Table of Contents
- What Makes an iPad App for Students Special?
- Best iPad Apps for Students: Premium
- Best iPad Apps for Students: FREE
- Frequently Asked Questions
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.
Best iPad Apps for Students: Premium
- Price: $3.99 one-time purchase to unlock on all iOS devices; separate purchase necessary for other platforms
- Platforms: iOS/iPadOS, Android, Google Chrome browser extension
- Publisher: Seekrtech
- Best for: Focus and Pomodoro timing, time management and tracking
- Download link: Forest
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
- Track time with tags
- Block out other apps to help keep your focus
- Some trees require separate real-money purchases
- Requires you to purchase again on other platforms
- Free version with limitations
- $4.99 one-time purchase for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch
- Separate $4.99 one-time purchase on macOS
- Platforms: macOS, iOS, iPadOS, Apple Watch
- Publisher: Xwavesoft
- Best for: Tracking time, Pomodoro timing, simple task management
- Download link: BeFocused | BeFocused Pro
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
- Not the best at task management on its own
- Price: One-time purchase of $12.99
- Platforms: iPad only (there is an iPhone version called Procreate Pocket available for $5.99)
- Publisher: Savage Interactive
- Best for: Creating art, animation, graphics, calligraphy, etc.
- Download link: Procreate
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
- Somewhat steep learning curve
- Limited free forever tier (up to three notebooks only)
- One-time purchase of $7.99 on iPadOS
- Platforms: iPadOS (will also work on certain versions of macOS with no additional purchase), Android, Windows, and ChromeOS
- Publisher: GoodNotes Limited
- Best for: Note-taking, journaling, PDF annotation, studying, etc.
- Download link: GoodNotes 5
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
- Create notebooks and organize them in folders
- Amazing for note-taking with handwriting
- Truly affordable
- Can be quite glitchy sometimes
- Could be a bit better in terms of the pen options
- Limited free forever version
- About $10 one-time purchase on iOS/iPadOS, requires a separate purchase on macOS (about the same price)
- Platforms: iOS/iPadOS, macOS
- Publisher: Xwavesoft
- Best for: Task management and prioritization
- Download link: Focus Matrix
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
- Requires separate purchases for macOS and iOS
- Not the best-looking design and interface
- Free forever tier
- Canva Pro (single user) – $12.99 per month or $119.90 per year
- Canva for Teams is also available if you have 2+ users
- Platforms: Web, macOS, Windows, Android, iOS
- Publisher: Canva
- Best for: Creating graphics, presentations, posters, flyers, etc.
- Download link: Canva
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 Office 365
- Use Office Online for free on the web
- Personal plan: $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year (single user)
- Family plan: $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year (up to six users)
- Platforms: Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, Web
- Publisher: Microsoft
- Best for: Various productivity tasks
- Download link: Microsoft Office 365
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
- One account allows use on up to five devices
- Receives regular updates
- Get up to 10% off for students
- Your subscription grants you 1TB of cloud storage via OneDrive
- If you already have a different cloud storage service, OneDrive is redundant
- Price: One-time purchase of $9.99 for the below devices
- Platforms: iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch
- Publisher: TLA Systems Ltd.
- Best for: Mathematic and scientific calculations
- Download link: PCalc
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
- Simple and easy to use
- Not the cheapest
- Price: 100% free
- Platforms: Web, iOS, iPadOS, Android
- Publisher: Intuit
- Best for: Budgeting and financial tracking
- Download link: Mint
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
- Lacks some financial institutions
Evernote + Penultimate
- Free forever plan (limited) or
- Personal: $8.99 per month or $6.66 per month paid yearly
- Professional: $10.99 per month or $9.17 per month paid yearly
- Evernote for Teams also available
- Get 40% off Professional for Students
- Platforms: Web, iOS, Android, macOS, Windows
- Publisher: Evernote Corporation (though Evernote was recently acquired by Bending Spoons)
- Best for: Taking notes, brainstorming, some task management, organization
- Download link: Evernote | Penultimate
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
- Could have more organization features
- Free forever plan
- More information is available here
- Platforms: iOS, iPadOS, Android, Windows, macOS
- Publisher: Zoom Video Communications
- Best for: Video conferencing, attending classes, etc.
