15 Essential Apps and Websites for College Students

Improving Efficiency

Google Drive

Google drive is a great place to store all your documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The ease of access means that a file can be saved at home and easily accessed from a college computer or even a mobile phone. Because this is a cloud based system you do not have to worry about losing documents or files either!


Slack is a communication tool that can be greatly beneficial to students as well as businesses. Communicating and collaborating with those people in your study group can become a lot simpler with Slack. You can also easily share documents from both the Google and Microsoft platforms.

Self Control

We all know that Facebook and Twitter can prove to be extremely distracting when trying to study. The Self Control app lets you block your own access to distracting websites that might get you off track. You can select the amount of time that the sites are blocked for, and even if you restart your computer or delete the app, you will not be able to access the blocked sites.

Study Tools

Rate My Professor

When planning your college classes for the upcoming semester, check out the Rate My Professor website.  The site provides student reviews on professors, based on criteria including class difficulty, textbook usage and grades received. This could help you get a feel for which professors will suit your learning style and how to structure your classes.


Audible allows you to listen to your assigned class reading when you are on the go. Not only can this save you time, but it can also come as a welcome relief from staring at a textbook for hours on end. It can also be particularly beneficial for students who commute to school. There is a monthly fee attached, but you can get a 30 day free trial and test out this handy application.


Quizlet is home to over 153,303,000 study sets and counting. These ready to use flashcards and study guides created by teachers and other students can be a great resource when looking to understand the key points from a particular class. You can also create your own flashcards, meaning you can access your study notes anywhere anytime.

Staying up-to-date on the News


With Pocket, students can save articles and come back to them later. Simply save the article and come back to it later when looking to pinpoint the finer details of a piece. Save articles directly from your browser or from apps like Twitter and Flipboard.


Flipboard is a way to create your very own personalized magazine. You simply select seven of your interests (or class topics) and the app will provide you with news content that is related to the pre selected criteria. This is a great way to surround yourself with real world information that can be used in your college work.

TED Talks

These speeches are extremely motivational and also provide valuable information. This can be a great resource when looking to come up with an original project idea.

Writing Tools


Grammarly is an english writing tool that can improve your grammar and writing quality when crafting essays and reports. There is both a grammar and plagiarism check within the site which will ensure your work adheres to over 250 grammar rules. Simply add it as an extension to your browser and you’ll be able to easily check the quality and accuracy of your work.


Not only can this site provide you with a quick check for misspellings and allow you to expand your vocabulary, but the addition of the mobile site means you can quickly look up those complicated words your articulate professor is saying.

Hemingway App  

Another proofreading tool here, but a great one nonetheless. The Hemingway editor highlights the errors that occur within your writing and will pick up on:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

Additionally, Each error is specifically color coded so they can be addressed individually.

Dragon Dictation

Typing essay after essay can become tiring and is often very time consuming. Dragon Dictation recognizes and transcribes your words with great accuracy and speed. This is also an app that can be used on the go to save you even more time.

Save on School Supplies

Valore Books

Using Valore Books, students can make some money back on those expensive text books purchased for various college classes. The easy to use site allows for student to student sales meaning that purchasing books here can also save you some cash.


This app is a downloadable scientific calculator that could save you some money while enabling you to solve complicated equations in class and at home.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

8 Ways to Get the Most out of Your Press Release

As I discussed in my previous article, press releases can be an extremely effective tool when you are looking to promote an event or news within higher education. The potential impact of a press release goes far beyond this though, and should be an essential part of your overall public relations strategy. As defined by Entrepreneur, a press release is “a public relations announcement issued to the news media and other targeted publications for the purpose of letting the public know of company developments.” These short, compelling documents give your university’s latest developments a platform to be seen and discussed within the larger media circuit. However, if you do not include key elements in your press release, it is unlikely to be picked up by your target audience and your reach will diminish. Here I will discuss some key tips for you to consider when writing and distributing your next press release.

1. Make sure your story is newsworthy

Is your press release going to excite those within the industry? Does your news provide value and relate to larger industry trends? These are questions that you should be thinking about before you distribute it to the media. Innovative, exciting developments and research within your university make ideal topics for press releases. One of our clients recently announced they are developing a virtual reality application with the aim of improving mental health care, an incredibly innovative idea that appeals to a several popular media topics. We immediately saw this as an ideal opportunity to help raise awareness about the institution and the cutting-edge work that they’re doing through a press release.

