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Stay Organized in College

Updated on November 20, 2011

With a new year just starting, there's a lot on our minds, especially for new college freshmen. You're moving into a new place, meeting new people, adjusting to college life, longer classes, independence, and having a boatload of responsibilities! It can be a lot to adjust to and handle, but if you can't stay organized, you will have a very hard time adjusting.

Some people just aren't organized people, while other people are "neat freaks". Whichever person you classify as, consider these hints and tips for staying organized this school year!

1. Notebooks or laptop? Everyone learns differently. Some people learn better by writing notes by hand, while others prefer to have everything typed up neatly. Try to figure out what you prefer. Once you pick either notebook or laptop, stick with it! Having notes for one class in a notebook AND on a laptop makes things disorganized and confusing, and information can easily be lost.

How do you know which is best for you?

If you have messy handwriting, have a habit of losing papers and notebooks, can type faster than you can write, and use your laptop 24/7 for almost everything ... using a laptop might be for you!

If you have neat, legible handwriting, hardly ever use your laptop, like to be able to flip through your work instead of searching for files, and just plain like to write ... using a notebook might be the way to go!

Notebook users: Okay, so a notebook is for you. Now what? Buy one notebook per class, of course! Check your syllabus - some teachers have lots of little projects and assignments for you to do. Try keeping your actual class notes separate from assignments. For some classes, you might want to get a 4 or 5 subject notebook with the little separators to keep sections separate. Or, if you only have 4 or 5 classes that involve note taking, then use a 5 subject notebook for all of your classes and label each section neatly.

Laptop users: Dedicate a folder or thumb drive specifically for college classes. Create a folder on the thumb drive labeled 'College'. Inside that folder, have more folders labeled for each class. Inside each class folder have folder for notes and another for assignments, etc. It sounds like a lot, but it will make it easy for you to find everything.

If you don't use a thumb drive, keep a folder on your desktop labeled 'College'. Use sub-folders, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Editor's Note: You'd think it would go without saying to frequently back up your class notes and all your work in a separate, safe place because computers and thumb drives can fail, or be lost or stolen at any time without warning. And yet, without fail, every semester, someone goes shrieking and freaking through the dorm because they lost their work. Frequently backing up your notes and projects is an important part of staying organized. A small external hard drive or second thumb drive that never leaves your dorm is a must!

2. Binders and folders: You will most likely be collecting a lot of loose papers from teachers in your classes. Some will be assignments, some will be instructions, and some will be your tests and quizzes. You will want to keep ALL of these loose pieces of paper.

Binder: If you are a notebook person, consider getting a binder. A simple 1 to 1 1/2 inch binder should do, depending on the classes and workload. Buy dividers to separate each class in the binder where you can store all these extra packets and papers. Try to limit yourself to one binder, especially if you have two classes in a row. Carrying two or more full binders is a lot of weight and a lot to keep track of. Having everything in one place will help keep things light and together. Plus, you can also store your notebook(s) inside!

Folder: If you're a laptop person, all you really need is a simple folder, perhaps one for each class, to keep these loose bits and pieces. They're thin and easy to carry around, especially since you will be bringing your laptop to classes. It helps keep the weight down and can be easily stored.

3. Desk: Probably one of the things you never would have thought about! It's good to keep class work organized, but what about at the end of the day? Where do you store all of your work? If you use your laptop for notes and such, that's easy enough to answer. Your laptop either goes on your desk or in its case. Folders can be stacked neatly beside.

But, if you use binders and notebooks, be sure to keep these together. Check out your schedule for the next day. I usually kept the things I needed for my first class out on top of my desk where I could easily grab them and leave. Everything else should be either stored off to the side on your desk, on a shelf, or in a drawer. Try to keep it all together and in the same place for efficiency.

4. Your room: It is essential to keep your dorm room clean and organized as well! If your room is cluttered, messy, and disorganized, you won't be able to find your well organized binders and notebooks, laptops, and thumb drives! And this is the last thing you want to happen! Make sure everything has a home in your room. If it doesn't have a home, find one! Obviously, clothes should be kept in the dresser, shoes should be kept neatly on the floor, in a corner, or near the door. Jackets and sweaters should be hung up, bath things should be kept on a shelf or on top of the dresser, etc. Give everything a home and make sure to return them to their spot after use. This way, you will know exactly where everything is when you need something, and it will help keep your room organized!

5. Your car: Some people may need to drive a little ways to get to their classes! Having a clean car can be a really good thing! Always throw out paper bags of fast food, shopping bags from groceries and supplies, Dunkin' Donuts coffee cups, etc. That way, when you get in your car to go to class, you won't have to dig through garbage to find the notebook you need. And remember, always bring your notebooks, laptops, etc., into your dorm room! If you leave things in your car, you could forget about them or they could get stolen!

While some of these may be common sense, they are excellent things to keep in mind and can help you stay organized. An organized student is a successful student!

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