Calendars and appointments may seem like a necessary evil you'll deal with after graduation, but getting started with Google Calendar in university can make your day-to-day life seem much less frantic and random. Here's a primer on getting started with free tools.
We're no strangers to GoogleCalendarhereatHackCollege, but we're also strong believers in making the best web applications that much better. Google Labs does its part to create, develop and enhance features available for Google Calendar, but Google Calendar can work well for students without added features or enhancements
How, you ask? By maintaining multiple calendars for your multifaceted school life.
If you use Google Calendar online, you've got nothing to worry about. Everything will be normal. If you use a desktop calendar application, you can either individually sync each calendar or bundle them all into one link, as Kelly describes here.
I'm not talking about adding in your sports team's schedule (though that can certainly be involved), but I'm talking about making different calendars for areas of your life — specifically that for your school life and commitments, your entertainment choices, your work life, your Facebook events, your roommates and friends' events, and your personal life.
Here's how it looks:
Unless you stay up late on Friday night studying for Tuesday's exam, school isn't your entire life. But it is one of the most significant aspects. For me, I use my "School" calendar for everything school-related, be it a class, extracurricular school-related activity or a sporting event. Of course, every single Gator football and basketball game (even away games!) are marked on my school calendar. My fellow editor at HackCollege, Emily Chapman, uses a similar implementation, but she creates a calendar for each individual class. This allows her to place due dates, assignments, projects and meetings for that class in its own individual space. The general "School" calendar works for me right now, but if classes get intensive, I might give Emily's implementation a try.
Before you make fun of my choices in entertainment, yeah, I made a "TV/Radio" calendar. In the age of DVR and YouTube, time-shifting is ideal, but for many students, a DVR is an unnecessary luxury - mainly because our families back home weren't willing to part with theirs. My dorm provides basic pay TV, and a Slingbox was too expensive to fit the dorm room checklist. Unlike movies, podcasts or video games, TV (and radio) both rely on scheduled programming. I use this calendar chiefly to judge what is and was on TV so I can keep track of what to watch and when. I also keep it as a separate calendar, so it could be easily hidden in case something more important comes up - like meeting with a group for a class project or that party with the cute girl.
Facebook Events and Birthdays (via FbCal)
Thanks to the tool of FbCal (previously on Lifehacker here and on HackCollege here), Facebook events and birthdays can be easily synced to your Google calendar. This obviously requires a Facebook account, which most (if not all) students possess in some shape or form, and makes your life a lot easier. I've noticed that it would automatically add a good number of events — most school's organisations or clubs have a Facebook presence, and it can help remove some events from your School or Personal lists by adding them automatically here. The only issue is if an event is private - the time will show up as "busy". It might be worth it to add it to another one of your personal calendars with its proper name, where it's relevant.
You should realise that FbCal is static for birthdays — if you add a friend after adding FdCal Birthdays to your Google Calendar, their birthday won't be added unless you regenerate a new FdCal birthday feed. I suggest doing that every month or so to stay current.
Roommates and Friends
Alright, before you call me the world's creepiest student and the world's worst roommate, this is really useful to have. If I'm trying to plan something with friends or the roommates, it's nice to have their schedule. I made sure before I moved in that I got my roommates' schedule. Nothing screams awkward like a loud alarm clock waking up your entire room on the first day of school - especially if your roommates don't have a class till past noon. Use this calendar with discretion. I'm not walking around with my reporter's notebook asking friends and roommates what they're doing that evening, but only to help prevent conflicts in regards to my own calendar or schedule.
Currently, I've got these in two separate lists - one for "Roommates" and one for "Friends", but they can exist as one unified list unless either list gets incredibly cluttered.
This is my catch-all for Google Calendar. It's my default account and it's the place I'll put holidays, appointments and time spent with family and friends. Most users just limit themselves to this one account, but Google Calendar's functionality is extended with the creation of multiple calendars.