Plug it in, Back it up, and Check it off

Practical organizational tips and study skills for the start of a new school year

While it’s not easy transitioning from the carefree days of summer to the stress of a new school year, investing time in organization will prove to be beneficial to your academic success and minimize your stress level. This year, I urge you to set yourself up for success by plugging it in, backing it up, and checking it off. Learn how to avoid some of the common pitfalls that students encounter with a little bit of forethought, time-management and planning.

Tip #1: Plug it in

While “pop quizzes” are fair game in all classes and unfortunately can’t be avoided, most test dates will be given to you ahead of time in a class syllabus or on your class portal. If you are given a class syllabus, take a few minutes to sit down and plug in all of the important dates to your student planner. In addition to your student planner, plug these dates into an electronic calendar so that you have them in two different places. This will come in handy if you misplace your student planner and need immediate access to information.

In lieu of an electronic calendar, another reliable insurance policy is to take pictures of the pages in your student planner or syllabus and save them to your computer. If you have a smart phone, you can set reminders to alert yourself of upcoming tests, quizzes or projects (just make sure you alert yourself with enough time to study).

Although knowing when an upcoming test is extremely important, it’s only half the battle. The other half is knowing what material the test covers and designing a study schedule leading up to the day of the exam. In order to design a study schedule, you must first consider what you need to know, what you already know, and how much time you have to do it in. Of course, you also have to take into consideration your after school schedule and any other commitments that would impede you from your studies.

Once you have taken the time to hash out this information, you will need to print out a blank calendar template and title it “NAME OF SUBJECT - Exam Study Schedule.” Using the template, begin plugging in small daily assignments leading up to the test date. Because you have a much higher rate of retention when you are not cramming for a test, this systematic, methodical approach yields higher test scores. By breaking your workload up into small, palatable segments, studying feels more manageable and less overwhelming. It takes practice, and initially, some students will want guidance with the process, but like anything else, there is a learning curve involved, and with some patience, this skill certainly be honed.

Tip #2: Back it up

For all of the important documents that your teacher hasn’t put online, create an insurance policy for yourself by backing them up to your personal computer. This is a quick and easy way to ensure that you will always have access to these documents in the event they get misplaced. A class syllabus is a perfect example of a document you’re going to want to backup to your computer. Backup any document with due dates or projects guidelines.

You can do this in a number of easy ways. For one, snap a quick picture of the document or scan it, email it to yourself, and save it to your computer. Create an electronic folder for each subject and use specific titles for each document for easy retrieval. Taking the time to develop this safety net is an invaluable tool for any student and will give you some level of control if you lose something.

Tip #3: Check it off

With all of the responsibilities of being a student these days, it is easy to forget something and feel overwhelmed. I suggest creating two customized checklists to serve as basic reminders of your responsibilities. Create a “Home” and “School” checklist, laminate them, and tape them to the inside jacket of your binder. Keep a dry erase marker in your pencil case to check off your responsibilities as you have completed them. Wipe away the checks at the end of each day and begin anew the next day. Although a number of the items on these checklists may seem intuitive, the number of students who come to school with their homework completed but forget to turn it in would surprise you. Here are examples of “Home” and “School” checklists:

Home Checklist:

+ File loose papers

+ Check portal for assignments

+ Complete assignments

+ Print Homework

+ Put completed assignments in homework folder

+ Get papers signed

School Checklist:

+ Turn in homework

+ Write down homework in student planner

+ Pack up all resources you will need to complete homework

+ Put books you are not using in locker

+ Put all handouts in your homework folder

By investing time in the improvement of your organizational, time management, and study skills, you are taking control of your learning and becoming an active learner!

Move out of the shadow of passive learning by not letting failure be your impetus for action. When taking steps to get organized for a new school year, don’t forget to plug it in, back it up, and check it off.

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