What Makes A Great College App? | Top Universities

What Makes A Great College App?

By Guest Writer

Updated March 8, 2021 Updated March 8, 2021

Guest post: Abi Mandelbaum

The most recent wave of major tech investments in higher education is not in hardware upgrades like TVs or projectors. Instead, it is in software advancements, and specifically in the development of proprietary mobile apps. Students now have the ability to do all kinds of activities using college apps on smartphones, including registering for classes, checking bus schedules and looking up grades.

It’s easy to see why higher education providers are making mobile apps an integral part of their student body’s experiences. One recent study indicated that 85% of 18 to 24-year-olds are smartphone owners. Colleges and universities have recognized this trend and are working to capitalize on it by creating innovative mobile tools to engage their students.

Just how many institutions are doing this? According to another recent study, proprietary mobile apps were being adopted by close to 83% of colleges and universities.

But what makes a successful college app? Below are four unique features colleges and universities have incorporated into their mobile apps to successfully drive engagement.

1. Mobile class registration

The rate at which students are using mobile technology is rapidly increasing. It only makes sense that they would want the option to complete tasks such as registering for courses directly from their smartphones. The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) incorporated this exact function into its college app. By using UCSD’s app, students have the ability to view what courses are available, and it allows them to register for any available class. This makes it easier and more convenient for students to choose which classes to enrolled in for the following semester, and reduces the anxiety associated with not being near a desktop when a registration window opens for a competitive class.

2. Mobile access to grades

One of the biggest factors for mobile technology’s dramatic increase in popularity is that it provides everyone with quicker access to information, especially when they’re on the go. For students, grades for assignments and courses likely top the list of information they want quick and easy access to. The Ohio State University (OSU)  has developed a feature in its college app that gives students the ability to easily view that exact information. OSU students can instantly view their grades from any semester they have been enrolled at the university, as long as they are using the school’s app.

3. Interactive maps with real-time schedules

Navigating a new campus can be especially daunting for incoming students, even when services such as shuttle buses are provided. To help new students get around, universities like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have integrated shuttle schedules and the ability to track these vehicles in real-time into their college apps. Perhaps the most impressive feature MIT’s app includes, however, is the ability to send customized push notifications to each individual student a few minutes before a shuttle arrives at any specific stop, a feature that could prove extremely helpful during bad weather conditions, or if a student is simply running late.

4. Complete directory of staff members

Many colleges and universities have had a strong online presence for a long time. As part of that online presence, many schools have provided access to a complete online directory of all staff members. Often, these directories prove to be incredibly useful to students who want to send a late-night email, or wish to set up an appointment with a busy advisor. The University of Alabama has placed its directory inside its college app to make contacting faculty members even easier for students, who can now access professors, school staff and department heads through a few taps of their smartphone’s screen.

These four features are only a few examples of how colleges and universities are driving student through their mobile apps. Incorporating these functions is sure to result in a great college app – and including all four could mean the difference between a great app and award-winning one.

Abi Mandelbaum


Abi Mandelbaum is co-founder and CEO of YouVisit, the global leader in creating virtual tours and virtual reality experiences for a variety of industries, including hospitality, real estate, travel, events, education, factories and more.

This article was originally published in July 2015 . It was last updated in March 2021

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