Posted in Strategy, Techniques

Three ways to help a college freshman succeed

Capture all the things

College freshman have stuff.  Lots of stuff. Lots of that stuff is papers, forms, and other information necessary for day to day college life outside of classes. Rather than trying to keep track of all that stuff use a cloud based tool like Google Drive, OneNote, OneDrive, or Evernote to make digital copies of things.

Each one of these supports taking photos of printed materials and then making the text in the photos searchable. Now when you get that flyer for the glee club meeting (I know, I know) you can just take a picture of it and be able to find out when and where it was at any time with a simple search.

Getting from A to B

You’ll hear suggestions about using an online calendar to track your class and activity schedules so you don’t miss your commitments while on campus. What these suggestions normally miss is allowing for how long it takes to get from here to there.  When you create entries in a calendar such as Outlook or Google Calendar, put an entry before your commitment with enough time to get from where you would be when reminded to where the commitment is.  So for example if it takes you 15 minutes to walk across campus, put an entry 15 minutes long before your class so you are reminded when you need to leave to be there on time. Some calendars allow you to adjust the timing of reminders, but I’ve found it easier to be able to see everything on the calendar as blocks rather than trying to remember to adjust the alarms one at a time.

Use Facebook to keep the parental units in the loop

One of the ways a college freshman can keep parents in the loop without dozens of text messages back and forth is the “letters home” approach with Facebook.  Yes, I know Facebook isn’t the cool thing for college students, but since Facebook has over 56 million users between 35-54 it might just be the easiest way to keep them in the know.  So how do you accomplish this without broadcasting your need for more dining hall money to the rest of the world?

You can set up custom lists of people in Facebook to limit who will receive an update when you post it.  This way you can write up an update (letter home) and then share it to the custom list. Another option is creating a private, unlisted group in Facebook and sharing information there.  It may feel like a lot to ask, but remember while you’re steeped in the day to day of college life, the people at home are always wondering how you’re doing and how college is going for you.  If you don’t tell them, they’re going to ask…and ask…and ask.

A little prep makes for less stress

Productivity on a college campus is no different than anywhere else.  It’s about doing the right things at the right times in the right ways. Take a few minutes to set yourself up for success and you can enjoy and benefit from your time at college that much more.


Know a college freshman? How are you helping them in their first big year. Tell me all about it in the comments. 

Posted in Tools

Free Office 365 for college with student ID provided a great summary of some of the perks you can get as a college student (and with the price of college today students can take all the perks they can get.) My favorite one on the list though is something that is a big money saver – Free Office 365 for college students with a valid student ID.  This can be a huge savings and very convenient for new as well as current college students.  If you have a valid college student ID or know someone who does, make sure they know about this perk.  Now, what are you waiting for?

Posted in Strategy, Techniques

Using OneNote to organize a college student

It’s that time of year when we’re in the final stages of getting our new college students ready to head to their school of choice (hopefully) in the fall. Forms, emails, schedules, and reminders all come flooding in with many of them not due for weeks.  How do you keep the firehose of information organized so both your student and you are confident nothing is falling through the cracks? My recommendation…turn to OneNote. As the father of one graduated college student and one starting in the fall, I’d like to share some insights and ideas around how you can put OneNote to use in keeping everything organized and removing one stress point from the life of a new college student.

Create a college notebook

To begin, create a OneNote notebook dedicated to just college information.  I don’t recommend integrating into another notebook due to the sheer volume of information you’re going to be managing combined with the fact you will be sharing this notebook between two or more people. Once you have the notebook created, share it to everyone who will need access (usually the student and parents/guardians/adult roles of choice). This structure will also work if you are managing only your own information, as you just eliminate the sharing step.

Create sections in the notebook

You will need sections for each major area of college life in the notebook. I recommend at a minimum:

  • Housing
  • Financial
  • Transportation
  • Schedule
  • Enrollment
  • Scholarships
  • Forms
  • Action Items
  • Quick Reference

You may be wondering how you handle the overlap between sections such as Forms and Financial.  That’s one of the strengths of OneNote. If it is easiest for you to have a section of all the Forms you have submitted to the school, you can use the linking capability of OneNote to create links in the other sections back to those original forms.  If it is easier for you to keep the forms in the sections where they apply, such as Scholarships, you can create a page in the Forms section with links to the forms spread out in the other sections.  The objective is to make sure information is at your fingertips when you need it.

The Quick Reference section is typically only one page in the section.  On that page put everything you might need frequently and quickly. Student ID, office numbers, professor email addresses, emergency contact numbers, pizza delivery numbers, whatever you find yourself looking up more than twice is worth putting in the Quick Reference section.

Install the mobile OneNote client

Make sure you have OneNote installed on your smartphone so you have access to your information at all times. Once you have installed the mobile client (iOS or Android) open your new notebook to make sure you have access and everything is syncing. Here’s a pro tip…press and hold on the name of the notebook and then add the notebook to your home screen for quick access. Now that you have the mobile client set up you can use it to capture information whenever you need to and best yet take pictures of important things for later recall.  Any text in pictures you take becomes searchable so finding that course syllabus again after two weeks is a simple matter.

Capture everything

Make it a habit to capture everything into your OneNote notebook.  It is far easier to delete something later when you don’t need it than to go searching for it when you do. Notes, photos, illustrations, whatever you need to keep on hand is best stored in OneNote rather than taking up that valuable brain space you need for your classes.


If this article has been helpful, why not come over to Productive Professionals to find more, talk about the productivity topics that interest you, and take your productivity up a notch?

You can join the OneNote group at Productive Professionals to learn more about how to get the most out of one of the most powerful organizational tools out there.