College has two types of students: Those who write in all available space in their planner that they need another notebook, and those who buy a planner only to write in it twice and forget it at the bottom of their bag. These 10 college planners kick butt for both kinds of students. Their playful yet useful designs keep Type-A students organized down to the minute while convincing Type-B students to save such a pretty thing from getting crushed beneath their over-sized, over-priced textbooks.
Grab one of these college planners for an organized debut in the new semester.
No more grumbling overdue dates and reminders; the Happy Planner makes you, well, a happy planner. The durable paper and plastic rings ensure this planner lasts longer than your procrastination-fueled Netflix binge. With extension packs that let you schedule every single snack break and email response (maybe even leaving time to sort through your Spam folder), you can never overbook yourself. In five preppy designs with inspirational artwork throughout, everything from your “I got this” smile to your color-coded planner will scream “Instagram-worthy.”
Anyone who has suffered the accordion-crumpling of softcover planners, listen up. This classy hardcover planner not only holds up to your backpack jostling through the crowds on the quad but tells you exactly what you need to hear. When Calc XIII gets you down or the guy from the bar doesn’t text you back, this planner reminds you to be confident. This planner features daily, weekly, monthly and yearly planning pages. From long-term to short-term organizing planning, this planner is your personal cheerleader for the semester.
“Your eyelashes are so long,” this planner said on your first day of syllabus week right when you needed something to get your out of your Christmas break slump. This planner sprinkles compliments, weekly missions and doodles throughout the dreariness of homework and financial aid reminders. As you write in that 15-page paper, this planner reminds you to go to the beach and take some time for yourself–balance in all things. The brand offers a wide variety of designs from pop-art girls for the artsy activist to marble for the sleek and sophisticated. Plus, the (mostly female) doodle artists get a shoutout on the back page. You go, girls!
The designers of the Panda Planner packed a whole lot of science between these pages. Using a psychologically-tested approach to productivity and happiness, the Panda Planner makes you feel more at ease during the school year than you were on Christmas break. You write down what excites you about your week, what makes you grateful and more before you even think about writing a to-do list. After taking the preliminary steps to productivity, you’ll free as tranquil as Sunday morning–before you remember Monday’s homework.
Take your college stresses out on your kindergarten pastime. The Color Day planner rewards you monthly with a full-page drawing to color as you please–no staying in the lines necessary. Even with all the color, you add yourself, this planner bursts with colorful information, like how to take a good picture and the phases of the moon. Instead of just bold, red due dates, enjoy this planner’s splashes of color for a more creative and cheery calendar.
If the extras and clutter of the previous planners made your head spin, fear not. Minimalists can find comfort in this sleek planner’s bare-bones design. Printed on off-white, environmentally friendly paper, this planner pleases the eye of anyone whose eyes don’t want to see too much. But don’t take minimalist to mean minuscule. This planner has ample writing space for the uncluttered scholar with a cluttered schedule.
Float like a butterfly, plan like a busy bee. If you like to keep your backpack light, this planner will volunteer as tribute to stay at home. Stick it to your dorm’s mini-fridge and give it a once-over before heading to campus for a light backpack and mind. The sections are organized so clearly you can see your to-do’s and still catch that campus bus to get to class on time.
Do you have a flair for the dramatic and a love for vintage? This brassy, smooth as leather planner will fit right in with your collection. The pocket-sized planner comes tied up in a muslin bag complete with bookmark, pen holder, time pendant, and a post-card for all your timekeeping needs. Accessories galore won’t distract you from the easy-to-use format on the pages inside. But if you’re looking to show off in your Classics class, you’ll for sure catch your professors’ eyes.
Bring mindfulness into your hectic college life with the soothing words of this planner. A mindful planner means pages of meditative and peaceful spirits to survive three midterms in one week with quotes from philosophers to remind you to keep going. The serene scenes on the pages make daydreams even better than looking out your classroom window. If you’ve ever wished to channel Buddha (because your Freshman 15 belly matches his), this planner can help.
Wish you could brush things off as easily as this planner does for you? The sassy and confident cover will inspire you to walk into any class like you know your stuff even better than the professor. But if this message ever gets old, switch things up with one of the two cover art replacements. Plus, you can use the included stickers anywhere. The colorful, uplifting art in this planner isn’t confined between its covers. Decorate your notebooks or the forehead of your buzzkill friend, the options are endless.
