The other day I was doing some spring cleaning inspired by Marie Kondo’s book when I came across all my study notes from uni and I thought to myself, man I tried so hard at being a nerd in uni. Attempting to stay on top of things was never easy and I found my degree extremely challenging. I had never done a business or legal unit in high school so when I started my Commerce / Law degree at Monash, I had no idea what was going on. I couldn’t remember the Australian court hierarchy in law and had no idea the difference debits & credits in first year accounting (a sad, sad compulsory unit I had to do for my Commerce degree). I seriously had no idea about accounting. It was traumatic. Anyway, among other things that I couldn’t figure out was just how to stay organised in uni and to keep all my stuff in order. I am a major organisation freak and uni was so different to high school – not that I remember high school anymore – in that there was so much self study to do, notes, lectures and stuff was piled everywhere on my table and I really had no idea what I was doing.
After five and a half years in the gig, I eventually figured it out in the end. So for those people who are heading back to uni next week (or are starting uni for the first time – congrats!) I thought I’d share with you how to get your systems in place for a productive and organised year in uni. For this post, I’ll be talking about getting organised before uni starts. These tips are more relevant to those who are studying Commerce / Law (mainly Law, because that’s what consumed the majority of my uni life) and some info may be more relevant to Monash faculty procedures but hopefully they are also somewhat generic enough to apply to everyone else too!
1) ORGANISING YOUR LAPTOP
Before you start the semester, you should definitely get your laptop / computer set for uni! I like to make a special folder for each semester of uni and within that, make a separate folder for each unit and within that, making subfolders for Admin (unit guides / reading guides, etc), Lecture Slides, Lecture Notes, Exam Notes, Past Exams, Tutorials & Other notes. And then I start the great download.
Unit guides & reading guides are generally available a week or two before the semester starts so start saving and looking over those. Also head to the past exam databases and save the recent past exams as well. Once that’s done, hunt for study notes for your units. One of my life saviours in law school was LSS’s Sketch Notes which are short skeleton structure notes written by past students who HD-ed the unit. They’re really handy because they provide a really good overview of the course and shows you exactly how each topic fits into the grand scheme of things and often contain the most important bits of info from each reading guide case as well. If you’re new to Monash Law School or just have never joined LSS, join it now! For the Sketch Notes, exam revision seminars as well as the free pizza and events. There is too much free pizza from the LSS.
Animal law was by far my FAVOURITE unit at Monash law. Commercial law on the other hand made me extremely distressed.
2) GETTING YOUR TEXTBOOKS READY
Textbooks at uni are often extremely expensive and are rendered redundant by new editions after a year or two. The bill can easily hit $500+ every semester which is a serious load of money to be spending (that’s something like $2500 worth of textbooks for a 5.5 year course)! To save in this department, try to hunt for second hand editions (especially when they’re not outdated yet) on places like Monash Marketplace (ads normally go up from O-Week) and faculty Facebook groups (there’s a special group for Monash Law students on Facebook that’s filled with second hand textbook posts and some pretty great anecdotal advice from other students too). If you just can’t fathom spending so much on textbooks, you can head to the library every morning to use the textbooks that sit in the Reserves section or borrow editions from the library. You’ll have to get lucky with the borrowing though as there are often few copies but many students with the same idea – so make sure to reserve a copy if you can :-) I like to get my textbooks during O-Week or at least first week of uni so I can flip through and get an idea of what I’m up against or at least head to Legibook and have a flip through one in case I want to drop out of that unit if I don’t like the look of it!
3) ORGANISING YOUR STUDY SPACE
So I had to re-do my study space back to uni-style to show you some of my study space organisation essentials as I’ve since graduated but basically, try to keep your study space pretty and tidy! A messy, disorganised space is one that will likely inspire procrastination (to both clean and study). At the start of every year (& even now after graduating), I try my best to freshen up my desk and make it as beautiful as I can so that sitting at it when I need to study is as exciting and functional as I can possibly make it.
My desk essentials are:
1) A vertical step file: It was only until fifth year that I had discovered the existence of these. Can you believe I had never seen one of these in my life prior to that? I was walking to my desk at the PR firm I was interning at when I noticed one of these sitting at one of the account manager’s desks. It literally blew my mind how you could organise papers in a way they were all accessible and visible at the same time. It wasn’t long before I found one at Officeworks for myself too. I used these to organise print-outs for each unit as well as work receipts, travel itineraries and other paper clutter.
2) Good pens: I used to be friends with Kilometricos in first year until one leaked all over my hand during an exam. And then I discovered the ballpoint pens from Kikki-K – the ones that come in a pack of five. My friend had gotten me a pack for my birthday and I just loved them. Not because of the pretty patterns but because of how smooth they wrote. From then on, the only pens I ever brought to an exam or ever used were those ones. Literally. I love walking into an exam with strawberries and suns all over my pens.
3) A note-pad or lined notebook: Love using these to create daily to-do lists. Perfect for the OCD in me!
4) Inspiration: I once bought these for a friend and then realised just how much I love them too. I love pinning these to my boards and I recently discovered a way to pin them without damaging them. Simply pin above & below the card so that the plastic part of the pin holds the card down. That way, you can rearrange them whenever you like without damaging them. Score :-)
I love using this to pin up little mementos, study timetables and other things. Speaking of study timetables and organising time. Always try to block in time every week to not only summarise the week’s lectures, but also block in time to do end-of-semester exam notes for everything you’ve learnt so far and reviewing them. I have found over the years that when you do a weekly review of all the content you have learned so far, it is so much easier come exam time as you will already be well revised! It’s pretty hard to find time to do this and I found I only had time to do this when I was under-loading but still, the optimist in me says that it’s still possible.
That’s it from me guys! Good luck to those heading back to uni! :-)