The first step to staying organized with your school work is to have an organized binder. College binder organization is so so SO important to your success in college. An organized binder will help you study better and be an overall better student. So, how do you go about organizing your binders like a pro?!
I am going over all the best essentials supplies for your binders, the 5 layers of a binder, and some general college binder organization tips that are going to change your life!
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Supplies for an organized binder
Of course, to master college binder organization, you need to start with the binder.
My FAVORITE go-to binder is the Better Binder from Staples. These are super durable and can last you over and over again. I’ve used the exact same set of binders all through high school and they have held up amazingly!
These binders also come in a bunch of different colors, which is perfect for a color coded class system.
Fill all of your binders with college ruled filler paper before class. I like to get the reinforced paper so I don’t have to worry about anything ripping and falling out.
Dividers are SO helpful to keep your binders organized. Whether it be dividing a binder between units or classes, these things are GOLD when it comes to college binder organization.
There are so many dividers out there, ranging from basic to fancy. On the more basic side, you can just get a pack with a bunch of colors. For something fancier, there are dividers that have specialty patterns or pockets for notes.
Regardless of what type of dividers you get, make sure there is a spot to add a label to make sure everything stays organized and in its place.
4. Sheet protectors
Depending on the subject, sheet protectors might also come in handy for your binders. I wouldn’t suggest putting every piece of paper in a sheet protector. Instead, use these for any important papers that you know are going to need to stay in-tact throughout the semester or year.
For example, put the syllabus for every class in a sheet protector so it always stays safe. If you have any reference materials for a specific class that you are going to need all semester, you can use sheet protectors for that too.
Basically, whatever you want to make sure doesn’t rip or get lost, put in a sheet protector.
5. Post its
Here is one more excuse to go buy a new pack of post its. Because let’s me honest, who doesn’t just love the post it aisle in Target!!
If you can, try to keep a pack of post its in each one of your binders, so you always have them when you need.
6. Hole punch
Obviously, this isn’t something that is going to stay in your binder, but probably have a home base in your dorm room instead. Regardless, it is super important to have access to a 3 hole punch if you plan on using binders.
Trust me, I’ve tried to punch holes in papers using the binder rings, and let me tell you, it doesn’t work. Buy a compact hole punch and leave it in your desk for when you need to hole punch something.
I’ve got a scenario for you: you are in class and your teacher hands you a piece of paper that belongs in your binder, but isn’t hole punched. You have a hole punch in your room, but what do you do with the paper until you get there?
That’s where a folder is gonna come in. I like to buy a matching folder to whatever color binder I get and keep it in the front of the binder. Make sure your folder is hole punched so it can sit right in front.
Whenever you get something that isn’t hole punched or that you don’t want going in the binder, the folder is the perfect holding place for that!
8. Pens & pencils
Of course, organized binders require notes to put in them. The neater your notes, the better!
Speaking from experience here, my notes are a hundred times neater because of my colorful pens and mechanical pencils. Having the right supplies to take notes will not only makes the process WAYYY more fun, but your notes are going to be so much better because of it.
Like the pens and pencils, highlighters are also a great tool to make your notes neater, which in turn makes your binders neater.
I love going with the Sharpie brand highlighters. And I always buy a bunch of colors, because why not!?
10. Label maker (optional)
While this is optional, I am personally obsessed with my label maker and figured everyone else was interested too (probably not the case but I’ll keep talking about it anyway!).
A label maker can seriously take an organized binder to another level. You can use it to label the spine of the binder, your dividers, or whatever else you think needs a label.
And don’t worry, a label maker does NOT have to break the bank. I have the best CHEAP label maker that works like a charm!
The layers of a binder
The best college binder organization starts before you even open the binder! Depending on the binder you get, you may have the option to add a personalized cover.
Binder covers are such prime real estate to make your binder look super cute, while also adding some essential info. As far as what text should be on there, I would include the name of the class, the name of the teacher, and your name.
Once you got that info, the rest is up to you to have fun with! Get creative with your binder covers. Maybe you want to do something seasonal, or make it into a vision board. You could try scrap booking your binder cover or basing it off of the class of the binder.
2. Plastic inside pocket
If you buy the Better Binder from Staples, it comes with an inside pocket that can hold a bunch of papers and other items. Most binders these days come with some sort of inside pocket on the left side when you open the binder.
This is the perfect spot to use as an “in” and “out” box for whatever class the binder is for.
For example, if you just finished as assignment and are waiting to turn it in, put it in the front pocket. OR, if you just got an assignment or paper and need to do something with it, put it in the front pocket.
Whatever is there should either be going in or out. That way, you always have these papers in one place.
3. “First page essentials”
Every binder should have some first page essentials right in the front. In most cases, the two biggest first page essentials are the class syllabus and your class schedule.
I would suggest putting these papers in sheet protectors and putting them in the front of the binder so you always have them on hand if need be.
Another important first page essential is a pouch with sticky notes and/or index cards. Either you can buy a pencil case/pouch with a 3 hole punch and leave them in there or use that front pocket for these items.
Depending on how you are organizing your binders, the middle is going to vary.
Separated class binders
If you have different binders for each of your classes, the best way to keep the bulk of the binder organized is by using dividers. The topics of your dividers will vary based on the class.
For some classes, you may want to use the dividers to differentiate between topics, units, chapters, or lessons. Other classes, you might be better off splitting things up by assignment type. This is completely going to depend on the class, the teacher, and your personal preference.
This also may vary from class to class, so don’t be afraid to try different systems and see what works best for each class!
Shared class binders
If you use the same binder for multiple classes, the best way to organize is to use the dividers to divide the different classes.
If you want to further categorize within these sections, you can buy different sized dividers to make different sections.
5. “Last page essentials”
Like you have first page essentials you want right in front, you also have last page essentials to keep in the back of your binder. These should also be kept in sheet protectors to make sure they stay safe throughout the semester.
The best thing to put in the back of the binder are any reference materials you may need for the specific class. For example, maybe you need the unit circle, an equation sheet, unit conversions, or common language translations.
This is going to vary based on the class. Also remember that for some classes, you may not need anything in the back of your binder.
1. color code each class
I cannot go through a school year without color coding. To learn about my exact system in detail, check out this article: My Color Coded Class System
2. rewrite your notes with colorful pens
Like I mentioned before, a general tip I always follow is to rewrite my notes. For some classes, I have enough time while taking them to make them neat and organized.
However, in other cases, I am scrambling to just get everything down onto paper, let alone worrying about making it pretty. For these classes, I go back after class and rewrite everything to make it easier to study later.
I’ve got an awesome article here all about how I organize and write my notes!
3. clean out your binders
As a general rule, you should clean out your binders occasionally. Whether that be weekly, biweekly, or monthly, do whatever works for you.
This is a perfect task to add to your weekly or monthly refresh so you always remember to do it.
When cleaning out your binders, all you have to do is make sure everything is where it is supposed to be. If the binder is getting too full, take some stuff out and save it in another location.
I hope you are now well-versed in the in’s and out’s of college binder organization! Above all, just remember that every binder is different, so the best thing you can do is find the systems that work for YOU and go from there.