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How to Get Organized in College

5 Easy Steps Can Carry You Through Even the Most Chaotic of Semesters

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Two male students studying outdoors
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With all that you have to balance, getting organized in college can sometimes seem like both a hopeless and useless task. After all, what kind of person can create order out of so much chaos?! You might be surprised, however, to learn just how easy it can be to get organized during your time in school.

1. First and foremost, have a time management system. Whether you're a super senior or an incoming first-year student, time will be your most precious commodity. Just when you need it the most, it will seem the most scarce. And you will rarely, if ever, feel like you have enough of it. Consequently, having a good time management system that you use is critical for getting organized -- and staying that way -- during your time in school. After all, how are you supposed to know what you're supposed to be doing if you aren't even sure, well, what you're supposed to be doing?

2. Write down all your academic responsibilities. When you first get your syllabi at the beginning of the semester, find a quiet table at a coffee shop, get a cup of coffee, and sit down with your calendar. Put everything that's on your syllabi into the calendar: when classes meet, when things like required films and labs are scheduled, when midterms are, when classes are cancelled, when finals and papers are due. And when you think you're all done putting everything in, double check your work and do it again. Once you have everything inputted into your time management system, you can rest assured that you'll know about all required course assignments well before their deadline. Sometimes, just knowing what's coming down the pipeline can account for 90% of your organization prowess.

3. Go through something once a week. It sounds strange, but you'll likely be surprised at just how helpful this rule can be when it comes to staying organized in college. At least once a week, go through and organize something. It can be your backpack; it can be your bank statement; it can be your desk; it can be your email. You undoubtedly, however, will find something that slipped your mind or that you've been meaning to get to. And if you hadn't have gone through that item, you would likely have forgotten all about it.

4. Have a budget and check in on it regularly. A major part of being organized in college is staying on top of your finances. Even if most of your costs, like room and board in the residence halls, are taken care of through the financial aid office, staying on top of your money situation is still important. Being organized means knowing what's going on in your college life at any given point in time. If you aren't sure how much money is in your account -- or, worse, if you'll have enough to make it through the semester or quarter -- you aren't organized. So stay on top of your budget and know where you're money has gone, where it is, and where it's headed.

5. Be proactive and plan in advance. You know that guy down the hall who always is stressing out and cramming last minute for exams? Or that girl who freaks out every time she has a paper due the next day? Chances are you'd be hard pressed to find someone who would describe either of them as "organized." If you know what's coming -- holidays, major events, midterms, papers, lab reports, finals -- you can plan in advance and avoid unnecessary chaos. And if you know what's coming, you can organize your life (e.g., get enough sleep) far enough in advance that you can still enjoy yourself during even the worst of the worst.

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