How to Be More Organized in High School
There are no two ways about it—high school is busy. You have school work and homework to complete, standardized tests to prep for, and extracurricular commitments to meet. At the same time, your social circle is probably growing and you’re spending more time with your friends. As your independence grows, your responsibilities will also stack up. Sometimes, when these commitments pile up, it can feel as though you’re drowning in all the things that need doing.
Luckily, there are strategies you can use to help. Stop panicking when you realize that your English paper is due tomorrow or that your chemistry test is next period. Get organized today, and thank yourself tomorrow. To learn where to get started, don’t miss these important tips.
1. Use a Planner
Planners aren’t just for adults with busy jobs and family commitments. They are a smart choice for anyone looking to organize their lives, including high school students. Many planner varieties featuring different formats, layouts, and other tools exist. Of course, there’s no single planner that works for everyone, so you might want to try a few formats out before you settle on the one that works best for you.
Some people prefer a daily-view planner, with a separate page for each day and sometimes a separate monthly overview. Other people prefer a weekly view or even a larger-format monthly view. Try experimenting to find a format that makes sense to you.
Alternatively, check out the multitude of digital planners that are available. Apps like iCalendar, School Planner, and iStudiez all provide a slightly different interface for doing the same tasks. These include features like tracking assignments and due dates, notifying you of deadlines and appointments, and giving a quick overview of upcoming commitments. Again, it’s best to give a few different versions a whirl, or at least previewing their layout and reviews carefully before you commit to one.
Finally, keep in mind that you’ll want to coordinate some commitments with others. Your parents, teammates, or study partners will want to know about certain commitments in advance, too. Using an online, shareable calendar is a great way to keep everyone up to date with what’s going on, while a family calendar posted in a prominent place in your house can take care of the same thing if that’s what you and your family prefer.
2. Establish a Nightly Routine
Routines are a simple way to internalize the steps you need to take to be organized and ready for upcoming events and commitments. Creating a nighttime routine that eventually becomes a habit will ensure that you’re always prepped and ready for the next day in advance.
Your nighttime routine should consist of reviewing your planner. Get a clear overview of what you can expect for the next day, along with the next week. Set notifications in your phone for anything that you’re worried about forgetting.
Then, gather the tools that you’ll need to be successful for the following day and make sure that they’re packed and ready to go. This could include things like a soccer uniform for game day, your lab book for chemistry, notes for an important student council meeting, or even a healthy snack to have between school and swim practice.
Getting in the habit of reviewing the following day’s commitments and packing for them in advance means that you won’t have any surprises when it’s go time in the morning.
3. Be Paper Purposeful
Even as the world becomes more and more digital, you’re still going to find yourself accumulating more paper than you know what to do with. It’s helpful to get a filing system in place as soon as possible so that you always know where things are.
One system that works well is a short-term desktop folder file or a small set of desktop plastic drawers. These can be your initial screening process for organizing all the papers that come home. Make one drawer or file for papers that need to be completed and returned, another for papers that can be recycled at the end of the week, and another for papers that you need to keep for a longer period.
Once a week, sort through the papers you need to keep and find a more permanent home for them. This might be a filing system for college admissions information, scholarships, or other specific paperwork. A portable filing cabinet is a great place for these. As long as all your papers go into your short term desktop filing system to start with, you’ll always have a clearing process for going through them and keeping them organized over the long term.
4. Manage Your Time Well
Time management is a skill that becomes increasingly important as your responsibilities accumulate. One way to get on top of time management is to create a daily or weekly schedule that you stick to. For some students, this schedule can be the same every day and for others it will need to vary due to commitments. Regardless, creating a schedule in advance makes it easier to hold yourself accountable and to use your time well.
Your schedule should have a set time for homework, a set time for standardized prep, and time set aside for any other existing commitments. Make your schedule a week in advance and then stick to it. As you’re doing so, be sure to leave free time, too. If every moment of your days is scheduled, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. You deserve free time to hang out with friends, relax, watch TV, or go online.
Being proactive about time management, anticipating commitments in advance, and scheduling the time that you need for them means that you’re less likely to procrastinate or forget about important time consuming commitments.
5. Create a Plan
The school year is long and there are many different elements that will contribute to a successful one. Between academics, test prep, extracurriculars, and social commitments, you are going to have a lot to juggle. That’s why it’s important to make a plan in advance that considers your personal goals, strengths, and areas in need of improvement.
Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academics, choosing courses, standardized tests, extracurricular activities, and much more!
For more information about starting your school year off on the right foot, check out these important CollegeVine posts:
Want access to expert college guidance — for free? When you create your free CollegeVine account, you will find out your real admissions chances, build a best-fit school list, learn how to improve your profile, and get your questions answered by experts and peers—all for free. Sign up for your CollegeVine account today to get a boost on your college journey.
Want more tips on improving your academic profile?
We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.