Did you just commit to a college? Congratulations! You’re about to have the time of your life meeting new people, joining clubs, learning new skills — and so much more.
Because there’s so much to do and experience as a freshman, things can get messy very quickly if you don’t know how to stay organized. Especially as you adjust to a new academic schedule, which might move faster and demand more brainpower from you than you’re used to, losing track of assignments and responsibilities can happen quicker than you’re prepared for. So, if you adopt some of these organizational strategies, you’ll be able to significantly decrease the stress, and increase the excitement of being a college freshman.
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, do your due diligence on a teacher rating website like Rate My Professors 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.
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. When you’re saving documents, also make sure to label them clearly so you know exactly what they are (anyone else have stress nightmares about turning in the wrong paper and not noticing until the deadline has passed?).
3. Create a master syllabus.
Compile your syllabi 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. If you’re still not convinced, here are some benefits of creating a master syllabus:
- You only need to consult one document for all of your coursework, assignments, and exams (time-saving!).
- You minimize the risk of forgetting to complete assigned work.
- You can easily check what you need to complete for an entire week and plan your time accordingly.
- You can 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).
- You can cross-off or highlight items once you complete them (this can feel rewarding and boosts motivation).
4. Use a calendar.
You know what they say: GCal or it didn’t happen. Seriously, though, a calendar visual like Google Calendar will help you stay on track and give you a better idea of how much time 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.” Most schools provide students with G Suite access, so you can plug in events like exams, paper deadlines, club meetings, and more on Google Calendar using your school email address to have everything in place.
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. Plus, if you do it early enough in the semester, chances are you’ll forget what you changed by the time that first deadline rolls around, and you’ll be motivated enough to treat it as a real one.
(Of course, if you’re starting to feel the pressure and you just don’t think squeezing an assignment in earlier is feasible, no sweat — you should always feel empowered to ask your professor for an extension.)
6. Prep the night before.
If you have an early morning class, prep your bag the night before with your books, laptop, snacks, and anything else you need for success. 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 dorm room desk looking organized and inviting. If it’s a mess, you’re going to be less likely to want to complete your work. Try to remove any extra clutter like food wrappers or old assignments you don’t need anymore 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! You can even shop for desk organizers on Amazon or The Container Store as you’re planning out your dorm decor to have a place for all your school supplies and random papers.
8. Check your email (& clean it out).
our 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. But checking your email also means getting rid of old emails so they’re not overwhelming you every time you look at the notification count in your inbox. Plus, according to Green Matters, deleting old emails can help reduce your carbon footprint — a win-win! There’s simply no reason to hang on to all those reminders the club you signed up for at orientation and forgot about keeps sending you; getting rid of them will help make it easier to find the messages that do matter when you’re looking for them.
Here’s to committing to a college, staying organized, and having a wonderful freshman year!