VPNs for School Students in 2023: 7 Best VPNs to Unblock Websites
Nothing’s more annoying than sitting down to do some research in school and finding that most of the websites are blocked.
It is common for schools and colleges across the USA to block websites that admins feel will distract their pupils. These mainly include social media (like Instagram and Reddit) and entertainment sites (like Netflix).
Research portals like Wikipedia and online study communities like SparkNotes are also blacklisted. This is to bar students from carrying out mass copying and also prevent copyright issues.
There’s also the issue of massive bandwidth usage if they were to allow content-heavy sites like YouTube. And all of that troubles the poor student: you.
Sure, university administrators have their reasons and a change in their attitude is hard to develop. Thankfully, you don’t have to convince them when you have a simple fix: a virtual private network or VPN.
A VPN can easily unblock websites on a school Wi-Fi. It is a software that makes it look like you are browsing from somewhere else and not your school campus. A good VPN does this by masking your IP address and routing your traffic through another server, thereby tricking your school’s network. A VPN for schools not only gives you access to all the blocked websites but also hides what you’re doing.
There’s more to a virtual private network than this, which I have detailed below. However, if you are in a hurry for that assignment due next week, here’s a roundup of the best VPNs for school and college students.
- NordVPN – the best VPN for schools and colleges
- Surfshark – for unlimited connection on multiple devices
- AtlasVPN – with available free version
- PrivateVPN – great for port-forwarding and torrenting
- ExpressVPN – fast premium VPN service
- Private Internet Access – with thousands of servers worldwide
- CyberGhost – a great alternative option
7 Best VPNs for Schools and Colleges
If you need more information before you make a choice, read the detailed reviews of these top 7 school VPNs below. We used several factors to pick these 7 providers. I have covered our methodology in detail in the next section.
But for now, let’s look at how efficiently these 7 VPNs can unblock your school’s Wi-Fi restrictions.
NordVPN is our top choice for a school VPN. It has everything that you need to unblock and optimize your school’s Wi-Fi network.
Its network consists of over 5,400 locations in about 59 countries. This means you can unblock virtually any site in the world, including geoblocked sites like Netflix Japan and BBC iPlayer.
The wide server network also means that you can unblock research sites of universities in other countries. Simply choose the server of the desired country and access the content hosted in that country. Unlike other VPN providers, Nord owns and maintains all its servers. This reinforces its claim of bypassing even the most sophisticated blocks placed by schools.
Nord is also top-notch when it comes to security and privacy. While the usual features like IP and DNS leak protection are default functions, it boasts additional abilities. It can keep malware and adware at bay and also allow you to use the Tor network. With it, you can access the deep web, known to house free technical books, STEM journals, and manuals that are otherwise not available. We feel this is a very good reason to prefer NordVPN over its competitors.
Nord is available across operating systems, so you can install it both on your laptop and mobile. A single subscription can be used on both devices, saving you a lot of money. And in the rare case that you are unsatisfied, it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. Annual plans start at $5 per month, with an additional 15% discount for students.
With a Nord subscription, you can say goodbye to all forms of site blocks and network jams on your campus.
- Thousands of lightning-fast servers
- Unblocks streaming services
- Fully supports Torrenting and P2P
- Strict no-logs policy and RAM-disk servers
- Ad blocker and malware protection features
- Robust security features and military-grade encryption
- 24/7 live chat support
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Only 6 simultaneous connections
- No free trial
Surfshark is another all-rounder VPN that can solve all your school network issues. It can not only unblock sites on your school Wi-Fi but also optimize the connection speed.
Heard of those examples where a VPN for schools fixed an internet connection’s speed issue? Well, sometimes schools may throttle network speed to prevent pupils from surfing the web all day. With Surfshark, you can get rid of all sorts of throttling and enjoy the original speed of your network. In one of our tests, Surfshark improved the network speed by a whopping 50%.
We also like that it uses the AES-256 encryption standard which makes you “look like a ninja” online. No one – including your school’s IT guy – will know what you are accessing on the web.
