It’s the beginning of a new year, and one New Year’s resolution every college student should make is to stay organized. Exams will be here before you know it, and the more organized you are, the easier it will be to study and the more you will already know. Here are some organization tips for your college journey to help you get ready for examss this year.
Start at the beginning.
If you do not start organizing when your classes begin, it can be a little overwhelming when you finally decide to organize. Suddenly, it is the week before exams and you are trying to get your materials in order so you can study, but there is just not enough time. The easiest way to stay organized for exams is to start at day one.
Take the time to form an organization plan and get the necessary supplies to carry it out, if you do not already have them. Things like highlighters, notebooks, binders, folders, dividers, sticky notes, and different colored pens are all great organization tools for your exam success. Do not wait longer than a week to create and implement your organization plan, or you run the risk of organization overload.
Keep it together.
It is no fun digging through heaps of random things in the corner of your dorm room, trying to find that English notebook and a red pen for class. Though you were running late for your Biology class the other day and frenziedly threw your backpack contents in the corner black hole so you could re-fill your backpack with what you need and run out the door, there is a better way to keep your school supplies. Black holes make things disappear, you know.
When you are not using them, keep your exam organization items in one place. The ideal location would be your desk, of course. Try organizing your books either alphabetically or in the order of your classes or some other system, and group them with the corresponding notebooks. If you have any other materials specific to individual classes, group them with these, too. All general supplies can be kept at a location of your choice on or in your desk. Just keep your things in their respectful places, so when you need them, you know where to look.
The more you categorize your materials, the more prepared you will be for exams. Thus, having different notebooks or binders for each class and using things like different colors of highlighters and pens for each class, along with tools like sticky notes and arrows, are great ways of staying organized. In addition, practicing such categorizing methods will help you remember the materials better.
Try assigning a color to each class and only using that color for everything having to do with it. For example, use a blue notebook, blue binder, blue folder, blue highlighter, blue pen, blue sticky notes, and blue sticky arrows for English. Not only will you know by the color what the material is at a glance, you also can better remember the information by using the color as a memory trigger. Do you think the Walden Pond that Henry David Thoreau visited in the 1800s was blue?
Get rid of what you do not need.
Someone hands you a flyer for an ice cream social while crossing the quad, and you stuff it in your notebook for later. Then in class, your professor gives you a handout for a demonstration of the club he sponsors is having, which you also stuff in your notebook. By the end of the day, your notebook has all of these random papers in it that have nothing to do with the class.
Part of organizing your materials for exams is getting rid of all of the random stuff you have accrued that has nothing to do with your classes. You want to be able to focus on the important information when you study, and this random stuff will only distract you. If you want to keep these random things, have a separate place for them. Get a pegboard or dry erase board so you can display upcoming events so you do not forget. And if you want to keep them past the event dates for a trip down memory lane later, add a binder into your organized scholastic library for such things.
Keep it clear.
Some professors relay a lot of information in every class, and they expect you to write down everything they say. To keep up, you invent your own shorthand and scribble on every piece of every page you use in your notebook. At the end of class, you have not retained much, but you do have eleven pages of chicken scratch and a cramped hand.
Reviewing messy notes for exams can be difficult or distracting, trying to figure out what you meant or what goes with what. A great way to keep these notes organized is to legibly rewrite them later that day. The notes are still fresh in your mind, so you know what you meant to say. By taking the time to do this, you not only will have better notes to study from later, but you also are going over the material at your own pace, which will help you better grasp the day’s lesson.
Make it fun.
Organizing can be a drag. It is tedious and not very entertaining. There are ways to make it not so dull, though. Instead of just sitting for an hour rewriting, sorting, categorizing, and color-coding, you can add some fun twists to the process to make it go by faster and not be something you secretly dread.
You are organizing your own materials, so you can do it however you want. Play funky music and disco while you organize, taking the time to unwind and relax. Or get interesting or funny stickers to put at certain places in your notes to call attention to really important points. This can also help you create memory triggers, associating a particular sticker with certain information, and it is a good way to make you giggle later when you are studying for exams.
Stick with it.
Todd just invited you to a super rad party, and you want to get ready for it instead of organizing your materials for the day. The next evening is so beautiful that you spend it playing volleyball on the quad. Now it’s the weekend, which means school is the last thing on your mind. Monday has arrived, and you have not organized for exams for days. You feel overwhelmed and unmotivated, so you just kind of stop organizing for a while. Now exams are here, and you don’t know where to start with your mess of study materials.
To stay on top of organizing, you need to make it a part of your routine. Whether you organize as soon as the class is over or set aside a certain time each day, make it a habit to organize your materials. If you need to skip organizing every once in a while, that is understandable. Life happens. Just make sure you make it up the next day. It is easy to procrastinate, but increasingly stressful to make up for that lost time.
If you are struggling with staying motivated to organize for exams, remember why it is important. College is not free, and you are there because you are seeking the future you want. You need to learn as much as you can not only for good grades and a degree but also for you to be your best in your chosen career.
Stay organized. It will alleviate stress and help you be your best. It is hard to choose to spend some of your free time organizing, especially since you are already so busy with classes, but it is a very rewarding practice in every way. If you are finding it difficult to set aside that time, try getting together a group of people who are serious about college. Everyone can work on whatever they want, you can organize your materials, and you can all support and help each other.