10 Free Underrated Resources for Adults Returning to School

Adult school classroom with students, some with raised hands.

Embarking on the journey of returning to school as an adult can be both an exciting and daunting adventure. Fortunately, in today’s digital age, a plethora of free resources are available to bolster and steer students through this transition back to the classroom. Given the substantial time and energy required to balance returning to school with the demands of everyday life, it becomes crucial for students to prioritize their mental, physical, and emotional well-being to achieve success in their academics. 

While some supportive academic resources are widely recognized, there are several underrated free resources that can support a student’s holistic wellness and make their academic journey more seamless, efficient, and ultimately fulfilling.

In this blog, we’ll explore the ten most underrated resources for adults venturing back into the world of education.

1. Textbooks: OpenStax

Textbooks can be a significant expense for adult learners. According to a recent survey, first-year college students spend up to $1,215 on textbooks (Source). OpenStax eliminates the financial barrier associated with traditional textbooks by providing free, peer-reviewed, openly licensed textbooks across various subjects. The platform caters to diverse learning styles with its digital and print options, granting flexibility to students who prefer different formats. As a platform, OpenStax openly encourages collaboration among educators to continually refine and update their content, ensuring the relevance and accuracy of their resources. 

2. Academic Writing: Zotero

Academic writing can be a daunting task, but Zotero makes it more manageable. Zotero offers students a host of benefits for academic writing. Functioning as a reference management system, Zotero helps streamline the often intricate process of citing sources and organizing research materials. With a simple browser extension, students can effortlessly save webpages, articles, and other sources while automatically generating citations in various formats. The app’s integration with word processors facilitates the seamless incorporation of citations and bibliographies into research papers. Additionally, Zotero’s collaborative features allow students to share reference libraries and collaborate on projects, enhancing group research projects. By automating the citation process and providing a centralized space for research materials, Zotero proves to be an invaluable companion for students navigating the intricate landscape of academic writing.

3. The Perfect Study Space: Your Local Library

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 77% of students believed libraries helped them succeed academically (Source). Libraries often provide a quiet and conducive environment for focused study or collaborative work, serving as an excellent study space. With an array of resources at their fingertips, from books to access to free supportive resources, students can navigate their academic pursuits in a setting that encourages productivity and intellectual exploration. Having a library card opens doors to a wealth of educational tools, including online databases, academic journals, and multimedia resources. Students can explore diverse subjects, conduct research, and access materials that may not be readily available elsewhere. 

4. Manage Time: Evernote

Organization and time management are critical to a returning student’s success. In a nationwide survey, 87% of students said that improved time management and organization would help them earn better grades (Source). Evernote provides students with a powerful tool for personal organization, streamlining their academic and personal lives. Its intuitive note-taking features allow users to capture ideas, create to-do lists, and organize class notes seamlessly. With the ability to sync across devices, the app ensures that students can access their information anytime, anywhere. The app’s robust search functionality makes retrieving specific notes a breeze, promoting efficient study sessions. Evernote serves as a central hub for organizing research materials, class schedules, and project outlines, creating a holistic approach to personal organization. As students navigate the demands of academic life, Evernote becomes their organizational ally, promoting productivity, efficiency, and a sense of control over their varied responsibilities.

5. Budget Finances: The Mint App

Managing a strict budget when returning to school can be extremely challenging for students. According to a Strada-Gallup Consumer Survey, almost one-third of participants cited financial pressures as one of the most influential reasons for leaving school (Source). Financial planning apps can help take the guesswork out of budgeting for both personal and academic success. 

The Mint app offers students a range of benefits for effective budgeting and financial management. With Mint, students can effortlessly track their expenses, create budgets, and gain insights into their spending habits. The app automatically categorizes transactions, providing a clear overview of where money is being allocated. Through customizable budget categories, students can set realistic financial goals and receive alerts when nearing budget limits. Mint’s ability to sync with various financial accounts ensures real-time updates, promoting accuracy in financial tracking. Additionally, the app provides a holistic view of one’s financial health, including credit scores and investment tracking. By offering a comprehensive and accessible platform for budgeting, Mint empowers students to make informed financial decisions, develop responsible spending habits, and work towards achieving their financial goals.

