How to Get Organized in High School

Four Parts:Using a PlannerOrganizing Your StuffAt Home OrganizationStaying Personally Organized

In high school, the expectations increase. Tardiness, late homework, and laziness are no longer allowed. Teachers expect a lot more from students than before, as do your parents and friends. Things get pretty hectic pretty quickly. The secret to staying on top of it all is to get organized.

Part 1
Using a Planner

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    Obtain and use a planner. A planner is an indispensable tool for high school. Its pages can hold homework assignments, doctor's appointments, club meetings, sports practices, parties, and more.
    • The ideal planner is neat and organized, and gives you a quick and easy way to see your schedule and assignments for the day, week, and month. Some schools give out or sell planners (these often contain useful school information), and a lot require you to have one. Even if your school doesn't, go buy one of your own- it is a valuable tool for every student. Look for one that comes in a weekly format with a full view of each month as well, because these are the best for having a view of your week or month in advance. Also, look for one that's small enough to keep in your bag and carry with you and that has enough space to record assignments and dates.
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    Write things down so you don't forget them. Now that you have your planner, use it! A planner is a tool--it needs to be used to be effective. Any time something comes up, or when you have homework to do, write it down in your planner. Consult your planner every night to see if you have to prepare for any upcoming events and to see what homework you've got to do, as well as every morning to see what the day holds and if there are assignments due that need to be turned in or accomplished for that day. As you get used to using your planner, you'll see how indispensable it is and probably start consulting it even more often.

Part 2
Organizing Your Stuff

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    Get the supplies that you will need for high school. There may well be no pre-made packages or lists such as in previous years. It's suggested that for the first day of school, you bring the materials that you want to put in your locker. It's also suggested to have a notebook to record what the teacher says that you will need for his or her class, and to jot down any notes. If he or she she does not say what you need for the class (normally not the case) it is good to ask your teacher after class (this is a great way to get to know your teacher).
    • It is great to have a binder, folder, notebook and loose leaf paper for each major subject. It's also good to have a homework folder and a daily planner.
    • For your pencil case, include blue and black pens for writing, red pens for correcting, white out (liquid is better), highlighters in several colors, number two pencils, lead pencils (with number nine led), extra led, erasers, and colored pencils. Each of these items has a specific purpose.
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    Have a place to put papers for each class. Don't just stuff them in your textbook or backpack. You need to keep track of things so you can verify grades with teachers and ace those upcoming quizzes and tests. notebook usually look for one with 3 subject slots to have more space and better organization. Options include, but are not limited to:
    • A plastic file organizer: Basically, all this is is a plastic file holder that expands in an accordion style to reveal multiple pockets with tabs on each section and that act as individual files for all of your papers. These organizers are lightweight and compact, and by putting the name of each of your classes on each tab, they keep papers for every class separate while still allowing you to keep them all in one place. That way, if you remember you had a worksheet for homework or are in a class and have time to kill, you won't realize that the papers you need are buried in a separate folder for that class in your locker.
    • Separate folders or binders for each class: This option allows for the most storage space, but it may be a hassle to have so many folders. Get a different, distinct design or color for each one and label them clearly. Avoid stuffing papers into the pockets of a binder; instead, carry around a simple three hole puncher.
    • Notebook pockets: For classes with a lot of notes and not so many handouts this is a fairly good system. If you have a spiral-bound notebook you can keep papers from classes in the pockets. Having one extra folder for everything is also a good idea because chances are you'll outgrow the pockets.
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    Get a separate notebook for each individual class. Yeah, it seems like a good idea to have one huge five subject notebook for all your classes because there's less to forget, but honestly, do you really want to bring three classes worth of notes and homework home if you only need the things from one? And, do you want to have to tell your teacher you lost your homework when you've misplaced it within your gigantic notebook. No! It's by far the best option to have a separate notebook for each class. If you don't want to get separate notebooks, at least get two or three subject ones.
    • Color code your school materials for each class. It is very important to keep everything for the subject together.
    • Write your name, teacher and subject on each notebook. Use duct tape and a permanent marker for this. To make it appear cooler, you can add pictures, doodles, and stickers (as long as it doesn't get too messy).
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    Get your locker and backpack/tote in good shape. It's impossible to be organized if your locker is jammed with loose handouts, old folders, and broken pencils or when your backpack is filled with gum wrappers and scraps of paper. Clear everything out! Throw out all the stuff that's obviously garbage, and then sort through the rest.
    • Get two locker shelves for your school locker and one for your gym locker. The top shelf is where you can store your personal items (lunch, jacket etc.) Underneath this, you have your note books and your textbooks. And under this you can keep your binders. Also, in your locker should be a mirror, calendar, pencil cup, white board, and extra magnets. The extra magnets are good for hanging up schedules, posters and pictures. Duct tape is a very bad idea, it is hard to take off and you may need to pay to fix it.
    • Look for a book bag that's roomy and has multiple pockets. Use a locker shelf to make the most of the minimal room. Throw away trash promptly and leave old assignments at home. Get into the habit of putting things back neatly where they belong, and your locker and book bag will thank you.