It has a lot of additional features that stand out. The multi-hop feature is similar to Atlas’s Server Swap, while the NoBorders Mode is a one-click solution to your unblocking needs. It’s hassle-free VPN unblocking at best.
And all of this at the cheapest possible price. Surfshark is one of the most budget-friendly VPNs around, and hence, is a great choice for students. If you don’t want to spend all your allowance, simply get Surfshark. Plans start at $3 per month for an annual package, with a 30-day money-back guarantee and a 15% student discount (via Student Beans).
- Very affordable
- Unlimited simultaneous connections
- Ad-blocking feature
- Unblocks streaming platforms
- Allows split-tunneling and has multi-hop VPN feature
- No-log policy and strong security features
- GPS spoofing on Android devices
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- No free version
- Does not allow P2P seeding
A good VPN for USA schools is one that is hassle-free. While Nord is our top pick, we also highly recommend AtlasVPN. One reason for this is the Server Swap feature that makes it very easy for students to use it in their hectic schedules. Here’s how it works.
Just switch on Atlas and activate Server Swap. This will automatically switch your IP address while unblocking the school Wi-Fi network. But it does something more: periodically changes your server so that you don’t use a single one at a stretch.
The Server Swap feature helps you stay more anonymous. Since you are never using a single server for long, you will not leave any tracks behind. It would be very difficult to spot you or your activities. No more paranoia about using a VPN in school.
That’s not all. It covers over 37 locations around the world, has a strict no-logs policy, and uses 256-bit AES encryption. These are enough reasons to make it stand out in the crowd. You can use a single Atlas subscription across multiple devices; a VPN for your school iPhone as well as MacBook. You can also share your subscription with your group.
If Nord looks expensive to you, we recommend AtlasVPN as the next best option. As of 2023, its annual plan starts at $4 per month, with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
- Very affordable plans and it has a free version
- Fast Speeds
- Unlimited device support
- WireGuard protocol and strong security features
- Unblocks streaming services
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Limited Linux app
- Based in the US
- Not so many servers
With servers in 62 countries, PrivateVPN has the widest network on this list so far. A great choice if you consume a lot of regional content that is restricted in your country. Private has even remote Asian and Eastern European countries in its server list, giving you unobstructed access to the free web.
There is also no question about unblocking academic sites. Its servers have enough strength to bypass even the most complex blocking systems. Say, for example, your school blocks Wikipedia and all its sister concerns. With Private, you can simply switch your IP address to one from the UK or India and start browsing.
It uses OpenVPN and other reputed protocols to provide decent security. While we don’t see any out-of-the-box security feature here, it has a good enough system in place to hide your traffic from prying administrators.
PrivateVPN has been around for quite a while and is widely known for its simple approach. You will find its app easy and intuitive to use. If you are someone who hates putting a lot of time on software, just get Private and run it on your Mac or Windows laptop once. It will take care of the rest.
Subscriptions start at $6 per month for its quarterly package. Although Private does not offer any student discount, it frequently runs deals on its website.
- Supports P2P traffic and allows port forwarding
- Unlimited bandwidth and great speeds
- Unblocks most streaming platforms
- Zero-logging policy
- Free Static IP servers
- 10 simultaneous connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Not as many servers as other VPN providers
- No split-tunneling
If YouTube is where your research matters lie, then I recommend going with ExpressVPN. It has over 160 server locations across almost 100 countries. That’s the widest network so far on this list and can be a great way to unblock geoblocked sites.
The highlight with Express’s product is in its RAM servers that can even break the most complex of censorship and blockades. I am talking about those executed by countries like Russia and China. If you desire to access content on sites hosted in such strict countries, Express will be the smart choice.
Watch or stream as much as you want without any restrictions, thanks to Express’s unlimited bandwidth. Like Surfshark, it can also aid you in optimizing your school network’s speed. And when you’re studying from home, its NetworkLock feature can help you stay protected throughout.
