top of page


Being academically successful in college requires knowledge of certain software, skills, and resources. The guide below provides mostly software tips and tricks that many college courses require. I have also included a list of lesser-known software that I find helpful. Please contact me if you have tips that I can add to this list!


Many universities provide students with Gmail accounts. Email is usually the most efficient way of communication with your professor or TA. Professors and TAs want to help you, so help them do that by giving them the information they need! My favorite guide about emailing professors is a blog post by Laura Portwood-Stacer: How to Email Your Professor (without being annoying AF).

See some general tips about Gmail below:

Attach Files:

To attach a file on Gmail, click the paperclip icon at the bottom of your new message and select the files you want to attach. This will add the file to your email. It will not appear in the body text.

Insert Images:

You can also insert an image into the body of an email by using the mountain photo icon. This puts the image into your text directly so that people see it right away when opening the email. 

  • Put an image in the body of an email if people do not need to download it. E.g. if you want to show your grandmother a picture of your new kitten. 

  • Attach an image as a file if someone needs to use it. E.g. you are sending an image to another student to include a group presentation.


Inserting Links: 

If you want to include a link in your email, you can copy and paste the link directly to show the full URL in the body of the email, or you can highlight the words you want someone to click on and press the “link” icon. You will paste your link in the text box that appears. 

Schedule Send:

In Gmail, you can schedule your email to send at a later time. To do this, click the arrow next to the “send” button then click “schedule send” to select a time. This is helpful if you are sending  an email to a professor at 2:00 AM, and you want them to think that you are asleep.

Microsoft Office programs and Google Drive programs have slightly different functionalities and both do the basics well. The nice part about Office files is that you don’t need to ask someone to find a link again and again, they can download the file to their computer and not worry about it. Google Drive files are nice for collaboration.

Microsoft Word/Google Docs

Track Changes/Suggested Edits

  • In Microsoft Word, you can turn on “track changes” to show the edits you are making to a document. In the same “Review” ribbon, you can add or delete comments. 

  • In Google Docs, you can turn on “suggesting” in the editing options tab. This will show the edits you are making to the document. I find Google Docs’ suggesting less clean than Word’s track changes, but that’s a personal preference.

Insert a Table

  • In both Microsoft Word and Google Docs, you can insert and create a table directly in the document (as opposed to creating one in Excel or Sheets). Additionally, if you need more rows in your table, you can press “tab” once you are in the last cell of your table to add another row. 

Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets

Excel and Sheets are both excellent programs for working with data, especially when inputting data before analyzing it. R and SPSS can be useful for data cleaning and analysis, but Excel and Sheets do have powerful functions as well.

Insert Rows/Columns

  • In Excel, right click on the cell either under or to the right of the row/column you want to create. Then click “insert” and select from the menu of options. 

    • To delete a row or column, click a cell in the desired row/column, then right click and select “delete.” Choose from the menu of options. 

  • In Sheets, right click on the cell either under or to the right of the row/column you want to create. Then click “insert row” or “insert column.” 

Wrap Text

If you don't want the text in your cells to overflow and get cut off, you’ll use the “wrap text” feature. Select the cells you want to apply this to, and then click the appropriate button.

  • In Excel, this feature is in the “home” ribbon.

Hide Rows/Columns

Sometimes you have a very large file, and you want to hide a column or row without deleting it. You can do this easily. 

  • In Excel’s “Home” ribbon, click “Format” and then “Hide & Unhide” to make your selection. To hide a row/column, click on a cell in that row/column. To unhide a row/column, highlight cells around the hidden row/column and follow the same steps.

  • To hide a row/column in Sheets, click on the column letter or row number, and then click on the little arrow that appears. You will then have the option to hide the row or column. To unhide a row/column, click on the arrows that appear at the top of the document.


Using formulas in Excel and Sheets will save you a lot of time and effort when transforming variables or summing results. Some basic formulas that work in both are below: 

  • =SUM() Sum takes a range or list of numbers and gives you the sum of those numbers.

  • =AVERAGE() Average takes a range or list of numbers and gives you the average of those numbers. 

  • =COUNT() Count counts all the cells in a given range that contain numeric values. 

  • =COUNTA() Counta counts all cells in a given range that contain any value (blank cells are still skipped). 

  • COUNTIF() Countif counts all cells in a given range that meet criteria you specify. 

These are some extremely basic formulas that can help with data collection. Excel and Sheets can do many, many things. If there is something you are curious about, look it up! You’d be surprised!


