The Best Mobile Apps for MBA Students


Can mobile apps help MBA students succeed? Absolutely! According to the business school accreditation board AACSB International, mobile devices like iPhones, iPads, and Android devices, along with the applications that run on them, are now not only part of students’ everyday lives but also fundamental to completing a graduate management degree successfully.

According to the Financial Times, business school students primarily use technology to increase their productivity by streamlining workloads and schedules. After all, a typical MBA student needs to manage a demanding workload that includes class assignments, group projects, internships, job interviews, student club meetings, and networking events. Mobile apps can play a significant role in helping students manage this demanding workload.

While the mobile app landscape is constantly changing, there are many mainstay options for business professionals and MBA students. Some of these focus on streamlining group work, while others are dedicated to individualized productivity. Some offer opportunities to connect on a professional level with alumni, faculty, and recruiters, while others allow for more personal connects with peers. All in all, there is something for everyone on this list. Read on to find one that best suits your needs.

The Best App for Professional Networking: LinkedIn

Many experts cite career advancement through networking as the most important motivation for students pursuing an MBA degree, which is why the world’s largest online professional community is one of the best apps for MBA students, particularly for networking. According to an annual survey by the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants (AIGAC), LinkedIn was the most-used social media channel for MBA candidates.

Microsoft’s LinkedIn platform has many products and features to enable more opportunities for MBA students. They can talk to alumni and other professionals, search for jobs and internships, and even take online career development courses. LinkedIn makes connecting and staying connected easy, and the platform can be invaluable in assisting students to meet recruiters and build lifelong relationships with classmates and faculty.

The LinkedIn mobile app is best for quick activities on-the-go, like brief messages to stay in touch with acquaintances. It also provides the most value as a research tool for job search and upcoming interviews. Before a meeting, students can review the profile of the person with whom they are scheduled to talk. Afterward, they can send a personalized connection request.

Checking notifications for updates from network connections amounts to another worthwhile use of the mobile app, which can also enable quick comments and replies that foster relationships. It’s also possible to check profile and post views and search appearances in the app. Finally, students can save and share interesting articles they find on the platform.

The Best App for Making New Connections: Shapr

Shapr integrates a user’s LinkedIn account to bring the “swipe right” functionality found in dating apps like Tinder to business networking. Like LinkedIn, Shapr includes location-aware capabilities that display possible connections within a shared geographic area, like the region around a business school’s campus. However, unlike LinkedIn, Shapr actively attempts to pair up contacts based on user-specified interests and preferences. Shapr is a worthwhile choice for students actively trying to build their networks—especially those willing to devote the time and effort involved with scheduling phone and Skype calls, as well as meetings over coffee.

The Best App for Professional Networking for Women: BumbleBizz

While many might know Bumble as the online dating app, perhaps less known is the company’s dedication to fostering connections of all kinds, including platonic and professional ones. After Bumble’s wildly successful dating app, the company started BumbleBFF to help people find new friends that live in their area and share similar interests. Then last year, Bumble launched a networking version of its dating app, BumbleBizz, which curates a group of professionals for users to swipe through which could lead to jobs, mentors, and other types of connections within their industry. Like with the dating app, BumbleBizz requires that women make the first move to connect to encourage positive behavior and reduced abuse rates typically seen in most dating platforms.

Women are exceptionally underrepresented across all MBA programs in the U.S—about one-third of business school graduates are female—making it difficult to find a more balanced workforce especially at the executive level. Women hold less than 15 percent of senior executive and 17 percent of board member spots. BumbleBizz is attempting to change that by fostering honest and genuine connections between women and male allies who believe in balancing out the gender disparity.

While this app may be young—the dating app is only three years old—it already boasts more than 20 million users who have sent over three billion messages. What’s more, the company announced a new investment fund for women this summer, paving the way for more glass ceiling shattering and an influential female workforce.

