- How We Chose the Best VPN for School
- Why Do I Need a VPN for School?
- Why Do Schools Block Websites and Services?
- Can I Unblock School WiFi Without a VPN?
- How Can I Access VPN Websites in School?
- Can I Use a Free VPN for School?
- Final Thoughts
Many schools and colleges block access to certain websites or services in order to keep students focused. Not only can it be frustrating, but it can sometimes mean you can’t access content that you actually need for research. If you’re in such a situation, one of our best VPN for school picks can help you break through the barrier.
If you’re in a rush, we recommend that you install CyberGhost. It’s a great VPN service that offers strong security and speeds, as well as a massive server network. It’s also easy to use and cheap. Android and iOS users can take advantage of its free seven-day trial, and there’s a money-back guarantee to fall back on, too.
Although it’s annoying to find that you’re blocked from the content you want, schools and colleges do it for good reasons. We’ll go over the reasons later, but a virtual private network will help you bypass the restrictions and access what you want. We’ll also talk about what criteria the VPN should meet and why some free VPNs should be avoided.
The Best VPN for School
- CyberGhost — Cheap, free seven-day trial
- Hide.me — Free plan with 10GB of data, decent speeds
- Windscribe — Free plan with 2GB of data that can be increased, cheap build-a-plan
- ExpressVPN — Excellent service, fast, secure
- ProtonVPN — Free plan with unlimited bandwidth, slow speeds
- TunnelBear — Free plan with 500MB of data that can be increased, mediocre speeds
CyberGhost is the best school VPN. It comes with great security and uses the recommended 256-bit AES encryption. You also get a permanently enabled kill switch to keep you safe, though that does mean you can’t turn it off. The company doesn’t keep a log of your activities, either.
It’s easy to use, even if the interface takes a bit of getting used to initially, which you can read more about in our CyberGhost review. You can use it on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and in case you have more than one device, you can connect up to seven at the same time.
CyberGhost’s speeds are fast, but you might notice they’re slower when you connect to a server that’s far away. You get unlimited bandwidth, and it is capable of getting into streaming services, too, in case that’s something you want. It has a massive server network, so finding a suitable server won’t be an issue.
Although CyberGhost isn’t free, it is cheap. The per-month option isn’t great, but you can save money by choosing a lengthier subscription. CyberGhost also has a free trial, which is rare. Android and iOS users get seven days, while desktop users get 24 hours. Plus, it has a money-back guarantee, in case you don’t like it.
- Good security features
- Free trial
- Can’t control the kill switch
- Spotty ad blocker performance
Our second pick is Hide.me. It’s well known for its free plan, which is good and earned a spot on our best free VPN services list. It has good security, with lots of settings and protocol options. There’s also a kill switch that has its own settings.
Hide.me has a strict no-logs policy and has even gone the extra mile to have that certified, as you can read in our Hide.me review.
It can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and although it takes time to set up, its interface is easy to use. Hide.me has managed to build a streamlined interface that’s crammed with features below the surface. The free plan allows one connection, and the Premium plan allows 10.
Hide.me has decent speeds, and its Premium plan has unlimited data, whereas the free plan gets 10GB. When it comes to streaming, Hide.me’s free plan is capable of getting into Amazon Prime Video and Hulu, but not Netflix or BBC iPlayer. Even on the paid plan, though, it still struggles with Netflix.
Its server network covers 60 locations, but only five of those are accessible on the free plan. Plus, most of its coverage is in Europe.
Hide.me’s free plan is a good one, and we’d rank it as the best free VPN for school. Although the paid plan has a lot going for it, it comes at a high price. Still, if you take the plunge, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee for peace of mind.
- Free plan with 10GB of data
- Great security & multiple settings
- Easy to use
- Struggles with Netflix
Windscribe is a decent provider that also has both a free and paid plan. Its security is good and uses 256-bit AES encryption. You get a kill switch, too, but it’s called a “firewall” instead. Windscribe does keep some logs, but it’s minimal and can’t be traced back to you. You can read more about that in our Windscribe review.
It has a simple interface, making it easy to use and great for beginners. It can be used on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. Plus, you can connect an unlimited number of devices at the same time, even on the free plan.
The speeds are decent and fine for most activities, including streaming. Windscribe also has dedicated streaming servers called Windflix servers. If you plan on streaming with Windscribe, these servers will ensure that you get into any streaming platform. However, Windflix servers are not included with the free plan.
Winscribe’s server network is fairly small, but it covers around 60 countries. The free plan gets access to only a handful of those, though. The same goes for data allowance. The paid plan gets unlimited data, but the free plan is restricted to 2GB per month, or 10GB if you enter a valid email address.
Although most of what we’ve said points to the full paid plan being better, there is a cheaper option to get what you want. By using Windscribe’s build-a-plan option, you can get one server of your choice and unlimited bandwidth for just $2 per month. You could even choose a Windflix server.
If you do opt for a paid version and change your mind, Windscribe will issue a refund if you ask for it within three days of purchase.
