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Paperwork Overload: What to Keep, What to Toss

Published on August 26, 2016 by Staff Writer

Unless you have spent time in the business world prior to entering college, you have probably never been exposed to the enormous amounts of paperwork that will come your way after you have enrolled in college. From financial aid information to course notes, you may be tempted to do one of two things: keep it all or throw it all away. Both of these are horrible ideas. You need to spend some time and make educated decisions about what to keep and what to toss. Here are some strategies to help you make sense of the paperwork overload:

1. If it has to do with financial aid or tuition payments, keep it.

A good rule of thumb is that anything that you may need at a later date to settle your tuition account, file your taxes, or track your financial aid, you should keep. Feel free to discard duplicate copies, but because many tuition bills and award notices look virtually identical from quarter to quarter, make sure you read them closely before tossing them out.

2. If it is a general mailer, throw it out.

If it is a general letter that is not addressed to you by name, it is likely okay to throw it out. Privacy notices and other borrowing notices are required by law to be sent out, but they have standard language. If push came to shove, you could probably find one online or request another copy.

3. If you will use it in your professional career, keep it.

When you are in college, you are learning such a large volume of valuable information, there is a temptation to save every bit of it. However, this is not necessary. By the time you get to the end of a course and take the exam, you will have committed the majority of the information presented during the course to memory. Unless you have an exceptional outline or piece of information that you feel will be valuable for you when you take a professional certification exam, or you believe will help you with another class in your program, or that you may use in your professional career, it is ok to toss it. If you accidentally toss something and decide later you need it, you can always ask the professor for another copy or ask a friend who is hoarding everything for a copy.

4. If it is a syllabus or course description/catalog, keep it.

While these items may seem like they would do you little good once you have completed a course, they can be extremely important if you decide to continue your education at a later date. Before another institution will determine the value of certain courses for purposes of transfer credit, they will sometimes ask for specific information regarding the topics covered in the course. If you have the syllabus and course description readily available, you can save yourself time because you won’t have to track this information down after the fact.

Throwing out paperwork that you are attached to can be difficult. Whatever you decide to keep, no matter how much or how little, it is a good idea to scan it and create digital copies. This will protect the information and ensure that you have it readily available in the future.

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