How to stay organized, succeed in college

With a heavier workload and less structure, starting college is a time when organization and time management skills could make or break the academic experience.

While students will likely take fewer classes in college at any given time than they did in high school, college professors tend to expect more from their students and assign more time consuming and challenging assignments.

To stay on top of assignments and accomplish everything on time, one of the best things students can do is write down all their assignments in a planner as soon as they receive their syllabi. This allows individuals to keep better track of when assignments are due and have all their assignments in one place.

For those who would prefer to keep track of their assignments on their phones, there are countless organization apps available, with many designed specifically for college students. Trello and Evernote are two organization apps that have high ratings and are also free to download.

Many students also find it useful to have a whiteboard above their desk or somewhere else they know they will look on a regular basis. On this board, individuals can write assignments that are their top priorities or important deadlines as reminders.

Additionally, students should keep everything they need for a class, such as their notebook, folder and textbook, together to prevent them from forgetting to bring something to class that they need. It may also be helpful for individuals to pack their backpacks the night before their classes to further ensure they won’t forget anything and to eliminate a task they would otherwise have to complete in the morning.

Along with organization, wise time management is a huge factor in being successful in college. College is a time when individuals are faced with a number of responsibilities, which can easily become overwhelming. In addition to their classwork, many students also juggle one or more jobs, memberships in student organizations and relationships with friends and family. This long list of responsibilities is a lot to handle, especially when there are limited hours in a week.

To get the most out of any given week, individuals should schedule their time and try to stick as closely to their plan as possible. It may be easiest to do this on a weekly basis, starting by scheduling responsibilities that cannot be moved, such as classes and work shifts.

Next, students can begin scheduling time to work on their assignments. It is best to split large assignments into smaller portions that can be spread out over several days, which makes these extensive assignments considerably less intimidating. 

Breaking assignments down also allows for better concentration, as most young adults can only focus on a single task for about 50 minutes at a time, according to Kansas State University. These periods of concentration should be separated by short breaks that allow individuals to get up and move and relax their minds. 

Finally, individuals should ensure they have time for basic essentials, such as eating, staying active and socializing. All these things, while they may seem simple or obvious, are critical for maintaining positive mental health, according to the Mental Health Foundation, and mental health has a clear impact on academic success.

While it may seem intimidating to implement these tips and to stay organized, this gets easier once a schedule is developed. Finding an individualized routine that works and sticking to it is what really makes a difference and puts success more easily into reach. 

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