How I Stayed Organized (and Survived) my Freshman Year at an Ivy League Institution

Before college, class schedules and routines are pretty straight forward. However, college is a time where academic and personal decisions are entirely up to the student, which can give leeway for procrastination and unproductive habits. Without a fixed schedule, it can be easy to sidetrack from academic priorities. It is important (especially now with online schooling) to remain organized, utilize the following resources, and create a routine for yourself.

Between working 15+ hours a week, full time course loads, and organizations, I had to quickly come up with a plan or else I was surely going to sink. With the help of the Learning Strategies Center at my school (a.k.a my job) and study skills guru Mike Chen, I was able to compile these useful time management tips.

1. Weekly Calendar

The purpose of a weekly calendar is to emphasize all of the gaps in your schedule. For example, if on Wednesdays I work from 9-11, have class from 12-2, have choir practice from 6-7, and I sleep by midnight, then I will fill these time slots out. Then, I will be able to discover all of the gaps in my schedule. I can discover what times on Wednesdays I’m free and can use this free time to study, get work done, and hang out with friends. I would recommend filling out this calendar the first week or two of classes. That way you will get the hang of your free times early on.

2. Google Calendar

Image provided by: Google support services

Google Calendar is an app you can download on your electronic devices. I added all of my course locations, times, and office hours on the calendar. I chose to be reminded of these events 30 minutes before, which can be helpful if you’re forgetful like me. I liked using this app because I had the option of making my course information “recurring every week” so I didn’t have to plug in the information each week+ you can color code everything.

3. White Board

I would use a white board to emphasize the most important events of the week. For example, if my choir group had a concert, an extra credit assignment was coming up, or if I had a girls night out, I would write all of this down on the white board. Usually before I sleep or when I wake up it’s the first thing on the wall that I would read over as I was getting ready for the day. This is definitely optional, but I liked to have a physical, large reminder on the wall.

4. Monthly Calendar

The purpose of a monthly calendar is to add the “big picture” assignments. The idea is to add your heavy load/ significant assignments onto this monthly calendar. For example, you could add exams, final exams, projects, extra credit, and essay due dates. You will quickly be aware of which week will be your busiest each month. That way, you’re not scrambling days before to complete essays, tests, and projects that are due days apart from each other. (Been there, NOT fun)

5. Work Study

As I mentioned, I work along with doing the whole full-time student thing, and it can be manageable. If you have to work, I would recommend getting an office/library job. As opposed to working in the dining halls/cafes/ places where you won’t have downtime, office jobs give you study time. I was able to do light readings, outline of essays, and print stuff out at my office job. If working is required for you, try to find a nice, quiet space with understanding bosses. (Shoutout to the lsc)

6. Planner

On a planner, you’re able to add daily checklists of all your small, daily activities. This includes readings that are assigned for the week, daily work activities like quizzes or worksheets, and smaller responsibilities throughout the week. This can also be where you write down your to-do list. Be mindful of the “80-20” rule. This means that 80 percent of your results come from 20 percent of your effort. Prioritize the 20 percent that you are able to get done successfully. For example, if you have 10 things written down on your to-do list, try to accomplish 2 items that you can successfully do right away. You will feel much better if you tackle your list like this, a little at a time, rather than biting off more than you can chew.

*side note: Once you’ve received all of your syllabi you can begin getting organized. The course locations, times, office hours, assignments, tests, extra credit, and literally everything should be found on them! Then you can begin utilizing the above tips & tricks.

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