It’s hard to get organized in college when the sweet freedom of living on your own means you can do things—and leave things undone—whenever you want.
Need to clean your room but you would rather watch Netflix? Push off cleaning for next week.
Can’t remember when your paper is due but you’re busy online shopping? Find that trendy outfit with a good price and hope your paper is not due tomorrow.
But putting off these things do come with consequences.
For example, a messy room that makes you late to a party because you can’t find your favorite shirt isn’t ideal.
And if you do happen to have a paper tomorrow, you just dug yourself a hole because you have nothing to show for it. Now you’re forced to lie, stress out about writing it during the day, or take a 0% on that assignment. Again, that’s not fun.
Have you considered that you can make one switch in your life to accomplish what you need to while also having more fun?
The secret to doing this is being organized.
Getting organized in college will make your days more peaceful, improve your happiness, and help you achieve the success you want this semester.
So don’t think you’re getting organized just to say you’re organized and cross that off your to-do list. When you know how to get organized in college, the results are real and your life gets a whole lot better.
To accomplish this, take a look at and implement some of these 60 tips to stay organized in college.
(Related: Order the Amazon bestseller How To College, packed with 80 college success rules.)
60 Tips To Stay Organized In College
1. Know why to get organized
We covered this in the introduction. However, to stay organized you want to have a specific reason why that matters to you. Will organization help you relieve stress, get better grades, or keep your life from falling apart? Identify your reason for it, and remind yourself if you start to slack.
2. Save your syllabi for future reference
During syllabus week, it goes like this: professors hand out a syllabus and students throw them away after class. Don’t do that! Keep the syllabi in case they aren’t uploaded online. You never know when you’ll need it.
3. Buy a planner/calendar
School planners cost like $10, so just buy one because if you’re smart you’ll use it multiple times a day every day of the semester. I treated my planner like a third arm, and never forgot about it. And this paid off because I also never turned in an assignment late or forgot about an exam.
4. Bring it with you everywhere
A planner isn’t too helpful if it’s not around when you need to write something in it. Bring your planner with you to every class and student organization meeting, and you’ll never miss an important date.
5. Do your most important task first
Crossing off the most important task of your day ensures you’re always prepared for the big one. That compares highly to doing the least important tasks but not being organized for the make or break assignments.
6. Utilize post-it notes
Buy a post-it note pack for $3, and use them with reckless abandon to stay organized. While writing this post, I have two post-it notes on my laptop and nine on my desk. Once the task is done, throw the note away and forget about it.
7. Invest in a dry erase board
Dry erase boards are perfect for reminders and also for studying before an exam. In my experience, these boards are durable enough to last you four years of college. (The markers will need to be replaced.)
8. Make your exam dates visible
It’s up to you how you do this—dry erase board, planner, post-it notes—but it ensures you won’t make a dumb exam mistake like showing up late to the test. If you study the right away (Chip Away Strategy), you’ll also have an idea of when you need to start studying.
9. Befriend Google Calendar
Admittedly, this will take 30 to 60 minutes to get set up. Yet once it’s set up, you’ll have a digital calendar guiding you through each hour of the day. Many students swear they would be lost without Google Calendar.
10. Schedule travel time
Those 10 minute walks between buildings or your dorm add up, so schedule them. Your schedule needs to be accurate if it’s going to work for you. Otherwise you’re fooling yourself and you’ll always feel behind.
11. Buy individual folders or binders for each class
Don’t be the guy or girl who crams every paper from every class in one folder. Because when you need to find a specific document, you’ll be looking for a needle in a haystack. Also, it makes studying easier when you have all your class documents in an organized folder.
12. On Sundays, write down all the big things you need to do next week
I find Sundays are the best to plan ahead for the next week. By writing down the big tasks, you know what to expect coming up and there won’t be any last-minute surprises.
13. On the first day of each month, write down all the big events for the month
A month is a long way out, but some things require multiple weeks of preparation instead of one week. Protect yourself by writing down the big events a month in advance. This not only gets your schedule in line, it gives you objectives to tackle each month.
14. Be a minimalist
Do you really want that low quality and unattractive free shirt they’re giving out on campus? Don’t take it if you’re not going to wear it. Taking it leads to another item in your drawer, another thing to wash and fold while doing laundry, and more clutter. Since becoming a minimalist, my quality of life has noticeably improved.
15. Consolidate with your roommate
Simple communication to consolidate the things in your room does the trick here. If they’re bringing a microwave, you bring the television. If they’re bringing a fan, you bring a futon. Then your room has less clutter and you both save money.
16. Only keep everyday items on your desk
If you don’t use it every day, put it in your drawer or pitch it. Reserve your limited desk space for necessary items. So those color pencils that you used one time for a project don’t deserve valuable space on your desk.
17. Get rid of what you didn’t use last semester
It’s not your fault if you bought a three hole punch and didn’t need to use it all semester. It is your fault if you bring it back for the next semester. Odds are you don’t need it, and if you do then the library will have one to borrow.