- Download link: Zoom
At this point, who doesn’t know about Zoom?
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.
- Ubiquitious and used by practically everyone
- Simple to learn and use
- Available on practically every platform
- Has a generous free forever plan
- Can sometimes be very resource-intensive
- May sometimes crash on some devices and systems
- Free forever plan with limited features or
- $1.99/month paid monthly or $19.99 per year
- There is a deal for $49.99 for three years
- Platforms: Web, iOS/iPadOS, Android, macOS, Windows, Linux
- Publisher: Zoho Corporation
- Best for: Notetaking, task management, some types of journaling, organization, etc.
- Download link: Zoho Notebook
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)
- Not the most convenient for handwriting notes
- Limited free forever plan
- Quizlet Plus costs around $48 yearly — no month-to-month subscription available
- Platforms: Web, Android, iOS
- Publisher: Quizlet Inc
- Best for: Studying with flashcards, memorization
- Download link: Quizlet
For what it is, Quizlet is pricey. However, we chose to include it anyway, as it can be incredibly helpful for those who need a little extra help with studying and memorization.
- Easy to learn and use
- Create your own flashcard sets and use them; similarly, you can use others’ flashcards
- Great support for a wide range of languages
- Lots of study mode variety
- Has gotten more and more expensive over the years
- No month-to-month subscription option
- Price: One-time purchase of $24.99 for iPad/iPhone
- Platforms: Anki Web, iPad/iPhone
- Publisher: Ankitects Pty Ltd
- Best for: Studying with flashcards, memorization, etc.
- Download link: AnkiMobile Flashcards
Anki is far more affordable than Quizlet, but you do get a much less sophisticated app in return. Nevertheless, if you need to study and want some extra help, AnkiMobile Flashcards is one to consider!
- One-time purchase means you save money in the long term
- Works well for what it is
- Expensive for what it is
- Interface and design looks dated and needs improvement
Best iPad Apps for Students: FREE
- Price: FREE
- Platforms: All Apple devices
- Publisher: Apple
- Best for: Taking notes and studying
- Download link: Included with your iPad
Apple Notes is one of the best apps you need to have on your iPad thanks to its features and ease of use. It’s entirely free, allowing you to take advantage without any additional cost.
- Absolutely free
- Comes on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac and syncs across all your devices as long as you’re logged in to the same iCloud account
- Create typed or handwritten notes
- Could be easier and better to organize
- Price: FREE
- Platforms: Compatible iPads and Macs
- Publisher: Apple
- Best for: Brainstorming, mindmapping, notetaking on an infinite canvas, handwritten notes, etc.
- Download link: Included with compatible iPads
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 works on certain Apple devices
Google Productivity Suite
- Free forever or
- With a premium plan to Workspace
- Platforms: Web, ChromeOS, Android, iOS
- Publisher: Google LLC
- Best for: Various types of productivity tasks
- Download link: Google Docs | Google Sheets | Google Slides
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
- Price: FREE
- Platforms: Web, ChromeOS, Android, iOS, Chrome browser extension
- Publisher: Google LLC
- Best for: Note-taking, task management, web clipping, handwritten notes and sketching, brainstorming, etc.
- Download link: Google Keep
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
- Works seamlessly with other Google apps
- Limited note colors available
- Could have a better organization system
- No markdown or rich text support
- No apps for desktops
- 15GB for free, then
- 200GB for $2.99 / month
- 2TB for $9.99 / month
- 5TB for$24.99 / month
- Platforms: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS/iPadOS, web
- Publisher: Google LLC
- Best for: Cloud storage and syncing
- Download link: Google Drive
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)
- Free forever plan with limited features, or
- Comes with a Microsoft 365 subscription which you can acquire for:
- $6.99 per month or $69.99 per year for a single user through the personal plan
- $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year for up to six users through the family plan
- Platforms: Web, Windows, macOS, iOS, Android
- Publisher: Microsoft Corporation
- Best for: Notetaking, PDF annotation, studying, etc.
- Download link: Microsoft OneNote
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.
- The Best Note-Taking App for Students [Top 8]
- The 7 Best Planner Apps for Students
- 7 Best Laptops for Engineering Students
- Best MacBook for College: Top 5 Picks
- Top 17 Best Part-Time Jobs for College Students
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.
Leave a Reply