The Organized Life

How to Stay Organized in College: Tips to Clear Clutter

Learning how to stay organized in college took time for Mina Delavar, a senior and psychology major at Cal State, Northridge. After meeting friends on campus, she found it’s common for most freshmen to start school without a plan.

“I’ve always liked organization, but I didn’t know how to navigate college when I first started,” she said. “As time went on, around my sophomore year, I figured it out.”

Delavar is now a peer advisor who helps other students chart confusing college courses – both literally and figuratively.

If you’re ready to start your freshman year, or perhaps are a returning student with the need to declutter, keep reading for Delavar’s tried-and-true college organization advice. We’ve also got some great tips from an academic advisor who helps disorganized students on a daily basis.

With these tips, you can focus more on your career goals without the added stress of clutter.

Regularly Update a College Planner to Stay Organized

Add assignments, important meetings and extracurricular events in a daily planner (paper or digital) to keep your schedule on track and to avoid missing deadlines.

“A lot of students purchase agenda books, but they forget about it after the few first weeks,” she said. “A way to get motivated to keep up with it is to write down events or deadlines that you look forward to.”

Like the end of the semester!

If you’re tech savvy, there’s plenty of phone planner apps outside the typical Calendar function to help keep you organized, she added.

To avoid forgetting important events like exams and off-site classes, Delavar also adds audio reminders to her phone planner.

“It ‘dings’ every time to remind me,” she said. “We’re always on our phones anyway, so it’s a great tool.”

A planner is one of the first things Molly Mercer, an academic and career counselor at Glendale Community College, advises her students to invest in to stay organized.

“I usually suggest to write a daily or weekly to-do list, depending on the student, because students don’t necessarily prioritize their lives,” she said. “I suggest to set the time aside – five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night – to write out tasks and check off what’s been completed.”

Separate Papers by Class to Stay Organized in College

Avoid becoming overwhelmed by stacks of assignments and class handouts by organizing the papers in different folders.

“I like keeping things in folders, and color-coordinating them to my planner,” said Delavar. “I highlight all my science classes in yellow and English classes in pink (to match).”

If you’re a one-binder kind of student, Mercer said to use tab inserts in the binder to keep papers organized.

“Some students will have dividers and sections for each class,” she said. “It depends on how much you want to carry around.”

For computer-centric students, she suggested creating separate folders on their desktops for each course.

And don’t forget to keep the syllabus for each class in your folder or under each tab, Mercer warned. It will help you keep your assignments organized throughout the semester and help warn you of upcoming quizzes or term papers.

“Your teacher will likely touch on that syllabus each class,” she said.

Keep Your Backpack and Study Space Clean

Designate one day a week to clean out your book bag and room to help yourself avoid losing papers and “my dog ate my homework” situations. This will also help you remember to pack important supplies, like scientific calculators, and everyday necessities, like pens and highlighters.

“Keep your life as minimalistic as you can, because you’ll have a lot of papers to keep track of,” said Delavar. “I don’t have class on Fridays, so I clean on Fridays.”

Write a note in that handy planner of yours to help remind you on declutter day!

And while Mercer said many students love to do everything from their beds – whether it’s sleeping, eating or studying – it’s important to depart from the comfy covers and create a school-only area where you can study and stay focused.

If you have no space at home or in your dorm, check out your campus library.

“Declutter your life and that will help declutter your mind,” Mercer said. “The less things in the mind, the more relaxed and successful you’ll be.”