I just graduated from college last year in May. I was always good at keeping things in order in school, but came up with a really good "system" last year. I really wish I had pictures for my post, but unfortunately I don't.
I first chose some quality 1" binders, all in different colors. I chose colors that I also had the same color pens and highlighters for, so that I could color coordinate on my calendars. (I also ended up color coordinating Post-It notes after awhile.) I bought colorful tab dividers for the binders as well. Each class typically had the same tab names: class info, notes, handouts, assignments, resources.
I would use these "assigned" colors for each course to add assignments/test dates/etc. to my planner with corresponding colored pens. It was easier for me to relate colors with courses and than anything else. It became really easy when I had reading and math courses every year, because I would keep the same colors for those courses. I also used Google Calendar to add important test days or when big assignments were due, and set up email reminders so I wouldn't forget. You can color coordinate in Google Calendar as well.
In the "class info" section, I had this class overview form (below, download it for free) that I would copy the important information onto from the syllabus. Sometimes the syllabus is just too confusing and all over the place. This allowed me to have all of the important info up front, in one place. I also kept any documents (such as the syllabus and assignment list) that were important for the length of the course in this section.
I kept a copy of the my monthly calendar in this front section, too. I wrote out all important class dates on it so I could easily see what was due for this specific class on the exact date.
Yes, I was a bit overly obsessed with calendarizing everything several times, but I never once ever missed a thing. I really think I actually need to get back in the habit of doing these things.
I made sure my binders had front pockets on the inside so I could easily and safely stash papers that I'd received in class until I could get them home to hole punch them.
I had a specific spot designated for my school binders and books (on the bottom shelf of my bookshelf), so I always knew where they were.
I was always the one in class who knew when things were due, what was handed out when (because I also put a date on the top right hand corner of every single handout), and what was going on. I felt really nerdy at first, but then didn't care after a few weeks because I was on top of my game.
I enjoyed being organized for school because I liked my system. It was bright and colorful, so it made it something I wanted to keep up with.
And a tip for saving money on books: don't buy them from your school store unless they give you an amazing discount. The only time I ever bought books from my school's bookstore was when they were written by the professor I was taking the course from, so they weren't available elsewhere. Check Amazon and Half.com for books. That's where I bought all of my books during my 6 years in school. I also used my books carefully and never wrote in them or anything, that way I could resell them after the semester. I was able to get most of my money back each time, so it was worth it.
Not in college? Apply some of the tips by using different color binders to organize family members' information or household tasks (cleaning, bills, menu planning, etc. all in different colors). Then use corresponding pen/marker colors on calendars.
Do you have any college course organization tips to share?