The Best Apps for Personal Connections: Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram

Though not initially designed for professional networking, the Facebook platform—and Facebook’s 2.2 billion members around the world—offers several advantages over other social networks. Those advantages make Facebook’s mobile apps compelling alternatives for MBA students in certain circumstances.

Facebook’s principal competitive advantage over LinkedIn is that Facebook members share much more personal information than LinkedIn members, who in most cases only present their professional personas. On Facebook, MBA students can learn much more about the private lives of classmates, faculty, and recruiters. Understanding those personal profiles can help students build long-term relationships with their peers and teachers.

Moreover, Facebook’s mobile apps—which include Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram—offer technical capabilities LinkedIn and others do not yet provide. For example, Messenger recently introduced audio and video calling, which extends opportunities for building growing relationships within Facebook’s platform.

However, some MBA students—especially technically-minded students for whom interpersonal dynamics can sometimes feel confusing—may need to exercise caution when networking on Facebook. “Some experts suggest that Facebook and business don’t mix well,” says career expert Allison Doyle, and it is easy to understand why.

In short, LinkedIn affords a more straightforward interpersonal experience for professionals. By contrast, Facebook is more complex. Interpersonal dynamics on Facebook and especially Messenger operate inside a unique culture and under a set of unwritten rules and expectations very different from those found on LinkedIn and within the broader online business community. These differences can be even more pronounced in some of Facebook’s Groups.

Not understanding those rules can make one’s risk of inadvertent social errors much higher on Facebook. That may not be much of a concern with nonprofessional networking, but in business networking, social errors affecting one’s reputation can negatively impact one’s long-term career and earnings prospects.

The Best App for Group Work Communication: Slack

B-school students do a lot of group work. Group projects, student clubs, and other extracurricular activities can be crucial in helping students land internships and jobs. The new breed of cloud-based collaboration and group-oriented apps can help students stay organized. These apps can provide access to messages, files, and resources in one single location that is accessible to all team members directly from their phone.

The most well-known collaborative software is Slack. The best way to think about what Slack does is that the platform transforms group communications into a single real-time instant messenger conversation in which all team members participate. Slack places all one-on-one and group communications into a single place, obviating the need for giant email threads. Slack also makes shared resources easily accessible through powerful search and archiving functions, and integrates with a broad range of other applications and web services.

The Slack mobile app syncs with a user’s other devices and allows users to receive and customize mobile notifications. Some have criticized productivity gains attributed to Slack due to an overwhelming torrent of real-time instant messages, which can devour more time and effort than the project would have consumed otherwise.

For MBA students who are always pressed for time, the mobile app can be counterproductive. However, Slack has introduced mute features so that students are not disturbed for specific amounts of time while they are head’s down in other work. As long as students use the platform judiciously and observe Slack’s best practices, they can capitalize on Slack’s efficiency and ease of use without wasting valuable time.

The Best App for Collaborative Work: Google Docs

Think of Google Docs as a cloud-based and collaborative alternative to Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. While not as customizable and sophisticated as the Microsoft Office suite, Google Docs allows multiple people to write and edit page documents, presentations, spreadsheets, and more, from anywhere in the world and at the same time. Because the software is cloud-based, all work is updated immediately, and any changes to the document are tracked.

Instead of wasting time annotating work, saving new versions of it, and sending it to the group via email, MBA students can do all of their work in a much more collaborative and transparent fashion.

The Best App for Data-Heavy Group Work: Airtable

Airtable is a shared, cloud-based flexible information manager that combines the best features of spreadsheets and databases with real-time collaboration that allows multiple users to work with shared data simultaneously. The app enables users to store information, share it among collaborators, and structure it to resemble charts, graphs, catalogs, inventory lists, or calendars. The mobile app is best suited for reviewing data and work completed by team members, along with messaging and compiling research notes.

The Best App for Chatting: WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a secure mobile text messaging and calling platform owned by Facebook with an installed base of 1.5 billion users worldwide. All messages within the app are encrypted, which is increasingly the preferred means of communication for professionals around the world. The app allows users to create groups regardless of a user’s device (unlike iPhone messenger) and share text, audio, and video messages with up to 256 people at once. What’s more, users can name groups and mute notifications for a certain amount of time.

