How To: Staying Organized in College
Sarah, M.C.Pressure Intern and Flagler college Senior, discusses her top tips on staying organized during the school year.
I am always on my computer for school and work. Being connected 24/7 can be a strain, so I have made it a point to have tangible ways of keeping myself organized. This means a whole lot of pencils and paper. This has proven to be key to keeping me sane for the past 3 years. Between classes, work, internships, and senior portfolios, I have accumulated a couple helpful tips. Hopefully they can be helpful to you too.
The syllabus is Your Friend
Before classes start, most professors upload their syllabus. Start downloading and looking over this semester’s schedule. Take a few minutes to write down every important due date, test, exam, and cancelled class in your planner. Half the battle of surviving college is knowing what the fuck is going on! So, if you can get ahead of the work, you’re pretty much already an A student.
Being a double major, I have two very different kinds of work to tackle. Hello graphic design projects and art history papers! By writing out what is due ahead of time, I can start to see patterns in how these assignments show up. I'll start to expect them. Keeping a planner helps develop positive habits. Plus knowing when to expect tests is definitely helpful.
Know Your Professors
So much of my success in college attributes to professors having open office hours. As soon as I get the syllabus, I make a list of of my professors, their email addresses, and their office hours. That way, I don’t have to dig out the syllabus or redownload it for the millionth time. It’s always there in the back of my notepad.
Office hours are there so we can go in there and bother them on upcoming assignments or freak out over papers. Not taking advantage of that time sets yourself up to fail. Also imagine your professor being sad that nobody wants to hang out. Heartbreaking.
Send an email before you go in. It'll brief them on what’s going on. To make the most out of this impromptu meeting, show up with your notebook and get ready to take some notes. It helps you understand the assignment better and helps your professor understand you better.
I keep a weekly planner because it feels less daunting than a monthly. By keeping a weekly planner, I’m able to see what is on my future to-do list and not get overwhelmed by what’s due in two months. When I want to, I flip ahead and check on what’s upcoming.
When planning for the semester ahead, I only ever use pencil. Due dates change all the time. Whether the professor gets sick or the class has fallen behind, it helps! It looks so much more messy to be crossing out and rewriting the assignments instead of erasing them. This saves so much potential confusion! I make too many mistakes to believe that I’m going to get everything right on the first try. So I only ever use pencils to make sure that my plans can change as often as I need them to (and as often as my professors make them).
Keep it Separated
I am amazed by students who can keep their classes in one five-subject notebook. I can not relate. With separate notebooks, I don’t have to carry around the (literal) weight of classes. I keep notebooks for each class, internship, and assistant position.
For my classes, I use color coordinated one-subject notebooks. I can grab on Monday/Wednesday and Tuesday/Thursday for those courses with ease. I'll spot the colorful outside, know which one I need as I’m packing to leave, and not worry about the others.
For my internships, I use smaller pocket-sized notebooks that I can keep with me at all times if I need to. A simple lined notebook for notes at my internship at the Crisp-Ellert Art Museum. A dotted notebook to take notes and draw thumbnail sketches. A gridded notebook for freelance and experimental logo designs and thumbnail sketches. They are the perfect size to stay with me in whatever bag I bring to work. The tiny products also make everything cuter so it's a win all around.
A Checklist For Your Checklist
There are some things that don’t fit in my notebook or belong in my planner. That’s where my notepad comes in.
I use each page for whatever: a checklist, outline, research facts, and more. If I’m in a meeting with a professor, I have my notepad to take notes on what they’re saying. That way I can actually remember what they talked about for those 45 minutes. Having my notepad with me 24/7 eliminates a lot of stress.
I have found a system that works for me. I have always been a visual person so iPhones or iPads never were a key to success. If I sit down at my laptop, it is so easy for me to get distracted. As long as I have everything organized, I'm able to get my shit together and hopefully graduate at the end of the year!