Getting organized and developing a simple system to stay that way is a priority when you get to college. Capturing everything going on in your life in one place should immediately give you a sense of control and organization. It will make your life a whole lot more enjoyable and a whole lot less stressful.
The first thing to decide on is your organizational tool. It can be a 24-hour day planner, a desk calendar, or a PDA or similar electronic tool. Whatever you choose, it'll be the one place to record all your classes, meetings, assignments, exam dates, deadlines, and social obligations.
As soon as you decide which classes you to take each semester, "rip" your course syllabi into this calendar. Be sure to include the following:
All class meeting times
Dates of all quizzes, tests, midterms, term papers, and finals
Due dates of all problem sets, lab reports, and other assignments
Once you've finished ripping your syllabi into your calendar, three-hole-punch each syllabus and put it into a separate ring binder. If your professor assigned any course packets or provided any handouts for the course, three-hole-punch those and put them into the binder as well. Using a three-ring binder makes it easy to keep paperwork safe, in good condition, and all in once place. As you take course notes on your laptop, you can print them out and put them into your ring binder so that you'll have everything at your fingertips. If your professor hands out extra information during the semester, you can easily add these as well.
With all the paper that you'll deal with in college, it is easy to misplace things or lose pages from a handout or syllabus. What you're looking for here is for all of your course materials to be stored in a single safe place. This system will help keep you organized and stress-free.
Next, add extracurricular activities to your calendar:
Social functions: Include meeting dates and times, volunteer commitments, Parents Weekend, dances, Octoberfest, fraternity/sorority events, winter/spring break, and so on.
Team commitments (sports, drama society, chorale, etc.): Practice schedule, home and away games, rehearsals, performances, fund raisers
From now on, any time and every time you make a commitment to be somewhere or do something with someone — be it a meeting with a professor during her office hours, a coffee date with a friend from orientation, or an agreement with the admissions office to house a prospective student in your dorm room — you enter that commitment into this calendar immediately.
Being organized and staying that way is the first step toward a happy and successful college life. Commit to it.