Taking good, informative notes can be the difference between scraping by and acing a class. Having all the information available to study from that were in each lecture / from the text books will help you truly understand the material and excel on exams in your classes. Which is why I am thrilled to share my advice on how to take notes in college!
I want to break this down into two categories: lecture notes and textbook notes.
Because there is a big difference between how to take notes during a lecture and how to take notes from a textbook. So make sure you know what tips will be the most helpful for you and when.
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If you’re interested on my tips and tricks for studying in college then I recommend reading: College Thriving Guide: How to Actually Study.
How To Take Notes in College
Guide to taking better notes for college classes:
Most people I knew in college had a strong preference towards either typing notes or hand writing. I am a strong believer in hand writing notes because it helps with memorization significantly more than typing. However, if typing is what you prefer then do what you gotta do!
Remember that being successful in college will vary from person to person. So if a certain style or type of note taking works better for you then do that.
Also, a side note to say is also to make sure to try and keep your shorthand and handwriting easy to read later. I have often found myself shortening and abbreviating notes while taking them and then struggling later to remember wha the abbreviation stood for! So be cautious of that when you are handwriting notes specifically but also while typing your college notes.
Now let’s talk about my most essential tips for handing writing notes in your college classes.
Tips for handwriting notes:
- Color code your notes. Pick 2-4 colored pens depending on what class it is and how many “categories” you will have. (Always keep your pens in your backpack and ready for use. I made a list of everything you need in your backpack that you should check out).
- Break down your notes into different categories as you are writing them. For example, if it is a math class your categories might be: formulas, example problems, and explanations. Then make sure to assign each category a color.
- *For a lot of classes you will end up with a misc. color and that’s totally normal and okay!*
- Put your phone away. Having it out will distract you and even reading a message for 2 minutes can get you so backed up when a professor talks fast. Avoid the risk of distraction and just put the phone away.
- Make your headers helpful. Use a new page for each lecture and label the top with the date. As the lecture progresses and the subject progresses use headers to identify any major changes in the subject material.
Now if you are someone who prefers typing your notes (remember there is no wrong or right way) let’s jump into these helpful tips for how to type notes in your college lectures.
Tips for Typing Notes:
- Use the Bold (control – B) , Italics (control – I), and Underline (control – U) features to emphasize important things. Try to stick to a general theme with using them, for example only use Italics for formulas.
- Don’t be afraid to use the space. To break things up you can hit enter a couple times to create visual divides in material. Use headers to label each section to make studying the notes after easier.
- Create separate documents for either each class session or each week. Having super long documents for the entire semester makes it hard to find what you are looking for during studying and it can be super overwhelming to look at.
As I mentioned earlier- writing notes while reading a textbook and studying is very different than when you are taking notes during a lecture. So let’s jump into the advice for taking notes out of a textbook!
- Use bullet points and lists to re-write the information but in a summarized manner that you understand better. Bullet point lists are easier to study from later on and easier to read.
- Keep space on each page for more information and clarification you might want to add later down the road. Don’t be afraid as you are reviewing notes to add little things on that help you understand better!
- Add a vocab page after each chapter. I found it very helpful for more technical definitions to copy down the textbooks definition for each vocab word and then re-write it in my own words. This helps to solidify your understanding of the vocab words.
Remember that taking notes is only half the battle. You need to study from them too.
I advise at the end of the school week reading over the notes you took in each class and the notes from the textbooks.
Make note of anything that you do not feel totally confident about and over the weekend make sure you spend time learning the concept and if you can’t then you know well before the exam that you may need to get additional help / use extra resources!
College note taking and studying can be overwhelming but take it one chapter at a time and remember to breathe! It will be worth the effort. I hope that these tips were helpful for you successfully taking notes in your college classes!
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Thank you so much! Currently I am in an AP class in high school, I have been starting to find ways to remember what I learn in class so that I can do well on the exam.
Glad to hear this was helpful! Best of luck with your AP classes!
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