Monday, January 26, 2015

Organize Me: the start of spring semester

With the start of a new semester I seemed to have taken an accidental blogging hiatus.  I know last semester I would only post sporadically, but I promise you that is not going to happen this semester. Once I get into a set schedule, frequent blog posts won’t be a problem.

The beginning of a new semester can be difficult.  Setting up routines, figuring out how to balance the new course load, determining how much time each class will require your attention outside of lecture, setting meal times, scheduling social time with friends, organizing your school supplies, and adjusting to waking up at certain times. Needless to say organization is crucial beginning on day one of each semester. 

Those of you who know me personally, know that I function best when I am most organized.  Today I am here to share some tips to helping you have a more organized start to your spring semester. The first few weeks of classes it is good to try out different routines and organization techniques to determine what will work best for that semester. 

One: Establish a routine
Each semester is different.  Your class schedule will most likely not be the same as the semester before, nor will be the time you have to put in studying for your classes outside of lecture.  Your involvement in activities, socializing, working, exercising, etc. will also change.  Adjusting to a new schedule can be challenging, so work to create a routine as quickly as possible.  Having established routines will help increase your productivity.
 This print out is great for keeping track of your classes and free time.

Two: Utilize your syllabus
Every course has one of these, it is a university requirement.  The content of a syllabus will change based on professors preferences.  However, you can generally expect to find a semester calendar, assignments, study tips, your professor's office hours, and what materials you need to succeed here.   It is important to spend some time, within the first couple weeks of school, reading over the syllabus and highlighting important information.  The syllabus will help you set expectations for the course.  After reading each syllabus, write down all of the important dates in your agenda.  This will help ensure that you do not  forget an assignment or exam.

Three: Obtain textbooks
Purchase your textbooks as soon as possible.  Many universities have a section of their website where you can find what textbooks each course requires.  If you are able to purchase your books ahead of time, do so.  The more in advance you purchase your books, the better deals you are going to get.  Waiting too long means you will have to buy your books from the school bookstore, which is nine times out of ten always more pricy.  A great resource for comparing book prices is Slug Books.

Four: Keeping track of notes and other papers
Every semester is different, so your organization needs to adapt with it.  Some courses may utilize a lot of handouts, which means a binder is best.  Some classes may just require you to take notes, which means you only need a notebook and possibly a folder.  It is important to have several systems that you know work for you. Below are some systems that work for me:

1.     The Binder Method:  In semesters where professors hand out a lot of papers or require you to print/annotate articles this is a great method.  There are several ways to organize a binder.  The first method is to have a binder for each set of days.  For example a binder for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes and then a second binder for Tuesday/Thursday classes. Within each binder utilize a divider for each course.  The papers will then go in each section chronologically by date.  However, maybe only one of your courses has a lot of papers.  If this is the case, then it might be good to use one binder with several sections in it (readings, class notes/handouts, blank paper, and homework).  Either of these two methods works well.
2.     The Folder and Notebook Method: This is generally my preferred method. The week is divided into two parts: Part 1 (Monday/Wednesday/ Friday classes) and Part 2 (Tuesday/Thursday Classes).  First, determine how many classes you have per day of each set.  This is how you figure out how many subjects you need per notebook.  Generally speaking, a three-subject notebook is good for each part of the week, so that you have two notebooks total.  Each section of the notebook then represents a different course.  The folders are divided up the same way.  You will need one folder for part one and another folder for part two.  Within each folder, paperclip papers from the same course so that they are all together and can be accessed easily.  If one folder isn't enough, then you can always use one folder per subject too.

Five: Set a few goals
After reading through each course's syllabus, I'm sure you will notice some challenges that might arise for you this semester.  It is important to take the time to set some goals and push yourself to be the best you possibly can .  Goals will help motivate you when you have the mid semester blues.  These goals don't need to be unrealistic but shouldn't be too easy either.  To maintain a  balanced life it is important to set both academic and non-academic goals for the semester.

I hope these tips help you have an excellent start to your spring semester!


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