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Essential Organization Techniques for A Successful Semester

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Stony Brook chapter.
Read Your Syllabus:

Your class syllabi have all of the information you need to do well in your class for the semester, all you have to do is read it. The best time to ask your professor questions is as soon as you get your syllabus, before any misunderstandings become a bigger problem. 


Use a Planner:

Most syllabi have a calendar in them that tells you exactly what you will be doing for each class, or at the very least when major exams and due dates will be. Make a note of all of these important dates in a planner so that everything is in one place. Be sure to include any other schedules you may have for work and clubs as well as birthdays, doctor’s appointments, or interviews,  so that you can avoid overbooking yourself or forgetting an important appointment!


Use Electronic Calendars and Phone Apps:

Some may prefer to keep track of their time using their phone, but I have found that using both paper and digital platforms is a great way to hold yourself accountable. Apple and Google Calendars can be synced with one another, and their mobile apps can both be set to give you reminders at any time you choose. This comes in handy on days where you are running late and don’t check your planner, or when you have a meeting or due date that does not follow your typical schedule. 


Make a Daily and Weekly To-Do List: 

Semesters are only about 15 weeks long, which can go by in a blink of an eye. One of the easiest ways to keep track of my assignments is creating a weekly to-do list of all of my assignments, then creating a daily to-do list every morning. Crossing all of the items off each week shows the progress made as the semester goes on, and provides a bit of satisfaction. 

Keep All Course Materials Together:

Many people enjoy color-coding their notebooks/ folders by class, but I have found that it is much more effective to store all class materials in one multi-section folder. In doing this, I keep all of my important papers with me at all times, and can work on things more conveniently without having six folders to search through or remember to bring with me. Either way, keeping your papers from class will almost always help you later on in the course and make studying for final exams much easier. 

Preview and Review Your Notes:

Before going to a class session, look over your syllabus to see what you will be talking about, and maybe even google it so you can go into class with a foundational knowledge of the topic. Another helpful practice is to look over what you completed last class to refresh your memory.

Catch Up ASAP:

If you are sick and miss class or otherwise end up falling behind in your classes, catch up as soon as possible, even if it is difficult. It is better to take a weekend afternoon to get back on track than to go to your next class meeting and be completely lost.

Get Ahead if You Can:

Try to get your school work done early to avoid falling behind. How difficult this is will depend on the class, but a good way to start is to take a look at your syllabi and what assignments will need to be completed by next week (this is made easier by the weekly to-do lists in #4) and start working on any assignments that you can. In many cases, you will be surprised by just how much you can get done and how nice it is to have a week of minimal school-stress.

Really Do the Assigned Reading, and Take Notes:

As a general rule of thumb, come to class with at least one thing to say or one question about the reading. Reading assignments provide some general background information that will prepare you for the days lecture. If you do not understand the reading and/or your class, it is always a good idea to reread the section again. Similarly, taking notes will prevent you from having to reread the entire textbook during finals week and force you to pay close attention to the content.

Take Time Off From School Work:

Schedule time to do fun things with your family and friends, especially after you have a particularly stressful week of schoolwork.Not only is this good for your mental health, but it will prevent you from burning out too early in the semester. 

My name is Shannon Connors and I am a 3rd year English major at Stony Brook. My favorite things are coffee, dogs, and Netflix.
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