18. No duplicates allowed
I’m all for being prepared, but there’s a fine line between being prepared and paranoid. You don’t need two personal staplers, two rulers, two desk lamps—your dorm room isn’t Noah’s Ark. Stick to one of each, you’ll be fine and more organized.
19. Repeat outfits for class
There’s a reason President Obama wears the same color suit and Mark Zuckerberg wears the same color t-shirt each day: convenience. So get a wardrobe that allows you to easily mix and match tops and bottoms. And remember that the classmates who see you Monday, Wednesday, Friday have no idea if you repeat clothing on Tuesday, Thursday.
20. Leave some clothes at home
If you live in the same state as your college, don’t bring all of your clothes at once. Bring summer or fall clothes to start the semester. And then when it gets cool, go home to grab your winter clothes. Even if you go to school out of state, you’re going to come home for Thanksgiving most likely, make the transfer then.
21. Purchase a pop up hamper
When my freshman roommate rushed a fraternity, he slept on a pile of clothes. I didn’t get it, because all he needed to do was purchase a pop up hamper and toss his clothes in there. I previously wrote about how a clean room helps you focus.
22. Email less, call more
Calling someone gives you the answer you need in one minute. Emailing them gives you a chain of back and forth emails that waste both people’s time. (That reminds me that I need to work on this.)
23. Check email three times a day
Some of you may go weeks without checking your email, which is a problem. The other group checks it every 15 minutes—way too much. Keep a healthy relationship with email by checking it in the morning, afternoon, and in the evening.
24. Confirm appointments the day before
If you have a doctor, dentist, or professor meeting, get confirmation that you have the right time and day. The 30 seconds it takes to confirm this is well worth it compared to mixing up the details and wasting an hour waiting outside their office.
25. Charge your phone and laptop every night
You don’t think about this until it’s too late the next morning and you have to waste time finding a charger between classes. Yet it’s another thing organized students don’t have to worry about and disorganized students have to waste their time with.
26. Pack your backpack
Instead of searching for a pen, pencil, or looseleaf to take with you to class, pack those suckers in your backpack once and for all. If your stock becomes depleted, restore it. Now when that pop quiz comes around, you can spend those last minutes studying to get a better grade instead of searching for a pencil.
27. Bring your chargers with you
How annoying is it when you make the trek across campus, open up your laptop, see its dead, and don’t have a charger? It’s the worst. Make it a habit to bring your laptop and phone charger with you and you’ll save yourself valuable time. Or buy a separate pair for travel.
28. Organize your laptop’s Documents folder
In college, a professor advised me to organize my Documents folder and I’ve appreciated it ever since. To get the most out of your Documents folder, have an organizational chart like this:
- Senior year
- Junior year
- Sophomore year
- Freshman year
- BIO 121
- CSE 241
- ENG 111
- MTH 201
- POL 275
29. Back up your computer
On my way to campus sophomore year, I accidentally ran over my backpack with my car! And guess what was in my backpack—yup, my laptop. And I didn’t have it backed up, so I lost everything. Forever gone were my resume, class documents, and important files. The disaster wouldn’t have been that bad if I backed up my computer.
30. Stop multitasking
You can write a rough draft of your paper in two hours if you give it your full focus. Or it will take you four hours if you’re watching a movie, texting, and talking to your friend during it. Focus on a single task and you’ll enjoy more of both the paper and social time after.
31. Create an ideal schedule for registration
Registration is a nightmare if you go into it unorganized and don’t have a clue about what classes you need to schedule. It’s a breeze if you organize your ideal schedule, with a few backup classes in case classes you wanted are full.
32. Utilize wall space
Many college rooms leave a lot of floor space to be desired. An easy fix is to utilize wall space with shelves. My housemate only had two shelves but he got the most out of them to clear his floor space.
33. Know when you’re most productive
An early riser will want to crack open the college books during the morning, while a night owl will want to put in the hours at night. It’s bad news if a night owl tries to work in the morning, and vice versa. Organize your to-do list around when you do your best work for optimal results.
34. Do laundry every other Sunday
Never think about when you’re going to do laundry again by permanently setting it for every other Sunday. This tip won’t make you into a college all-star, but it’s one less thing you need to think about. Mental organization is often more important than physical organization.
35. Set a day and time for groceries
Routines are a good thing because they increase effectiveness and efficiency. So it’s a good idea to get in the routine of stocking your food and drink supply on a certain day and time each week. These little moves add up.
36. Buy a reusable water bottle
With one quality water bottle, you don’t need to stuff plastic water bottles under your bed or have them empty ones laying on your floor. It also saves you hundreds of trips to the market when you can fill up your bottle in your building.
37. Plan your day the night before
What a simple yet productive thing to do. This move lets you wake up and get right to work on your to-do list, wasting no time in the morning.
38. Rent books from the library
More often than you think, you can rent a book from your university library. Once the assignment is over, return it. This makes things much cleaner than buying a book and holding onto it for the hope of selling it later—not to mention cheaper.
