Organizing Your First Week/s of Classes

I’m guessing that the first class meeting or even the first week of classes is considered a “blow-off” by most students. I mean, it’s about the roster and syllabus, some snooze time for sure. Yet, there’s that nerd sitting in the front desk, removing a note pad from his backpack and scribbling on the page (I know because I’m that nerd). As an instructor, I definitely notice that person. I assume the student is making an effort to stay organized at the beginning of the semester, giving himself the best opportunity to succeed in college. I suggest two practical tips for college success: using calendars, making notes.

Use Phone or Pocket/Desk Calendar for Recording Important Dates

iphone home screen

I use my iPhone calendar for any date I need to remember. Six month dental cleaning—goes into the calendar. Need to transfer a textbook from home to office—into that day’s calendar, alerting me with a pop-up reminder when I know I’m home that night, so I can pack the book. But I don’t bog my phone calendar with every date. If I’m planning classes and need to remember three weeks in advance that I will have class in a computer lab rather than the assigned classroom, I write it on the college’s complimentary desk calendar.

Student budget doesn’t allow for a calendar? You should be able to locate a free one. My credit union gives them away as marketing. Check to see if any department on campus provides them, including the college bookstore. If your search proves unsuccessful, visit a dollar store. Starting a habit of calendar use will help organize your academic schedule.

calendar marked

Write Notes and Highlight Syllabi for Recording Important Policies

Another important aspect of keeping school life organized requires noting policies. When students are acclimating to academic life even as returning students, it’s that first week or even first few weeks of the semester that can be overwhelming, making it difficult to remember a professor’s aside comments about classroom expectations and policies.

Did she say she would drop a lowest test grade? That could really be important later in the semester. Does the syllabus state the department’s attendance policy? My freshman writing classes have an explicit attendance policy in the syllabi that I verbally and visually communicate the first week. In addition, I require an electronic open-syllabus exam the second week of class that alerts students again to the attendance requirement.

I’m continually surprised at the end of the semester when my students seem surprised they have violated this policy. The point I’m emphasizing: note taking isn’t just for lectures, so make and highlight notes, especially during those early semester classes.

The items I’ve mentioned: remembering test dates as well as classroom and syllabus policies, might be the difference of a final letter grade in a class. A lot of life efficiency concerns organization, and students who focus on staying organized will most likely be more successful during their academic careers.

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