Organization Essentials

Staff members discuss the items necessary to survive school’s chaos.

I often walk down the hallways viewing the horrors of high school organization with wide eyes.

Binders filled to the brim with crumpled papers.

Backpacks home to every assignment given during the school year.

Planners empty of all events other than national holidays.

Whitney and I believe much of the success we’ve had in high school has stemmed from our personalized organization styles. Below are several items that every high school student needs to survive high school and to succeed in college.


Take a look at your backpack. Right now. What does it look like? For some of you it may be a binder or folders. Some of you may not have an organization method. Who knows? Some of you may not even have a backpack.

If you don’t have a backpack you should get one. If you do have a backpack, get it organized.

Here’s how we do it.

Whitney’s way: My backpack has four pockets. In the largest one, I keep my folders and journals for my classes as well as my pencil bag. Every class has its own folder and journal for notes, if the class requires one.  In one pocket of each folder I keep my homework or loose notes, and the other side are my graded items.

In the main compartment of her bag, Whitney keeps her vital school papers in folders and notebooks. Photo by Whitney Ford

My second pocket is where I normally keep my lunch, so if it spills, I don’t have to worry about it ruining my notes or homework. My third pocket is generally not used, but my smallest pocket is where I keep my ID, so it won’t get lost, as well as flash cards and extra index cards.

Jezza’s way: My backpack has two sections. In the larger section I arrange my books from largest to smallest, with my planner and my binder always in the same spot.

In the smaller pocket I keep flashcards, an extra ID, an empty wallet, chapstick, and my phone charger. These items are my essentials; easy access to them saves me time and anxiety throughout the day.

An organized backpack is important especially in college for both those living on campus and those who will not. You will easily notice if something is missing so you will not have to hurry back to your dorm or panic because you don’t have time to go back home.


Some high school students don’t keep up with a planner or calendar making it nearly impossible to balance a social life as well as remain successful in school. Having and keeping up with a planner or calendar will help you visualize what your schedule looks like so you can manage your time efficiently.

Whitney’s way: I don’t keep up with a planner as much as I do my calendar. I write down my major assignments on a sheet of paper, but I honestly don’t think I could keep up with an actual planner. I keep it on my wall so I can get to it easily. I write everything down on it, including assignments, the days I work, when my trip payments are due, and even people’s birthdays. I write major events and reminders on sticky notes so I can easily remove them once completed. If it’s not written on my calendar, there’s almost a 100-percent chance that I won’t complete it.

Jezza’s planner follows a strict color code system: Red for tests, black for homework, blue for meetings, green for due dates,pink for scholarships, purple for events and orange for concerts. Photo by Jezza Bull-Briones.

Jezza’s way: My planner is my life. When it’s lost I cry and when it is filled I rejoice. My planner has evolved through high school to include a color code system, sticky notes, abbreviations, and a sticky note trash page.

I recommend an unorganized student who can’t turn their work in on time buy some kind of planner. Monthly, weekly, and even daily planners are sold during school supply season so finding a planner to suit your needs is relatively easy.

In college, you will need to be able to manage homework, your classes, a job, and a social life. Your life will be so busy that if you don’t write your assignments and other events down on some sort of a planner or calendar, you will either fail to complete your assignment, or have to miss out completely on having a life outside of school and work.


Keeping your technology organized. You probably don’t do it. Your computer probably isn’t organized and I would bet your phone isn’t either. Keeping up with your technology will help you stay organized, just like a planner or calendar.

Organization Image
Whitney organizes her flash drive by creating folders for each class with sub-folders inside for individual assignments.

Whitney’s way: My flash drive is nearly as important to me as my calendar. Each subject has a separate section. Within each subject section are folders for each assignment with multiple parts. For example, if it’s just an essay, it’s in the English section. If it’s a picture for a Spanish project, it is located in the photos section of that specific assignment’s folder in the Spanish section of the flash drive. (It’s crazy to explain, but it could make your life much easier.)

Jezza’s way: My favorite free app for the iPhone is the Adobe Reader app. This app saves me so much internet data on my phone bill because it allows me to save documents found online and close tabs in Safari. Once the document is saved you are able to view it offline.

The app even lets you create an organization system, which I have personalized by creating folders for specific classes like English and history. This app is for studious students who will access many documents over the next year and need an easy and organized way to save them.

In college, you will use a large amount of technology, not just your phone. By using different technology now and learning to keep it organized and updated, you will be better prepared for learning more complex technology tools in college.

The sooner high schoolers start organizing their lives, the better. There are zero downsides to an organized school life.