We asked students an open-ended survey question: "What are your top ten favorite apps?”

Nearly 1,000 college students answered the survey question over the course of one year.

Student respondents represent over 250 colleges throughout the country.

All surveys were conducted directly on

WayUp's "Mobile App: Year in Review":


From January through December 2015,WayUp asked nearly one thousand college students around the country to tell us their 10 favorite apps. 


The following rankings list college students’ favorite apps according to the percentage of students who included the app in their top ten list.


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Here are our

9 key takeaways:

1. Facebook is declining but still reigns supreme, while Instagram is on the rise.


Among the Top 10 most favorited apps, 70% were social networking apps, followed by entertainment-streaming apps, which made up 30% of the Top 10.


It's no surprise that the list was made up of apps owned by household tech names, including Facebook (which also owns Instagram), Google (YouTube), Twitter, Microsoft (GroupMe), and Yahoo (Tumblr).


What was surprising: even though media outlets have been predicting Facebook's decline among this demographic, it’s clear that the app is still a favorite among college students.


That being said, the Facebook app only beat Instagram for the top slot by 2%. Based on this year’s trends--Facebook's share of popularity decreased 4% over the year--we predict that Instagram will overtake Facebook in 2016. Either way, Facebook the company will still be on top.

2. Without the biggest tech players,

favoritism among other apps is spread thin.


Once we set aside apps owned by publicly-traded companies, we saw a Top 10 list dominated by Snapchat, students’ favorite by a landslide. 


Interestingly, Snapchat pulls in a $16 billion valuation, which is almost 2.5 times the combined valuations of the bottom five apps.


We also were intrigued to see VSCO Cam, which tends to be less of a household name than others on this list.

3. Facebook Messenger is losing steam among college students, along with other popular apps.



Since these results were collected in five separate surveys over the span of a year, we were able to observe certain trends over time. We noticed a decline in popularity among certain apps, which began to be listed less frequently as the year went on.



Twitter has been in the press recently for facing some sluggish growth. Our results suggest a similar decline in the service’s popularity among college students.



Yik Yak has also faced some criticism in the past year. Within the timeframe of this survey, we saw a drop off in popularity, as well as a significant disparity between freshmen and seniors listing the app. In fact, freshmen cited the app as one of their favorites 4.5 times more often than seniors. It appears that as students get older, interest in this app grows old as well. Yik Yak is also the only app that was significantly more popular among Ivy League students than among non-Ivy League students.



Reddit has also been in the press a lot ever since the company's dismissal of Victoria Taylor, and it seems the app's decrease in popularity has trickled down to the college level as well.

5. Despite the high cost of college, finance-related apps are a low priority.



We were surprised to see a stark difference between the finance apps named by men and women. Robinhood, a stock-trading app, was named by men exclusively. Meanwhile Mint, an app that encourages responsible spending and saving, was cited exclusively by women.



Venmo is the clear favorite among payment apps, cited five times more frequently than the next most listed app, PayPal.



Apps in “Finance” or “E-Commerce” categories didn’t appear until Amazon, in 25th place overall. These apps may not be top of mind because students typically don’t have the money to constantly save or spend.


However, when it comes to shopping and spending, students do put an emphasis on apps that will save them money.


4. The Up and Comers are both household names and household nobodies.


Lyft is growing in popularity—students listed Lyft 5x more at the end of 2015, compared to the beginning—but students may be using the service as their “Uber back-up.” It's interesting to note that every time a student listed Lyft as a favorite, they also listed Uber. However, Uber was often listed without Lyft.



VSCO Cam is on the rise. We saw students list the app 3x more frequently in our end of the year survey as compared to our survey in January. While it seeks to set itself apart from Instagram, VSCO Cam might just be next go-to photography app for social sharing.


Among college students, it looks like Facebook and Instagram may be hard to top. However, our results are telling us that these apps are on the rise...

6. Snapchat wins college communication.



Students prefer Snapchat over other communications apps by a landslide, likely because it is faster and more interactive.


GroupMe, owned by Microsoft, is a distant second with a 30% dropoff from Snapchat. GroupMe offers a similar level of playful interaction, with the addition of personalized icons, "liking" abilities, and more.

7. The hottest gaming apps are nothing new.


Candy Crush Saga is crushing the game, quite literally. It remains the most popular game among college students, more than three years after its debut.

In fact, the top four gaming apps have all been around for at least three years. Temple Run was released in 2011, while Angry Birds debuted in 2009. Clash of Clans came out in 2012.


It's clear that the gaming space is tough to enter with these four running the show. So, will 2016 finally be the breakout year?

8. Fitness tracking and calorie-counting

dominate among health apps.



Out of the Top 10 apps focused on health and wellness, 7 Minute Workout was the only app cited by students that actually provides fitness instruction.


Apps that retroactively track fitness and count calories proved more popular.

The dark horse of this category was Period Tracker, coming in as the 2nd most popular Health App among women…and apparently, it's a favorite for some of their boyfriends, too! (A couple of men said they use Period Tracker to help track their girlfriends' periods.)

9. Starbucks remains strong,

along with GrubHub, Yelp & Domino’s.


It's clear that caffeine is king as students continuously listed Starbucks as their #1 favorite food app.


Other chart toppers include Yelp and GrubHub who seem to be fighting against the odds.

Despite recent predictions that Yelp is on the decline, it's clearly still a favorite among college students. 


Similarly, with so many apps popping up in the food delivery space (especially those that are college-focused), GrubHub has managed to solidify its place as number two, beating out other delivery apps also listed in this category.

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© 2015 by WayUp,inc. 

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