The only area where it fades in comparison with other VPNs is the price point. It’s the most expensive VPN on this list, which in a way, is justified because of its high-speed connections.
I’d recommend ExpressVPN if you’re not on a budget and prefer to use it for both school and home use. You have to get the maximum benefit out of it to make it worthy.
- Works with streaming
- Supports torrenting
- No-logs policy
- TrustedServer technology with RAM-only servers
- Premium security features
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Expensive subscription plans
- Only 5 simultaneous connections
6. Private Internet Access
PIA has the usual bells and whistles but it does one job comparatively well: torrenting. If you plan to download copyrighted e-books and papers from BitTorrent sites, PIA is a perfect choice. Because here you are doing more than just accessing a blocked site. Here’s how.
First, PIA will help you access BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay and 1337x, which are sure to be blocked in your college. Next, it will anonymize your traffic when you download the actual ebooks that are part of your curriculum. And this needs to be done while maintaining a decent speed. This is some heavy-lifting that can only be done by a premium VPN like Private Internet Access.
You also get dedicated IPs, a kill switch, and a malware repellent with your subscription. Its VPN application maintains a 100% no-logs policy, and is generally answerable to no one but you.
I mean for all those costly college textbooks, buying PIA VPN will be a small tear in your purse. Get the best when you can, at least for the duration of your course. And we can’t deny the affordability that it offers when its longterm plans start at as cheap as $2 per month.
Pro Tip – PIA can also act as a stealth VPN if you know that your school/college blocks general virtual private networks too. Just use the OpenVPN protocol and switch to port 443. Obfuscated servers by Nord and Surfshark can also similarly scramble traffic. These are VPNs that work in schools.
- Thousands of servers
- Great for torrenting and P2P
- Strong security and encryption
- Block ads, trackers, and malware
- 10 simultaneous device connections
- Anonymous payment methods
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Based in the US
- Not all streaming services can be unblocked
CyberGhost covers about 112 locations in over 90 countries. That’s like half the world. And there’s no way you will find a website that this budget-friendly VPN cannot unblock.
Whether it is a Wi-Fi jammer or a routine site blocker that your school uses, CyberGhost’s strong VPN infrastructure will bypass anything. It uses 256-bit military-grade encryption to keep you safe while you browse beyond your school’s network. You can both access blocked sites and improve your connection speed.
One distinguishing factor of CyberGhost is its recent entry. It’s a new startup and is eager to help. As a student, you are bound to get its complete attention should you face any unblocking problem. Its subscription plans are also cheap, starting at $4 per month for an annual package.
CyberGhost is the only VPN provider that offers a 45-day money-back guarantee. It’s a great deal for students as you get ample time to try out the product before you commit.
- Good for streaming and torrenting
- WireGuard protocol available
- No Logs
- Offers Dedicated IP option
- Free browser extension
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- No third-party audits
- Messy app’s interface
How We Made This List: School Virtual Network Factors
But how did we pick these 7 top virtual private networks for universities in the US? We did have a strategy.
Everyone keeps saying that the perfect school VPN should have a lot of servers and high speed to unblock apps and sites. But no one tells you why, and what it all means. They also don’t tell you what factors to consider when buying a VPN for schools.
When choosing a school-blocking VPN, you should focus on a set of VPN parameters. Doing so will allow you to get the best out of your purchase and enjoy a fully unblocked school network. After all, what good is a virtual private network if it doesn’t let you access Libgen and the like?
- A strong and wide server network is the most critical for a school VPN. It means the number of global locations (servers) that a company offers. When you use a virtual private network, your traffic is routed through one of these servers to bypass the block. It will allow you to unblock any website or app in the world. So, the higher the number of servers and the more they are spread out the better. For example, our #1 choice NordVPN offers over 5,400 servers in 54 countries.
