Thursday, February 23, 2017

Successful Student Tips: Getting Organized

Why do some students succeed where others falter? Success isn’t a mysterious secret item that some people own and others don’t, but a series of habits and behaviors. So what does it take to be a successful student? In the Successful Student Tips series we explore some of the keys to success. 

Mid-semester and stacks of books and notebooks are piled in various corners of the room. It seems like every day is another due date for some important project, homework, or research paper. When the professor asks for everyone to hand their homework up to the front, half the class groans. “Homework? I forgot.”
Keeping up with a full schedule can be difficult, and after a while things start to fall in the cracks. Now is the perfect time to reassess, reorganize, and get back on track.

Read. The. Syllabus.
Print it out if you can. Every class has a syllabus, and many professors post it on elearn even if your class is not online. Get familiar with what’s due and what’s expected of you. You don’t have to be surprised by homework, quizzes, or research papers.

Develop your own routine
Scrambling to read a whole chapter or finish your homework the night before it’s due is not the best way to make good grades. Once you’ve figured out what’s coming up, you can make your own schedule. Some students do better by blocking study time one day per subject. Others find it’s best to stagger by spending an hour on one then the next hour on another. Use a planner or an extra notebook and write down a reasonable weekly schedule. Be realistic: plan a schedule that works for you and still enables you to stay ahead of all of your classes.

Everything needs a home

An important part of getting organized is having things physically organized. I have a small bookcase dedicated for my textbooks and binders (you can usually find one for under $20.) For those with less room, another option might be to get bins that fit under your bed. However you manage it, knowing exactly where your books and notes are when you need them is kind of important.

Write it down
You know that time that the professor announced at the end of class that she wanted the questions at the end of chapter 4 turned in on Wednesday? You thought “I’ll remember to do that,” but you forgot as soon as you walked out of the classroom.  We all have a lot of stuff going on, and you can't expect to remember everything. Take a moment to write it down, and use full, clear sentences. I’ve taken notes of those end-of-class instructions just to look back later and wonder what I was trying to tell myself. Note to self: take better notes for myself.

Whether you use bookcases, day planners, or phone apps, having your school schedule and materials organized will save you time and confusion in the long run!

More Successful Student Tips:
Saying "No"
The Importance of Showing Up
Getting to Know Your Professors
Why It's Better to Write Your Notes By Hand

Gaynell Buffinet Payne is a writer, single mother, and student at Volunteer State Community College. She also blogs for Vol State's Returning Adult Learners.

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