ll need to contend with apps, so PCalc is a good purchase for only $10.
Works as perfectly as you need it
Has all the functions necessary for your math/science work
Even students need to be able to track their expenses and budget their money. If you need a little assistance in the finance department, Mint is a fantastic option for you. Mint by Intuit is 100% free to use in its entirety. You’ll need to link your financial accounts, however, so you might want to look at a different option if linking accounts is uncomfortable for you.
100% free to use
Easy and simple to use
Pull all of your financial information from your accounts and track them all in one place
Requires you to link your accounts, which may not be comfortable for everyone
Evernote has been around for the better part of two decades since its initial release in 2004. From its first release, this app has grown to become incredibly popular and a favorite for many. You can use Evernote for free with some limitations, such as only being able to sync on two devices. But with a relatively affordable subscription, you get an incredibly robust note-taking app that has Optical Character Recognition features that allow you to search through images and PDFs to find what you are looking for.
Evernote doesn’t handle handwritten notes in the best way possible, which indeed can be quite the drawback. However, you can use Penultimate, the companion handwriting app, and sync your handwritten notes into your Evernote account if you wish.
One of the very best notetaking apps available for the iPad (and other platforms)
Has legendary OCR (optical character recognition) features that allows Evernote to index images and makes it possible to search via the text on pictures and PDFs
Create various types of notes
Free forever tier allows use on two devices (plus limited features)
Sync across all your devices with a premium account
Syncs with Penultimate, the handwriting/notetaking app on iPad
Not the best for handwritten notes
Currently kind of in limbo as it was recently acquired by company Bending Spoons
Zoom is an incredibly useful video conferencing tool that allows you to keep in touch with people, attend your classes and lectures, and collaborate with others. It’s free to use as well, with some minor limitations.
Although it’s not quite as popular as GoodNotes 5, Evernote, or Microsoft OneNote, Zoho Notebook is another fantastic option if you’re looking for a note-taking app that can do it all (almost). Like Evernote, Zoho Notebook doesn’t handle handwritten notes too well. However, this app makes up for its shortcomings by allowing you to create notebooks containing all sorts of notes including audio notes, task lists, and more.
Another great thing about Zoho Notebook is it can sync across various platforms — and it’s truly quite affordable, especially if you sign up for three years in advance!
Unique features that allow you to create various types of notes
OCR function allows searching text on images and PDFs
Very affordable premium subscriptions
Also allows for task management (sends notifications and reminders)
Freeform is the newer kid on the block, allowing users to do all sorts of things on an infinite canvas. Although it’s only available on select iPads and Macs, this app lets you brainstorm, take notes, and collaborate without ever running out of space.
It’s still new, so you can expect some flaws, bugs, and kinks to smooth out. But considering it’s free, it’s certainly worth looking into if you want to create mindmaps or brainstorm projects!
Infinite canvas allows you to create massive mindmaps
Fantastic for brainstorming
Allows a certain level of collaboration
Has a robust set of tools that makes it easier to be productive
Only slightly behind Microsoft 365’s popularity is the Google productivity suite. The suite comprises apps like Google Docs, Google Sheets, and Google Slides, and it’s all available for free. These apps all integrate into the Google ecosystem seamlessly, though they require the internet to sync and save your files.
One thing worth mentioning is that although there are apps on mobile, you’ll need to use the web version if you’re on a desktop. You can also use the web version through the browser on your iPad, if that’s something you wish to do.
Absolutely free to use
Use on the web or on your phone or iPad
Has third-party apps and extensions to improve functionality
Has certain limitations
Mobile apps aren’t the most convenient to use
No apps for desktop
Google Drive is known for getting a ton of external spam if your email account was included in a data breach
Google Keep is much like Zoho Notebook in that it offers many of the same functionalities. With Google Keep, you can take notes, create checklists, doodle and sketch, take web clippings, and more — and you can do it all entirely for free!
Easy and simple to use
Tagging function makes it easy to organize and find past notes
OCR function allows you to extract text from PDFs and images
If you’re deeply embedded into the Google ecosystem, then Google Drive might be the cloud storage service of choice for you. iCloud is great and all, but sometimes you just need something different to keep track of all your important files, photos, and more.
Available on practically all platforms
Affordable cloud storage options
Works seamlessly with all other Google products
Prone to receiving tons of spam with Google seemingly not doing anything about it
Occasionally runs into issues on some systems (taking too much memory or lagging)
Microsoft OneNote is available entirely for free, albeit with limited functionalities. If you want more features, you’ll need to get a Microsoft 365 subscription. That said, such a subscription will provide plenty of value, giving you access to the rest of Microsoft’s productivity suite.
OneNote is one of the best and most popular notetaking apps available today — even if it’s not perfect. Some prefer OneNote entirely over other apps like GoodNotes 5 or Evernote.
Has a free forever version that could be more than enough for many users
Comes with your Microsoft 365 plan so you get a ton of apps, perks, and features for one subscription
Works really well with styluses and handwritten notes
Could have better organization features
Not exactly as full-featured as other apps like Evernote and GoodNotes 5
Frequently Asked Questions
What apps should a college student have on iPad?
There are countless iPad apps for students that you might just find useful for your tablet. The apps you use are entirely down to your personal preference, but you may want to install a few of the free options. For example, Google’s suite of products are a good starting point. You can also use GoodNotes 5, Evernote, Canva, Forest, and more for free. Fortunately, many of the best apps listed above do offer free tiers so you may not have to pay anything at all!
What can I use my iPad for as a student?
A decade ago, you might’ve had trouble using your iPad efficiently for more than entertainment and light productivity tasks like checking your email. Today, iPads have improved so much, and developers have published so many great apps that using an iPad as your exclusive school device is entirely possible (depending on your field of study). Countless students use their iPads for things like note-taking, reading and annotating books and PDFs, research, emailing, creating presentations, writing papers, and more.
With the thousands upon thousands of apps available on the Apple app store, it can truly be challenging and even overwhelming to find the right ones to suit your needs. If you’re looking for the best iPad apps for students to install on your iPad for your studies, our list of recommendations above might just help.
Remember, if you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of apps that are either 100% free or offer a free forever tier that allows use despite some limitations. There are also many fantastic apps that are cheap and purchasable with a one-time fee rather than a subscription!
Are you still shopping around? If you aren’t fully sold on an iPad for your schoolwork, check out our recommendations for the best tablets for schoolwork.
Chriselle has been a passionate professional content writer for over 10 years. She writes educational content for The Grad Cafe, Productivity Spot, The College Monk, and other digital publications. When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.