Thursday, June 26, 2014

Using Your Planner For College (+tips and advice)

Hello everyone! I hope you're all doing well, and that the heat isn't getting to you this summer ^-^ This post is inspired from someone's comment on a Facebook group for Filofaxes, they were wondering if anyone used their planners for college (keeping track of assignments, dates, schedules etc) and it gave me an idea to do a whole blog post about it seeing as I've just finished college altogether, and I've definitely learned a lot about organizing and planning whilst in education. So I thought I would share my experiences with you! These may not help you, or you may not agree on some parts, but remember this is what helped me and what I learned. If it helps you, that's awesome :)

I realized I needed a consistent and dedicated planning system about half way through the first year of my course in order to stay on top of assignments and meet deadlines. I thought about what to put in my planner, and wrote a list of things that I would need and what would be useful too:
  • Timetable of all my classes (I will post a photo below of my template)
  • Class information such as place and tutor (this will help especially when you're beginning the course)
  • Unit name and assignments (my course had 10 units each year with either 4 or 6 pass assignments, so I made a list of them all and highlighted them as I completed them)
  • College information such as address and phone number (you could also put in directions or a map if you think it would be helpful)
  • Tutor information (names, email addresses and phone numbers)
  • Class/assignment grades (I didn't do this but you could keep a note of what grades you get for your classes or assignments)
  • Dates of all the terms 
  • Colour coding for each class (I didn't do this but it is a great idea! I would've done it but I kept forgetting to change the pen colours)
  • Attendance recording (you could print off your own record sheet, or you could just write a note of any days you had off for college and the reason in your monthly or weekly planner pages)
  • Finances (this wasn't relevant to me but if you have to pay for your courses and want to keep a log of it for whatever reason, you could set up a sheet especially for your college finances so it is separate from your other finances)

Those are all the things I could think of which you could include in your own planner, all of them I included besides the ones I said otherwise. It took a while to find the right way of setting this up, whether to use normal lined Filofax paper or to print out my own sheets and templates. You will learn what system and layouts suit you and your courses, what works and what doesn't for you. 

This timetable template was designed because my classes were on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursday; and they were from 9am to 4pm. So I then filled in each time slot with the class I had (I put the times next to the classes because my times were odd, such as 10:15am to 11:15am)
This is a weekly timetable template which would suit someone who had classes from Monday to Friday. You can edit it online or print it out and fill it in, whichever you prefer. It's also very easy to create on Microsoft Word by going in Insert > Table. To make the edges of the table fit nearer to the edge of the page, go on Page Layout > Margins > Narrow.
I made this timetable template for more of a weekly planner for college as well as other commitments such as work times. You could use it to plan study days or times to suit you. If you would like any of the three templates I have just shown, please email me with the template you would like and I will send it to you at
I printed all of my unit assignments on A5 size paper, so each unit was on a separate page. You can do this however you want, as it will depend on your course (whether it's coursework, exams, or both). You could also add each assignments deadline if they are handed out, which only two of my units were, but a lot of them changed so it was easier and more reliable for me to write down in my daily planner pages what day an assignment was issued (for example June 11th) and when that assignment is due in (for example June 18th). If it's on another week where you may forget when it's due, you could always write it somewhere where you will remember to do it before then (especially if you typically leave everything to the last minute!!). You could also use to-do sheets for each unit/classes and your assignments, with the hand out and due in dates on them so it's all in one place - it all depends whether it helps you or not :)

Class information can be added onto the back of the timetable (written or printed out) as a quick reference. I didn't do this, but for when you're starting college this will be a big help! Another thing you could do is include a map of your college layout, especially if it is a big or confusing layout, so you know where each of your classes are.

With colour coding, the way I would do it is I would pick a colour for each unit/class. I had 10 units so that would mean 10 colours (which is why I didn't use a colour coding scheme as it was too many colours to carry around and remember to use), so this would be easier if you have less units/classes (you can carry pens around in a pencil case or a clear zip pouch which can go inside your planner, or you can get a multi-coloured pen with the colours you want in them). Another way you could colour code for college is using a different colour for notes, assignments, term starting/ending dates, finances related to college, important information/reminders, class/assignment changes and so on.