2. Grab attention with the headline

The headline of a press release, as with that of an article headline or subject line within a pitch, is pivotal if you are to successfully pull in journalists and editors. Of course, it is important for your headline to be accurate and give the reader a strong idea of what is to come, but you also want to ensure that it is engaging and makes them want to read on. There are three best practices to follow when writing your headline: 1) Be unique – you need to differentiate yourself from the competition. 2) Be specific – give the reader detailed information to ensure they understand what you are presenting them. 3) Be beneficial – the headline itself must provide a benefit to the reader and show that the information is useful.

3. Include quotes

To increase your validity and credibility, it’s critical to include quotes from at least one high level source who is directly involved in the story. These quotes should provide greater insight and perspective and can also lead to further media opportunities for the expert and institution.

4. Remain relatable

It is important that you do not confuse the reporter or reader with your press release. Therefore, the language used should not be overly complicated, as much of your audience will lack the specialist knowledge required to understand the finest details. If there are terminologies that are complex, then explain these as if you were speaking to somebody who does not work within your discipline. Make the content simple, straightforward, and easily consumable for a general audience. 

5. Stay Concise

A press release should not exceed more than a single page and should only include the most pertinent facts. If the press release leaves them wanting more information, then they can reach out using the contact information provided in the press release.

6. Include a pitch

When distributing your press release, be sure to write a media pitch as you would if you were looking to create a traditional PR opportunity. The pitch is where you can really sell the story and the relevance of it to the publication’s audience and interests. Make sure to paste the press release below your signature as a journalist may not have the time or want to open an attachment.

7. Customize to each target audience (when applicable)

In order to maximize your chance of press coverage, you should tailor the press release to fit each audience when there is more than one. For example, we recently distributed a press release on the topic of virtual reality and mental health for one of our clients. Clearly, there is a both a technology and health angle here. You should be targeting both audiences and should alter the pitch and press release to ensure it relates directly to the industry you are pitching.  

8. Capitalize on link building opportunities

A press release provides you with an excellent opportunity to gain greater brand awareness as well as positively influence SEO. By including a link within your press release that takes the reader to the corresponding homepage or landing page, you will increase the chances of media outlets linking back to your target site which will in turn help to boost rankings. 


George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

A Step-by-Step Guide on how to Leverage University Events for Your SEO Strategy

Universities throughout the United States regularly host events and conferences with the intention of bringing awareness to certain topics and causes, while simultaneously building upon their thought leadership within the industry. However, while more organizations and institutions are beginning to leverage online tactics to promote their events, many are still missing out on a key opportunity to build links to their event, which will in turn help with rankings and visibility for the program. Here at Circa Interactive, we have found that using university events and conferences as an SEO and link building tactic can be a very effective strategy in boosting our clients’ rankings and brand awareness. The reason that this strategy is so successful is because featuring relevant industry events can provide great value to a publication’s readership. For example, we recently acquired twelve links over a ten day period for a brain summit hosted by one of our university clients, which clearly proves that this strategy can be a powerful and effective one. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can achieve the same results for your university program events, including but not limited to: conferences, conventions, exhibits, and university tours.  

Start with Event Websites

You should begin by targeting national event listing sites as these will be relevant to every event that you host and serve to create easy link wins. Many of these sites simply require you to send them the details of the event, along with the URL, so that they can verify whether it is a legitimate event. This is a great tactic to obtain your first batch of links. These links are also likely to be diverse in comparison to many others you may have in your portfolio, thus further increasing the value of these placements. A diverse backlink portfolio with a variety of high quality wins is seen as a positive indicator to Google and will therefore be beneficial from an SEO standpoint. Some national event listing sites that I would recommend starting with are: lanyrd.com, conferencealerts.com, and eventbrite.com.

Write a Press Release

The concept behind a press release is to share newsworthy content with relevant contacts. This should be used to accompany your link building efforts. If possible, also factor in how this press release will work best from an SEO perspective and how a search engine will recognize your keywords. Your press release should elaborate on the details of the event, discuss the target audience, and note who the key speakers are. Also remember to include any contact information so that media outlets can obtain more information if needed. Alongside this, remind the media contact why this topic is important in a wider context. This can be achieved by using a news peg that is closely associated with your event. Prior to our client’s brain summit, a report stated that the rate of ADHD diagnosis had risen 5% each year since 2003. This data signified the importance of continued brain research and enabled us to provide media contacts with an additional reason to publish information on the event. A press release has the potential to spread far and wide because many media outlets pick up stories from other local media sources. If you can find a few sites that are willing to post your press release, then this could create a ripple effect and you might end up with a number of placements in a short amount of time without having to manually acquire all the placements yourself.  

