Between freshman and sophomore year in college, there were always assignments that slipped my mind. Some didn’t make it into my planner. Others never made it out of the depths of the paper graveyard that I carried around in my over-packed messenger bag.
But, by the end of my sophomore year I decided that enough was enough. Too many easy A’s were being missed because of my lack of planning. So I did what every college student should do when faced with a problem, I asked for help. After working with an academic success coach, I was able to stay on top of EVERY assignment, stay organized throughout the semester and actually have some breathing time between classes instead of running to the crowed computer lab in an effort to force 1,000 words into a document to get 5 points of extra-credit. Please do yourself, your sanity and your GPA a favor by being proactive! Getting ahead and staying ahead of your assignments, projects and exams is totally doable with these 5 important and easy steps.
Collect all of your syllabi and make a date with your planner before the first week of school ends.
Once I hit sophomore year, taking 4 classes a semester was no longer an option. I had a ton of required courses in my way to really figuring out which major I wanted to nestle myself into for the two years so I did what most ambitious students do: I took five or six classes every semester. That meant more homework, more due dates and more opportunities to miss something.
Using the advice of my English professor, I gathered all of my syllabi from each class on the Friday afternoon of the first week of classes and went through every single syllabus and listed each required reading, group or individual project, due date and exam on my planner. Doing this allowed me to not feel so paranoid about missing an assignment due date or forgetting what chapter to read for my next class. It also made it easier to update my calendar with assignment due date changes instead of having to search through stacks of loose leaf papers trying to locate a specific syllabus.
Having everything already laid out allowed me to be better prepared for upcoming assignments and schedule time in advance to work on each assignment gradually instead of having to rush through the last hours of my weekend to play catch-up. This was one of the best pieces of advice I received in college and continue to use this method as a graduate student.
Have a designated spiral or composition notebook and a mid-sized binder and/or folder for every class.
I used to carry a huge backpack to school every day. It was jammed packed with my books and an over-sized spiral notebook with everything I was working on for each class during the semester, separated by flimsy paper dividers. It worked in high school, but it didn’t bring me much success in college. Which brings us to notebooks and folders (or composition books or binders – your choice). This was another great tip that led to a lighter load to carry across campus as well as a more organized approach to collecting, revisiting and turning in drafts, essays and assignments throughout the year. The strategy was simple: Designate a spiral notebook/composition book for note taking and couple with a small to medium sized binder/folder and label both with the class title, location and times (this is helpful for the first few weeks and if you lose or misplace your stuff), and add that and your textbook to your bag and go! Having this system for each class lets you know where things are, what you actually need to carry for the day and helps keep your life as a student organized.
Make a master list of all of your instructor’s office hours and contact information.
When you’ve misplaced your syllabus, or the school wi-fi is down, having your professor’s information available can be very helpful – especially for important assignments or emergencies. Whether it’s a late assignment, extension request, an absence or a very important assignment or class related question, having your professor’s contact info for each class, printed out and taped in the back of your planner and in each notebook or binder can save you a great deal of stress and a potential headache in the long run. Have it all in one place, so that you it’s easy to find and always accessible. Your future self will thank you.
Check Blackboard (Bb) or your own college system to update your personal planner regularly.
In addition to having all of your due dates pre-populated in your planner, you should also be checking online resources or information centers that your professor uses. Some professors love Blackboard, and will upload everything from the syllabus to homework assignments into Bb for both information and submission. Make sure to check your online hub (Blackboard, Moodle etc.) and update your planner with those dates. Be sure to carefully read through the syllabus and assignment instructions when professor’s like to take advantage of Bb. Many will require that an assignment be submitted via Bb instead of email, which could cause you to lose unnecessary points if you’re not careful.
Add all of the assignment and exam dates, instructor contact information and any extra-credit events or assignments to your device calendars.
Now that we’ve gone over planners, notebooks, binders and Blackboard, let’s get back to the 21st century and talk about your smartphone, tablet and/or laptop that you will be checking assignments, reading email and doing the bulk of your college career assignments on. Just like your early semester date with your physical planner, you want to make sure that once everything is on paper, it’s also copied to your Google, iCalendar, Outlook or phone calendar as well. Yes, this could be considered a little manual labor, but the benefits of having reminders in your phone, email and physical planner offer less chances for you to get off track. Having everything synced will give you the heads up you need to be successful this semester and the semesters to come.
Moving forward, you now know five new ways to stay on top of your assignments and feel confident about keeping up with your assignments as the semester starts and ends. They may not be a one-size fits all, but it may help relieve a little of the stress being a college student can sometimes bring.
Test out these tips and let us know which one helped you the most. Do you have any tips or tricks to share that we may have missed? Share your faves and latest experiences in the comments below.
Chiereme is the the found(h)er of becomingthewoman.com, current 8-5-er, graduate student, writer in motion and dreamer in flight. She writes poetry, blog posts, songs, and psalms of womanhood and everything in between. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter.