With the approach of yet another school year rolling around again, I cannot help but notice more and more incoming college students becoming stressed about making it in college!

I could lie and say that they have nothing to worry about, but the truth is sometimes it is way easier on freshman to adjust if they start the year out by making healthy, level-headed choices. The first step to making said choices is to come into the game knowing what is happening at all times and never being in the dark.

The summer before one’s first year of college is a stressful time; filled with loading up on new things for your dorm, orientation activities, signing up for classes, and—most notably stressful—buying books. Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret: staying organized is the major key to success in your first year at university.

In my early years in high school, I became completely dependent on my organizational skills because I would have been lost it without it. To this day, I cannot make a move without my planners and to-do lists. It is that dependency on my planner that got me through a successful freshman year.

Although, sometimes being organized is easier said than done. But with this step-by-step guide to an organized oasis, you will be walking into your first day of classes with a professional, collected demeanor and a structured planner that Erin Condren would die for.

Also, be ready for some extra helpful tips along the way from my desk to yours.

We have the guide to organizing your planner for a new semester!

Step #1: Buy a planner.

The main thing to remember when buying an agenda/planner is that you should not grab the first one you see and assume it will work for you. Make sure that the planner fits your needs and is set up the way you want. The main things you need to look for in a good planner are the three C’s: color, cost, and construction.

  • Color just depends on your personal preference. If you are a professional type, you may want just a plain, solid color. Your planner doesn’t have to be fancy. You don’t have to go out and buy a $50 designer planner in order to stay organized, but I do believe an eye-appealing planner makes you want to use it more. I mean what is more fashion-forward than an adorable floral-print planner, am I right?
  • Cost is also a personal preference. Many people enjoy buying designer agendas, but some people (like yours truly) cannot grasp the concept of spending more than $20 on a planner. If you are like me, remember this one thing: you can dress up your planner just as well as you can dress up yourself. Add a little bling and you’ll be just as happy. (Although if you want a designer agenda, go ‘head, girl. Treat yo self.)
  • Construction is definitely the most important of the three C’s. This refers to the contents of the planner. Whether it has a monthly view, weekly view, or both. Does it have a place for notes, contact information, stickers, etc.? Size also matters, but is again a personal preference. I personally like a large planner because I can easy see everything that way.

Step #2: Make a Life Chart.

I cannot stress to you how important this step has been to me lately.

Making a Life Chart basically untangles all of those crazy thoughts, dates, and times running through your head! It puts all that insane amount of information down on paper so that’s it is tangible. Since you consume kinetic information easier than any other kind, the Life Chart makes it simpler to memorize all that craziness.

The Life Chart is a flow chart that breaks down every section of your life. Whether it be for school, work, or your personal life, it is the best thing to organize your thoughts before inserting any information into your planner.

Step #3: Collect all information and insert everything into your planner.

Since you’ve made your Life Chart, you have all of your information organized and at your fingertips. This comes in extremely handy now when it is finally time to insert everything into your organizer.

First off in this crucial step, you’ll need to collect everything that has important dates on them. (By now, that should only be your Life Chart and any class syllabi.)

(TIP: Color-coding is KEY!)

If you have lots of different things to keep up with, it’s likely you’ll run out of room on the monthly-view part of your planner. This is where highlighters come in handy.

Color-code each event in your life. For example, I color-coded my classes and my personal life like so:

Sociology class – purple highlighter

Journalism class – green highlighter

Math class – pink highlighter

Other general school events (like assemblies and meetings with academic advisors) – yellow highlighter

Family/friend/personal event – blue highlighter

The different color highlighter lines each represent their own class/section of my life. Once you memorize which color corresponds with which class, you’ll be able to quickly glance and know what you’ve got going on.

That way I can simply make a stripe of color so I do not fill up a day’s box on my monthly-view section with borderline illegible scribbles. From there, I can then go more in depth in the daily/weekly-viewer.

Then, if you flip to the daily view and see the corresponding colors you’ll see a more in-depth perspective. This step will make your planner stay nice and neat!

Step #4: Sync the rest of your calendars to your planner.

If you use the calendar apps on your phone or laptop, be sure to sync all those dates from your planner to those devices. That way if you are ever without your beloved planner, you’ll still have access to those important notes.

Make sure everything corresponds well!


Here’s the hardest part… Actually remembering to actually use the planner you have worked so hard on! My tip for remembering to use your planner is just to become accustomed to using it frequently. Take it out at the start of every class and have it on-hand and open all throughout class time. That way if someone says a date that you need to remember, you’ll be ready to jot it down.

(TIP: I also recommend making extra daily to-do lists that are extremely in-depth! This just safe-guards you and helps you keep on track even more!)

I hope this guide helps someone out there! Let me know in the comments below how you prepare your planner for the semester.

Be sure to read more of Mikala’s writing on her blog, Mikala’s Voice.


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