According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, 19.9 million students are projected to attend American colleges and universities in 2019. By the year 2027, that number is expected to increase to 20.5 million. Considering that attending college is now seen as a necessary rite of passage rather than an optional perk, this comes as little surprise.
That pressure can be substantial for many collegiates. The American Psychological Association estimates that 28 percent of college students who seek on-campus counseling do so because of academic problems, with general complaints of stress being the major factor in pursuing therapy for 45 percent of students.
Of course, mental health issues can be a factor for anyone. But in some cases, making a commitment to organization can help tremendously. If you use the following tools regularly, you might be surprised by how effective they are.
You might be accustomed to relying on your phone’s calendar or notes apps for your schedule, but there’s nothing quite like a traditional planner to keep your priorities straight. A daily planner helps you make room for your studies, social commitments, and other reminders without ever experiencing that sinking feeling that you’ve forgotten about an assignment or a friend’s birthday celebration.
Physically writing down your coursework, evening activities, appointments, and other goals makes you feel less overwhelmed and much more focused. When you’re able to see your schedule and your commitments clearly, you’re in a better position to identify your top priorities and make sure you can fit everything in without pulling so many all-nighters in the library.
Even in the digital age, you’re bound to be bombarded with printed syllabi, class notes, and all kinds of papers. If you embrace traditional note-taking methods or don’t want to tediously scan every document onto your computer before recycling the original, you’ll need a way to organize all those papers so that they’re easy to access and understand.
You might want to invest in a pocket folder and notebook for each individual class or keep all of your syllabi and vital documents in one three-ring binder to reference later. Be sure to get a wire shelf or some magazine boxes to keep all your folders, notebooks, and binders organized (and off your desk). Don’t resort to storage tubs or under-the-bed bins for this purpose. It’s too easy to forget about what’s inside or make a mess looking for the right paper at the last minute.
When you’re barely awake and stumbling into your 8 a.m. class, you want to have everything you could possibly need all ready to go. Otherwise, you could end up starting off the day with an anxiety attack. Some students find it helpful to create a special supply kit for class and set it up the night before to make mornings a breeze.
Don’t rely on your purse or everyday bag to have everything you need. Instead, have a separate backpack or tote bag devoted to your studies. Include notebooks, folders, writing utensils, laptop, textbooks, phone and computer charger, bottled water, and a snack. You’ll be able to power through the day and keep track of all your notes with ease, rather than trying to piece them together before a big test.
Highlighters and neon sticky notes might become your newest BFFs in college. And unlike messy roommates, they won’t ever let you down. If you use a calendar, planner, or bulletin board, these tools can help you to organize your schedule and remind you about upcoming due dates you’d otherwise miss. Come up with a color-coding system that makes sense to you and keep it consistent. You could, for instance, mark due dates in red, highlight upcoming exams in yellow, and write down appointments in green. Alternatively, you could assign each class a different color and coordinate your notebooks, folders, and other materials in the same hue to keep everything straight.
While it’s true that organizing what’s on your desk and what’s in your backpack might not eliminate your stress entirely, coming up with a system that helps you to prioritize your schoolwork can allow you to be more productive and feel less overwhelmed. By picking up just a few additional tools at your local office supply store or bookstore, you might be able to exceed your academic goals and even impress yourself with how on top of everything you are this year.