Look for Local Links

A big part of your strategy should be to target sites that report on news in the area where your event is being held. Being featured on the main page of newspapers, tourism sites, and local news sites can be difficult, but securing a link placement in their events section is certainly possible and very valuable. This provides a great opportunity to land a diverse set of links that may have been otherwise been very difficult to attain. News outlets are also more likely to be interested in an event that is being hosted in an area that they regularly cover and that is of interest to their readership.

Target Industry-Specific Sites

In addition to targeting sites that report on local news and events, it is important to pitch your event to industry-specific sites. If your event is based around the topic of mental health, then it makes sense to target blogs and news sites that cover mental health related topics. However, you should not solely limit yourself to these confines and should not be afraid get creative and expand your outreach whenever possible. Reaching out to sites that cover other medical related topics would not be too far fetched in this case. If you can position the event to be relevant and valuable to the publication’s audience, then you will have a better chance of getting a media placement and link out of it.

Conduct a Competitor Analysis

You are unlikely to be the first organization that is hosting an event or conference related to your specific niche. Discovering where similar events have been posted is a surefire way to find websites that you know are willing to post this type of content. Again, if you are hosting a conference on mental health, searching for simple keywords like “mental health conferences” in Google will enable you to find a host of previous events on this topic. You can then conduct a competitor backlink analysis for each event to discover which sites linked to them. There are a number of tools out there that can be used to conduct this analysis, but here at Circa we use Moz. You simply need to enter the event’s URL into Moz’s Open Site Explorer search bar and from there you will be able to view all inbound links to that particular URL. Moz only allows you to have three free searches a day unless you upgrade to Moz Pro. However, you can test out this software with a 30 day free trial. Once you determine which sites are good quality, a competitor analysis will provide you with an important set of leads to go after. One easy way to help determine which sites are high quality is to reference the information provided alongside the list of inbound URL’s, which includes the domain authority (DA) and the spam score. The domain authority ranges from 1-100, and the higher it is, the better and more high quality the site is. Conversely, you want the spam score to be as low as possible. By finding and targeting sites that have posted similar event information in the past, you will likely save time and resources on outreach while also increasing your success rate.

Follow Up After the Event

Even if you have acquired a respectable number of links prior to the event, your outreach shouldn’t stop there. Some of the best opportunities will come after the event, which is particularly relevant following a conference. The findings from a conference are often a great source of content for media outlets. Conducting searches on Google and social media will help you find individuals who have been talking about topics that relate to your event. Creating a new page on your website which discusses and dissects the findings will also help you to gain links following the event.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

5 Tips for Successful Media Relations

Developing strong and mutually beneficial relationships with reporters and editors is crucial to being successful in digital public relations, and it can make the job much more seamless and efficient. While it takes time to develop relationships with reporters and editors, the payoff from these relationships will be more than worth the investment. Here are five ways to ensure that your PR strategy is performing at an optimal level by pitching smarter, not harder.

Do your research and personalize accordingly

To make a good impression, it’s essential to research and understand a reporter’s beat before sending them a pitch. A beat refers to the topic that a reporter covers. For example, a reporter could cover something broad like crime, sports, or nursing, or it could be even more specific like the city hall or a local sports team. By taking an in-depth look at the stories they’ve covered and the articles they’ve written recently, you’ll be able to get a thorough understanding of the stories they’re most interested in and will therefore have a much better chance of pitching them something they’ll be receptive to. Also, sending them a pitch that does not coincide with their beat can be an obvious giveaway that you haven’t done your research and are instead just sending generic emails to multiple reporters, which could hurt your chances of working with them in the future.

Including a relevant news peg or recent research at the beginning of your pitch is essential to capturing a reporter’s attention and can entice them to continue reading. Sending information that is even slightly inaccurate will instantly send signals that you’re an unreliable source.

Follow up, but bide your time

Follow-ups are a crucial part of the pitching process; journalists are extremely busy people and it can be easy to for them to miss an email or simply forget to reply. It is important to wait long enough to give them time to respond but not so long that the story is no longer relevant. Waiting one week is a good rule of thumb, unless it’s a very time-sensitive subject, in which case it’s OK to follow up a couple of days sooner.

Follow-ups should only be a few sentences long and contain keywords from your original pitch, such as a news peg, statistic, or source, that will help to jog a reporter’s memory of your angle. You should also include the original pitch at the bottom of the email in case they want to refer to the more detailed version. A follow up email should always have a slightly different subject line while also incorporating the original one. For example, using “‘just following up” or “last try” tends to increase the open and response rates to your pitch.

