How to Organize Your Planner for a New Semester

I have been asked many times how I manage to do it all. Normally, during the semester, I have several classes, a part-time job, and a blog (aka a second job). And at the end of the day, I still manage to get As in most (or all) of my classes. How do I do it all? With my planner. This is the one tool that I use religiously semester after semester and I swear that it is the main reason why I am a successful student.

With the beginning of a new school year comes the time to prepare for the new semester. One of the things I love most about new semesters is setting up my planner. But in order for your planner to work for you, you have to set yourself up for success.

One of the things I love most about back-to-school is setting up my planner. Click through to find out how to organize your planner for a new semester!

Sometimes, being organized is easier said than done. I’ve had years to master the perfect recipe to successful planning, but with this step-by-step guide to setting up your planner for a new semester, you won’t have to worry about being disorganized anymore!

Step 1: Choose your planner

Of course, in order to set up your planner, you have to actually have a planner. This is the most crucial part of the entire process. Choosing a planner that is not right for you needs that you will have a hard time adjusting to it and you want to use it (which would defeat the purpose of setting it up in the first place). So I really recommend taking your time to shop for it and find one that fits your lifestyle.

The planner that I’m absolutely LOVING this year is the Student Planner! My friend Sara at College Compass created this awesome planner to help students reach their full potential in college. Sara is a fellow college blogger and a recent graduate, so she KNOWS what college students need in a planner. As she put it:

“Most planners aren’t designed for student life — and those that are, aren’t designed by students. “

The Student Planner is different. It’s a printable planner that comes in three different layouts, and each of them is designed to help students succeed. When you buy the Student Planner, you can access to all versions of the planner! So you’re sure to find something that works for you. What’s even more awesome is that when you buy a dated planner, you get access to undated sheets from the other layouts to you can switch formats to fit your needs and lifestyle! It’s a planner that always works for everyone.

All formats include a goal section, student sheets to organize your semester and succeed, and reflection sections to help you live your best life!

What I love most about it is the flexibility of the printable format. Because it’s not bound like a standard planner, you can easily swap pages, add in other things and worksheets and organize it the way you want. You can also choose which pages you want to print and how you want to set it up. Basically, it’s entirely customizable! You can use it in a way that suits your life.

Want to find out more about this awesome planner? Click here.

Step 2: Gather schedules

Now let the fun begin! Once you have found the perfect planner for you, it’s time to start organizing it. The first thing you want to do is gather your different schedules: classes, holidays, birthdays, work schedule, appointments, health and fitness, social events… and basically anything that you want to remember! Your planner is not only going to help you organize your college life, it’s also going to help you organize your life in general!

Step 3: Determine a color code

Once you’ve gathered all of your schedules, you have a better idea of what is going on in your life. You’ll also have all of the information at your fingertips.

The one thing that helps me organize my planner is color coding. As a visual person, color coding helps me visualize how my life looks like and how I have to organize it.

Color code each event in your life. Some people like to use different colors for each class, but I personally like to do things a little differently. For example, my color code for the fall semester went like this:

Assignments – orange

Exams – blue

Work – pink

Internship – purple

Study abroad – green

Other stuff – yellow

Each color represents their own section of my life. Once you memorize which color corresponds to which section, you’ll be able to quickly glance at your planner and know what you’ve got going on.

Step 4: Write down your classes and other schedules

Now let’s get to the real stuff. We’re actually going to start writing in our planner. The first thing I do is take my class schedule and transcribe it in my planner. If you’ve established a color code based on classes, use that when writing it in your weekly/daily view. If, like me, you use your color code differently, use a pencil or a black pen to write down your classes.

Now let’s get to the real stuff. We’re actually going to start writing in our planner. The first thing I do is take my class schedule and transcribe it in my planner. If you’ve established a color code based on classes, use that when writing it in your weekly/daily view. If, like me, you use your color code differently, use a pencil or a black pen to write down your classes.

Once you’re done with classes, we can move on to other schedules. Write down appointments, meetings, work schedule, holidays, birthdays, social events, etc. in your planner, and make sure to use the appropriate color code! It might be hard to find a color of each and every thing that is going on in your life, so I recommend grouping them in categories. Social events can have its own color, appointments and meetings can be a group, work gets its own color, holidays and birthdays can be one… You get the idea!

If you think you’ll have trouble keeping up with your color code, create a key and insert it in your planner! Like this, you’ll never forget which color corresponds to which section.

Step 5: Write down assignments and exams

The last step to setting up your planner for success is writing down assignments due dates and exams. I always do this at the beginning of the semester so I have a better idea of what is going on and how I’m going to have to organize my time to survive until the end of the semester (ha!). So take each of your syllabi, and start writing down when your assignments are dues and when exams are happening. Doing it now will ensure that you don’t forget because trust me, not all of your professors will remind you!

Pro tip: Use a pencil! I cannot count how many times a due date or an exam has been pushed back. I hate having to cross out things or using white-out in my planner, so I always use pencil for everything. Better safe than sorry!

Bonus tip: Use your planner!

The one way to ensure your success this semester is to actually use your planner! There’s no point in setting it up if you won’t end up using it. It’s a reflex for all successful college students (myself included), but it might not be your case. Don’t worry! If you’re not used to using a planner, just become accustomed to using it frequently. Take it out at the start of every class and have it on-hand. That way if your professor says a date that you need to remember, you’ll be ready to jot it down!

If you need inspiration, make sure to check out how I organized my planner last year!

How do you organize your planner?


  • Completely agree with all of this! Using my planner is how I survive life in general, especially school. I know I’ll live by it as I’ll be student teaching this semester.

    xo, Kimberly

    • Same here, girl! I couldn’t live without my planner.

  • Ariana

    Planner posts make me so unbelievably happy!!! (Must be the teacher in me) haha!

    • Haha, I love planner posts too!

  • I like your color code! I’ve always done mine by classes and I think once you’ve trained your brain on that, it’s hard to switch!

    Madison //

    • Thank you, I’ve always done mine the same way, so I agree with you! Once you’re used to one color code, it’s hard to switch to something else!

  • I always set up my planner and then never actually use it, so this year I’m trying out a bullet journal which will hopefully be more successful! I love it when other people color-code their planners but for some reason it really bugs me when mine is! I hate using anything but black ink, I don’t know why I’m like that. Sarah’s planner looks awesome! It’s amazing that she created her own.

    Lauren //

    • I tried bullet journaling but epically failed. I think I’m just too much of a perfectionist. I love color coding my planner, but I need to write everything in pencil. Ink freaks me out because if I mess up, I can either cross it out of put some whiteout on it, which makes it ugly, haha. And you’re right, Sara’s planner is awesome! I think it’s amazing that she created her own!

  • I started prepping my planner last week for the upcoming semester and it gets me so pumped to finally start working!

    – Danielle |

    • I bet! Prepping my planner for the new semester is my favorite part about going back to college, haha.