How to Get Organized for a Successful Semester

A new semester can seem scary. Set yourself up for success with these organizational tips.

When the middle of July rolls around, those of us who are still in school need to start thinking about how to have a successful new semester. This surely isn’t a fun thing to think about while sunbathing on the beach or roadtripping with friends, but it will help you to get a jump on your next difficult classes.

Don’t let the new school year get the best of you. Start planning early, and follow these 4 tips to get you started on the right foot.

Find a Planner You Love


Maybe I’m just old school, but I simply cannot stay organized on my phone’s calendar or a calendar program on my laptop. I hate the stiffness of it. I want a planner with my own handwriting scrawled through it in vibrant colors, not a white screen dividing my life into grids. Different strokes for different folks.

If you’re like me and crave the personality of a good old-fashioned day planner, check out two of my personal favorites.

Lily Pulitzer: $28

This planner is almost identical to the one I used my freshman year of college. I absolutely loved it, still keep it in my desk for nostalgic purposes, and will probably never throw it away.

Lily Pulitzer products are very girly and not always my aesthetic, but luckily there’s a large selection so you’re bound to find something you like. It is big enough so you don’t have to squeeze tiny writing into the margin to fit in all your assignments, but small enough that it can easily be stored in your backpack and taken with you to class. The cover is hard, not flimsy, and keeps the planner itself well intact even while going through the wear and tear of daily life.

Erin Condren: $50

Again, this is a personal favorite that I’ve tested firsthand. I’m currently using this exact planner (personalized with my own name, of course), heading into my junior year of college. I adore it.

It has a flimsy front cover, unlike the Lily mentioned above, but it’s still very sturdy. I’ve had mine floating around in my giant blackhole of a purse for weeks now, and no damage has befallen it.

It comes with super fun stickers in the back, a notes section and a pocket folder that zips so you can store all your keepsakes. It also divides your days into mornings, days and evenings, so you can easily see what’s going on at any given point in the day. (I used this planner while I was a resident assistant in the dorms, and it saved my life on multiple occasions.)

Also, this planner is incredibly customizable. Slap your name on the front, spend a few more bucks to get personalized photos and more. Click around her website to see what fits you best, and check out the huge number of other planners that are available from tons of different websites around the Internet. A good planner can change your life.

Outline Your Week

By now, you are most likely registered for classes and have your schedule somewhere on your school’s website. Write that stuff down—perhaps inside your beautiful planner that you’ve bought following my advice above.

Seriously though: writing down your schedule in a weekly calendar form will help you to wrap your head around what your weeks will look like. When will you have time to study? How much time do you have to race across campus between classes? What nights are free for going out with friends?

Get the lay of the land early so you’re not caught off guard your first day back. Take any other obligations into account as well, including work, online classes and extracurricular commitments.

Respect the Syllabus

The second your first professor sends you your first syllabus in an email, you should be printing it and storing it in a folder or notebook designated to that class or saving it to your laptop and creating a folder for the class.

Your syllabus is your golden ticket to having an organized semester. You don’t want to show up to class on an exam day completely unprepared because you didn’t look at the syllabus. Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s not fun.

In your planner or your calendar app, highlight important days. Color-coding is a great way to stay on top of this. Highlight your economics exam days in green, your English exam days in purple, etc. This way, you’ll see them coming a mile away. No surprises. But be careful and watch out for updates to the syllabus once the semester gets started. You may need to alter dates you previously marked down.

Stock Up on Useful Apps


Believe it or not, I do embrace technology outside of my weird planner hang ups. Apps can be a lifesaver and can totally keep you on task throughout the semester. Here are some of my favorites.

Wunderlist (free)

Wunderlist is a completely free and incredibly simple to-do list app. You make a list of tasks, assign notes, dates and times to them, and check them off when they’re done. It’s available on Android and iOS devices, and can be used across several of them. If I make a to-do list on my phone, it pops up on my Mac when I log in as well.

Evernote (free)

Evernote is a word processor and note-taking app that has many features built into one program. You can create task lists, separate notebooks for separate classes and save documents and pictures you come across on the Internet. It is available for Android and iOS and can also sync between your devices. This is especially handy for people who prefer to type their notes rather than take them by hand.

Quizlet (free)

Also available for iOS and Android, Quizlet is a blast from my past. I used to use the website to study for Spanish class in high school, and now I’m using it again for basically any class that involves memorization. Quizlet lets you create virtual flashcards that can be easily typed in and saved on their website while appearing seconds later on your mobile device. This is incredibly helpful for studying on the go.

The beginning of a new year can be stressful and, if you’re not sufficiently prepared, hectic. Do your future self a favor and start planning now to have the most successful year you can possibly have.

Do you have organizational tips that you’d like to share with readers? Tell us in the comments!

About the author

Taylor Maple

Taylor is a junior at Ohio University studying journalism & political science. You can almost always find her at a concert, a bookstore, or in bed binge-watching Grey's Anatomy. She is passionate about empowering women and helping them succeed in life, love, & careers.

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