3 Simple Tips for an Organized Academic Life

No matter how smart or capable a student is, disorganization can be a silent but deadly academic killer.  Here are a few of our favorite Smarten Up strategies for keeping organized all year long ...

1. Find a great planner

The first step to being on top of your work is knowing what work you have to do!  An academic planner that offers scheduling by the week and month will allow students to plan both short-term and long-term assignments.  Each day's activities can include big picture reminders for exams, quizzes, and paper, and also the smaller details like daily homework assignments and the materials you'll need to bring home.  We encourage students to write down any and all notes they think might be helpful - the more detail the better! - which is why we also push towards the larger, more open planners.   The one pictured above, created by professional mom/organizer Leslie Josel is a really great option!  If your child has an iPhone myHomework is a great app for achieving the same goals in a digital format.  Plus, kids can schedule alarms to force them to check-in with themselves and their schedules!

2. Keep an organized desktop or binder


There is nothing worse than not being able to find your materials.  Lucky for students today, laptops reduce the clutter of paper and notebooks.  Having digital assignments, study tools, and assessments, however, doesn't guarantee an organized student.  At Smarten Up, we like to sit down with kids and check out their desktop,  It is great to have easy-to-find folders for each subject, and sub-folders for different chapters, or for homework and papers.  It is also important to make sure that students create accurate, useful titles for their documents so that should one go missing, a Spotlight search will cure any anxiety over missing work!


If your child still works like most of us did, their life is rulled by heavy binders, over-filled folders, and endless notebooks.  For these kind of students, we offer two helpful strategies.  First, try to stick to a single binder (or expandable file folder) and notebook if possible.  Buy different color folders for each subject, and place them into a single 3-ring binder.  Now, you have two options for notebooks paper organization: 

-First,  you can use loose leaf paper in the binder (we like the paper with the reinforced holes). With this strategy, you know you will always have something to write on!  The paper can be kept in a single section and filed into subjects after each class/day, or students can keep paper under each subject section so that they don't have to take the extra step to file.

-Second, buy a 5-subject notebook and dedicate a single section to each class.  That way, kids will know where there notes are, and have a single notebook to keep track of.   Notes can also be torn out and filed into each section of their binder so that they are sure to have their materials in class should the notebook ever go missing ...

At Smarten Up we prefer the first strategy, but we are totally ok with the second.  What we hate is to see kids with multiple binders and multiple notebooks with papers all over the place in-between.  Keeping organized for school is hard enough, why make it more challenging by adding 5 binders and notebooks to the mix?!

3. Check-in before the week begins


At this point a lot of students will say, "But my binder gets way too full.  I can't fit all of my work in one place."  True, this can happen.  But kids don't need to carry around ALL of their work.  Chapters end, semesters change, and these are opportunities to clean!  Students should have file cabinets organized by subject, or expandable folders for each of their classes (in colors that coordinate with their subject folders)for storage at their desk/workspace - in addition to a stock of all necessary supplies like pencils, pens, white-out, paper, etc.  We encourage kids to schedule in "clean-up time" on Sundays to check-in with their materials before the week starts.  Have you started a new chapter in Science?  Create a label for the one you finished and file away all of your notes, handouts, and homework assignments at home.  Did you finish a book study in English?  Take your reading and research out of your bag, and file it away in your workspace.  There is no reason to carry around completed work every day once a class has moved on.  But it is important to keep the papers for reference when it comes time to study for a mid-term or final.   Sunday check-in time is also a great moment to sit down and plan time for long-term assignments and schedule in study sessions for the week to come!

Take these three simple steps to organizing your child's academic life, and we promise this year will go more smoothly than last!