- Strong encryption is another important VPN factor as your anonymity depends on this. Using a VPN to unblock a free research portal is fine as long as you don’t get caught by the campus administrator. That is where the encryption standard comes into the picture. It should hide your online activities so that your school or college does not find out that you are using a VPN. Strong encryption standards such as AES-256 are a must. VPN protocols (which decide the encryption standard) such as OpenVPN and WireGuard are the most secure. All the 7 tools listed above use these advanced protocols.
- No data logging or mining is equally important with school VPNs. Your chosen provider should not keep logs of your connections or mine any data. This is critical if you want to maintain your privacy and stay near-anonymous online. Some less reputed tools tend to extract user data and sell it to third-party companies, which can cause identity theft and spam. You can safely choose a brand from our list as all have a strict no-logs policy that will protect your privacy.
- High-speed connectivity is a no-brainer if you plan to unblock your school Wi-Fi. VPNs indeed reduce your overall internet speed but there are exceptions. You don’t want that low-res or buffering screen when you watch an episode of your favorite show between assignments. While connectivity depends on a lot of things, choose a fast app that offers high-speed connections and maximum servers in your area. We regard Nord and Express as the fastest VPNs.
- Essential security features like malware and DNS leak protection are other things to consider. You don’t want to invite any sort of malware or viruses into your computer while doing research. To keep your laptop and yourself safe, opt for a provider that has all the necessary security functions.
- Support for major operating systems like Windows, macOS, iOS, Android, and Linux is also desirable. You ideally want the software to work both on your iPhone and your MacBook for a seamless experience at school. In addition, the VPN should allow simultaneous connections across devices.
- A school VPN should be affordable. With the burden of student loans and other expenses, it doesn’t always make sense to pay a premium for a VPN. Especially for a thing that’s the school’s fault. To keep your expense light, choose a provider that offers student plans or similar. Most providers do offer free trials and money-back guarantees. Aim for Surfshark or Atlas if you don’t want to spend more.
- Easy-to-use VPNs are the best for school students. You don’t want to spend hours figuring out how to unblock a site. Get one that has a simple interface and allows one-click activation.
There’s no one-size-fits-all VPN. What might work for your home-schooling neighbor friend may not work for you at the university. While all the 7 brands listed above are ideal for schools and colleges, it’s still better to base your choice on your specific needs. Think of the most important factors and then choose the ideal one.
For instance, you may want to buy a powerful VPN that costs slightly higher. And your classmate may want to go for a cheaper one. It’s okay to have your own choice as long as you can unblock sites on school Wi-Fi.
Why You Need a VPN at School
The answer lies in the limitations of the internet network of a school or college. Most schools in the United States and other parts of the world tend to put restrictions on their Wi-Fi network. (One report suggests that 98% of schools in the United States do this.) They block access to websites and apps that they feel will not contribute to the cause of education.
As a result, students are prohibited from accessing those sites. In some cases, bandwidth limitations are also placed on the network to prevent students from downloading too much. This is mostly done to distribute the available bandwidth to everyone using the Wi-Fi on a university campus.
You need a virtual private network to bypass blocks and restrictions put up by school and college administrators. You could use a proxy server or your phone’s carrier network (like AT&T and Verizon) but it’s not always feasible and cost-friendly. VPN then becomes the easiest and best way to unblock a school’s Wi-Fi network.
You can also use a virtual private network to optimize download speeds and bypass bandwidth restrictions. It’s a great privacy tool to protect your data, device, and communication. Since a school Wi-Fi is an open network used by hundreds of other pupils, it can also act as a privacy protector.
Caution – As long as you stick to using a VPN in school for research and entertainment purposes, you will be fine. Downloading torrent content or breaking privacy policies and other local laws may land you in trouble.
Why Do Schools Block Websites, Apps, and Services?