At times, you may want to filter your data. Maybe you want to only look at girl participants or you only want to look at data from people who are older than 35. Filters can help you do this.

  • In Excel, click on the “Data” ribbon, then click “Filter.” Arrows will appear in each column. Click the arrow in your desired column to filter and set your criteria. 

  • In Sheets, click on the “Data” menu, then click “create a filter” to set your criteria. 

You can filter in more than one category at a time.


You may also want to sort your data, such as looking at youngest participants first then oldest participants last. 

  • In Excel, go to the “Data” ribbon, then click “Sort” to set your criteria. 

  • In Sheets, click on a column letter. Then go to the “Data” menu and click “Sort Range” to set up your sort criteria. 


Microsoft PowerPoint and Google Slides 

PowerPoint and Slides can be useful in different situations. If you don’t know whether or not you’ll have internet access or if you are making a poster for a conference, I would recommend PowerPoint. If you are collaborating with others, I would recommend Slides. 

Embed Videos 

Embedding a video in your slides removes the burden of having to switch between tabs. 

To embed a video in PowerPoint, go to the “Insert” ribbon, click the “Video” button and select “Online Video.” You can then search for a YouTube video or paste a video embed code. 

To embed a video in Google Slides, click “Insert” and then “Video.” You can search YouTube, insert a URL, or upload your own video.  

Live Captioning 

Directions for PowerPoint

Directions for Google Slides

Statistics Resources

You may or may not conduct your own data analyses during your undergraduate career, but if you are looking to learn more about statistics and data analysis, these are my suggested resources: 

General Resources: 

  • Statistics Cheat Sheet from MIT:

    • Defines statistical terms like population, mean, standard error, variance, etc.

    • Also explains t-tests, chi-square tests, and probability

  • Chart for Choosing a Statistical Test:

    • This chart can help you decide what type of analyses to conduct. If your data are not normally distributed, you may want to consult another resource.

  • Data Visualization Catalogue:

    • Options for presenting data

  • Improving Your Statistical Inferences 

    • Free statistics course taught by Daniel Lakens 

    • Advanced. This course is good if you have a strong understanding of t-tests, regressions, etc. It provides an introduction to Bayesian statistics, power analyses, and pre-registered studies. Daniel mainly focuses on p-values, however, and how we as scientists are often fooled by examining them in black-and-white.


Resources for Excel: 


Resources for R: 

Writing Resources

Writing is a large part of your academic career. From short emails to term papers, you will be writing a lot. I most highly recommend Barbra Sarnecka’s book The Writing Workshop which provides practical advice for writing in academia. For graduate students and professors, the book also details how to develop a writing workshop class. The book started as a blog, and some of the more relevant blog posts are linked below as well as a free PDF of the book: 

Using a Citation Manager

When you write academic papers, you need to include citations. You may have practiced this in high school by citing the book you were reading for class. Maybe you conducted a short research paper. When you are writing a longer paper, it can be useful to use a “citation manager” or a software program that can help you organize and properly cite your sources. 


I prefer Zotero because it is free and the most consistent citation manager I have used. You can upload PDFs or save them from the web, and Zotero will log the information you need for citations. You can pair Zotero with Microsoft Word or Google Docs to insert citations as you write, and it will create a bibliography for you! 


If you really don’t want to use a citation manager, I would recommend ZoteroBib as an alternative to EasyBib. 


Still Need Help? 

UC Davis students can go to the AATC Writing Support Center. Make an appointment for help with course essays, scholarship essays, and more! Tutors come from a variety of majors, and they can help you become a better writer.

Other Helpful Resources

  • XODO - for Windows, read and edit PDFs for free

  • Mobile Scanner Apps - These work fairly well and are better than trying to string together a bunch of photos you have taken of a worksheet or handwriting. Search in your app store to find a scanner app that will work for you. 

  • Vibby - Vibby is a service where you can cut YouTube videos and play just the segment you want. You can also splice videos together, but you cannot download these videos. 

  • Notion - Notion is sort of like an online Bullet journal. You can take notes, use templates like calendars or databases, and collaborate with others. 

  • Canva - Canva is a user-friendly graphic design tool. You can make simple graphics for class or extracurricular activities. 

  • When2Meet - A website where you can find a time to meet with a group of people. Everyone fills in their availability, and When2Meet shows when most people are free.

  • Noun Project - A website that features a collection of simple icons that can be useful for presentations, posters, etc.

bottom of page