Is your life a hot mess? Here are more planners so you can at least pretend to have it together.
Written by Shelby Duffy.
We’ve all experienced that feeling of panic that comes when a professor says, “Okay, pass your assignment to the front.” Between classes, clubs, internships and part-time jobs, it can sometimes feel impossible to juggle everything on your to-do list. We’d all like to be on top of everything—but that takes superhuman skills. Finding the perfect planner for your work style can stop you from being that student looking around the classroom in a confused panic asking, “Wait… what assignment?”
I never kept a diary. After writing in a new journal once, I’d lose it and not think about journaling again until I saw a new notebook I wanted. The same happens with planners. A thin planner can easily slip into even the messiest packrat’s backpack. Beyond that, the 8×10 inch size means it won’t get shoved to the bottom of your bag like all those other tiny notebooks. If you’re still a commitment-phobe who won’t look at your planner every day, glancing at a monthly calendar will remind you that even though you think you have time for another episode of Friends, you only have five more days to write two term papers. You should probably get off Netflix.
You won’t have any more excuses to not get ahead on that 10-page paper. And when your professor won’t let the class leave three minutes early, you’ll need a blank space to doodle. Plus, the bright rainbow colors will always make you a little happier, even if you walked to class in the rain only to be surprised by a pop quiz. At least you remembered to read.
13. Bullet Journal
You’ll probably spend more time with your planner than some people you go on dates with, so be picky. “I prefer planners that have the month view and then individual weeks on one side of the page and then on the other side of the page, a section for to-do lists and tasks. [I need] lots of room for me to write all over. And it’s gotta be cute,” the University of Alabama at Birmingham senior Holly Giang explained. Cue bullet journals. They give you a space to create your own charts, tables and blank spaces so you can keep track of everything that you want. Plus, you can personalize each page and make your notebook super cute.
14. Google Calendar
Are you more interested in the practicality of a planner than a cute notebook? Google Calendar works like a charm. “I have access to it where ever I am because it syncs to my phone, desktop and laptop so I always know what is going on. Plus, it reminds me about the events I put in there, so I don’t forget,” said High Point University second-year Jackson Kicklighter. A quick glance at your phone as you run out of class will remind you that you only have an hour for your coffee date before that club meeting you totally forgot was today. “[The best part is] its free and I can import other people’s calendars, so we can share them with each other,” Kicklighter added. If you have group projects, AKA the bane of every college students’ existence, sync your calendars. Forget Doodle polls.
15. Friday Planner
Are you the type of person that starts looking forward to Friday as soon as you wake up on Monday, or even midnight on Saturday? This notebook feels the same way. If you always get distracted, a simple design will give you enough room to personalize as much as you want. Plus, you’ll still have plenty of room to fit in all your club meetings and assignments. And it doesn’t hurt that whenever you open your backpack, you’re reminded that it’s almost Friday.
What You Should Look for in a Planner
I’m just going to say it: You can’t choose a planner based solely on its prettiness.
Now before you start booing and hissing, let me explain.
People are different. Some prefer Apple versus Samsung or Mac versus PC, etc. We all have our preferences, and those preferences extend to your planner. I like monthly planners because it lets me spatially see how busy the next few weeks will be and how much time I can put off writing my next paper—all without flipping through a bunch of pages. LaMarshai Allen, a junior at UAB, has a completely different opinion: “I love when a monthly overview is paired with space for me to write my everyday tasks. Weekly planners are too cluttered for me. I like to see what I have to do every day.”
Still looking for a college planner? Consider these aspects.
Space and Layout
Figure out exactly what you want to keep track of in your planner. You may love that section with a bulleted to-do list, but that daily water tracker just wastes space. Finding a planner that includes only what you need will help you to have the most space in a planner. “[I need] lots of space available for each day… I don’t like things in very large font, especially with the days and dates,” UAB junior Leena Patel sad.
If you still haven’t grown out of that big bubble letter phase, you might want to choose a planner that gives you enough room to write as big as you want. I prefer just enough room to write the title of an assignment so that it doesn’t get too cluttered. But maybe you need to write out every detail of every assignment or else you’ll be completely lost. Bullet journals or daily planners will let you write to your heart’s content.