6. Physical health: Nike+ Training Club

Creating an environment that supports academic success requires students to holistically prioritize their mental, emotional, and physical well-being. According to the Centers for Disease Control, students who engage in physical exercise tend to have better grades and overall cognitive performance (Source). Nike+ is a free workout app that offers a way for students to integrate fitness seamlessly into their routines. Tailored for all fitness levels, the app provides diverse and customizable workout plans, offering students the flexibility to exercise at their own pace and according to their individual goals. With a user-friendly interface and a wide range of free guided workouts, Nike+ promotes inclusivity, making it an ideal companion for students regardless of their fitness background. The app’s tracking features enable students to monitor their progress, fostering motivation and accountability. Nike+ not only facilitates physical well-being but also encourages a holistic approach to health, emphasizing the importance of regular exercise in maintaining a balanced and active lifestyle.

7. Mental Health: Headspace

In a recent Forbes survey, 46% of college faculty report that students approach them with mental health concerns multiple times per month or more, with 21% receiving mental health-related requests for extensions or accommodations weekly or multiple times a week (source). With mental health concerns among students on the rise, it’s important for students to balance their mental wellbeing alongside their studies. 

Headspace is a free mental health app that offers students a myriad of benefits in promoting overall well-being. As a powerful mindfulness and meditation tool, Headspace equips students with practical techniques to manage stress, and anxiety, and improve focus. Its user-friendly interface and guided meditation sessions make it accessible for individuals at any experience level, creating a flexible resource that can be incorporated into even the busiest student schedules. By fostering a regular mindfulness practice, students can enhance their emotional resilience, cultivate better sleep habits, and develop a heightened sense of self-awareness. Headspace serves as a sanctuary for stress relief and empowers students with the tools to navigate the challenges of academic life with a more grounded and mindful approach.

8. Learning Support: Khan Academy & Ted-Ed

In moments of academic challenge, we could all use a helping hand. When faced with particularly intricate concepts, the help of supplementary interactive learning resources becomes invaluable. Platforms such as Khan Academy and Ted-Ed prove to be indispensable tools in filling the gaps in understanding and making the learning journey more accessible.

Khan Academy offers an extensive library covering a multitude of subjects, from mathematics and science to humanities and test preparation. This comprehensive approach allows students to explore diverse areas of interest and bolster their knowledge across various disciplines. Khan Academy also provides real-time assessments, allowing students to gauge their understanding instantly. The platform’s progress-tracking features empower learners to identify strengths, address weaknesses, and celebrate milestones in their academic journey.

TED-Ed is an underrated resource for those seeking engaging and insightful educational content. Explore their lessons on a wide range of topics, presented by educators and animated for an immersive learning experience. Complex concepts become more accessible through TED-Ed’s emphasis on visual storytelling. Engaging animations and graphics simplify intricate ideas, making it easier for students to grasp and retain information. The marriage of visuals and narration enhances comprehension and aids in long-term memory retention. Beyond visual learning, TED-Ed challenges students to test their understanding through interactive quizzes, and the inclusion of discussion forums fosters a collaborative learning environment where students can share insights, ask questions, and engage in thoughtful discourse.

9. Study Help: Quizlet

Students can enhance their study sessions with Quizlet, a versatile platform for creating flashcards and quizzes. This resource can be particularly beneficial for reinforcing key concepts and improving memory retention of complex concepts. Quizlet’s personalized approach revolutionizes the learning process, allowing students to create custom study sets tailored to their unique needs. The platform’s accessibility across various devices ensures that learning can happen anytime, anywhere. Quizlet’s gamified features, including interactive quizzes and collaborative learning options, make studying with classmates and peers easier than ever. Progress tracking becomes a breeze, providing students with insights into their strengths and areas for improvement. 

10. Personal Branding & Business: Canva

As students venture into the realms of networking and professional engagement, Canva stands out as a tool for crafting distinctive personal marketing assets. From drafting a portfolio to creating eye-catching business cards or an unforgettable resume, Canva’s easy to use templates can empower any student to develop business assets that reflect their skills and learning journey. For students studying in creative industries, Canva also serves as an excellent free design tool. Loaded with templates and how-to guides, Canva makes entry-level design less intimidating and more accessible

As returning adult students navigate the exciting path of returning to school, they should not underestimate the power of free supplementary resources to guide their education journey. It’s important for students to balance their mental, physical, and emotional well-being alongside their studies in order to put their best foot forward in their academic life. Each resource has the potential to enrich the learning experience, providing the tools and holistic support needed to achieve academic success. 

If you’d like support in implementing programs to support adult learners in your organization, we can help. Please reach out for more information.