23 August 2013

Back to School: Class Organization

I guess I'll join the ranks of bloggers who help give tips on how to stay organized and study. 
I'll be the first to admit that I'm not very consistent from year-to-year when it comes to my organization and study styles... it's an ever changing system that evolves along with my changing habits and needs. Also, I recognize that everyone has to do what works for them! Trust me. I used every resource available to see how others organize for college and then I condensed the best ideas I could find into what has been a pretty organized classroom style.

You can love or hate my way of doing things, I just want to be a resource to those who may be in my same position and not know where to start.

The number one most important place to start is with an agenda. I don't care if you use one from Kate Spade, Target, or your school (Purdue always has a "mortarboard"). As the typical preppy girl that I am, I chose a Lilly Pulitzer planner... or at least for my "social planner". It's my own little label for it, and it doesn't really mean anything other than I don't put every little bit of homework in it. I use this planner for clubs and activities on campus as well as marking when I have exams and big assignments due. It helps me to get a visual picture of everything that's going on as well as any reminders that I need to make sure I look at over and over. I chose the large agenda, which is the perfect size to hold everything but also isn't a huge deal to take everywhere with me.

My assignments, on the other hand, are all logged in my MayBook. It's all cutesy with my monogram and all that, but it's my bible. I write down any reading, homework, or studying I need to do. I jot reminders to myself in it and use it simultaneously as a check-list and assignment book. It's so nice to be able to physically check assignments off and to have a visual picture of all that I need to get done for the day. So far, it's been instrumental in keeping my stress level low and my productivity high. 

When it comes to actual studying and assignments, I'm very very articulate. Please bear with me as I explain this whole process... or don't. If it doesn't seem like it'll work for you, you certainly don't need to use it. My labeling and process is a bit OCD but it works, so I have no interest in changing it.

1. My Binder and Notebooks
As you could see in the initial picture, I have a master binder. It holds all syllabi and notes that I need for class. In addition, a lot of textbooks are being created without binding, which was a bit annoying at first but now I love it! I'm able to carry around only the chapters/pages that we're focused on at the moment for easy reference at any time. I keep all of my classes in this one binder and I take it with me everywhere I go. I have a second binder for if I feel the need to separate to a MWF and TTH binder, but the single one works great as of now. I do have separate notebooks, which I use to take notes in class. I have two three-subject notebooks that I take with me on their respective days.

2. Evernote
Evernote was a bit tricky to figure out, but it's been a beautiful relationship between me and Evernote since school has begun. Here's how I use it: Any reading assignments that I have, I read and outline in this App. I use it as reference for homework assignments and any reviewing of concepts, which I do on my phone before class- It's awesome that Evernote syncs to all of my devices! In lecture, I'll take notes and relate back to my personal notes. I write down any questions and then go to the book and my notes for answers. So far, I've been able to answer all of my questions through this method. Then, I add my in-class notes and questions/answers into the Evernote notes. Wa-la! I have a complete outline and notes for any topic we've covered and they're all conveniently accessible on any device.

3. Homework
Homework is always done on legal pad paper. Since most of my homework is actually done and turned in online, any questions that arise during homework or any points that I want to make a note of, I write on the legal pad. The paper stands out in my binder and notes so that I can easily find any questions once I'm with my professor. The questions and notes here and notes taken after I've read and outlined, so these are usually more specific questions or more specific questions that weren't really "outline" material. These questions are usually the most important, because they require abstract thoughts and material application that is instrumental in mastery. Having it on bright paper also makes my brain take special note of what I'm writing there and it works to subconsciously work out the questions (I know it sounds crazy, but no kidding! It's scientifically proven. And just earlier this week I wrote down a question during the day and as I was laying down to go to sleep I had a major "ah ha!" moment as the answer became apparent- my brain had been working on the answer all day as I was going on with my business!)

4. Attending Class
Organization and serious studying can only get you so far. Your professors and teachers are paid the big bucks for a reason- they know what they're talking about! They're passionate about their topic of study, and whether you agree with their thoughts or not, they can be a huge source of inspiration and support. Showing up to class can be hard when you don't have the threat of a call home. 7:30 classes are rough- luckily I only have one this semester- but getting up and getting going will show commitment on your part. Even in lectures of 250- 300 people, the professors will know if you're there or not. Maybe not right that day, but when your homework grades start to drop and your exam scores bottom out... they'll know. Show that you appreciate their dedication and preparation by showing up. If the lecture content really that bad, you can get on FaceBook or something (although I'm not recommending that by any means!).

Back to School gets me just as excited as the next person.
I love buying pens and notebooks and all that fun stuff. But, school is just as much work as it is fun. Keep on top of everything and stay organized, and you'll have more time for the fun stuff!