At the end of each semester we all face the same conundrum. We have piles and piles of notes, assignments, and tests. We all have our own approaches for dealing with this “intellectual clutter” of which there are a few options. First, hoard everything, each and every scrap of paper with scribbled, illegible notes on them (I do this). Second, hold onto things for a little bit before getting frustrated and throwing everything in the garbage (sometimes I do this). Third, go straight for the garbage, recycling bin, or fireplace (this fills me with terror and anxiety, what if I need to know if gneiss is a sedimentary, metamorphic or igneous rock?)
However, you may decide to deal with your “intellectual clutter” DO NOT burn it, throw it out or recycle it. I cannot stress this enough, DO NOT get rid of this stuff… at least not all of it.
If you need to throw something out go for the less essential stuff, notes from your liberal arts courses that you only took because you had to, not because you wanted to (unless you are particularly passionate about gneiss). Before you do throw this stuff away, take a moment to set your syllabi and term papers off to the side.
That package of papers is not just valuable on your first day of classes, providing you with a roadmap to that semesters studies, they also retain their value, increasing over time. Seriously, these are valuable resources that you are going to need if you intend to apply for grad school.
These documents provide you with a clear and concise summary of the skills and knowledge that you acquire throughout your degree, so when you are franticly trying to create a CV for your grad school applications three days before the application deadline, you don’t have to wrack your brain to come up with professional ways to say “I know things about rocks, or culture, or numbers”.
You receive hard copies of all syllabi in class, and some professors also post digital copies on Moodle. If you despise physical clutter and you have only received a hard copy if you ask nicely most professors will be happy to supply you with a digital copy. Or you can use the handy (FREE) app Office Lens featured in last week’s Study Tips (I love this app and have been scanning everything I possibly can, fridge magnets included). So keep those syllabi in some format, and I can assure you, you will be glad you did.
Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 107, Issue 19, January 24, 2017.