The Collegiates Guide to Taking Notes.

Before college, I never really put great importance on taking notes in class. I did it to kill time and to doodle in the margins, but I really didn’t rely on it for my success. With the structure of the classes I am taking now that I’m in college, taking notes is crucial. I would be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of a learning curve with taking good notes.

I’ve tried a dozen methods by now and have a system that works for me and will hopefully work for you, too.

Wondering how you can take better notes in college? Look no further! Check out to read her tips. Pin now, read later!

Taking Notes in Class.

In class I really don’t stop writing unless I get a hand cramp. I don’t want to miss anything! I have two different note taking methods that I use depending on the class.

If The Professor Talks Fast/A lot.

Last semester I had a class that was super interesting, but I don’t know if the professor ever stopped to breathe. In that class it would have been impractical to take notes by hand – I can’t write nearly as fast as I type! When using a computer for class there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Turn the internet off! Don’t be tempted by social media! Focus in class – you are paying a lot to be there – don’t waste it.
  • Make sure your computer is fully charged. Having your computer die in the middle of class is the worst.
  • Utilize bullet points.
    • On many computers is control-shift-eight.
    • Use subpoints like I’m doing here!
  • Use bold and italics
    • Control-B and Control-I
    • Use bold for important informations, and italics to make connections. (Or find your own system that works for you!)
  • Copy the notes down by hand after class. This helps you remember and is so important!
  • Follow the steps listed for my notes by hand.

Taking notes by hand (preferable).

Taking notes by hand will help you remember the information more effectively and cuts the temptation of using the internet out. (Don’t you dare pull out your phone!)

The basics.

  • Find a writing utensil that works for you – I always use an ultra-fine tip black inked pen, but if you’re a perfectionist (and nothing wrong with that!) you may be better suited using a pencils.
    • Ditch the multi-color note system you used in high school – it might work but I promise you that there are far more effective systems that don’t have you digging through your pencil case every three minutes!
  • Be consistent with your notebooks – you might as well not be taking notes if you’re never going to see them again because they are lost in the bottom of your backpack!
  • Ditch the highlighter until review – it’s a lot easier to know what to highlight once you have a better grasp of the information.

Taking Notes. 

  • Label your notes clearly. Write what exam will feature them, what chapters correlate, and what the broad idea is.
  • Don’t feel tempted to use the entire width of the page to copy your notes down – you may find using small chunks of space is more effective in keeping yourself organized.
  • Use arrows to make connections, use side notes to do the same. By connecting ideas you will create a web of knowledge rather than having random facts floating in your head.
  • Underline/’bold’ main ideas. It makes it easier when you’re scanning the page to find what you need.
  • Don’t cram. I used to try to get as much as possible onto one page to save paper, but that just led to unorganized notes that didn’t help me study.
  • Don’t copy the slides down word for word. Try to put the ideas in your own words so it’s easier for you to remember, just don’t lose the idea of the slide!

Taking Notes from the Book.

By now you probably know that you don’t actually need to do the readings for all of your classes – but some you definitely do. And for those ones you should be taking notes on what you read to add with your other study material. Taking notes from the book is a little more tricky, but I’ll break down my system for you.

  • At the very beginning save room for the main idea of the chapter, and summarize there when you are done reading. It will help you later on when you’re looking for something specific.
  • Try using columns – writing in long rows makes studying dizzying!
  • Write down all vocab that you don’t know & the definitions. I always ‘bold’ vocab by writing over it a few times.
  • Leave blank space for adding extra information later – I find that my textbooks are surprisingly unorganized!

Reviewing your notes.

This is just as important as taking them in the first place! If you have an exam or quiz coming up then good notes are likely to make you or break you when it comes to studying.

  • Now is time to use the highlighter. I use two colors – yellow for things that I still don’t quite understand and will need to look into further, and pink for things that I am fairly certain will be on the exam.
  • Try recopying the things that are hard for you to remember. It helps you retain the information!
  • Now is the time to focus on making connections! Figure out how different facts/formulas relate to gain a greater understanding.
  • My favorite trick is to explain my notes to my (imaginary) friend. I look them over and then figure out how I would teach them to somebody who knew nothing about the subject and then I start explaining. I do so in my head if my roommate is around.
  • One huge review session is likely to be a lot less effective than a series of smaller ones. Don’t put it off until the last minute – that’s so stressful!

That is my rundown of how I take notes and what is effective for me! I’d love to hear your system in the comments below! And for those of you with finals coming up – good luck.

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Thanks for reading!