Student Life

Back to School Organization Tips

Hey guys! Some of you may have noticed I’ve been a little MIA from social media these past few days and that’s because school has finally begun again! Don’t get me wrong; I LOVED my summer break, but I’m just about ready to get back into a routine and starting learning again! This year is especially exciting for me because I’ve transferred to a new university and into a new program-so far, I’m loving it!

Since I’m in the back to school spirit I decided to do a little something different with today’s post and share some of my tips for staying organized throughout the school year. Balancing school life, with work, extra curricular’s, and a social life can be extremely stressful and very overwhelming. While I’m no expert and certainly still do get overwhelmed, I like to think that over the years I’ve created a system that works for me and helps me stay a little bit more sane.

These tips may not work for everyone, but they’ve definitely helped me a lot; especially making the transition to university. I figure if I can help at least one person’s school year a little less stressful this post will be a success!

  1. Print off the syllabus for every class 

    Yes, some of them are going to be 10+ pages, but trust me you’ll thank me later. The syllabus is your life line and will have important information for each of your courses including readings, due dates, professor and TA information, and procedures regarding plagiarism and other academic policies. Most universities have an online hub where teachers post all course content, so the syllabus may always be accessible through that, however I still like to save a copy to my computer and print off a hard copy, just to be safe!

  2. Create an Assignment Sheet 

    This is something I came across on Pinterest during my first year of university and it saved it me when it came to remembering deadlines and due dates. Basically what you want to do is take all those syllabi you printed off from tip one and find the area where your prof has outlined due dates for assignments, midterms, finals, etc. Then I write out each assignment and their due date by course, in dated order on a separate piece of paper.img_1615

    Once you have them all written out, I create a table on my computer and start inputting the assignments by due date. I include the name of the assignment, which course it’s for, the due date, and the percentage of my final grade that it counts for. As I go through the list, I highlight the ones I’ve already written down just to be sure I don’t miss any! Last year I also colour coded this, using a different colour for each course, but this year I left it simple and clean.


    I keep a copy of this saved on my desktop and have a hard copy in a variety of places; hanging on my wall, stuck in my agenda, and slipped into my notebooks. This has really helped me stay on top of things and organize my time better, because I can see exactly which assignments are coming up next.

  3. Create a Readings Schedule 

    Similar to the assignment sheet, my readings schedule is a table I create with each of the 12 weeks of the semester and each course I’m taking. Then I know exactly which readings I have to do each week. This one can sometimes get tricky depending on how often you have classes each week and whether or not you like to do your readings before or after your lecture, but the template here is pretty self-explanatory and should be easy to follow regardless of how you structure your readings.screenshot-2016-09-10-18-38-32

  4. Find a note taking method that works for you 

    This one is tricky and I’m still not sure I’ve found a method of taking notes that I am completely satisfied with. I have tried writing my notes exclusively out by hand, but found they’re too messy to study from after. Which then led me to adapt the two step note taking process in which I take rough notes in class and then re-write them out neater afterwards. However, I found this to be too time consuming, so I tried taking my notes exclusively on my laptop, which led me to retain very little of what I was actually typing. (I know all your profs will probably tell you, but it has been proving that writing helps you learn a lot better than typing does!)What I’ve started doing this term and I’m hoping will finally be the method I stick to, is typing my rough notes on a laptop, solely because I can jot down what the prof is saying a lot faster and neater than if I wear writing it out and then I write them out by hand later.
    I also want to mention, especially to those of you just starting out in university, don’t write down every single thing your prof says or every word that’s on the powerpoint. Not only will you end up overwhelmed with a bunch of useless information, but you’ll never actually be listening to what the prof is saying because you’ll be too busy scribbling everything down. I would try to listen to the prof as much as you can in class and only jot down the most important things they say. Use your own discretion here and don’t make more work for yourself than necessary!

  5. Colour Code 

    Whether is your notes or your day planner, colour coding can help you study and plan better because you’ll know exactly what you’re looking for at a glance. I like to use a colour coded system in my planner for different life activities. For example I have a different colour for school, work, the gym, social events, and blogging. If you just want to colour code your school stuff all your have to do is pick a different colour for each class and be sure to write all corresponding lectures, assignments, and exams in that colour.Colour coding your notes is a different ball game and I find varies for me with each course. For example, in my economic course I use different colours to distinguish between different lines in a graph, while in my political science course I use different colours for definitions, and in my environmental ethics course I use different colours to distinguish between quoted authors. In my geography course I use different colours to separate different regions and in nutrition I use different colours to distinguish between micronutrients.

    Your colour coding system will probably vary for you too and it’ll take some trial and error to find what works for you. Get some highlighters and coloured pens and start playing with what feels right. Just to make your notes so overwhelming that all they look like is a meaningless rainbow!

  6. Get a planner/agenda 

    This is the ultimate way to stay on top of things during school and everyday life. Finding a planner right for you is another trial and error experiment, but well worth it. Once you find a planner that suits you it will make staying organized an absolute breeze. A few of the daily planners I’ve used in the past include Erin Condren planners, Passion Planners, and Day Designer planners.I love Erin Condren planners because they’re super cute and the customizable covers are great! They also have a variety of layouts for people who want to plan their day by the hour or just jot down a few daily tasks. Decorating with planner stickers is also one of the best parts of owning an Erin Condren planner. If you’re interested in trying these planners out you can do so HERE.

    Passion Planners are my current favourite planners as my life has gotten increasingly busy and I need a little more space to plan everything. I love the hourly layout of these, especially because they start and end at reasonable times-there’s nothing worse than a planner that starts at 8am and ends at 6pm. Passion Planners are also goal focussed planners and include worksheets in the beginning of the planner and at the end of each month to allow you to plan and evaluate your goals and progress throughout the year. To get a Passion Planner go HERE.

    The Day Designer planner is similar to the Passion Planner in terms of goal setting and progress checking, however the Day Designer is more expensive and features a more chic looking hardcover. To find out more about Day Designer planners check them out HERE.

    Another planner that I’ve recently started using and am loving, is actually not a day planner, but a workout planner. This journal is by Gym Gypsy and is perfect for planning out my workouts and keeping track of my reps, sets, and even my nutrition, which is something I’ve been trying to get back in the hang of doing. These journals also feature goal pages at the beginning of every month, which I like to use to set monthly goals in and out of the gym. To check out Gym Gypsy’s journals click HERE, and save 10% if you purchase with the code ggemily


That’s all for today guys! I hope this post helps some of you students get organized and feel a little less stressed this semester! Best of luck with school!

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