If you’re a college student like myself, you don’t need me to tell you that things can get messy very quickly if you don’t stay organized. Managing a full course load, working part-time, and trying to fit in social activities or extracurriculars is tough.
However, adopting some of these organizational strategies can significantly decrease the stress you’re feeling and increase the amount of time you’re able to spend doing the things that you enjoy. Let’s get to it!
1. Prep for course registration
Know which classes you need to take each semester as per your degree requirements and have an idea of which elective courses you are interested in before course registration opens. If you know that a class is offered by multiple professors (which the majority of first and second year courses are), do your due diligence on a teacher rating website in order to choose a professor with a promising track-record You'll want to avoid spending a semester with someone who reads directly off the PowerPoint and doesn’t match the exam material to what was actually covered in class. Being prepared this way means that you know exactly what you’re getting into and can hopefully make the most of your course selection.
2. Organize your computer/laptop
At the beginning of the semester make a folder for each course that you are taking and save documents in their designated folders as the semester progresses. This way you’ll be able to find anything you may be looking for quickly!
3. Create a master syllabus
Compile your syllabuses from each course into one document that lists your coursework, assignments, and exams in chronological order. This does take some time, but you’ll only need to do it once after your first week of courses and I swear it is worth it!
The benefits of creating one master syllabus…
- You only need to consult one document for all of your coursework, assignments, and exams (time-saving!).
- Minimize the risk of forgetting to complete assigned work.
- Easily check what you need to complete for an entire week and plan your time accordingly.
- Color-code the document to your liking so that the important things stand out (I personally change the font color to red for any work that I am graded on).
- Cross-off/highlight items once you complete them (this is super rewarding and boosts motivation).
4. Use a calendar
A calendar visual will definitely help you stay on track and give you a better idea of how much time/how many days you really have to complete your assignments. There is a huge difference between reading a due date and thinking “I still have a few days to complete this assignment,” versus being able to visually count out the days on a calendar and determine “I have four days until this assignment is due.”
5. Set your own due dates
Have two assignments and a midterm exam scheduled on the same day? Once you’ve created your master syllabus at the beginning of the semester, you’ll be able to see if any issues like this may arise. Simply edit the due dates in your calendar so you’re completing some of the things before they’re due. Doing this will save you from extra stress that nobody needs.
6. Prep the night before
If you have an early morning class, prep your bag the night before with your books, laptop, snacks, etc. Make sure any assignments that need to be submitted are 100% triple-checked in your bag. Also, take a minute to check the weather to get an idea of what you can wear the next day (I won’t go as far to say you should plan your entire outfit the night before, but it wouldn’t hurt). These seem like such small tasks, but anything that can save you time in the AM is totally worth it.
7. Keep your workspace clean
Try to keep your desk looking organized and inviting. If it’s a mess, you’re going to be less likely to complete your work. Try to remove any extra clutter that will distract you as you’re trying to work or designate a specific area of your apartment or room to school work and be sure to only use that space for work!
8. Check your email
Now that most things are digital, your professors will likely post online or will email the class in the event that they are running late, there has been a room change, or if class is canceled. So check your email! There were a few times that I got out of bed and trekked my way to campus only to find that something had come up and my professor had to cancel class. If I had checked my email before leaving, I would have been able to jump back into bed for another hour (I can’t be the only college student who never truly feels rested?).
You’ve got the info, now it's time to act. Employ at least one new organizational strategy today and see the difference it can make to your grades and to your general wellness. Making organization a priority can reduce stress and anxiety… two things that college students know all too well.
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