- Free plan
- Cheap build-a-plan option
- Unlimited connections
- Full plan is expensive
ExpressVPN is usually at or near the top of our roundups. It’s the best VPN we’ve tested and would be the best school VPN if it was more price-friendly for students.
It has excellent security features and uses 256-bit AES encryption. There’s a kill switch that’s enabled by default, but unlike with CyberGhost, you can turn this one off. A strict no-logs policy is in place, too.
It’s one of the easiest VPNs to use, on all devices. It works on Windows, macOS, Android and iOS, and it lets you connect up to five devices simultaneously.
ExpressVPN is the fastest VPN on the market, and there are no limits to data usage. Those features, as well as the fact that it can get into any streaming platform, makes it our best VPN for streaming. There are thousands of servers covering 94 countries, so you have plenty to choose from. Read more in our ExpressVPN review.
ExpressVPN is the best VPN your money can buy, but it’s expensive, which is no good on a student budget. That said, if you’re able to splurge, we recommend doing so. As with many other providers, longer plans provide better prices than the per-month ones. Plus, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee to fall back on.
- Excellent security
- Accesses all streaming platforms
ProtonVPN provides both a free and paid plan. It has good security features with strong encryption. There’s also a kill switch and a solid no-logs policy. It’s easy to use once it’s set up, and it provides clients for Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. The connection limit will depend on the plan you choose, though, which we’ll get to later on.
What makes ProtonVPN unique is that it offers unlimited bandwidth, even on its free plan. It has plenty of servers to bypass school network blocks, though its network isn’t large. It’s capable of getting into all streaming platforms, too.
That said, the reason why it’s not closer to the top of our list is because it’s let down by its speeds. It’s not the slowest VPN we’ve come across, but it is slow, as you can read in our ProtonVPN review.
If you choose the free plan, you’ll get unlimited bandwidth, one device connection and the use of three servers, located in the U.S., Japan and the Netherlands. We must point out, though, that during our testing, we found the free servers to be unreliable.
If you opt for the paid plan, you can choose from three different plans. Basic is the cheapest plan, and you get two devices, as well as the use of all of its servers. The Plus plan offers the same as the Basic plan, but you also get three more connections and the use of ProtonVPN’s Secure Core, streaming and Tor servers.
The priciest plan is the Visionary plan. That gets you 10 connections in total, as well as the use of its encrypted email service, ProtonMail. However, it’s not worth the money. You’d be better off sticking with the Plus plan. There’s no free trial, but you can ask for a refund within 30 days.
- Unlimited bandwidth, even on the free plan
- Gets into streaming services
- Good security
- Free servers are sometimes unusable
Our last pick, TunnelBear, is another provider that offers both a free and paid plan. Its security is good, even though the protocol and encryption it uses are locked in. It has a kill switch, too, called VigilantBear.
Its interface is easy on the eye and pleasant to use. You get a map with a small bear showing your current location. It’s compatible with Windows, macOS, Android and iOS. You can connect up to five devices simultaneously.
TunnelBear’s speeds aren’t great and they vary on different servers. Plus, its server coverage is small. It’s also no good at getting into streaming services, so it’s not going to earn the crown for the best free VPN for school.
As for data allowance, there’s no limit on the paid plan, but the free plan gets you 500MB. That’s not as much as the other free plans listed, but it might be enough if your tasks are light. There are ways to increase the allowance, though. You can get an extra gigabyte just by tweeting about TunnelBear each month.
TunnelBear’s full paid plan is affordable, especially if you opt for the annual plan rather than the per-month one. There’s no refund guarantee, though. Refunds are issued on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll have to contact TunnelBear to try and get one.
- Free plan
- User-friendly interface
- Good security features
- Inconsistent speeds
- Can’t get into streaming services
- Small server network
How We Chose the Best VPN for School
Although most VPNs look like they have the same features, each service can be very different. Speeds, security strength, server network and so on can vary widely with each VPN, so it’s important to make sure you’re happy with its capabilities before you jump in. Our criteria list below gives you a guide to what you should look for in a VPN service.
Security and Privacy
Security is the most important factor for a school VPN. That alone won’t help you circumvent a block, but it’s important to make sure you’re protected, especially when you’re connecting to a public network. Without protection, you risk being a victim of cybercrime.
A VPN will also mask what you’re up to, meaning your school will have no clue that you’ve bypassed the blocks.
A kill switch is an additional feature that strengthens security. It’ll cut your connection completely if the VPN fails, meaning none of your sensitive information will be revealed to prying eyes, and your school won’t find out what you’re doing.
Your privacy is just as important, but good security features won’t guarantee it. You should make sure that the VPN provider doesn’t keep activity logs. That way, there’s no record of your online activities.
Device Compatibility and Ease of Use
Most VPN services are compatible with popular operating systems, but it’s a good idea to check if your device is listed before you sign up. You might want to install the VPN on your school computer for research purposes, but if you’re looking to access social media and the like, you’ll most likely do so on your mobile phone (read our best VPN for mobile piece).
Check its user-friendliness, too. Beginners may prefer something that can connect with the click of a button, whereas experienced users might want something more tweakable.
