Have you ever lost a paper the day it's due? Do you struggle to find notes and other study materials from several weeks or even months ago when attempting to prepare for your final exams? How many times have you used the "my dog ate my homework" excuse? Have no fear, because I can (sort of) help! While I'm certainly no expert, I can proudly say that I'm pretty darn good at keeping things organized when it comes to my school stuff. Whether or not you consider yourself "organizationally challenged", I hope you find the following tips and tricks helpful for keeping everything together this year! :)
One of the most essential tools for staying organized in college (or high school) definitely has to be an agenda. I honestly wouldn't be able to remember anything if it weren't for my handy dandy planner (which I purchased from Barnes & Noble last summer), and one of the very first things I do each semester is copy important dates and homework assignments from each syllabus that I receive from each of my classes. I really like the way mine is laid out from 6 AM to 6 PM each day so that I can easily keep track of exactly what time I have to be somewhere or when something is due online.
2. Colored Pens
Ok, let's be honest here, how fun are colored pens?? While they may not be a necessity, per say, I've found many ways to incorporate the joy of color into my organizational habits. For example, with my (pastel!) Sharpie pens, I typically assign one color to every class I'm taking each semester and use that color to write assignments and important dates in my agenda for that class. This really helps me to mentally break up and sort out any days that have a lot going on (aka finals week...gag) at a glance, without having to read every single thing I've written down. Another way I like to use my pens is by implementing them in my note taking. While I usually write in black ink, I use colored pens to underline or star things like subject lines, vocabulary words, or anything else that's important and needs to stand out from the rest of my writing. I usually choose one color for each day so I can tell when a new chapter or topic begins in my notes, which makes it easier to review and study for exams. Two perfect excuses for making your day a little brighter with pretty colors...yay!
3. Multiple Subject Notebook (with folders!)
One of the very first school supplies I buy each semester is always my trusty multiple subject notebook. It's so much easier to have all of your notes and syllabi (this is the plural form of syllabus, yes?) stored in one notebook rather than keeping up with 3 to 5 individual notebooks that you'll probably never fill up with writing. My all-time favorite notebook is made by Five Star, because it has a front inside pocket, dividers (which are thick, transparent, and have 2 pockets each), color coded tabs for each divider, AND an elastic pencil holder on the front cover. It's kinda my savior. The pocketed dividers are probably my favorite part, which I use to store loose papers, handouts, and the syllabus for each class. It's hard not to stay organized with this thing.
4. Small Binder and 1 Subject Notebook (for online classes)
If you've ever taken an online class, then you may be familiar with the difficulty of keeping up with assignment due dates as well as compiling study materials to prepare for exams. I took my first online course last Spring, and while I walked away with a B, I could have just as easily made an A if I had taken the time to actually get organized and prepare for my exams. I'm taking an online class in Child Nutrition this semester, which is so not my area of expertise as a Sociology major. In order to do well in this class, I'm seriously going to have to get my sh*t together, both mentally and physically. I'm hoping to achieve this by taking notes in my 1 subject notebook as I read through the textbook, as well as print off everything my professor posts online for the class and organize it in a small (and very cute) binder that I recently bought. This should be helpful in keeping everything together and accessible when I'm doing my assignments at home, especially when it's time to take my exams online and I quickly need the definition of a vocabulary word.
A FEW OPTIONALS:
1. Index Cards
For some, index cards are essential for studying for exams or memorizing vocabulary words, but others may prefer to create flashcards online via websites such as Studyblue (a total lifesaver). I find myself somewhere in the middle of these two extremes; while Studyblue is an amazing resource for studying on your laptop, tablet, or smart phone, I definitely retain information better if I physically write it by hand. I recently bought a super cheap and cute index card holder at Target that even has clear dividers inside (hello micro-organization!) and I can't wait to use it!
Like index cards, some people can take them or leave them when it comes to highlighters. I personally think they're great, especially when it comes time to prepare for exams. While I usually take notes in class with black ink (and emphasize certain points with my colored pens), I always go back with a highlighter before I study for a test in order to single out information that's likely to appear on the exam. This is especially useful if your professor or classmates host a review session, that way you won't have to re-write material that may already be in your notes and you can simply indicate it with a highlighter!
3. Post-It Notes
Post-It notes are obviously an amazing invention that can be used in so many ways. I find them especially useful in my notebooks and agenda, as they always catch my attention when I need them to. I usually write important due dates or quick reminders and stick them on an assignment instruction sheet, or I stick them in my agenda on the date of an important event such as an appointment or a meeting with my advisor. I've found that it's really easy to look over my own writing sometimes, so Post-Its help in assuring that I pay attention to the really important things!
4. 3-Hole Punch and Stapler
If you're like me and have a desk in your room or office where you do all of your work, these two supplies are very convenient. Before I bought a hole puncher, I was constantly running to the library on campus just so I could organize things in my binder before I went home, and I can't tell you how many students I've seen asking a professor if he or she had a stapler before submitting a final paper to them (spoiler alert: the professors always said no). As nerdy as it may sound, it's always good to be self-reliant, even when it comes to school or office supplies, and it's especially helpful in getting (and staying) organized.
Bottom line: you can never be too prepared when it comes to school supplies. For some people, organizing things comes naturally because it gives them a sense of control in potentially stressful situations, but for others, it really takes a conscious effort to keep everything in its proper place. Regardless of where you fall between these two extremes, I hope you found this post helpful, or at the very least, inspirational!
I would love to hear what you guys do to stay organized at school (or work!), so please feel free to share your tips and tricks in a comment!