Sunday, July 25, 2010


In addition to your MP3, microwave, dorm refrigerator, cell phone, new clothes, laundry bag, and all those other "necessities" of college, there are some educational supplies that will be helpful for getting organized and studying.

1) ASSIGNMENT PLANNER, date book, calendar. Whichever system you prefer, you should definitely have some way to keep your engagements and assignments in one central location. I recommend something that can be carried around. You'll undoubtedly make social plans at the Student Center and assignments for class may be altered from the general syllabus during class time. You will need to write these things down "on the fly," so having a date planner handy will avoid the need to recopy a date from the cafeteria napkin.

2) Separate 2-POCKET FOLDERS for each class*. You may not have used this type of system in high school, especially if you had a schedule that included every class, every day. In college, you'll be going to English 3 days a week and History only 2. Every day will be a little different. Having separate folders for each class will allow you to carry around only the materials that are relevant for that day.

3) HIGHLIGHTER PENS. In many high schools, textbooks are loaned. In college, you'll be the proud owner of very expensive textbooks for each class. Don't worry about reselling these resources. Use your books to the fullest potential. Be prepared to interact with the material, including highlighting reading assignments and making notes in the margins. What you might lose in resale value will certainly be recouped in greater learning, possible scholarships for elevated grades, and avoidance of duplicate tuition fees for replacing a lackluster class grade.

4) INDEX CARDS. Even if you're not a flash card learner, index card notes can be your best friend when it comes to writing research papers, organizing a bibliography, or memorizing equations and facts.

5) BULLETIN BOARD, magnetic board, French message board. No matter how organized and careful you are about putting notes in your date planner, having one place to stash little scraps of paper will have positive payback when you're looking for the inevitable tidbit of lost information.

6) Separate SPIRAL NOTEBOOKS for each class*. (See Tip #2 and apply the same logic.) And none of those 3-subject spirals unless you expect to use all 3 sections for the same class. Mixing subjects in college just doesn't work!

7) PAPER CLIPS, clamp fasteners, stapler, scotch tape. Well, the scotch tape is just something I like to have, but the fasteners are important for keeping related papers together. I didn't learn this until tutoring in Calculus where I was doing all the homework assigned to my students, but one class might be on chapter 2 while another group was already on chapter 3. I found that keeping my homework assignments in chapter order, bound with a jumbo clamp fastener (and with a title page) made it easier for me to access the appropriate homework for each student.

FINAL WORD: If you look in my attic, you'll find all of the notes from all of my graduate classes, archived in a bankers box. I'd recommend saving all of your classroom materials, at the least until you're finished with school. Notes, written papers, and past tests can all be useful resources in subsequent classes. You might even think of assembling a binder of past research essays from high school. A little more work and some of your papers might have applications in college as well. (Yes, I have my own binder. Periodically I look through it with mixed reaction: "What was I thinking?!?" or "Hmm, not bad." Either way, the resources cited are useful. I used material from several Philosophy and Education undergrad courses when writing my Doctoral dissertation!)

Need a little visual stimulus to stay organized? I'd recommend having a color coding system for classes: red for English and blue for Math, for example. Have your pocket folder and spiral in different color for each class. It would be a "bummer" to mistakenly bring your history spiral to English class.

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