The Best App For Research: Quora

Another significant component of business school is research. Whether looking up jobs, companies for case studies, new and familiar connections, or academic papers, research plays a huge role in the success of an MBA student’s work while enrolled.

Quora is a community-based website where questions are asked and answered by users. It is similar to the Yahoo! Answers platform from 20 years ago with increased parameters where users must explain why they are experts in the field. The website and app are policed by community administrators to make sure that the content published is accurate and facilitate a flow of communication.

People come to Quora to ask questions about any subject, from mathematics to philosophy, cooking to journalism. They can read high-quality content and personalize their feed with topics that are most interesting to them. For MBA students, this can include accounting, business, technology, and marketing. There are even topics dedicated to MBAs for prospective students and applicants. MBA students can benefit from this platform by asking and reading previously-posed questions about the subjects that they are studying in class, the recruiting processes at various companies, and even various forms of career advice.

The Best App for Taking Notes: Evernote

Of course, all MBA students should be taking copious notes in class. The mobile version of Evernote is a comprehensive tool for writing and compiling notes—which can be shared between users—and studying ahead of exams. Users can not only save and organize text notes but also audio recordings, reminders, images from handwriting, sketches, and even content clipped from the internet. They can also annotate documents such as PDFs and JPEGs, making Evernote one of the most versatile, free note-taking apps out there.

The Best App for Taking Notes on an Apple Device: DEVONthink To Go

Another powerful platform existed on Apple’s Mac computers for the past decade: DEVONthink Pro Office. This document management tool delivers better information capture along with artificial intelligence-based search and document classification capabilities. It also offers a companion mobile app for iPhones and iPads, DEVONthink To Go. While it is much more powerful and better performing than Evernote, its limited accessibility and high-cost are what make it a second-best alternative to Evernote.

The Best App for Screen Reading: Voice Dream Reader

One app that has not yet garnered much media coverage but can be a tremendous timesaver for MBA students is the Voice Dream Reader (VDR). Voice Dream Reader is the ultimate screen reader—one that reads text in 30 languages and 186 natural speaking voices, including amazing voices supplied by Amazon’s text-to-speech developer IVONA Software. Only available on mobile, VDR allows students to listen to textbook assignments, course readings, research and textual news reports at rates as high as 500 words a minute while simultaneously doing other things. VDR also enables students to proofread papers by listening to their papers read out loud—a method that many writers recommend because it helps them spot imperfections in their work that can be more difficult to spot on-screen.

The Best App for Presentations: Prezi

Most MBA students are not designers, but they frequently need to create presentations. Prezi allows them to surpass the somewhat crude design functionality provided by Microsoft PowerPoint. The software platform is well-known for delivering non-designers with the capabilities to create attractive and persuasive presentations. While the Prezi mobile app does not permit users to edit Prezi presentations, it does allow users to view and display their presentations on tablets and smartphones for broader audiences.

The Best App for Exam Reminders: Exam Countdown Lite

Finally, often MBA students become so busy with group projects, internship and job interviews, student club meetings, and networking information sessions promoted by recruiters that they can quickly lose track of the dates of their upcoming examinations. The free mobile app Exam Countdown Lite enables students to set countdown timers well in advance that remind them of the number of days remaining before exams so that they never lose track of a deadline again.

Douglas Mark
Douglas Mark

While a partner in a San Francisco marketing and design firm, for over 20 years Douglas Mark wrote online and print content for the world’s biggest brands, including United Airlines, Union Bank, Ziff Davis, Sebastiani, and AT&T. Since his first magazine article appeared in MacUser in 1995, he’s also written on finance and graduate business education in addition to mobile online devices, apps, and technology. Doug graduated in the top 1 percent of his class with a business administration degree from the University of Illinois and studied computer science at Stanford University.

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