When you were in elementary school, you probably had a list of school supplies that you needed to get for the next school year. My school even had the option to buy a school supply pack filled with everything on the list already.
In middle school and high school, it might be similar. You might be able to use what you did in elementary school or your teachers might send out a list during the summer. That’s not the case in college. You are on your own, so you can find what works best for you.
My own method of college organization has changed a bit over the years, but the concept has been the same. I have separate things for different classes, and I combine similar classes into one notebook or binder.
As an example, last fall, I had an earth science lecture and lab, music theory 3, ear training 3, and music history, among music lessons and ensembles.
I got a binder specifically for earth science. I used the binder for both the lecture and lab, took notes on loose leaf paper directly in the notebook, and was able to put the hole punched lab book in the binder.
Pro tip: If you use a binder for one or more of your classes, make sure you have a pocket or divider where you can stick loose papers that aren’t hole punched.
That same semester (and all of spring semester), I combined my classroom music classes into one notebook. I reused an old Five Star Flex Binder and a couple of pocket dividers. I stuck some notebook paper in for music history, some music notation paper for theory, and the printouts for each chapter of ear training.
That worked well, because theory and ear training went hand in hand, and music history was right before music theory. Now for some tips based off of my organization.
1. Use flexible School Supplies.
I love spiral notebooks, but it can be hard to use them for notes. You might run out of room before the semester is over, or you might barely scratch the surface. Using a binder or something similar along with loose leaf paper can cut down on waste and can expand with you.
2. Play aRound with YOur system.
Did you have a semester where you just kept losing papers? Maybe the way you organized your materials wasn’t the best. Did you always know where everything was? Reuse that method next semester. Don’t be afraid to look at your system after finals and reevaluate when things aren’t working. Or change it during the semester if need be.
3. Test Out Different Methods.
My method of organization might not work for you. Do a simple Google search and you will find tons of organization methods and tips. Find what works for you. Also, try different methods for different classes. Your math class will probably require a big thick notebook whereas your English class might make more use of your laptop.
4. Reuse Old Supplies.
If you still have binders from last year that are in good shape, use ’em. Use the same pens and pencils. There’s no reason to go out and buy new supplies when you have good ones at home. If you want to spruce up your supplies, there are dozens of tutorials on YouTube.
5. Combine Where Appropriate.
Do you have a couple of related classes? Are they back to back? Try and combine them into one binder, with separate sections, of course. If you have a science class with a lecture and lab, keep those together, because your lab notes might come in handy during lecture and vice versa.
6. Use Different Methods BAsed on the class.
All classes are not considered equal. You might have a semester full of lecture classes where you could rely on a good ole five subject notebook. Then the next semester you might have a lab or a class or two with minimal notes and a lot of hand outs. Be prepared to organize your stuff in different ways.
7. Ask for Advice from Other students.
If you know someone who took that boring college algebra class last semester, ask them what they used to get through it. If you are dreading public speaking, find out how your professor expects your speeches to be organized. Don’t hesitate to ask for help, because we have all been there.
8. Avoid the Campus Bookstore.
You have heard it with textbooks and I am telling you the same thing with school supplies. The bookstore will probably have some good stuff, but it will most likely be overpriced. Go to your local Target or Walmart or even the drug store. Order some stuff on Amazon. The bookstore is going to be more expensive. What the bookstore does have is its convenience factor. Don’t get sucked in by that.
9. Use a Planner.
There are dozens of planners on the market. Prices range from $5 to over $100. Planners have different features, designs, and sizes. Find what is right for you but use a planner. You will have loads of assignments, papers, tests, events, and more. The last thing you want to have happen is to forget about a big project.
10. Color Code.
Come up with your own color code and use it. Whether you want to color code by class or by subtopic within a class, do it. That way, you can look at your planner (see #9) or at your study guide and automatically know what needs your attention. Even a simple color for school versus a color for work versus a color for personal things can make a difference. You will be grateful when you don’t feel like writing out the entire name of a class when you have an assignment to write down.
Organization is a very personal thing, and so I realize that not everyone is going to want to do things the way I do. That’s okay. If you want to throw everything into one binder, do it. If you would rather use a notebook and folder for each class, go for it. Do what is best for you, and you will be successful in college.
Thanks for reading!