This post is based off my previous post, How to Stay Organized in High School, that was super popular. I still live by the majority of these tips, but I’ve made it through my freshman year and now I think I have some new knowledge on how to stay organized in college!
Create a master syllabus
One of the best things I did in my first semester of college was creating a master syllabus with all of my classes. After coming from high school where my teachers reminded me every day of what we had coming up, this was a lifesaver to guarantee that I didn’t forget anything. Keep it mind that your syllabus will change, so don’t make it fancy enough that it’s hard to write in changed due dates. I made it simple by just having the due date, class, and the assignment, but you could add several more categories if you wanted. This post goes a lot more in-depth on how to create one to keep you sane!
Use the Pomodoro technique
This is a repeat from high school, but I’ve used it even more now, especially during finals week. I’m the kind of person that either needs a burst of energy to work for three hours, or I get distracted and can’t even finish ten minutes. This method has you work for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. After 4 rounds (or pomodoros) of this sequence, you can take a 15 minute break. I use the Pomodoro Time app for Mac, but there’s also the Tomato Timer option online. If you want to have this on your phone, there’s also several options- but I would use it on airplane mode only so you’re not distracted by other notifications.
Always do the reading assignments
I was so guilty of skipping a reading assignment the day before and then bombing a quiz or being completely lost throughout the whole lecture. In my second semester, I realized that even if it took thirty extra minutes to do the reading, it helped keep my attention throughout the whole class because I actually knew what the professor was talking about. This also made my notes more helpful because I wasn’t trying to jot down every single thing the professor was saying, I just had to write down the main points.
Take your notes, but take them twice
I always took my notes by hand, mainly because some teachers required it. This way I could color coordinate everything and structure things the way I wanted on the page. However, after I took this notes from class, I would go home and re-type them into the OneNote by Microsoft app for Mac. This is the best digital notebook I’ve found yet–I like using it much more than using Evernote or Google Drive. This way I would keep the information in my brain by writing it twice, and I could re-organize them a little bit to my liking. If you take notes on a computer, I would absolutely recommend hand-writing your notes afterwards to retain the information even more (unless you need to translate chemistry diagrams or mathematical equations into your notes). This Mental Floss article explains the benefits of writing by hand.
I’m a journalism and graphic design double-major, so in my journalism classes I’m able to use vocabulary terms and test myself on some history events as well. I know that this technique would work a lot better for classes that have a concrete term and a definition rather than a concept. Quizlet is a very popular tool used by a ton of college kids, but here’s the deal: more often than not, you’re just glancing at the definition and telling yourself you know the answer. Instead of making a bunch of useless flashcards, I like to put all my terms in Quizlet, then make a test from my cards. To do this, you create a set, then click the ‘test’ option. In the right column, you can make it a written test, matching, multiple choice, or true/false. This really helped me actually learn the material I needed to and focus on what I needed to work on before a big quiz or a test.
I’d love to answer any questions you have in the comments!