Notes in college are no joke. While you may think college lectures are “optional,” material on lectures will be introduced and taught in lectures. College students often depend on textbooks, but most semester-long college courses fail to cover the whole textbook during the semester. Textbooks are often loaded with material, and while nothing in a textbook is “unimportant,” be sure to pay attention to the syllabus and lecture to see what material is relevant to your course. It’s also critical that you take good notes, which will help you prepare for your exams.
Here are 8 tips that will help you master the art of good note-taking in college.
1. Add Headings and Titles
While this may remind you of middle school, adding heading and titles will keep your notes orderly and easy to find. While you may not need to put your name on top of every page of notes anymore now that you are in college, it will be helpful to date your notes or label your lectures so it’s easier for you to look for a specific topic. We all know the frustration of looking through your notes and not being able to find a topic, so try to avoid this frustration by labeling your notes. After the class is over, title the notes from that day so they will be so much easier to find.
2. Use Note-Taking Method That’s Best for You
From the Cornell Method to Outlining, there are so many ways to organize your notes. While some students prefer to follow lecture slides as an outline, some may take bulleted notes without any titles or subtitles, and some may simply copy the text from lecture slides. It is now your responsibility as a student to discover which note-taking method works best for you. There are many tools, such as Microsoft Word, and Microsoft OneNote, and Google Drive, that you can use to help take notes on your computer in an organized manner.
3. Be Prepared
Be sure to be prepared for classes and bring the proper utensils and tools to be successful. Be sure to have your notebooks, laptop, and writing utensils, and understand which medium is best for a class. For example, it may be more difficult to take notes on your laptop for organic chemistry and it may be easier to draw molecules by hand.
4. Be Thoughtful
As you take notes, think about what you are writing to help you understand and interpret the information you are receiving. Sometimes, we find ourselves writing and failing to actively listen to our instructors. Students should try their best to be thoughtful during the process of note-taking to become efficient learners.
5. Be Clear
Clear notes are the best notes. One of the most frustrating things about being a student is reading your notes and not being able to read what you wrote. Try to skip lines, use headings, and focus on writing neatly. This will save you time, as you won’t have to try to decipher hard-to-read writing, and also give you a sense of accomplishment.
6. Use Colors
Colors makes everything better. Color coding your notes, using highlighters, pens, and post-its, can make your notes fun to read and easier to interpret. Investing in colored pens, highlighters, post-its and other color coding tools can make your note-taking and reviewing process more enjoyable and appealing to the eye. Colors can help you remember information more easily, so don’t fail to try this method!
7. Remember the 3 R’s: Reviewing, Rewriting, Retyping
While this may seem obvious, reviewing notes after class will help you retain information. The Curve of Forgetting hypothesizes the decline of memory retention over time. According to the Curve, a day after you are exposed to the material, on average students lose about 50-80% of information learned. About a month after being exposed to course material, on average students only retain about 2-3% of the information. With about fifteen weeks in a semester and one or more lectures per week, the amount of information forgotten as a result of neglecting to review notes can become a burden when it comes time for midterms and finals, so be sure to review your notes within a reasonable amount of time.
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Some learn better from watching, some learn better from doing. Rewriting and retyping notes can help students learn their material with ease and make their notes more memorable. By rewriting and retyping notes, students actively engage with lecture notes. Writing and typing notes make you think about what you are writing, which improves muscle memory and will help move your class notes from short-term to long-term memory.
8. Ask Questions
As always, ask questions! If your course material ever becomes difficult, be sure to arrange a meeting or visit your professor’s office hours to clarify material. The more you ask, the more you learn!
College brings great opportunities, and is a transformative moment in one’s life. Be sure to succeed in the classroom and make the most of your education by taking great notes and reviewing your notes! There are so many note-taking techniques, but be sure to find the method that works best for you.
Vanessa Sewell is studying Economics and Communications at Boston College. She is from Bronx, NY. Vanessa has worked on topics related to lifestyle, fashion, culture, and education during her time at Boston College. During her free time, she can be found playing piano and guitar or jamming to Spotify.