5 Tips for Keeping a Journal in College

By Zan Parker on August 30, 2012


Photo by Julie Gibbons from flikr.com


Keeping a journal can make all the difference in a college experience. The practice allows you to record memories, work through the pros and cons of important decisions, and process emotions while still keeping them private. Here are a few tips you can use to capitalize on this art of self-expression.

1.       Make your journal fit you.

Do you like straight, neat lines and structure, or freedom to expand with no lines at all? Do you want inspirational quotes or wide open margins?  Bookstores offer a wide selection, even books with blank covers you can decorate yourself. Or you could join the current trend and start a blog. Remember, journals are like shoes- if they don’t fit you, you won’t get very far in them.


2.       Find original ways to express your thoughts.

Things will get old fast if all you ever write is a list of things you did that day. Think in terms of a collage and include poetry, pictures, quotes from your favorite books, letters you write but never send, lyrics, bucket lists, Facebook conversations you find funny or meaningful, e-mails announcing important events, etc. Anything goes that will fit on a page.

3.       Get over the ‘every day’ mentality.

Like a diet, if you are constantly berating yourself for forgetting to write, it will make you want to write even less.  Don’t go on a guilt trip if you don’t feel like writing. Something  you want to record will come along soon, and you’ll be back in the game.

 4.       5 senses exercise

If you’ve had a day you really want to capture but you’re stumped on how to describe it, try the five senses exercise. Write five headings in your journal, one for each sense. Then list things you’ve seen, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt that day. This is especially useful if you are studying abroad and want to remember the new atmosphere around you. While in France I recorded the taste of my duck stew, the way the air smelled in the Pyrenees Mountains, the beautiful color of a tablecloth, and the squeaky noise of the water pipes in my room. These were things I normally wouldn’t consider significant, but now when I read that journal I am transported back to Europe.

5.       Time travel

Once you have kept a journal for a while, it’s fun to go back to old entries and see how you were thinking and feeling at different points in your life. I like to play the year ago game, where I find the closest entry to today’s date a year ago and read what I was doing. Going back allows you to reflect on the path your life has taken and see patterns in the way you react to situations. With enough time, journal keeping becomes an organized system for your own inner growth.


Uloop Writer
I love God, theatre, nature, and language.

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