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Learning How to be Organized is First Step to College Success

Disorganized students tend to have a harder time graduating

Shay Burk Staff Reporter
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It definitely took some time to learn how to balance all of my responsibilities. With a job that demands a lot of my time and courses that required my attention, I haven't always found time for fun. Now, with 10 months left as a student, I have finally figured it out.
- Murphy Glen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln student


Lisa Smith, the director of student engagement at Hastings College, knows and tells every student how important organization is to stay in college.

“We’re really clear about why it is important to organize and prioritize how you spend your time,” she said. “In high school, they’re trying to prove they’re awesome sauce to get scholarships. It changes when you come to college.”

As part of her position, Smith oversees the intro class students over the first two weeks of their freshman year in which they learn about organization and the structure needed to navigate college.

“We’re very clear about what high school was like and we literally teach them to think in a new way,” Smith added. “They have personal power and habits of learning. We focus on self-regulation and self-direction.”

Tools of the Trade

Students at Hastings use Google Suite for all of their classes and learn how to incorporate Google Calendar and other tools to schedule their work and activities along with coordinating with instructors.

In addition, Smith said students are taught about the cycle of learning to say at the end of the day or end of the week, have you accomplished what you needed and what do you have in the days and weeks ahead?

Real-Life Application

While Murphy Glen doesn’t attend Hastings, she uses that same idea in her college life at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I take time on Sunday evenings to sit down and write out an hourly schedule for each day of the week,” she said. “I include anything from classes, to office hours, athletic events I have to work during the week, Gamma Phi events, lunch dates, and even time to go to the grocery store.”

Now in her senior year, Glen has a very busy schedule as a sports media and communication major, a marketing and fan experience intern with Nebraska Athletics, and a member of the Gamma Phi Beta sorority.

“It definitely took some time to learn how to balance all of my responsibilities,” Glen said. “With a job that demands a lot of my time and courses that require my attention, I haven't always found time for fun. Now, with 10 months left as a student, I have finally figured it out.”

Get Involved

While her schedule can sound hectic to most, Smith said that students need to take Glen’s lead and become involved and embedded in their college experiences.

For instance, at Hastings, Smith said students are encouraged to be involved and follow their passion whether it be forensics, music, athletics or Greek life.

“We definitely focus on organizational skills but we also dig deeply into why is this important,” Smith said. “You need to get your basic needs met and then you need to have a sense of belonging.”

Moreover, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, that sense of belonging is among the top reasons why students stay in college.

The NCES has a list of top five programs that keep students in college. Those are advisor meetings, Greek life, supplemental instruction, scholarships, and tutoring. According to the study, a student who participated in Greek life returned to campus the following term at a rate of 3.79% higher than expected if they were not a part of Greek life.

In fact, the program with the highest rate of return was advisor meetings with a 5.8% point increase over students who didn’t meet with advisors.

Getting Support

Smith said that the concept of an advisor meeting is important. That’s why freshman students at Hastings are paired with faculty advisors in addition to peer connectors and engagement coaches to help keep them on the right path to organization and involvement.

The biggest stumbling block for college students, Smith said, oftentimes is they don’t take things seriously, therefore, they don’t keep organized and on top of their scheduling.

“A college schedule isn’t as regimented as high school and they don’t keep track,” she said. “They drop the ball and then start to drop the ball on course work and their basic needs like getting out of bed and going to breakfast. Then they get worn out.”

On the other hand, Smith said the most successful students are those like Glen who have created a schedule and are able to not only be involved but have a habit of keeping track of it all.

“By the time you’re a junior or senior, you’re successful. You’ve probably figured something out,” Smith said. “They all have an organizational system for themselves that works.”

About the Writer

Shay Burk

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