"It was a great way of collecting phone numbers without awkwardly having to ask people," Mullen said. "You could just bump them. It was seamless and quick."
Bump, a free smartphone application available for the iPhone and Android, allows users to exchange contact and other information by tapping two phones together. Using the app is a natural next step to introducing yourself, especially for first-year students eager to beef up their friend list.
"We originally designed Bump to help with a frustration we felt as students," said Jake Mintz, co-founder of Bump and a graduate of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business (Booth Full-Time MBA Profile). "Our goal is to make it easier to connect."
Making something easier is a key selling point for most apps. From an application that can turn your phone into a remote control to one that can access all the traffic cams in your city, the app world is exploring creative new uses for smartphones. Downloads are expected to jump from 7 billion in 2009 to almost 50 billion in 2012, according to a study by Chetan Sharma Consulting. By that time, the study predicts, the mobile application market will be worth $17.5 billion.
Applications designed with students in mind are part of the surge. And no wonder: Nearly half of all smartphones are owned by people between the ages of 18 and 34, a demographic that includes more than 18 million college students, according to a 2009 comScore report. Today tech-savvy students can find apps of all sorts that will organize their assignments, map out the university campus, and locate free Wi-Fi, among many other functions.
The goal of developers is to find a way to make the application relevant to personal needs. Evernote, a phone application that offers users several ways of storing and organizing thoughts, is growing in popularity among college students, according to Evernote's chief executive, Phil Libin. That might be because students are finding new ways to use the app, which allows them to organize notes as a timeline, a map, or by categories—all of them completely searchable.
"For students, Evernote can be the perfect way of collecting research," Libin said. "If you think of an idea and you're digging around online, you can start clipping sites and taking screenshots. If you have a random thought while driving, you can create a voice recording. Or if you see something on the street, you can snap a picture."
In some cases, a Post-It Note could do the same trick, albeit in a far less elegant way. And do you really want to be walking around campus covered in Post-It Notes? Of course not. In the accompanying slide show, we've gathered 10 of the most useful apps for students. Most are free. Take a few for a test ride and see what works for you. September is less than two months away. With any luck, you'll find the tech tools you need to hit the ground running.