Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Structured for Success: Tips and Tools for College Organization

Jane Reynolds, Allie Bishop | Published: May 31st, 2024 by K20 Center


This session focuses on helping students and their families prepare for college by learning useful task management and organization skills. Participants will play a game where they simulate organizing their weekly calendar, then they will explore digital tools that can aid them in their task management, time management, and organization.

Essential Question

How does staying organized contribute to academic success?

Learning Goals

  • Learn the importance of using a calendar to manage deadlines and commitments.

  • Understand how to prioritize tasks using a to-do list.

  • Understand the connection between organization and academic success.



Participants watch a video about the importance of staying organized in college, then reflect on the video as a group.


Participants play a game where they simulate organizing their calendar for the week.


Participants analyze an article about different digital organization tools.


Participants explore digital organization tools and determine how they can be used in everyday life.


Participants reflect on their learning through guided questions.

Materials List

  • Session Slides (attached)

  • Calendar Header (attached; one per group)

  • Quest for the Organized Mind card sort (attached; one per group)

  • Chance Cards (attached)

  • Staying Organized in College handout (attached; one per participant)

  • Organization Resources Note Catcher handout (attached; one per participant)

  • Sticky Notes

  • Highlighters

  • Internet connected devices


10 Minute(s)

Use the attached Session Slides and display slide 2. Introduce yourself and welcome participants to the session. Transition to slides 3-4 and go over the essential question and learning objectives. Then, move to slide 5 and play the video How to Start a New Semester or School Year the Right Way - College Info Geek.

When the video ends, transition to slide 6 and introduce participants to the instructional strategy I Notice, I Wonder. Distribute sticky notes to participants. Ask them to reflect on one important thing they noticed and one thing they are wondering about and write down their thoughts. Ask participants to discuss their answers with an elbow partner.


20 Minute(s)

Divide participants into groups of three or four. Distribute one set of the Quest for the Organized Mind card sort (attached) to each group of participants, along with one Calendar Header (attached). Display slide 8. Instruct participants to sort their cards to fit their weekly calendar, noting that they have to fit calendar events (red cards), tasks (yellow cards), and materials (green cards) in a cohesive manner. Move to slide 9 and let participants know they will have fifteen minutes to organize their calendar. Start the timer when all participants are ready. Once the timer has started, move around the room to each group and hand out the Chance Cards (attached). These cards are designed to disrupt the organization process. You may distribute a few to each group at one time or rotate around and hand out one card to each group periodically. As you distribute them, help the participants navigate the new scenario by asking guiding questions and offering feedback. When the timer ends, move to slide 10. Ask each group to discuss the questions on the slide, then ask each group to share their responses.

The creation of this activity was aided using artificial intelligence.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 11 and distribute copies of the Staying Organized in College handout (attached) along with a highlighter to each participant. Introduce participants to the instructional strategy Why-lighting. Instruct participants to read the article. As they read, ask them to highlight the information they find important and to notate why they highlighted it in the margins. Allow participants 10 minutes to read and notate. When everyone has finished, ask for volunteers to share some of what they highlighted and why.


15 Minute(s)

Distribute the Organization Resources Note Catcher handout (attached). Move to slide 14. Direct participants’ attention to the resource table on page 3 of the Staying Organized in College handout. Instruct participants to take out their internet connected device and follow each link or scan each QR code in the resources table. As they explore each resource, ask them to fill in the note catcher. Allow 15 minutes for participants to work. When everyone is finished, ask a few volunteers to share what they wrote.


5 Minute(s)

Move to slide 15. Ask participants to answer the following questions on a sticky note.  Collect their answers as an exit ticket as participants leave the session. 

What was the most valuable thing you learned today? 

How will you maximize your organizational skills?

Which organization resource will you use the most?

Research Rationale

As students transition from high school to college, they typically experience an increased level of autonomy and responsibility. Many college students no longer have daily interactions with instructors, parents, or other adults. The need to balance the many academic, social, and extracurricular goals students pursue is a primary source of stress and a major challenge. Developing strong organizational and time management skills is a key factor in college student success. Post-secondary institutions understand this and dedicate substantial resources to equipping students with these tools (Wolters & Brady, 2021).