Here’s a quick story.
When I was in grade 4 I was getting pretty good grades consistently for the first time ever. I wasn’t a straight A student by any means, but I was getting over 50% of the dictée words right so I was pretty darn proud of myself. When parent teacher interviews came along I was beyond excited since I knew my mom was gonna be very impressed by my new found intelligence. Early that morning, I threw on my best Aeropostale graphic tee and a cocky smile, and prepared myself for the slew of compliments I was sure would come rolling in.
The interview itself however, did not go quite as planned. Instead of being praised for my genius, my teacher let out a long sigh. “Rebecca tries hard in class and participates often” she said with hesitation, “but her organization skills are less than to be desired.” I was shocked. How dare she accuse me of such a thing! But as she proceeded to show my mom my desk; stuffed to the brim with loose papers and three unsharpened pencils, my pencil case; filled with only four dried out highlighters and a protractor, and my binder; empty (see above) I started to see her point. “If she continues this way, I worry about her long term academic success” my teacher concluded and I proceeded to cry.
After a long night of soul searching (as only a 9 year old could) I eventually concluded that I would make it my life mission to prove this woman wrong. “Just wait and see,” I thought to myself manically “I will become the world’s most organized human to ever exists! Not a pen out of place or a paper out of line. That will show her, that will show everyone! Mwhahahaha!” (I added the evil laugh for dramatic effect.)
Ever since that day, I have been working to prove that teacher wrong, and while I’m not perfect (I can never find my receipts when I need them and there is a slight filmy residue at the bottom of my school bag that I’m hoping is from salad dressing) I have picked up on a few techniques over the years to keep my stuff in line and hopefully they can help you too.
Veulliez noter: These are tips that I use at the beginning of the school year in order to start off on the right foot. If you want more tips to know how I stay organized in the thick of it let me know and I would be happy to bestow more of my wisdom.
Be like a pirate and know how to read your map
One of my favourite parts of University is that at the beginning of each course you are presented with bright shiny pathway leading you straight towards an A. I am talking of specifically about the sacred document known as a course syllabus. When used correctly, this tool will map out every step you need take in order to succeed; when ignored you can almost guarantee a shipwreck. Luckily I am an expert syllabus reader so can let you know that you must always:
a) PRINT IT OUT IMMEDIATELY! I do not care if your prof has it posted on eClass you MUST have a hard copy readily available at all times. Keep it right at the front of your binder way you will always have easy access to it and can make any changes it needed
b) HIGHLIGHT ALL KEY INFO! Prof’s name and email, office hours, any TA info, due dates, essay page/word limits, exam dates, textbooks needed,events to attended, readings, helpful websites and/or articles, and anything else that seems important in order to succeed in that class. By the time you are done the pages should look like a High School dance from the 80s. Covered in neon from head to toe.
c) READ IT. No actually read it. Front to back and everything in between (yes, including the three pages of plagiarism policy that every prof copies and pastes without the proper citations). This is the only way of knowing exactly what to expect in said course and thus be able to make a game plan on how to succeed. Is 50% of your mark based on a final project? Cool, better start brainstorming now. Is there 20% dedicated to participation? Well than that’s probably not the class to skip. Is 80% of the grade based on the final exam? Now is a great time to decide if that’s your jam or if you plan to run as fast as you can (I would).
By really understanding your syllabus, you limit your chance of being caught off guard and thus you are able to be the captain of your success ship the like the badass Blackbeard you are.
Treat due dates like hot sauce and put that stuff on everything
Once you have thoroughly read your syllabus you are able to then take that info and put it to good use. At the beginning of each semester I like to put all the due dates to important projects down in a minimum of 3 places: my bullet journal, my phone, and my master syllabus (see below). I recommend doing this right after your first class before you get overwhelmed by all the other things you need to get done. As someone who can be somewhat forgetful, I find this particularly helpful to make sure that I always know what assignments or tests are coming up. Since Profs can be ruthless when it comes to late work/missed tests, it is better to take extra precautions so you aren’t scrambling last minute to get something in on time. (I also like to write out when all my readings need to be done because seeing it in writing in my planner makes me 100000% more likely to do them).
Compile, compile, compile, and then prioritize
This is a tip I learned during JumpStart and I am telling you, this one nugget of wisdom made the whole week well worth it. At the beginning of each semester, I print out a blank four month at a glance calendar (some people use a giant dry erase version that you can buy at almost any campus bookstore but I just use this PDF) and fill it out with every weighted assignment from each class (ie. no readings or non-graded homework) then put it somewhere that I will see everyday (I put mine right beside my desk). This then becomes my master syllabus allowing me to see when everything needs to be done. What is great about this system is that I can tell right away what weeks are gonna be hella busy and when I will have a little more time to breathe and so I schedule my life accordingly. The whole thing looks a little like this when it’s done:
As you have probably heard 1.5 billion times, time management is the #1 most important thing to master in University if you want to succeed and I find that the master syllabus system is the easiest and most effective way to do so.
By following these three tips, as well as using my bullet journal religiously (which I will do a separate blog post on too, if y’all are interested) I have managed to stay pretty darn organized over the past few years of Uni. And while I’ll admit that my dorm room isn’t always the cleanest, and I can’t quite remember the last time I did my laundry, I’ve learned how to use my resources to my advantage and make sure that I’m on top of my game 100% of the time (okay maybe a little closer to 75% of the time, but hey that’s still pretty respectable).
Finally if my grade 4 teacher ever ends up reading this, I thank you tremendously for giving me the kick in the butt I needed to prioritize organization. That being said, I hope you know that you were totally wrong about me and my straight A (and one B+) transcript is the revenge I needed. Mwhahahaha!
À la prochaine,