10 Spreadsheet Tips Every Student Should Know


Spreadsheets can be a useful tool and skill to have as a student. You can use spreadsheets to organize your day-to-day schedule when doing your assignments and group projects. It's also a skill worth developing because it's becoming a valuable tool in the workplace.  

The features and tools in many spreadsheet applications have made it easier to use a spreadsheet regardless of the amount of data you're working on. As a student, you can use popular applications like Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets to organize, analyze, and share your data with others seamlessly.  

You can use the various tools to make informed decisions based on accurate insights and quick calculations. Using spreadsheets is one of the many ways you can improve your analytical and research skills that might give you the opportunity to be granted a scholarship in the future. 

If you’re a student who wants to get ahead of the crowd, here are some spreadsheet tips that you need to master: 

1) Importing Data From Another Spreadsheet 

If you are using multiple data sets, with the same information, you might want to link the data to reduce errors, save time and improve its integrity. It makes it easier to analyze and eliminate having the same data maintained on multiple spreadsheets.  

You can import data from different spreadsheets into one sheet using the IMPORTRANGE function. In an empty cell, type = IMPORTRANGE, then insert the URL and range of the cells you wish to import and click enter. To connect the two spreadsheets, click on Allow Access. 

2) Exporting Your Spreadsheet 

You can export or download your spreadsheet in different file types. Google Sheets allows you to download your sheets in excel, OpenDocument, PDF, CSV, and .html. Microsoft Excel, on the other hand, may have more options. You can change the file type of the workbook based on your specific needs and use of the document. 

One of the reasons you might export from google sheets to excel is that some tasks may be simpler to do on excel. By exporting, you can enjoy the tools provided by both spreadsheet programs. But, with excel, you can enjoy more advanced built-in functions and formulas without worrying about a cell limit. 

3) Work Offline 

As a student, you may experience times where you have no internet access, or the internet may be down at certain times or locations on campus. Thus, it shouldn't stop you from doing your work. Whether you are using google sheets or excel, you can still work offline.  

Excel allows you to access, edit, and save your work on your computer even without an internet connection. Once you gain back your internet access, you can log into your excel account and save your updated work to your cloud. 

However, on google sheets, you can click on File then click on "Make Available Offline." When you get internet access, it will automatically update your file. It's important to note that you need to download the Google Docs Offline extension to have this option available to you. 

4) Use Charts To Visualize Data 

Large amounts of data on a spreadsheet can make it hard to identify patterns, outliers, or trends. It can be even more difficult for someone else to comprehend the data when presenting insights within the dataset. Therefore, to mitigate these challenges, use the recommended charts and graphs to visualize the data. 

Visualizing data puts insights in a visual presentation that everyone can fully understand. Excel and Google Sheets provide a variety of graphs and charts that you can use for your data.  

Graphs and charts make data more understandable. It can help with finding patterns and getting automatic suggestions regarding your data. Presenting your findings using graphs or charts can help keep your audience engaged and interested in the information presented. 

5) AutoFill Your Cells

If you're working on a school project, you want to be accurate throughout the document and ensure consistency within the data. That said, using the autofill feature on a spreadsheet can help reduce any errors and stop you from repetitive typing. 

Autofill means automatically filling values in cells without inserting them manually. It's particularly helpful if you have a lot of data you need to insert in your spreadsheet cells. To autofill, follow these few steps: 

  • Insert a value in one cell. 

  • Insert another value underneath the cell. 

  • Select the two cells. 

  • Move the cursor to the bottom right corner. 

  • Then drag the cursor over the blank cells. 

Sheets or excel should automatically insert the values for you. By inserting values in the first two cells, you create a sequence or pattern that excel or sheets can replicate in other cells. Autofill can also be done to automatically fill in formulas once they have been set up in a spreadsheet cell. 

6) Auto Filtering And AutoCorrect 

If you are handling a complex and large dataset, it might get tiresome when analyzing pieces of data. It may even affect the quality of your analysis. Consequently, you might want to filter certain pieces of data to make analyzing better and easier. You can filter data based on your specifications. 

If you’re using sheets, click on Data>Filter View>Create New Filter View to filter. On excel, click on Data, and under "Sort & Filter" you will find the Filter tool. On the other hand, autocorrect helps you fix typos within your spreadsheet. You can find this feature under the tools or review tab. 

7) Know The Keypad Shortcuts 

Google Sheets and Excel have built-in shortcuts that you can use to make copying, pasting, calculating, etc., easier and faster for you. The most popular shortcut you may be familiar with is Ctrl + v to paste, Ctrl + c to copy, Ctrl + z to undo a selection, and the Delete button to remove contents of a cell. However, there is a list of shortcuts that you can use on spreadsheets that would enable you to perform tasks quicker.  

You can use shortcuts like Ctrl + X to remove a selected cell, F7 to check spelling, Ctrl + Shift + L, and Ctrl + Shift + R for alignments. The list is extensive, but it's worth knowing. You want to learn shortcuts for formulas, that way, you don't have to spend time toggling (Ctrl + Shift + Pg Down or Ctrl + Shift + Pg Up) between formulas and sheets that are far from each other. 

8) Create document templates 

As a student, you might work on similar projects throughout the year. And every time it may require you to use spreadsheets. You might find that you may need to create the same type of file on multiple occasions. However, this doesn't have to be the case, it would be a time-saver to create standard document templates. 

Google Sheets and Microsoft Excel have existing templates that you can use to create reports, budgets, class schedules, to-do lists, track your assignments, etc. However, you can create your own template that you can use on multiple occasions. It’ll save you time from creating the same types of files repeatedly.  

Furthermore, if you are a club leader on campus, having a set template can help you reduce any inconsistencies across team members and help the next club leaders have a working document template they can use for this, like tracking and recruiting members. 

9) Revert To Earlier File Versions 

Checking or reverting to an earlier version of a file can be easily done by checking the document's version history. You can click File>Version History>See Version History. This feature allows you to see who made edits to the document and where they made changes. To revert those changes, you can click "Restore This Version". Additionally, it removes the need to have multiple drafts of your spreadsheet files if you need to switch to an earlier version. 

10) Conditional Formatting 

If you are dealing with large data sets, it can be difficult to analyze key information and identify trends within the data. However, tracking your data can be made simple using the conditional formatting feature. This feature is available in many spreadsheet applications. 

On google sheets, you can click Format> Conditional Formatting. On excel, go to "Conditional Formatting" on the home tab. On both applications, you will have options for organizing the data. If you want to track your data with colors, specify which data you want to be highlighted and color. For example, you can set the formatting rules to show values higher than 100 highlighted in yellow and values lower than 50 in red. 

Final Thought

The tools and features on Microsoft Excel and Google Sheets can give you options to be creative with what you do with your spreadsheets. You can explore how to add checkboxes on your spreadsheets to make a to-do list, create charts, or track project tasks. Additionally, you can explore a wide range of things like adding images to make your sheet more interactive.

Furthermore, you can add collaborators to work on the same file and make comments or ask questions about the file. The tools features in google sheets allow you to even include setting an expiry date for file access on the document, transfer ownership, and sharing your file. 

There are various benefits of learning how to use spreadsheets while a student. Regardless of why you are using a spreadsheet now, it's still a skill worth putting in your CV to get you a notch higher than other applicants.