Students speak on the latest study craze

Photo by Izzy Burgess ’19  Ashley Cavanagh ’19’s bullet journal for the month of October.

Photo by Izzy Burgess ’19

Ashley Cavanagh ’19’s bullet journal for the month of October.


It’s no secret that midterms are a stressful time for college students. According to the American Psychological Association, 61 percent of all college students seeking mental health services on campuses do so in order to treat anxiety.

One way some Mount Holyoke students have sought to remedy this issue in recent years is by joining an increasingly popular trend: bullet journaling. Created by Ryder Carroll, a New York designer, a bullet journal is an analog system that helps people organize their days and keep track of habits and goals. Bullet journals can also be creative outlets for their users; since they are basically self-designed planners, users can doodle and customize their journal’s layout, making the process of planning fun and therapeutic.

Bullet journaling first became popular on “studyblr,” a community of Tumblr users who share study tips and discuss ways to succeed in high school and college. From there, the trend exploded across the internet.

On Reddit, the most popular bullet journaling forum has over 90,000 subscribers. Type the term into Facebook and a plethora of groups will appear: “Bullet Journaling Witches,” “Inappropriate Bullet Journaling Inspiration” and “Bullet Journaling Mental Health and Mindfulness” are just a few examples. Celebrity bullet journalers on Instagram and YouTube gain cult followings as they show off their spreads for the month and give tips to novices.

A typical bullet journal contains hand-drawn calendars for each month, often with a theme and personalized spreads for each week. Journalers track their habits, set goals and create personal reminders: some might mark down their mood each day, for example, or track their sleeping patterns.

A student waist-deep in the trenches of midterms might be skeptical that a colorful notebook could fix chronic disorganization, yet Maeve Freese ’22 said that she took it up after seeing its effects in action. “My friend went from consistently handing assignments in late to becoming a very solid and punctual student,” she said. “I knew I had to try it out.”

Now a devoted bullet journaler, Freese said, “allowing myself to sit and map out my work helps me feel in control of my time. It keeps me on top of my work and releases stress.”

Freese isn’t alone. Taylor Hall ’22 said, “bullet journaling keeps me organized. It is also a stress reliever because it gives me room to be creative. I use it as a planner and also to track certain things, like my classes and habits. It definitely helped me get through midterms this year,” she said.

Hall said that she enjoys the creative component of bullet journaling, since the system is meant to be customized to the individual user.

To start a bullet journal, the only necessity is a dedicated notebook. Madeleine Clement ’22 said, “I enjoy having a special journal separate from my other notebooks. It makes the whole experience feel more therapeutic.” Many Mount Holyoke students who keep bullet journals recommend using colorful pens because they can add to the creativity and break the monotony of the blue and black ink that often presides over school work. Bullet journaling is a commitment, but for bullet journal users, it is worth it to maintain some semblance of sanity in the face of mounting school work.

“It’s something that works for me always,” Clement said. “When I’m on track and feeling good I’m able to document progress, but even when things get out of control it’s my way of getting my life back together and re-evaluating my priorities.”