Ask a Gator: Organization

How to manage your classes and time

The transition from high school to college can be stressful. Many of us come from schools where we can sleep our way through classes and still graduate with high honors, so coming to a school that is rumored to be more difficult than Harvard can feel overwhelming if you are not prepared. There are a few simple things you can do to help yourself get organized, get things done and settle into a routine. Once you find your routine, everything else falls into place.

Get a planner. It may sound childish, but it really does help to write down your homework assignments every week. This way, you have a visual timeline of when things are due so you can allocate your time accordingly. It does not have to be a large, fancy one; one from Dollar Tree works just as well. In your syllabi, most professors will have a full schedule of what you will be doing in class each day for the rest of the semester, including what reading needs to be done each day, or at the very least, specific dates for exams, projects and other big assignments.

Once you get your syllabi, write them down in your planner as soon as possible so you can keep track of them. Highlight your exam dates in one color, readings in another and homework due dates in another. You will be able to quickly see what needs to be done each night without having to flip through syllabi or frantically text classmates.

This is an extremely simple thing anyone can do that will really help to relieve stress in the future.

Speaking of syllabi, make sure to keep all of them. A lot of new students make the mistake of throwing syllabi away or losing them almost immediately. It is important to keep them so that you have a physical copy for reference that you can highlight and write notes on. If the professor notes that there are changes later in the semester, they will likely post an updated version on Canvas, which you should print out and keep instead of the original.

This way, you will also always have a reference for the professor’s grading policies, and you can better keep track of your approximate grade in any particular class. This is especially helpful if certain parts of your grade are weighted differently. When you calculate your own grade throughout the semester, it can help you stay focused on what you can do better, as well as relieve some anxiety regarding your grades, since you will know approximately where you are standing at any given time. Spreadsheets are extremely helpful with this.

Though it may be tedious, you should get a journal or notebook and plan each day the night before. Write down when you are going to wake up, when you are going to class and when you plan on eating. This way, you can make sure you have time to eat, do homework and take care of yourself without forgetting any of your daily activities. It also helps you establish a routine, which can help you feel more comfortable and at home on campus. One of the most common things students forget to do is take care of themselves, and a lot of the time, it is simply because they do not plan enough time for self-care. Writing out your daily routine can help you avoid falling into a slump where you do not take care of yourself or get things done. It can also help you get where you need to be on time. It can be tedious to do it every single day, but the benefits of doing it make it well worth the effort.

Lastly, utilize the resources available to you. Many  first-year students who do not succeed and end up leaving Allegheny simply do not take advantage of everything they can. If you do not understand something, ask the professor. There are no stupid questions. If you need additional help, go to office hours.

Professors have office hours for the purpose of students coming and asking for help. If you do not go to office hours, the professor is just sitting and waiting for students.

There are also various options for tutoring; if you are falling behind and struggling, there is no shame in asking a professor about tutoring options. It does not make you stupid or lesser than your peers; it means you are smart enough to not let yourself fail.

While Allegheny is a tough school, anyone can succeed here if they put forth the effort and truly try to do their best every day. Stay organized, stay on top of things and you will do just fine here.