Finally, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone when it makes sense, but always be mindful of a reporter’s time zone. You don’t want to call them early in the morning or late at night. Showing that you have an understanding of their schedule and are respectful of their time will go a long way in building a long lasting relationship.

Track pitches and wins

Keeping a list of media contacts that you have developed a professional rapport with can be a great way to maintain relationships and land easy PR wins in the future. It’s important to send these contacts personalized pitches and reference any previous work that you’ve done with them. This will help to show your appreciation for the media placements they have helped to facilitate and ensure that they remember who you are. You should be pitching these contacts often enough that you remain relevant in their mind but not so often that you are flooding their inbox, which tracking your pitches and contacts will help to manage.

Be timely

When working with the media, speed of response is critical to success. You cannot sit on a journalist’s response for a couple of days, or even a few of hours in some cases, without potentially losing the opportunity completely. Even if you don’t have a concrete answer for them right away, it’s important to at least let them know that you’re working on it so that they don’t seek out someone else instead. Not responding quickly is a sure fire way to damage a relationship with reporters and editors. You will only have one opportunity to get it right, so clear communication with everyone involved is vital.

Be prepared

Reporters may come to you just before they are about to wrap up an article requesting items like bio information and/or a headshot for a source you’ve helped to connect them with. Having these types of resources on hand at all times will ensure that you don’t delay the reporter or their article. As you build relationships, try to remember how specific journalists work and whenever possible, stay one step ahead of them by anticipating their needs or requests before they even ask. If you are able to do this, you are sure to be a contact the reporter will want to work with again.

George has recentGeorgely joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications. 

4 Tools to Discover the Best Content for Your University’s PR Strategy

My main goal as part of Circa Interactive’s Digital PR team is to find relevant and high level news pegs in order to secure media opportunities for our diverse spectrum of professors and programs. By creating opportunities that bring national exposure to our clients while also acquiring credible backlinks to program pages, we accomplish two important client goals: SEO and raising brand awareness. Success in a digital PR role requires having an in-depth understanding of various media outlets and news trends. To stay on top of this, every morning our team takes the time to read the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, which is an excellent way to stay up-to-date on major national and international events, but it is unfortunately limited in its reach to some of the industry-specific stories that we seek out. This is why having alternative forms of digital news tools is essential to our success, and I highlight some of the top ones below.

1. BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a great content marketing tool because it allows me to quickly see which content is gaining the most popularity through simple keyword searches. When searching for keywords or topics relevant to our clients, I can sort my list so that I can see which articles, videos, infographics, etc. are the most shared on various social media sites, with a host of other search options available as well. This helps me gain a better understanding of what the media trends are within a particular industry and what types of content have the most success. BuzzSumo also allows me to see who the key influencers are within a particular industry or niche and be more specific and targeted in my outreach, which in turn increases the likelihood of success. For those who want to dig deeper into a particular audience, content type, or network, there are also paid subscription options which will allow for this.

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2. Feedly

Feedly is a news aggregate site that works great as a PR tool because it allows me to receive news and stories from all of my favorite sources in one place. Though the search mechanisms on Feedly can be difficult to maneuver at first, once familiar with the workings of the site it becomes a very simple way to put all of your favorite sources for news and stories in one place. What is great about Feedly is that you can separate and organize your news by industries and categories, making it much easier to sift through when searching for a particular program or professor.

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3. Flipboard

Flipboard sells itself as a way to create your very own personalized magazine, and it’s a great tool when looking for a PR news peg. Flipboard personalizes its content by having users select seven or more topics that they find interesting, which in turn dictates the types of stories that will show up on one’s feed. The personalization of Flipboard is not quite as detailed as the other apps, but there are some positives that come of this. Flipboard often presents articles that I would almost certainly not have come across otherwise, which makes it an extremely worthwhile tool. As a PR professional, I want to encounter as many story ideas as possible, and Flipboard certainly expands the scope of articles that become visible to me.

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4. Twitter

With 316 million monthly active users sending over 500 million tweets a day, Twitter is always one of my go-to apps when I’m seeking out the most popular and relevant stories. In just a few clicks, users can follow some of the most influential thought leaders and publications, receiving the most timely updates from them. Hashtags are also greatly beneficial for PR efforts because it makes it possible to see what is trending at any time or discover who is talking about any given topic. For example, it was recently National Health Education Week, and the hashtag #NHEW2015 was created. By searching for this hashtag, I could see who was discussing this event and what they were saying about it, which in turn allowed me to be much more targeted in my outreach. Although the instantaneous nature of Twitter is one of its greatest assets, it can also lead to inaccurate information being published, which is why it’s always important to compare stories and facts to other sources.