Here are the common reasons why educational institutes block websites on their network:
- Prevent access to social media and entertainment websites
- Prevent access to research sites like Wikipedia
- Prevent chat rooms and online study groups which can be a distraction
- Encourage physical learning
- Prevent bandwidth overload by throttling speed
- Discourage web overuse and overdependence
- Discourage downloading of copyrighted/pirated content (DMCA compliance)
- Ensure time management
Ask any campus moderator this question and you will get these same answers sugarcoated. In my experience, there is no point in convincing your school to unblock a site. The argument that you are losing out on useful resources does not weigh against these reasons. The best way then is to responsibly take things into your own hands.
It is for this reason that virtual private networks are now widely used by students and researchers around the world. According to one report, as of 2023, about 40% of total individual VPN users are in the age group of 16-22.
Note – There are legit reasons why such network restriction is justified. For instance, schools might prevent chat rooms to safeguard students from child predators.
How Do Schools Block Sites?
Schools today have established IT infrastructure and professionals to manage it. They use an internet filter to blacklist websites on the network. Anyone who uses that network will not be able to access those sites.
Since this block is at IP level, you can easily unblock it using a VPN.
Some advanced blocking methods such as port blocking and deep packet inspection also exist. But none that cannot be circumvented. For most cases, a VPN is your trusted buddy throughout your learning years.
How Does a VPN Unblock Websites on University Wi-Fi?
As explained above, schools generally use an internet filter to block access to websites. So, when you connect to your school’s Wi-Fi network, you are forced to follow the rules of that network. This means you cannot access sites that are on its filter’s blacklist.
However, this blocking done by your school is at the IP level. IP or internet protocol is how you connect to the internet. When you connect to your school’s network, you are assigned an IP address. When you use this IP to access a blocked site, it will return an error. Access denied.
When you use a VPN, this original IP address gets masked by another one. This new IP address – provided to you by a server maintained by the provider – gives you access to the free web. You could say that a VPN does not actually unblock the websites. It simply bypasses the school’s internet filter through IP address switching.
How to Use a VPN On School Wi-Fi?
Follow the steps below to download and install a VPN on your school’s network:
- Buy a subscription of your selected VPN and download its app. We recommend NordVPN.
- Install it on your device (laptop, smartphone).
- Follow the application’s walkthrough for initial setup.
- Choose a nearby server and connect to it.
You will now be connected to a VPN server. All blocked sites will now be unblocked on the school Wi-Fi.
Tips While Installing VPN for School Use
- Consult with your parents/guardian before buying.
- Download the software at home as VPN sites are also likely to be blocked on your school’s Wi-Fi.
- Always use a free trial before buying.
- Clear your cookies and cache if you are unable to unblock sites.
- To get better speeds, choose the closest server location, ideally in your own state.
How to Unblock a VPN at School, College, University?
In some cases, your school may play a googly on you. As in, it will use a firewall to block VPNs too.
Thankfully, there are simple workarounds. Here are four confirmed ways to unblock VPN access at school:
- Use OpenVPN and switch to port 443
- Use an obfuscated server available in Nord, Surfshark, and PIA
- Use the Tor network via Nord
- Complain to your provider’s customer support
School VPN FAQs
Answers to some of the most common questions regarding school virtual private networks.
1. Will my school know if I use a VPN?
Your school can detect that certain devices are using VPNs but it can’t identify which ones. Hundreds of students use the school network daily, so it’s a tedious exercise to find out. Even if your school knows, it cannot access the activity.
2. Can my school block my VPN?
Yes, your school may block VPNs on campus. While using such a tool is not illegal, schools and colleges discourage it. Thankfully, you can use obfuscated servers and stealth VPNs like Nord to bypass such VPN blocks.
3. What VPNs a school can not block?
4. Can I use a free VPN for school?
Yes, you can but I won’t recommend it. A free VPN will do more harm than provide any benefits. Free software does not generally have the minimum encryption and tunneling standards required. If you are looking for a cheap solution, choose Surfshark or CyberGhost.
5. Any other ways to unblock school Wi-Fi without a VPN?
Yes, you can use proxy servers and the Tor network to unblock school Wi-Fi. However, neither are as effective or efficient as a VPN.