Although pocket planners seem so portable. But you might have to break out that old magnifying glass to be able to read your weekly assignments, assuming you can even find your notebook at the bottom of your bag. Slightly larger planners can help you avoid this problem and give you the best of both worlds. “I tend to look for ones that are about the size of a book, so like 6×9 inches… they’re light to carry around,” Giang said. Medium-sized planners are small enough so they aren’t super bulky in a backpack already full of expensive textbooks you still haven’t opened, but big enough to write down all your assignments.
Once you’ve checked off all the important things, you can focus on finding a pretty planner. Having a nice-looking notebook may make you happy whenever you pull it out from your backpack, but it won’t remind you to use it if you aren’t happy with the format. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but you can find the perfect planner that’s both functional and beautiful.
How to maintain your planner habits
The hard part is done. Maybe you prefer to sit down and plan your whole month out at once, maybe writing in your planner is a daily ritual or maybe you find yourself somewhere in the middle. You know what to look for in a planner, and hopefully you’ve found the perfect one. Now, it’s time to make sure to keep your planner habits up throughout the whole year, not just the first week of using it.
1. Start using it
Upon starting, motivation to keep the habits up should strike. Even if it takes a bit before you find your rhythm with the planner, you’ll discover the routine that works for you as you play with different ones. Frances Jara, a sophomore at the University of Central Florida, uses a planner where the weekly setup is premade and adds lists for each day. “The key is to be able to push through the first couple of weeks and then it just becomes second nature to always look at it,” she said. Because planning helps and does not hurt you, it should not feel like a chore. After incorporating your planning habits into your life, those few minutes you spend writing in it work miracles for your overall organization.
2. Make it part of your routine
Whether you decide to plan on a daily basis, or you can go a few days before opening your planner back up, carve out time to write things down, cross things out and stay on top of your responsibilities. “I’d say a really good way to make planning sustainable is to make it a part of your routine. So, every morning I sit down with my breakfast and planner and plan my day,” said Abigail Santiago, a sophomore at Davidson College. Everyone’s preferences are different, so if you need to pull it out after leaving every class or if you can use it when your day starts and be set, just keep it as consistent as possible.
3. Figure out your favorite parts of the planner
Most pre-made planners have a layout for the month and weekly spreads with space for each day of the week. Some also have places for notes and other details. If you’re using one of these, figure out what parts of it you like best, and make great use of those. Abigail Santiago uses a blank planner where she fills in the month and days of the week. With this layout, she can plan both long- and short-term. “I really just try and plan by the hour which sounds crazy, but it helps me to not procrastinate things that need to get done,” she said. Frances Jara uses the monthly and weekly spreads similarly, in addition to using part of the space in her planner for a to-do list. “Once you see it written, you feel more compelled to doing it because I feel ashamed when I have to write it again for the next day,” she said. Use the parts of your planner in a method that works best for your productivity and organization.
4. Add more, if you wish
A planner alone works for some, but others may crave the structure that comes with having multiple methods of organization. Consider using a combination of online planners such as Google Calendar in conjunction with your physical planner. Or maybe you prefer to have one planner for your class schedule, homework and exams and a separate one for everything else such as work and free time. Another system may be to use your planner for the most part but supplement with separate to-do lists when life gets a little more busy. Just know that your methods of organization don’t necessarily have to start and end with a planner if you don’t want them to.
5. Make it fun
Iris Irby, a sophomore at the University of Florida, plans using a minimalist art bullet journal, so she creates all of the layouts in her planner. “I use my bullet journal to stay organized by creating a monthly page where I list events or places I have to go to, an overarching to-do list for tasks that may take a while, and weekly spreads where I put down tasks I need to do each day,” Irby said. Each month, she creates a different theme for the corresponding pages. Creating themes she enjoys makes her want to use her planner even more. Frances Jara suggests adding elements of creativity once planning is a set part of your routine. “As time goes on you can also start to become more creative and can start spicing things up with decorations and stuff you see on Instagram pages,” she said. From color-coordinating pens to doodles and stickers, the possibilities of customization are limitless. Using a planner should be far from boring. It should help you organize your busy life in a way that is pleasing and helps you unwind throughout your week.
Updated on October 24, 2017 by Shelby Duffy to include planners 11-15 and “What You Should Look For in a Planner.”
Updated on June 12, 2019 by April Rubin to include “How to Maintain Your Planner Habits.”