Back to School 2011: Organization Tips for Students

  • Get Organized!

    School is stressful and can take a toll on your health. A study from the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles (which has been keeping track of student health for decades) showed that only 51.9% of first-year college students considered their emotional health as above average. Whether you're in college, graduate school, high school or taking some night classes after work, there are some important ways to stay organized to ensure success in school. And if you're finding that schoolwork is taking up all of your time, MainStreet has some suggestions on how to balance schoolwork with everything else. There are even tips and tricks on how to take notes in class and how to ace the organic chemistry exam! Read on for that and more. Photo Credit: cogdogblog
    The Calendar is Your Friend
  • The Calendar is Your Friend

    Don't underestimate the value of planning ahead and creating a calendar. Use Google Calendar or your smartphone to create and plan for the next entire month to track project due dates and exams. Typically, professors will provide students with a syllabus indicating those dates, but since the syllabus is often subject to change, set up your calendar for the next month instead of the entire semester. This way you won't forget about any assignments and you'll give yourself ample time to prepare for an exam. Another helpful feature of most calendars are the alerts that will be sent to you prior to an event. Photo Credit: bizmac
    The Classic To-Do List
  • The Classic To-Do List

    Lists are incredibly important for some of the more short-term tasks you need to complete. Each morning, you should create a to-do list indicating all of the homework assignments you need to complete by the end of the day. It's helpful to include the estimated time it will take to complete each task so you can look forward to finishing your work. And there's nothing more satisfying than crossing out the tasks on the list. For tips on how to create a list, visit founded by Paula Rizzo, a guru on how to stay organized and stress-free. Photo Credit: the Italian voice
    Write it Down
  • Write it Down

    When studying for an exam, chances are you're trying to memorize information. It's always more helpful to understand the material rather than remember definitions or terms word for word. Sometimes, the curriculum can be so confusing, you have no other option but to memorize it. If you're confused, write down the exact definition at least three times - then recite it aloud. This will help you remember the definitions, or whatever other terms you need to make sure you have a handle on. Other tactics include creating flash cards or even writing a song using the material as lyrics. Photo Credit: Daehyun Park
    Use the Board
  • Use the Board

    According to Holly Bohn, founder and creative director of, "Hang a white board or chalk board on the wall. Next, on Sunday night, write any important reminders for the week." It is helpful to visually see the tasks you need to complete, and since the board is hanging on the wall, you'll always be able to see what you need to do. Photo Credit: Collin Anderson
    Note Taking
  • Note Taking

    Whether you are in a lecture with 300 students or a small class with 30, it's easy to lose focus. Some students prefer taking notes on a laptop. In lectures where the professor is constantly reciting facts and figures, you may need the computer to take notes quickly. However, if the classroom has an Internet connection, chances are Facebook, Twitter and web surfing will prevent you from paying attention. That said, taking notes the old fashioned way (via notebook and pen) will be much more effective.  If you have to have the laptop, turn off the wireless Internet to prevent you from browsing the web. Also, try to refrain from texting or using your phone during class - this is a huge distraction and many professors ban the use of phones during class anyway. Besides, if you're going to text and surf the Internet during class, why even go in the first place? And with all that money for tuition, it's important to not only show up to class, but pay attention! Photo Credit: Kristian D.
    More Classes
  • More Classes

    Having more classes may be the last thing college students would want, but in addition to classes, students must study, do laundry and other chores. Life coach Gloria Mitchell suggests creating time in your schedule to study, as if it were a class. Also, create blocks of time each week to do laundry, exercise and pay bills – think of these tasks as more classes. This will help to ensure that you complete the other important tasks in addition to your regular classes. Photo Credit: yusunkwon
    Keep Important Papers
  • Keep Important Papers

    Don't throw out old tests or any previously completed assignments. For example, the midterm exam will help you study for the final exam -- be sure to hold on to the midterm exam if it's returned to you. Plus, if there turns out to be an error with your final grade, you'll need to have the old tests and essays to show the professor what the grade should be. Purchase file folders and create a separate folder for each class, and you will be able to call back on them as needed. Photo Credit: lotyloty
    Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Get Help

    You may not be an expert in all subjects you encounter at shool. And that’s part of the reason to go to college to begin with, right? To learn about topics you’re not necessarily interested in, but that are nonetheless important. If you find yourself struggling in a particular subject, ask your academic advisor to recommend tutors.  Many schools offer free tutoring sessions or you can hire a student tutor for a reasonable price. Also, ask students in your class who seem to understand the material to help you. Create study groups with friends and you can crowd-source your study topics as well. Consider using’s homework help tool, which is used by over 1 million students – it features practice tests and other tools to help you study. Photo Credit:
  • Consolidate

    Try to carry as few books as possible in your backpack – you don’t want to be walking around campus with 30 pounds worth of textbooks! If you live on campus, even if it’s a bit of a trip back to your dorm or apartment, don’t be afraid to head back home to grab more books or remove the books from your bag that you no longer need – it’s a lot better than lugging a day's worth of textbooks and notebooks throughout campus. Photo Credit: LifeSupercharger
    Set Your Goals?
  • Set Your Goals?

    College can be a very confusing time – you still may not know what you want to major in, never mind what you want to pursue as a career.  Try to map out your goals early on in the semester. Do you want to aim for a 4.0 GPA or join some clubs to make new friends and learn about other topics outside of the classroom? Do you want to intern at a firm to get some real-world experience? Perhaps you plan on working throughout the semester to earn some extra money. Whatever your goals may be, write them down, recite them and take the steps you think are necessary to turn them into a reality. -- Scott Gamm is the founder of the personal finance website He has appeared on NBC’s TODAY, MSNBC, Fox Business Network, Fox News, ABC News and CBS.  Follow Scott on Facebook and Twitter. Photo Credit: lululemon athletica
    Tweet alongside us
  • Tweet alongside us

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