The transition from high school to college can be challenging, especially with a change of lifestyle. In high school there was less freedom and responsibility, but in college, everything you do falls onto your shoulders. It is crucial to stay organized and on top of your game in order to conquer college. From my own experience, I have come up with five super easy ways to get organized starting in the first year.
1. Follow your syllabi
A major difference from high school to college is the importance of having a syllabus. In high school the syllabus is handed out on the first day and typically ends up with doodles produced by boredom or in the trash. I truly do not remember the last time a high school teacher had me refer back to the syllabus, solely because there was never anything really important on it. But the syllabus is viewed entirely differently in college. Instead of being a waste of paper, the syllabus is basically the Holy Scripture for the course.
A college syllabus typically contains your required course materials, the professor’s contact information and office hours (side note: take advantage of those hours), your school’s academic policies, project deadlines, and test dates. Not only do professors spend a ton of time setting up their syllabus, they will also tell you to check the syllabus before you ask them any questions—it’s that serious! In order to stay up to date, make sure to review and mark down deadlines from all your course syllabi as soon as you get them. This will prepare you for the whole semester but also relieve the stress of not knowing when all your tasks are due.
2. Keep a planner
So where do you write down all those deadlines? I recommend buying a planner. A lot of high schools provide students with basic, cheap planners that end up crumpled at the bottom of your bag. But planners are great for keeping track of deadlines, appointments, and daily tasks.
You may be telling yourself that you can pass the year by mentally remembering deadlines or occasionally scribbling them down on a sticky note. My advice is to be proactive and get into the habit of tracking your tasks. Ditch the “I’ll remember it” attitude, because chances are you’ll forget you have a paper due in two days.
One of my favorite planners is by Day Designer. This planner is great for keeping track of your day-to-day tasks and gives you a monthly and weekly spread so you don’t need to purchase a monthly calendar. In addition, Day Designer equips their planners with five pages on how to stay organized and goal oriented. If you want a planner with fewer bells and whistles, the Minimalist planner has a clear and clean layout but still gives you the ability to plan out your busy day by the hour and arrange daily tasks. Similar to the Day Designer planner, the Minimalist gives you the chance to plan monthly goals in three categories: the self, relationships, and the world. I have found it extremely helpful to carry my planner with me so I never forget my next plan of action.
3. De-clutter your desk
In college, chances are you will have a roommate (or two or three), and it is important to have a clean space where you will be able to get work done. Although I tend to utilize the library quite often, if I am feeling a little lazy, I have the ability to get work done at my desk in my room. I suggest keeping a de-cluttered space, giving you lots of room to spread out your notes, laptop, and stationary. Moreover, having a space for pens, pencils, paper clips, and notepads on the side will give you quick access. Above my desk I have my semester schedule and motivational quotes, leaving a little color but making sure I do not become distracted. By customizing and making your desk your own, you will feel more inclined to spend time there, increasing your productivity levels.
4. Separate your course materials
Another tip I have found to be super helpful is to separate all subjects and courses into their own folder, binder, or notebook. Many of my high school friends would combine multiple courses into one three-inch binder and would continuously lose their homework and assignments due to too much clutter. By giving each subject its own space, it is easier to differentiate between upcoming tasks and due dates. Another method that helps is to color code folders and notebooks so you don’t have to label or open up folders to remember what courses you are taking that semester. By avoiding the big, heavy binders and clutter, your organization skills will carry over from your dorm to your classes.
5. Manage your time wisely
One of the most important skills in college is being able to successfully handle your workloads and balance your time. In order to allocate your time, set up short-term tasks to be started and finished first, giving yourself more time to complete long-term papers and assignments. By setting up to-do lists in chronological order, you will be able to visualize your time between each task and its due date.
Related: Time Management and Study Skills
Even though college is stressful and busy for all, these quick and easy tips will help you master organization, tasks, due dates, and your stress levels, leaving you at the top of your game during all four years of school. Happy organizing!