How to organize your college binder

Having an organized binder for your study material is important. There’s nothing worse than not remembering where exactly you wrote down the homework or getting your papers all mixed up.

Being a student myself and having just re-organized my entire binder, I thought I’d share my system with you.

Free downloads of the cover sheets are available below!


white binderI use an ordinary, white, 5cm wide “Elba” binder for every course. They’re (at least in Germany) available in every office-supply store and pretty heavy-duty. I chose this one because it’s thin enough to fit into my college bag and is usually big enough for all of the course material I get. The choice of binder is up to you though, whether you’d rather have a big and sturdy one, one with a document pocket at the front, see-through, multi-coloured – choose what works best for you.


Cover Sheet

I found this gorgeous cover over at polkadotfiles. She’s got 5 different covers, and Happily Hope has a selection of Vera Bradley and Lilly Pulitzer covers which are really cute. They are downloadable files which you can then manipulate with a photo-editing software or to include the info you need.

Front of binder info:
  • Weekly Schedule
  • Assignment Dates Overview
  • APA 6 Style “How to Cite”
  • Syllabus
  • pouch with post-its, index tabs etc.

Weekly ScheduleWhen I do have a timetable or weekly schedule, I try and attach it to the top left-hand corner of the inside of the binder cover. That way I always see it when I open the binder. If I attend classes on an unfamiliar campus, I might tape a map of the campus next to the schedule, at least until I can find the buildings all right.

COURSE ASSIGNMENTS OVERVIEWI also use two sorts of assignment overviews. I made an overview myself using a Lilly Pulitzer Wallpaper I found (PDF: COURSE ASSIGNMENTS). The other one is a generic one (Term-Course-Organizer) on which I can list all assignments for all courses to have them all in one place. The other is a list of assignments and due dates that are course specific. However, there are also weekly assignment sheets available, like this one by Lauren Ashleigh.

If the university has a house style they prefer you to use, print it out and put it in the front of your binder. That way you’ll always have it handy. The house style might include how you have to format a page for assignments, what font and size to use etc. If a citation guide is not included in the house style info, print the citation info out as well.

document pouchA (sealable) pouch or document pocket of some sort also comes in useful. I keep spare post-its, index tabs, reading cover sheets and note paper in mine. For library lockdowns, you can also keep your pens and highlighters in the pouch so everything is in one place.

The syllabus should always be included in the binder. On it you’ll find the professor’s contact details, all relevant course dates, the grading guidelines, and required as well as suggested reading. Make sure you go through it and check that everything is up-to-date. Are your professor’s contact details right? Do suggested URLs still work? Are the course information and dates as well as assignment due dates correct and not from the previous year? Make a note of all changes by highlighting them and amending where needed.

Colourful Dividers

Now comes the main bit. I’ve made “Cover Sheets” in different colours for module information, assignments and required reading. I gave all of them a colourful border. By setting printing options to borderless I ensure that the colour actually reaches the very edge of the paper.

Just one look at the binder shows me the following: every green page is a different module, every magenta page is an assignment and every page with a paisley pattern signifies a document that’s part of my study material. I added colourful tabs by Semikolon on the edges of the paper instead of buying separate dividers.

I’ve printed about 10 pages per colour, so I can use them whenever I need them. They’re available for you to download either as JPEGs or PDFs below.

College Binder content


Module Cover TemplateFor each module of every course, I print out a Module Cover Sheet. It includes the course name and module name/number, the name and contact info of the professor, course dates and space to list all the course material provided and assignments given.

I also included space to add when the assignments were submitted and what grade was received.

This Cover Sheet is added at the very start of a new module. Behind it I sort all the documents in the order they appear under “Course Material”. To download, click the picture for JPEG or use the Module Cover Template PDF.


Assignment Cover Template

Just like I did for modules, I made Assignment Cover Sheets. I’ll mark what the assignment is, the format I have to adhere to, when it’s due and how I have to submit it (professor’s assignment box, in person, email, online etc.). There’s also space to note when I actually handed it in and what grade I received for it. The finished and printed out assignment gets stapled to the cover sheet so I can’t lose it and have all the relevant information in one place.  Assignment Cover Template PDF.

Required Reading:

Required Reading Cover TemplateI study by distance learning and I don’t have a set text book. I work mainly with articles out of research journals, websites and other material available online. Every website I cite gets saved as a PDF and printed out, but I also note the link on this Required Reading Cover. Then I attach this cover to the print-out with staples or paper clips, so it’s all in one place. For everything I read, I make another Cover Sheet. This includes all relevant information like title, author name, publication, year, etc. but also the link and when I accessed the link. I also included space at the bottom to note exactly how I have to cite it in case I have to use it in a paper (we use APA 6 as our university house style).

It helps to have a few spare cover sheets on you when you’re doing research in the library. You can then copy the pages out of the books you need and immediately note the citation information on your sheet so you won’t forget. You can download the Required Reading Cover Template PDF.

Further ReadingI also made one for further reading to file away all the extra research articles I read. Again, there’s also a free PDF Further Reading template. I designed and layouted all of these myself, but the pattern used is a Lilly Pulitzer Wallpaper, same as for the Course Assignments Overview sheet above.




reading material
Comparison: The cited material on the right, cover sheet with all relevant information on the left.

So that’s my system. Sorting already existing study material can take a while, but it will make your life easier, in the long run.

What do you think?


24 thoughts on “How to organize your college binder”

    1. To be fair, this only grew out of necessity now I’m doing my M.A. by distance learning. During my B,A. I just threw everything in together and it worked, but back then I had actual lectures. 🙂 Thank you for retweeting as well!!


  1. I really like this! I’ve been looking to create a binder for so long but had no idea where to start. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Great ideas! My oldest is a senior in HS and has part of Aspergers, so organization doesn’t come easily to him. I’m planning for us to find a way for him to get comfortable with organization that works this year before he goes to college next year. We will definitely be trying some of your ideas that work for HS. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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