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GeorgeGeorge has recently joined the Circa team in California following the completion of his master’s in marketing management and strategy degree, where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications.

How a Higher Ed Marketer Can Stay Ahead of the Curve in Digital PR

At Circa Interactive, we work with a wide variety of programs and professors who each have their own specialized areas of interest, and in order to create high quality opportunities in the media, there are a number of factors that we have to be aware of in order to accomplish our goals of improving rankings and increasing organic traffic to the program’s targeted pages. It is vitally important that we are constantly ahead of the curve and combine a professor’s expertise and current research interests with what is happening throughout the world each and every day. So here are four factors that are essential to consider as a higher education marketer to stay ahead of the curve within digital PR.

Knowing the Professors

Understanding the expertise of a professor is incredibly important within higher education marketing. Without this information, it is difficult to know where to start. At Circa Interactive we conduct interviews with each professor to ensure that we have a detailed understanding of their academic interests and current research. This also gives us the opportunity to start creating potential story ideas during the interview. Before and after every interview, we research the professor’s interests and read some of their previously published work. Professors are extremely busy people, and we want to use the time we have to speak to them as effectively and efficiently as possible.

Creating Relationships

Building relationships with professors and journalists ensures that we stay ahead of the curve. Creating a mutual understanding with each professor means that there is trust within the relationship. We create this trust by doing our homework on all aspects of an outreach, ensuring that we know the specifics of their expertise. As we create more media opportunities for the professors, the relationship and trust will grow and develop.

Creating these relationships also ensures that we have the freedom to send pitches to major publications on a professor’s behalf without having to waste either party’s time gaining permission to do so. Being able to send a professor a quick email or give them a phone call regarding an opportunity means that opportunities can quickly turn into conversations and articles.  Building relationships with media contacts can also be pivotal.  We have built a media contacts list at Circa Interactive where we store key reporters who have spoken with our professors in the past. These individuals are often willing to speak to professors again.

Reading the News

Having access to the latest news is imperative. There are various ways that I understand what is happening throughout the world, and I consider each method to be as important as the next. I always make sure I spend a part of my day taking a look through either The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.  Glimpsing at the headlines and seeing something that is related to one of our professors always gives me a great place to start when planning a pitch. A story that makes it into one of these publications is also sure to be one people are talking about.

Unfortunately I cannot just open the newspaper every day to find a story relevant to my professors; therefore conducting a news search online is pivotal. Searching key words related to each professor’s expertise can help me find out what is being talked about within each industry and enables me to track whether a particular story is developing into something that would benefit from the input of a professor.

Every person within the office at Circa Interactive has a great understanding of the media opportunities that we are trying to create, and by using an app called ‘slack’, a messaging tool for teams, it allows us all to share the news that we see. I also utilize social media when looking for news stories. This is often the quickest way for news outlets to update their audience, and it can certainly ensure that we are ahead of the game when it comes to sending out pitches. 140 characters are sometimes all it takes to come up with a great new idea.

Creating Stories

We don’t always just want our professors to comment on a big news story. We want to create a new conversation around an existing story. Reporters and editors at major publications will get hundreds of emails a day, and I want my pitch to stand out from the rest. This means that when they read the subject line, they need to be intrigued. I have to try and create the initial idea of the story for them. This came to fruition when we saw the news that three NFL teams were set to be investigated by the NFL for illegal drone use. We knew that our professor of electrical engineering could not only comment on this issue but also add his expert opinion on the likelihood of drone regulations being relaxed and the potential future of UAV technologies. This creativity then led to two opportunities with high level publications.

Bringing it all together

We create our best opportunities when all of these elements are brought together. We make sure that we read our news, link that news to a professor’s interest, create a story and pitch idea to send to the relevant reporters. Once we land the opportunity, we reach out to the professor who we have already begun to create a relationship from the beginning.

Creating these opportunities and then seeing a professor’s quotes or article published within a publication makes it all worthwhile. We interact with some of the brightest minds and greatest reporters in the country, and while it can be a challenge and there are sometimes obstacles along the way, it is certainly rewarding when it all comes together.

GeorgeGeorge has recently joined the Circa Interactive team in California following the completion of his masters in Marketing Management and Strategy where he graduated with distinction from Plymouth University in England. George is a PR and digital marketing specialist who is passionate about creating high level opportunities for professors within national publications.