My term dates were on the college website so I wrote them down (my college was split into four terms as well specific days off/college training dates etc). This was so I knew how many weeks were left until each half term and I knew how long I had left until I got a week or two break (which was pretty motivating to get work done sooner rather than later!). With dates, you could also add anything else which fits.

Any college information I kept on a blank lined page in my planner under the Info section. It included my college name, address, telephone number, absence number, email address, library times, and so on. I also kept a note of each of my tutors names, phone numbers, and email addresses. You could keep the term dates sheets in here too, but I kept mine in the calendar section at the front. I also had a list of my bus times to and from college on a separate page in case I needed to get a later/earlier bus. 

Attendance recording is easier than it sounds. What I did was write each day I had college, and either ticked when I attended or crossed when I didn't (I tried to put down the reason for not attending as much as possible, as I tend to get sick a lot). You could also highlight the days you don't attend so it stands out more, or keep a separate sheet and write down each day you don't attend so you can easily keep a check on how many days you've attended. 

Finances may or may not be relevant for you. It wasn't for me so I didn't keep this, but I know that a lot of people need to pay for their courses, books and other equipment, travel (petrol/bus/train etc) and so on. It's important to make sure you're all up to date with any expenses coming in and going out. I had some money coming in to help with college each term but that went into my regular finance sheets. But if you want to create your own finance sheets, here is what my own finance sheets look like (again, they are really simple to create using Microsoft Word):

DOs and DON'Ts!
  • DO keep all of your college notes in folders so you can reference back later, even if you think it won't be relevant. Keep all notes until each assignment or class is completed and you won't need them again.
  • DO write the dates on all of your college notes that you write them, as well as the class/unit which they are relevant for.
  • DON'T rely on others if you miss a class. Talk to your tutor as soon as possible to ask what you missed and whether there are any notes/handouts and assignments you need to know about. That way you won't be missing anything important (I often thought maybe someone would let me know if an assignment had been given out, but I was let down a lot of times).
  • DO keep a copy of all your class/unit assignment in two places. I kept mine on the college computer (where I did practically all of my assignments) and I also took them home and put them on my computer. College's or tutors will usually advise this in case something happens to the college computer systems, so it's important to back it up somewhere just for peace of mind.
  • DON'T hide away if you are struggling. Your tutors are there to help and support you, so please confide in someone and let them know as soon as possible. Keeping it to yourself will only add to stress and make things worse (I've been through this and my tutors were amazing). Some colleges will have student support where you can talk about college work, personal problems and worries, health, financial troubles, housing issues, relationship issues, and so on. 
  • DO use post it notes to write down things in your weekly planner pages. This is because things will change and you don't want to write something down, only to have to cross it out and change it (unless you use a pencil or an erasable pen). I keep a business card insert in the front of my planner with small to medium sized post its so I can easily grab one and make a note. Then when it comes to the day, if it happens I can write it down and throw the note away, or move the note onto another day or change the note.
So I hope this post has helped or inspired you in some way, especially if you're getting ready to start college. It will be a trial and error process, some things will work better than others, but it's good to give them all a go and see what works best for you. I really wanted to use a colour coding system for college, but when it came to it, it really didn't work for me as I would forget to use the specific colours, or bring them with me, or to even colour code at all (especially if you're in a hurry).

I would love to hear about what you do whilst in college or even university (as I plan to go in the next 1-2 years). Do you have anything which I've not mentioned in your planner? Has anything I've mentioned worked for you? Would you recommend anything else to others who are starting college? We all love some advice as I feel we all learn from each other, so I'm more than happy to hear feedback :)

Thanks for reading!
Abby x

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  1. Omg your blog is beautiful Q.Q
    I just had to say that :)

    1. Thank you so much! Have a lovely day

      Abby x

  2. Hey, I've nominated you for The Libester Award, for the rules and more information check out my blog post :)

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