College · Lifestyle

How I’m Becoming a More Digital Student

Last spring, I decided I wanted to shift away from paper: paper notes, paper planners, paper lists, etc. I wanted to be more mobile and less location-dependent, and this meant I had to have less stuff.

Before, I always had to have my planner and notebook of notes to be a functional student. I had to meticulously organize everything in a single notebook or assign individual notebooks for each subject. I was carrying a lot of paper that I wasn’t going to need, and carrying my notebook everywhere because I might have a chance to study! Forgetting my notebook was awful, but so was carrying it all day when I just needed it for 1-2 hours.

So in January 2016, for the first time in many years, I did NOT buy a planner. I also didn’t buy a notebook for my classes. Instead I organized tasks into apps and made digital folders of notes. I typed notes when I could and when I had to use paper, I made a digital copy. I wanted to make my iPad or laptop the only thing I actually needed.

I was still working through kinks thoughout the spring semester, but I learned a lot. My digitalized summer semester is going smoother, so here are the digital replacements I used to make my student life more lightweight and less paperful.

Google Calendar is my schedule. I enter my class schedule, work schedule, and appointments here. In the “Notes” box, I paste the syllabus for the class.

Wunderlist has all my Lists. Grocery list, Weekly or daily to do list, blog topics… Wunderlist is great because it has an app and a website, and syncs across pretty well. I can also add due dates or reminders, so I also input assignments here.

Google Docs has my weekly planner. I loved my Poetica planner because it’s layout allowed me to easily to preview and plan my week by subjects. My digital alternative is a word table with 7 columns and about 10 rows; columns represent days of the week and the rows are subjects or time slots. I just type in what I’m doing each day for each category, and there is my idea of how my week is going to go.

Notability is my new notebook. With Notability I can create “folders” with my own notes, or import PDFs and literally draw/highlight/write/type on them! Each class gets it’s own folder and contains the downloaded powerpoints (which I annotate as the lecture goes along) and additional pages of notes as I take them.

Quizlet has replaced flashcards. I like Quizlet because I can import documents of terms, download other decks, listen to audio and pronounciation along with my studies, and best of all: utilize the highly effective spaced repetition system (SRS). You can use SRS with Quilet directly for a monthly fee, but I just import my decks into another SRS app for a one-time fee. The digital benefit is I can just pull up my phone and review my Italian vocab whenever I have the convenient opportunity. (Can you imagine the alternative? Carrying a stack of cards and pre-planning when and where I’ll review, or “wasting” the time I spend waiting.)

So the only thing I actually need to bring with me everyday is my iPad and Bluetooth keyboard, because with that I can access or create anything I need as a student. I also bring my laptop most days to make heavy-duty things easier, and a notebook for trivial notes or drafts of documents. I don’t need it, but it’s nice to have a single, 70-sheet spiral for my entire semester.

I just made the switch, so I still feel behind in this information/digital age. And I’m still constantly looking for ways to streamline everything. (I’ve checked out Evernote but I’m still not sure…)

Has anyone made these changes? Or have alternatives to the apps I’m using? I’m actually really curious, because I’m still learning!




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