That overwhelming, stressed-out feeling that comes along with midterms or finals week is a staple of the college experience; however, no one wants to feel all that stress and pressure in September. Here are a few tips to keep you organized and stress free during the first month of school as well as the entire semester.
1.) Check Your Email
Don’t put your email checking behind you after the syllabi have been sent out and the year begins. You never know what’s going to show up on there. Some professors use email rather than Blackboard as their main form of communication with students outside of class. We have all heard of (or been) that student who didn’t check her email until the night before a project or paper was due and had to pull an all-nighter to turn it in on time. Checking your email can keep you from being in that predicament. It takes two minutes of the day and could end up saving you from a sleepless night of research or Powerpoint creating.
Emailing isn’t just good for communication with your professors. Sometimes other students in class will send out emails when they want to form a study group or work out note-taking shifts. These are great opportunities not only to meet other students, but also to form a good network of people who can help you out with the course, whether it be going over a topic you didn’t quite understand or giving you the notes if you missed a day of class. Who wants to miss out on that?
2.) Use a Planner/Checklist
You may listen to your professor until the last second of class and have a great memory, but when you have 10 different things due in the same week, there’s a good chance something may slip your mind. Avoid that by using a planner or a checklist. After every class, write down what you have for homework in a small planner. When you finish a certain task, cross it out (if you prefer laptops over notebooks, make a word document, or, if your computer provides them, use a sticky note). By having a list written out in front of you, you’ll feel a lot less frazzled and you are certain to not overlook any work.
3.) Date Everything
Although one of the simplest steps to take, dating can be one of the most effective. Most professors require work to be dated, but putting dates on notes can be also very helpful. When you are trying to find a specific topic discussed in class, having dated pages speeds up the process. Just scribble the date on the top of each entry and you’ve saved yourself from flipping through dozens of notebook pages.
4.) Notebooks and Folders
As tempting as it is to carry one large notebook, it is not the best idea. Unless you have a multi-subject notebook with obvious dividers, use different notebooks. It may be more of a hassle to carry, but having the subjects separated makes the notes neater and clearer. It’s a lot easier to study your history notes when your chemistry notes aren’t scattered in various places. If you prefer hard copies to online documents, along with your notebooks you might want to include some folders to hold rubrics, study guides, or syllabi. Keeping them in folders will keep them in better condition and easy to find. Also, a little color coding never hurt anyone. If you assign a certain color to a class, you lessen the chance of grabbing the wrong notebook when you’re heading out the door.
College involves a lot of typing—papers, outlines, reports—which means a lot of documents on your computer. To save yourself from searching through countless documents from semesters past and present, put all of your work into folders. Title the folder with a specific course name. Whenever you want a certain document all you have to do is click the folder and your work will be right in front of you.
5.) Google Drive
If you have checked the Daily Digest emails lately, you will have read about the arrival of Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) to Towson University for the use of all students.
Got a group project? Google Drive is a great way to share documents and files with others in your group. Rather than worrying about attaching numerous documents and files to emails, use Google Drive so everyone can view them whenever they want. The back and forth between email accounts is no longer needed and everything can be easily accessed. This is especially helpful if your group members are having trouble finding a time to meet.
The most important thing to remember is to stay calm. The more frazzled you allow yourself to be, the worse your situation will become. If you get a little out of sorts, just sit back, take a breath, and reevaluate the situation. If you take the calm approach and follow these tips you are certain to have a stress-free first month of school.
(Image courtesy of Rachel Patek)