5 Ways to Stay Organized When Transitioning to College


College student's desk in dorm room

You made it! High school is now a memory of the past and you are ready to explore this new chapter in your life. Transitioning to college can seem intense and unorganized, especially during the first couple of weeks of the school year. Your habits might change, and your classes will start to get harder and more time-consuming as the semester progresses.

A common mistake that most college students make right away is that they do not organize themselves in a meaningful way, or in any way at all. They will fall into a loop of catching up and scrambling to finish assignments, or showing up late to meetings. However, these problems can be fixed by keeping yourself organized during your first year in this new environment.

Here are five tips that will help you stay organized when beginning your college experience.

1. Use a Planner or Calendar

College Student's Planner on Desk in Dorm Room

Planning out your day is extremely important in order to stay organized while transitioning to college. Using a planner can help you stay on top of your game and relieve the stress that comes with scrambling to know what you have to do next. Since there is generally more time in your schedule, planning out your day will help you stay productive and eliminate wasted time.

Personally, I love having a planner on my phone, as it allows me to keep my tasks organized and up to date on the go. If your school uses a Google account, take advantage of Google Calendar and all the G Suite apps to help you stay organized! If you are more old fashioned, keeping a small notebook or planner accessible at all times is great for crossing items off when you complete them.

A general rule of thumb is to check your planner every morning to see what you need to do during the day. This way, you can prepare for the day and also have time for when you run into the unexpected. Whatever planner you use, make sure you know how to keep track of your activities to help you stay organized and minimize the stress you have throughout your semester.

Here is a great book planner to stay organized!

2. Use Group Messaging Apps and Email

GroupMe Logo

Messaging apps are a key component to organization and communication in college. Apps like GroupMe, Slack, Whatsapp, Microsoft Teams are all common applications that schools use for group work and projects. Most of these apps are easy to set up and are available to students on all campuses. These messaging apps will help connect students with different devices. It is available almost anywhere, including your laptop, so you can stay connected even if your phone is not in your hands.

Throughout my college experience, I have used GroupMe the most, as it is the most versatile option in terms of group chatting. The app allows you to message and create groups quickly and reach out to anyone as long as they have a working phone number.

Another tip to stay organized is to constantly check your email. The amount of emails you receive during college is almost double what it was in grade school. All the clubs and newsletters you signed up for will constantly email you their content. In order to stay organized, star important messages, and create folders for your most important emails for future reference. Here is a good article about how to keep your campus email clean and organized.

By keeping your communication methods organized, you won’t have to worry about finding that one important message that you need to complete an assignment.

3. Organize Your Files

College Student's Laptop in Dorm Room

Make sure your laptop has enough space to store all your files for the upcoming semester. When I transitioned to college, I invested in a new laptop that was suited for all occasions. This allowed me to start fresh with lots of space on my computer and I didn’t have to worry about cleaning up old files.

I would recommend cleaning your laptop before you start your year just to free up space by deleting any old files that you don’t need for college. Organizing your files into specific folders is the key to achieving efficiency. Not only did this help me find my homework assignments and essays quickly, but I can also keep these files for reference in the future if I need to refer back to them.

In addition, storing your files on Google Drive will also be a great alternative if you plan to work from different workstations. This can be an excellent backup option in case your files somehow get deleted or corrupted from your computer. Organizing your files on your laptop will save you a lot of time and help you keep track of all of your homework assignments.

4. Learn Canvas (or your school’s equivalent of Canvas)

Canvas Student Learning Logo

Canvas is a common application that most universities use to organize their assignments and record grades. The application setup process itself isn’t hard to understand, as many universities set up your account before you even start your first day of class. However, taking a few minutes to learn all the different functions and shortcuts you can do to view your assignments is a key to productivity and organization.

Customizing your Canvas experience will not only help you stay organized but also keep you informed about your grades. I keep my notifications on when my professors add in a new assignment or register a grade update so I can see how I did right off the bat. This way, I can have time to go to office hours if needed and stay ahead of schedule.

Check with your school to see if they use Canvas (you can usually type “university name canvas” to check) if not, you can reach out to the university and get accustomed to their software. No matter what software you are required to use, understanding the layout and notifications are great for staying on top of your grades and keeping yourself organized.

5. Time Management

Clock on dorm room wall

Time management is one of the most useful skills to have during your first few months in college. With so many activities to do and so much to explore, managing your time can help you get the most out of your day without having to waste your time looking for things to do.

Generally, it is good to estimate the amount of time you will spend doing an activity. For instance, I usually plan out an hour for lunch so I can catch up with friends or just take a break throughout the day. This allows me to plan ahead and still have some wiggle room in case an unexpected event pops up. By doing so, you can limit the surprises in your life and feel more stress-free.

Conclusion on Staying Organized in College

Overall, staying organized in college is a great skill to have. Not only does it help eliminate stress during your college experience, but it also helps you plan out what you are going to do in the future. By staying organized using a planner, or even better managing your time, you will feel more productive and more accomplished when transitioning to college. With the right steps and preparation, college can be one of the best experiences in your life.