Schools and universities have been playing with firewalls for quite some time now, preventing students from freely browsing the world wide web. Want to access some nasty website? Can’t do it. Want to download files with BitTorrent? Can’t do it.
True, the situation varies from one school to the other, but most educational institutions are implementing some restrictions. And, obviously, students don’t like that.
So, they’re turning to VPNs to be able to roam the Internet with no limits of any kind — and, without administrators knowing what they’re doing online.
However, not all VPNs will get you past schools’ firewalls. We’ve tested more VPNs than we care to count and out of the bunch, we selected the following 5 services that won’t let you down. In fact, these VPNs will work whether you need them for your school or any other situation, protecting your privacy across all your devices — not just computers. Check ’em out and thank us later…
- 5,000+ servers in the network
- Easy to use - install it and forget it
- One license is good for up to 6 devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Chrome extension is just a proxy
- You can't pay with PayPal
Its network includes more than 5,000 servers spread across 60 countries, which directly translates into faster speeds. NordVPN is also very secure, relying on the strong 256-bit encryption combined with secure VPN protocols (OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec). But as a user, you get a seamless experience with all this technology "doing its thing" in the background.
NordVPN is well suited to pretty much every task you throw at it — whether it's accessing a banned site from some country that filters out the internet, torrenting, accessing streaming services, or just wanting to keep a low profile on the web. It also doesn't keep any logs.
We highly recommend NordVPN to anyone looking for reliable service.
- Feature-rich yet easy to use
- One of the best VPNs around
- Strong no-logging policy
- Reliable support you can reach 24/7
- Limited number of servers in Africa and the Middle East
- Kinda pricey
ExpressVPN has great desktop apps for Windows and Mac, mobile apps and browser extensions. Also, it is well suited for video streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer and others.
However, what makes it stand out is its ease of use. We can't emphasize this enough. One could tell a lot of time has been spent making sure even the advanced features are easily accessible. And we love it for that. Plus, let's not forget ExpressVPN's speed which tends to leave other services in the dust.
- It's super fast!
- Works with Netflix, BBC and others
- Easy to use apps, browser extensions
- You can try it for free!
- Some advanced features are not configurable
- Not the best for high-censorship countries
Furthermore, thanks to the availability of browser extensions - Hotspot Shield is also one of our top choices for Chrome and Firefox VPNs.
Your privacy is equally well protected, with the software only collecting some anonymized that help continually improve its service.
There is one caveat though - it won't work in high-censorship countries like China. If you don't need that in the first place, we highly recommend Hotspot Shield.
As that's typically the case with most VPN services out there, the longer you commit - the better deal you get. However, what makes Hotspot Shield even better is the fact that it offers a 7-day free trial of its service. A few other top VPN providers do the same. Plus, its money-back guarantee lasts for 45 days, making for a risk-free purchase. Cause, you can always get your money back. Sweet and just the way we like it.
- One the best VPNs for torrenting
- Works well with Netflix
- Simple setup on all popular devices
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Doesn't work with BBC iPlayer
- Doesn't work in China
Its desktop apps are not among the prettiest ones, but they get the job done. The important thing is that installation is easy and straightforward, and that no logs are kept by the company.
When it comes to pricing, IPVanish is somewhere in the middle — it's not the most affordable option but also not the most expensive one. As noted, it will be most appreciated by heavy BitTorrent users, and — related — Kodi fans.
- Reliable download and upload speeds
- Works with Netflix and BBC iPlayer
- Strict zero-logs policy
- Lets you use it on unlimited number of devices
- Low number of servers in Africa and Australia
You can rely on it for streaming and torrenting, with included extra features like CleanWeb and MultiHop, delivering a that much better — and more secure — experience.
Surfshark, the company, is based in the British Virgin Islands and with its zero-logs policy makes for a powerful combo to anyone looking to keep its web whereabouts under the radar.
The service is easy to use and comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Why do you need a VPN for the school?
IT admins in schools, colleges and universities are under strict orders to keep students focused on the task at hand. And that would mean studying with little Internet-based disturbances as possible. Therefore they tend to block access to popular social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, YouTube, and so on and on. Also, video streaming services like Netflix and Disney+ tend to get the same treatment. And the same is true for torrenting on college WiFi networks — it is not allowed.
Students, obviously, don’t like that and are turning to services like proxies and VPNs to bypass these — we would say — ridiculous limitations. Yes, we partly understand why such bans have been put in place, but also – we don’t. It should be up to every individual to decide how he/she will spend his/her time — accessing which sites, for instance.
There is another possible reason why some schools block access to video-heavy websites — their limited bandwidth. If everyone is able and is accessing Netflix, the Internet on the campus could be in jeopardy. Or at least that used to be the case… (as we’re hoping most schools have a ton of bandwidth these days).
A VPN comes to the rescue…
The easiest way to circumvent any restrictions, including those placed by your school, is to use a VPN. There are many options out there, most of which will let you easily bypass limitations placed by local IT admins.
Sure, there are schools with big and well-funded IT departments, but they can do little against the best VPN services. After all, that is their core business — to let everyone and anyone access the Internet in its entirety, without any limitations posed by a school, a government, or anyone else.
There is a software (LearnSafe) that could tell IT admins that someone on the network is using a VPN, but with the best VPN services constantly adding new IP addresses – it is practically impossible for schools to completely block the VPN usage on campus.
Proxy vs VPN
There are free solutions that let students bypass schools’ Internet restrictions. These tend to be proxies rather than VPNs. Unlike VPNs, proxies won’t keep you anonymous online. Also, because many of these services are free, you won’t get good download and upload speeds, making their usage terrible at best. Sometimes, you won’t be able to connect at all.
The infrastructure involved in running a great VPN costs real money and free services can hardly compete with companies that are in this for the long haul.
You may be able to use a proxy one day only to realize that it doesn’t work the next day. And the situation may be even worse for streaming services when you may not get a buffer-free experience — making it a pain to watch a movie.
I guess you can try some proxy — it’s free after all — only to know to appreciate the VPN even more.
Get a VPN for all your needs
You (all of us, really) need a VPN for many things, not just for bypassing firewalls in one’s school. A good VPN will:
- Protect your privacy from the government and big corporations
- Bypass restrictions imposed by the government or various organizations
- Change your IP address so you get unrestricted access to Netflix, Disney+, iPlayer, HULU, and other video streaming services
- Encrypt and protect private data from cybercriminals
- Download files with BitTorrent anonymously
The top contenders that check all these boxes — while also letting you access all of Internet from an educational institution — include the following: