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The best note-taking apps for college students

If you’re a college student, keeping your notes (and yourself) organized can become increasingly difficult with every class, job, club, project, or other task that gets added to your to-do list. With everything you have to remember to do and all the classes you have to study for, those random Google docs, that pile of sticky notes on your desk, and those messy notebooks may not be enough to help you keep track of everything. If you need a better way to stay organized, keep reading.

Whether you prefer to type or handwrite your notes, you have more options for note-taking than just using a word-processing app or paper notebooks. In fact, we’ve gathered a list of the best note-taking apps for college students below. We found options for your lecture notes and your to-do lists, so you’ll be sure to find something that works for you.


OneNote Notebook example screenshot from Microsoft.

OneNote is Microsoft’s dedicated note-taking app, and it’s the only one on this list that most resembles an actual notebook. In OneNote, you can create separate notebooks, divide up your notebooks into sections with colorful tabs, and add pages of notes to each section. You can also search your notes, add videos and images to them, highlight them, and add drawings and annotations to them. There’s even an Immersive Reader mode that will read your notes back to you.

You can use OneNote as part of a paid Microsoft 365 subscription, or you can use the free OneNote for Windows 10 app that should’ve come preinstalled on your Windows 10 device. (You can also install the OneNote for Windows 10 app via the Microsoft Store.) The free Windows 10 app may not have as many premium features as the version that comes with a paid subscription, but it’s still a great option for college students on a budget.


Sketching and annotation feature on Evernote.

Evernote is great for college students who need an all-in-one solution for organizing their life (schedules and to-do lists) and their lecture notes and assignments. With this app, you’ll be able to keep track of your tasks and their due dates, connect Google Calendar to it, share your notes, annotate your handouts, and review your notes on all of your devices.

Evernote comes in two budget-friendly options for college students: Evernote Free and a student-discount version of Evernote Personal. Evernote Free is limited, but it does come with a lot of useful features, including the ability to sync your notes on up to two devices, unlimited notes, access to a dashboard with up to three widgets, a search function, and in-note tasks, and you can insert other file types like PDFs, images, and other documents.

Evernote’s student discount program allows students with a valid school email address to get a full year of Evernote Personal for 50% off. Without the discount, Evernote Personal costs $8 per month. You’ll have to pay to use Evernote Personal, but it does come with tons more features. You’ll get everything in Evernote Free, plus an increase in storage for your notes, more widgets for your dashboard, reminders and notifications for your assignments, offline access, and more.

Evernote is available for MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android.

Apple’s Notes app

The Notes app being used on MacOS.

Apple’s Notes app isn’t just for apology posts on social media. Yes, you can use it to take notes and create to-do lists, but don’t let that simple interface fool you. You can do so much more than just type notes and lists into it. You can also share your notes, add photos or other files to your notes, search for a specific note, scan documents, add tables, and even sketch drawings and add shapes.

Best of all: It’s free, and it’s already included on iOS and MacOS devices, no need to download.

Google Keep

Showing how to add a new note to Google's Keep web app.

Google has its own answer to Apple’s Notes app, and that’s Keep. Keep is free to use and comes standard with a free Google account. Keep isn’t really built for your lecture notes, but you can keep track of your assignments and other to-dos with it. It’s actually a great way to digitize that pile of sticky note reminders on your desk.

You can set reminders (either location or time-based) for tasks you need to complete. You can write grocery lists or other to-do lists and share them with others so you can collaborate with them to complete tasks. You can even search your notes and reminders by things, colors, or type of note. And all of your edits and new notes will sync across all of your devices. You can even add images and create audio notes.

Keep is available for Android, iOS, and as a web app. (It was also available as a Chrome app, but Google ended support for the Keep Chrome app earlier this year.)


Simplenote app on Windows.
Simplenote/Automattic/Microsoft Store

Simplenote is a great option for those who want a note-taking app that has the user-friendliness and clean interface of a simpler notes app like Keep or Notes, and that can display longer notes (lectures, drafts, etc.) in a much more readable way. Simplenote’s interface combines the best of notebook-style apps like OneNote and sticky notes apps like Keep. It’s also totally free to use and is available on Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux.

Simplenote lets you share your notes, search your notes with tags, and access your notes on multiple devices.

Notion for Education

Notion for Education desktop app screenshot showing an example of organized class notes.
Notion Labs, Inc.

Students and educators may want to take advantage of Notion’s free app program, Notion for Education. Notion is known for being a solid, comprehensive “all-in-one workspace” product that mostly requires a paid subscription to use it. (There is another free version, called Personal, but it has limited features.)

But students and educators with valid school email addresses are in luck because the Notion for Education program allows them to have access to the Personal Pro premium subscription for free. With Notion, you can organize your lecture notes, to-do lists, and assignments and add other elements to your notes, like code, images, videos, or equations. You can also publish your notes online and create to-do lists and reading lists. The Personal Pro subscription also comes with unlimited pages, blocks, and file uploads, plus version history and unlimited guests.

Notion is available for MacOS, Windows, iOS, and Android.

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Anita George
Anita has been a technology reporter since 2013 and currently writes for the Computing section at Digital Trends. She began…
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