You have probably heard stories about people not being able to access certain websites while at school or work. You may have even experienced such a situation yourself, wondering how it is possible that you can’t unblock websites at school and what is the reason behind it.
Traditionally, a number of schools and colleges have blocked online access to streaming platforms, online communities, gaming and torrent websites, and of course, social media networks. And as time goes by, this trend is only increasing.
This leaves students puzzled and looking for ways to unblock those websites. And some of them are willing to go the extra mile. The younger generation is made of digital natives, so using technology to tackle daily issues is not an unknown territory for them.
As a matter of fact, there are several ways that students use to unblock websites at school. But before we list them, let us explain why schools block websites in the first place.
Why do schools block websites?
Network administrators that manage school and college networks have traditionally blocked certain websites, including the following:
- various torrent websites
What is the main reason behind this? Students’ lower productivity.
Just think about it. If you were a teacher or professor, would you allow your students to access all those websites? Probably not.
Educational institutions are responsible for students’ learning progress, so they do their best to ensure that students have optimal conditions to focus on the task at hand.
In addition, if all students could access streaming websites to watch video content, the bandwidth would suffer and the network would most probably break at some point.
However, all of these websites are essential to modern-day communication and entertainment, so the question of how to access blocked websites still remains.
How to unblock websites at school
Like with most things in life, there is more than one solution when it comes to unblocking sites at school. Some of the most effective ones are a VPN, proxy server, and various browser extensions.
However, just because there are various solutions out there, it doesn’t mean that all of them offer the same value and user experience. We always recommend that people use a VPN to unblock websites at school, and here is why.
Why should you use a VPN at school?
Most students use a VPN service and for a good reason. The benefits of using a VPN are numerous, which places it head and shoulders above other solutions.
Unrestricted access to websites
Obviously, this is the main reason why students opt for a VPN service. As mentioned above, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, streaming and torrent websites, as well as most of the gaming and social media websites are blocked on local school and college networks.
And even though productivity and focus at school should absolutely remain among the top priorities for students, there are a number of valuable resources that they can download from some of these websites. Therefore, using a VPN to bypass blocked websites is a nice way of staying up to date with the latest trends and information from the digital world.
Private browsing and enhanced security
When you connect to your school or college network, the network admin is able to track and log all your online activity. Consequently, they know everything you do online.
Luckily, a virtual private network keeps your browsing data private thanks to the encryption and secure tunneling technology it uses. That way, nobody – not even your ISP or the school network admin – can tell what websites you visit and what you do on them.
In addition, shared WiFi networks are not the safest type of connection in the world. Even though your college network is probably protected with a password, this password is easy to crack even for a newbie hacker. This often leads to identity theft, computer hacks and viruses, or ransomware.
Due to the encryption technology that high-quality VPNs use, nobody can break into your browsing session and see what you are doing. As a result, you are much safer from malicious attacks or any other third-party activity or monitoring.
How to choose a VPN for school
Now that you have discovered how a VPN can help you access blocked sites, you may think that any type of VPN service will do the job. But not so fast.
And here is why. A number of college and school networks use firewall technology to block VPNs by either restricting OpenVPN protocol or implementing deep packet inspection. Therefore, you need to find a VPN that can successfully bypass these types of firewalls.
This method is more affordable and easier to implement than deep packet inspection. In the case of port blocking, networks block all ports except for the following two:
When it comes to VPN protocols, neither OpenVPN, L2TP/IPSec, or PPTP work on port 443 or 80. The only protocol that works on port 443 is SSTP, which is more secure than PPTP but works only on the Windows OS.
However, there is a little trick you can use to circumvent this obstacle. In case your VPN supports port forwarding, you will be able to set up OpenVPN through it. But you need to keep in mind that port forwarding is only supported on desktop devices.
Deep packet inspection
A more advanced and more expensive technology, deep packet inspection enables firewalls to detect encryption tools and block VPN traffic. If your school network uses this technology, what you should do is choose a VPN service that hides your VPN traffic and makes it look just like regular HTTPS traffic.
Other features to look for
You will choose a VPN service depending on what type of firewall technology your college or school network uses.
However, there are a few more features to consider if you want to make your browsing experience seamless:
- Server coverage in a particular region. To make sure you can actually access a blocked website, you need to connect to a server which is located in a place where this site is available.
- High connection speed. If you plan to use a VPN to access streaming sites or gaming servers, you will need a connection with high speed and reliability.
Alternatives to VPN
Yes, a VPN may be the best solution for unblocking websites at school but there are also other possibilities that you should know of. Below you can read about the two of the most common alternatives that students use to bypass blocked websites.
Some proxy servers run at incredible speeds, which is their main advantage over VPNs. When you connect to a proxy server, your real IP address is hidden and you can access practically any website you want.
However, proxy servers can’t compare to VPNs when it comes to security, since they don’t use the encryption technology that VPNs are famous for.
If you are wondering how to unblock websites at school on Chrome or any other browser, another option you can try is to use a browser extension. Some of these extensions like Hola, ProxMate, UltraSurf and UrbanVPN can come in handy for accessing websites like Facebook or YouTube.
Out of these three, UrbanVPN may be the best option because it is the only one which offers all of the features for completely free. However, it still can’t come close to a virtual private network if we consider the overall user experience.
Even though using a VPN, proxy server, or browser extension to get on blocked websites at school can be a very useful strategy, there are certain points you should be aware of.
Colleges and schools in the United States are legally bound to comply with the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act), so if you access copyrighted content, your VPN provider will get a DMCA notice and send it to your college if you used the local WiFi network to access the web.
Therefore, while you can download a couple of research papers from a torrent website, it is definitely not recommended to download gigabytes of copyrighted data and violate end-user agreements of policies put in place by your college or school.
In addition, always choose a VPN provider that offers service with a kill switch included. This will keep your session private and secure even if the connection breaks for some reason.
Finally, aim to avoid a free VPN or proxy provider. The reasons for this are very simple. There are some free providers who will log your online activity, and this could result in them submitting your usage logs to your school or third parties interested in monetizing your profile or even stealing your identity. Also, some free VPNs have integrated malware, so not paying for VPN services at one moment can cost you much more in the long run.