39. Exercise regularly
To stay organized in college, you need the mental capability to manage your schedule. Exercise gives your brain the refresher it needs to stay sharp throughout the semester.
40. Get adequate sleep
Inadequate sleep means you’ll have to take naps during the day. Naps during the day mean you’ll have to skip class or waste valuable chunks of your schedule. Take care of yourself by sleeping around eight hours a night and implementing these sleep tips.
41. Maximize space under the bed
Buy bed risers and then fit as many things as possible under there. This is extremely useful because it doesn’t take up any extra floor space that your bed wouldn’t already cover.
42. Clean your room five minutes each day
Trust me that cleaning five minutes a day for a week is 1,000% better than cleaning 45 minutes for one day. You’ll also feel good after completing this small task.
43. Borrow vacuums and brooms
Your neighbors across the hall are going to have a vacuum and broom. So just use theirs when the situation calls for it, and get the most out of your dorm room’s space.
44. Put it away right after using
Like laundry, your stuff will start to clutter your room if it’s not put away immediately. If you borrow an RA’s vacuum, return it the second after you’re done. You’ll relieve yourself of remembering to give it back and it being in the way all week long.
45. Say no to people
Want a disorganized and messy schedule? Say yes to every person and group that invites you to do something. You’ll be polite, but you’ll also go insane. For your mental peace, learn to say no to people to keep your schedule somewhat clear.
46. Create an Excel sheet of scholarship requirements and due dates
What’s interesting about scholarships is everyone thinks they’re so competitive so they have no chance of winning. Yet, the opposite effect happens. They’re often not very competitive because not many students apply for them. You can’t apply if you don’t know when they are though. So make an Excel sheet with the due dates to stay on it and win free money.
47. Create an Excel sheet of internship application due dates
Same thing, except you’re creating a list of internship applications. Many of these due dates will jump on you in the beginning of the spring semester if you’re not ready. This small task will keep you ready.
48. Keep a monthly budget
Not knowing how much money you have left in your bank account is disorganization at its finest. This can lead you to shell out $500 for a spring break trip that you don’t have. Instead, let Mint.com organize your budget for you. It’s what I use to know about all the money coming in and going out of my account—works like a charm without fail.
49. Have no more than two credit cards
Five credit cards means five separate bills you have to remember, five pieces of mail each month, and numerous emails about promotions. Lighten your mental load by cancelling those extra credit cards you don’t actually need.
50. Align credit card due dates
Why force yourself to remember multiple credit card due dates when you can choose to have them hit on the same day each month? Again, this is a little thing. Yet it makes your life easier, plus it could be the difference between a late payment or on time payment. (Another solution is to set up automatic payment.)
51. Sell or donate clothes you don’t wear
I sell or donate clothes that I haven’t worn for a year. This way, each piece of clothing gets a chance to be worn for all four seasons. And if it’s not worn, then I know I can let it go.
52. Do research in advance
Students who do research while they’re writing will have books and papers all over their desk, plus website tabs all over their screen. By getting research out of the way first, you’re free to type out your entire paper in a clean physical and mental environment.
53. Establish an outgoing post
Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to leave the room to clean up if you’re in the middle of work. At moments like these, organize what needs to go in a pile or box. Then your brain will stop thinking about it, and the items won’t be scattered across your room.
54. Delegate group projects
Everyone in your group is at least educated to be accepted into the same college as you, so might as well trust them to do their job. Delegation is a great skill to learn and will save you from trying to do the project yourself.
55. Use throwaway dishes
In the dorms, plastic utensils, bowls, and plates are the way to go. They’re convenient because you can throw them away after using and you don’t need to wash them. On the other hand, metal utensils are a pain and take up too much space.
56. Place keys in the same place
When you go into your room, put your ID and keys in the same place on your desk every single time. It’s impossible to lose them if you consistently put them in the corner of your desk without fail.
57. Mark clothing boxes
How awful would it be as an out-of-state student who brought your winter clothes to start the fall semester? Save yourself this nightmare by taking one minute to grab a marker and mark each clothing box.
58. Add a door shoe rack
Hook up your roommate’s shoes and yours on the door for easy access and to save tons of floor space. There won’t be anyone tripping on shoes in that room if you always have them on the door.
59. Meditate daily
Meditation is the single best activity to keep your mind in the present, which makes it easy to be organized. Just doing five minutes of meditation will make a surprising difference. And this gets your brain away from autopilot, where stupid mistakes are made. (If you’re interested, check out this post.)
60. Do what helps you get organized
I just laid out 60 tips for how to be organized in college. So it’s reasonable if you feel overwhelmed, but don’t be. You don’t need to do all 60 tips to get organized. Pick what ones help you and ignore the rest.
When there’s already so much going on in your college life, I can see how getting organized might be at the low end of your priority list.
But after reading this, I hope you now realize that getting organized is the difference maker to succeeding because it clears your mind.
So stop the hectic lifestyle. Manage the daily stress. And make getting organized a priority for this college semester.
Organization will make you happier than you think.
How would better organization improve your college life? Would you consider your room messy or clean?