Part 3
At Home Organization

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    Establish a home study area. Nobody wants to spend longer than required on homework, but without realizing it, you'll take longer just looking for materials. Find a place in your home where you're comfortable and there are no distractions from family. Getting a desk and putting it in your room is a good idea, as long as you feel you won't be distracted by its contents. You could also get a lap desk and do you work on your bed--just make sure you don't fall asleep! Make sure there are shelves and drawers for all necessary school supplies. Keep it clean and neat so that it's an inviting place to work in, or a little messy if that gets the creative juices flowing for you.
    • Load this quiet space with a separate pencil case, calendar, computer, writing space and bookshelf for homework.
    • Have some snacks stored in this desk, because doing your homework may get you hungry. There should be no distractions and everything you need should be close in hand.
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    Develop good habits. Establish routines to maintain your set-up systems. Come up with a set time to do your homework every day, and put it back in your backpack when you're done. Put everything you'll need for the next day in your backpack the night before, and set out your clothing and any extras and things you'll need. Consult your planner often, and check on, maintain, and alter your organization system when needed. Organized people are constantly tweaking their systems to adapt to new situations, and you should do the same. Be on time to class, make sure you do not fall asleep in class, and make sure to take the time to put the correct books in your bag. Be efficient and punctual, and try not to waste time and then pay for it later. With a little practice, you'll be good to go!

Part 4
Staying Personally Organized

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    Have something to eat before you start any homework or assessment. This way you will have energy to keep you going. Bring a snack to school if you are late for breakfast.
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    Get a good night's sleep every night. Trying to take a test in the morning when you had five hours of sleep last night is not a good idea. Eating breakfast in the morning is a good idea too. If you're not a breakfast fan, take a small snack with you in your backpack to eat before class. Studies have shown that students who eat breakfast before school get better grades than students who don't eat breakfast.


  • Take five to ten minute breaks every hour or so to clear head and to remove the prospect of becoming stressed. If you are getting a head ache get a glass of water and take this break then.
  • Use a zippered pouch or pencil case to keep track of your smaller school supplies: calculator, writing utensils, eraser, lead, highlighters, etc. This should be organized too! it is important to keep things clean in order to find everything nicely.
  • If your folder/binder is getting full, buy an accordion folder and place all your old papers inside. It's best to do this since your final exam is most likely to be cumulative.
  • File away all your old papers, assignments, essays-you name it. Don't throw any notebooks away as you may need to refer to them in the future. Store them in a box or a filing cabinet that is easy to access.
  • If something you have, like a folder or notebook, is falling apart or is too overloaded, purge it first. Then see if you really need to invest in something new or just use a little duct tape.
  • Use whatever works for you. Everyone is different, and something that works for someone else may not be the best thing for you. However, change can be good, so try something new and you might be surprised on how it works out for you. Likewise, if something isn't working, don't totally scrap it right then and there. Tweak the system and see what you have to do to adapt it to your lifestyle.
  • Follow what your teachers recommend. As you know, classes are all different and a teacher will know their class the best. While you might not want a binder in each class if the teacher tells you to get one...just remember that it's for a good reason!
  • Have two large pockets and three small pockets for your backpack. The biggest pocket is for your books, the second is for your lunch box, and the other pockets can be used for lollipops, gum, your phone, iPod, head phones, etc.
  • Carry around an umbrella if it might rain that day.
  • Although reinforced loose leaf paper is more expensive, it is often times well worth it when paper starts to rip.


  • Teachers are the lawmakers, so it's best to play by their rules. If your teacher insists on having a certain organization system for their class you can try to dissuade them, but it probably won't work. Some teachers have notebook checks and base part of the student's grade on having an organized binder, notebook, separate folder, etc.
  • Breaks are prime times for people to go right back to their chaotic lifestyles. Try to avoid this by continuing to use your planner and sticking to your systems during time off from school.
  • Never leave food in your locker for more than twelve hours.
  • Never let people sign your pencil case, because it can quickly get ruined.

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Categories: School Materials | Surviving High School