The jump from Sixth form/College to University is a lot to take in especially when you’ve moved out and are living on your own in a whole new city. It can be so overwhelming, at least I know it was for me. Having all that to deal with alongside studying is even more stressful. Here are some things I wish I knew starting university and how I have stayed organised so far.
It’s easy to get carried away with the hype of Fresher’s week, making new friends and exploring the city that we end up neglecting any form of studying. However, it is so important to have a plan. How will you take notes? How will you organise your notes so that they’re easy to come back to? Will they be handwritten or digital? Will you even take notes at all? All very important questions. The latter being a little controversial but that’s another story. So, what I’m saying is that in the midst of all the excitement still begin answering or figuring out what it is that works for you. This was hard for me as I didn’t know which method, I liked the best for ages. It really is a lot of trial and error. Hopefully, for you, that process will be easier since I’m here to tell you all the ins and outs of becoming an organised student.
Keep it simple
Once you get all those questions out of the way, now it is time to start. The way I like to think of it (which helps me keep on top of things) is to always keep in mind that, these topics will eventually be in exams. That’s what you’re preparing for. You want to make things easier for you during those stressful revision weeks. Sounds simple but I think it’s easy to get lost in the idea of making nice, pretty notes and loads of organisation – forgetting that you actually need to know all of it! So, it is important to make clear, concise, short notes which are from your own understanding of concepts.
Handwritten or digital?
For me, I definitely steer more towards digital notetaking than handwritten. This is because it is so much less time-consuming. More time can be used in learning and remembering key concepts than writing them. Although, I know this isn’t the case for everyone – for some people writing is their way of learning. Find what works for you and stick to it! Some apps that I recommend you try in terms of notetaking are: Notion, OneNote, Good Notes (for iPads). After having tried each of these, I can give you a bit of an insight into how they are:
|Notion||1. Toggle feature (allows you to hide big chunks of info – appearing more organised and can be utilised as flashcards).||1. Time-consuming to make notes this way.|
|OneNote||1. Easy to find notes (just type keywords into the search bar).|
2. Can insert PowerPoint slides easily – so if you want to annotate them, this is much quicker.
|1. Doesn’t have as many drawing features (not very good on an iPad).|
|Good Notes||1. Can handwrite notes on an iPad.|
2. So easy to organise notes.
3. Easy to make aesthetically pleasing notes.
|1. More time-consuming to make notes this way.|
On the left is Notion and on the right is OneNote
So now that you’ve found what works for you and how you learn, how do you maintain organisation? One tip which I found extremely helpful during my first year was using Google Sheets to create a checklist. This was essentially a revision checklist but also one to keep up with how up-to-date I was with lectures. 90% of our lectures were online and asynchronous this year so it was so easy to fall behind. This method kept me so on track as I could see exactly what was done or needed to be done. Essentially, this involved listing my lectures by week as I was given them, alongside checkboxes to tick off when I have completed various tasks e.g., notes and flashcards. The spaced repetition column is the dates on which I have reviewed these learning materials and the colours indicate how difficult I found the particular subject. This makes it easier later on in the year to see where my weaknesses are and focus on them when exams are approaching.
It is one thing to be organised but how do we maintain organisation? This is the hard part which requires discipline. You need to keep reminding yourself of why you’re doing this and what motivates you to work hard even when you aren’t feeling like it. If you’re like me, the feeling of ticking off lectures from the checklist was already motivation in itself since this made me feel productive. Other ways to keep going include making studying more enjoyable. You can do this in so many ways from making your desk area a nicer place to be, to filming time-lapses of you studying or starting a Studygram! Honestly, anyone can do it, take it from me J You’d be surprised how little changes like this can influence you. Getting into a routine is also key e.g., telling yourself you’re going to work during certain hours every day. Being consistent with your studying is going to help you form good study habits and ensure that all your subjects are covered by the time your exam arrives.
I really hope this article has given you an insight into how to be an organised university student. Good luck with all your endeavours!
If you would like to read more of Zaira’s student tips, check out their Instagram @studywithzaira