Speed and Bandwidth
You should consider the VPN’s speed, too. Slow speeds can mean you’re waiting a long time for websites or services to load or — on the odd occasion — fail completely. We’re sure you won’t want to spend your whole break staring at a loading screen, so choosing one with good speeds is a must.
On top of speed, you should make sure that the VPN’s bandwidth allowance is enough for the activities you plan to carry out. For instance, if you just want to share your latest selfie on Instagram, you’re not going to use much data. That said, if you plan on streaming or downloading a lot, your data allowance is going to get eaten up fast.
If you hit your bandwidth limit, the VPN will no longer work. You’ll not only be left vulnerable, but you’ll also be unable to access the blocked content anymore.
VPN providers can have many servers all over the globe. The more servers there are available, the easier it is for you to get around restrictions. Choosing a nearby server can sometimes help with speed, too.
Make sure the VPN has a decent server count and that it has some in the country you’re based. If it doesn’t have servers in your country, you might end up not being able to access certain content or end up on another country’s version.
Being a student can mean you don’t have the funds to pay for a monthly service. There are many services that offer a free plan, but make sure the plan covers what you need. Also, paid services often have discounts for lengthier subscriptions, but you should still ensure that you can afford it.
Why Do I Need a VPN for School?
There are a couple of reasons why using a VPN in school or college is beneficial. For starters, you never know how secure the network is. Nasty things can be waiting to infect your device, and once they do, your sensitive information can be stolen. It’s best to make sure you are protected with a VPN, but a decent antivirus will help, too.
Security aside, it’s common for schools and colleges to place restrictions on certain content or services. A virtual private network will help you bypass any blocks by connecting you to a server outside of the school’s network, disguising your true location.
That means any services or websites that you visit will be fooled into thinking that you’re where the server is located, and because there are no restrictions placed on that server, you’ll get access to whatever you want.
Why Do Schools Block Websites and Services?
Social media platforms — such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter — are the usual victims (read our best VPN for Snapchat). Streaming platforms like Netflix can be blocked, too, but it takes some muscle to break through Netflix’s VPN ban. Our best VPN for Netflix roundup lists those that are able to get in.
The reason why all of those get blocked, though, is simple: it’s to ensure that students and workers are not distracted during class. You can’t say you’re totally focused if you’re scrolling through someone’s Instagram feed or watching funny cat videos.
Despite how frustrated you may feel, schools blacklist sites with good intentions. That said, email servers and educational content can get caught in the net.
Blocks are also enforced to regulate how much bandwidth gets used. If students were constantly streaming videos, downloading games — such as Fortnite — and whatever else they can find to amuse themselves online, the network wouldn’t be able to handle it.
There’s also the issue of torrenting. Schools won’t allow it, and for good reason. Students often share PDF versions of textbooks, but schools have to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. If a student is found to be violating the school’s policies, they can be punished, but a VPN will help you stay undetected.
Can I Unblock School WiFi Without a VPN?
There is another way besides using VPNs to access blocked content, and that is with a proxy. A proxy basically masks your IP address, again making you look like you’re elsewhere. However, proxy servers aren’t a good choice because they lack the safety and security that a VPN brings, so we don’t recommend using one.
Even though your location is masked, you’re not totally anonymous and anyone can trace you. You’ll also not have any protection against malicious websites and hackers. Read our VPN vs proxy vs Tor guide for a better understanding.
How Can I Access VPN Websites in School?
If you haven’t already signed up for a VPN, you may find that your school has blocked access to VPN websites. If the VPN’s website is blocked, you won’t be able to sign up for the service on your school’s network. If you’re unable to wait or don’t have a connection at home, there are a couple of ways that you can sign up.
If you have mobile data, you could initially use that to sign up for the VPN, and you could tether your school computer to your phone if you want to download the service on there — just make sure you password protect your hotspot. You could also use a WiFi hotspot in a nearby cafe. Whichever method you choose, keep in mind your mobile bill and your safety on public WiFi.
Can I Use a Free VPN for School?
Although not all free VPNs are bad — such as the free plans mentioned above — we don’t recommend using one of the hundreds of free VPN services that come up when you search in your app store or web browser. We know they’re tempting, especially if you’re strapped for cash, but a lot of those VPNs can bring you more harm than good.
You can read our worst free VPN providers piece to see just how bad it can be, but some of the most common dangers include infecting your device with malware, inserting tracking cookies and selling your data. Besides all of the dangers, a free VPN is likely to have data usage restrictions and possibly slow speeds.
Using a VPN at school can help you bypass blocks placed on the school’s network and keep you safe from online dangers. That said, choosing one that meets your needs and stays within your budget can be hard if you’re a student. Security is the most important factor for keeping you safe, but you should also consider its ease of use, speed and bandwidth allowance.
CyberGhost is your best option for a school VPN. It has good security features, including a permanently enabled kill switch. It’s also easy to use, has good speeds and comes with unlimited data. Plus, it’s cheap, and there’s a free trial for Android and iOS users, as well as a money-back guarantee. You can’t go wrong.
Do you have experience using a VPN for school? Let us know in the comment section. Take a look at our other VPN articles while you’re here, too. As always, thank you for reading.