This post is about the best, genius college note taking tips
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Taking notes in college can be really stressful. Note taking is essential for studying and fully understanding material, and some professors will even give points to students dependent on how well they take notes in class.
When I first started college, I took awful notes. They had no structure, they were all over the place, and they were essentially useless. After doing tons of research and a lot of trial and error, I finally came up with note-taking tips and tricks that are absolutely foolproof. Now, I am able to take structured, organized notes, that I can easily refer back to and study from.
College note-taking tips are essential for making sure that you get the most out of your college lectures. In this post, I tell you my most-important note-taking strategies to create notes that you can study off of, review, and easily navigate. These genius note-taking tips are vital for your college education!
Here are 20 super helpful tips for taking the best notes in your college classes.
Best College Note-Taking Tips
Open your lecture slides up to record at your own pace
I cannot believe I didn't think of this earlier in my college education. Most professors will post their lecture slides on the online learning service that you college uses. Rather than scramble to copy down a professors slide before they switch to the next one, you can just pull up the lecture slides on your laptop and copy them from there. By using this method, I actually listen to the professor more and I am able to understand concepts better. If there is a professor that I know lectures particularly fast, I will even copy down their slides in advance before class and just add to them during class according to what they say to supplement their slides.
Use your voice recording app on your phone
This is something that I do all. the. time! I can't tell you how many times I would accidentally skip over something the professor said or not hear them clearly - especially when they were saying something important. To help combat this, I will use the voice recording function on my phone and record the professors lectures. To make it even easier for myself, I use an app called Notability on my MacBook. This app allows me to record what the professor is saying as I type notes. If you have an iPad or MacBook, I highly recommend this app!
Explore using apps and programs such as Notability
As mentioned in the previous tip, using Notability or apps that are designed specifically to help students take more effective and organized notes are an absolute must! Trying to organize your notes on your laptop on your own can be more of a challenge than it is worth. Usually, these apps come at low or no cost, which makes them such a steal!
Complete your reading before-hand
I used to be a huge slacker on class readings. Getting behind on class readings is a great way to set yourself up for an insane cram session before your next exam. Making your class readings a priority helps you take better notes, and allows you to learn at the pace the professor planned - saving time in the long run, and saving you a lot of stress!
Develop a System
So many college students go into class with a notebook and no plan. I was one of these students. I just copied down what was on the lecture slides with no structure, and going back to review those notes was essentially useless.
An easy way to get around this is to research different note taking methods. I keep it simple and just do the "outline" method. This method works well on both paper and on my laptop, which is why I prefer to use it. However, research and pick the note-taking system that you think will work best for you.
Review your notes from the previous class session
Sit up front
One time, I had a professor that had us read a study about students who sat up front vs. students who did not. Essentially, the study found that students who sat up front had an entire letter grade higher than those who did not, on average. This was a pretty crazy statistic, but I have to say - I believe it. When I sit up front in a class I am much more attentive, and I am able to really grasp what the teacher is saying. For note-taking, this makes it much easier. You're able to hear the professor better, alongside all of the other benefits that come with sitting up front.
Even though you are in class, it's really easy to work on other things, scroll through social media, or answer texts and emails. Making it a priority to eliminate these distractions is crucial to efficient note taking. If your full attention is on the professor and what they are saying, you are able to keep up with their pace and record the concepts they are portraying.
Don't restrict your resources
After class, when I would review my notes and expand on any concepts, I would always catch myself referring to the same sources that were used in class. However, it's important to remember that your education is not just limited to the resources that your professor provides you. Watching Youtube videos on the concept or doing some online research can help immensely!
When you call on other academic resources to expand on the concepts you are learning in class, make sure that you check the sources of that resource and copy down anything useful alongside the notes you took in class.
Don't skip class
This one is simple enough - you have to be in class to actually take the notes! Plus, it's hard to review from your notes if you're missing lecture days. If you have to miss a day for a legitimate reason, make sure that you have the contact of someone in that class so you can get the notes from them.
Add clarity to your notes after class
After class, you should make a habit of reviewing your notes. This helps you save a lot of time when you have an exam coming up, since you've been reviewing your notes every day. During this review period, it's a great time to clarify any terms or concepts that may have confused you during your initial note taking. Make sure that when you read your notes, you are able to review everything that may be on an exam.
Be sure to stay ahead or caught up
At the very least, you should be caught up to where the professor is on your notes. If you have the opportunity to, get ahead! It's especially easy to get ahead on online classes, and I highly recommend doing so. Getting ahead when I have the time has saved me so many times when something comes up!
Take pictures of your notes to back them up
When I heard of this trick, I was so shocked at how genius it is. After you take notes, take a picture of them and add them to a folder specific to that class on your phone. If something happens to your notebook, you have a backup that you can print off. When you're halfway through a college course and midterm exams are coming up, your notebook is essentially gold!
Color-code with highlighters
I use yellow, orange, and pink highlighters to color-code while I note take. I use the pink highlighter on my headings, orange highlighter on my subheadings, and yellow much more, to highlight key points or terms and their definitions.
Make sure to record any possible test or quiz questions
If you're lucky, your professor will state something and then say "that will be a question on your exam!" Make absolutely sure that this is in your notes!! In my experience, those concepts have in fact been on the exam, and I was so thankful that I had them in my notes to study. When I write one of these concepts or questions down, I will always make a note that it is an exam question, so I don't forget.
Consider reviewing and typing your handwritten notes after each class
In some classes, it will be easier and more convenient for you to take handwritten notes. When I have an especially hard course, I will take my handwritten notes and type them, but when I type them, I add all of the clarifying notes to them that I took down during my notes review process. If you are taking a course that you are struggling with, this is a fantastic way to study on a regular basis.
Look at your class syllabus so you know the topic of focus
In most class syllabuses, you'll be able to see what the topic of focus is for that specific lecture day or week. Taking note of this topic is really important for when you go back and review your notes before an exam.
Keep separate notebooks or notebook sections for each class
As self-explanatory as this one seems, I was surprised at how many college students don't keep separate notebooks or notebook sections for each class.
I personally use a 5-subject Five-Star notebook, and I just use a different section of that notebook for each class. I really like that this notebook has a folder that separates each section, so I can keep any handouts from class or printed class reading.
Focus on main points
Some professors are very structured with their lecture, while others just kind of get up at the front of the room and talk about the subject. When it's hard for you to follow along with the professor, just remember to write down their main points. This way, you're able to get the main focus of what the professor is trying to portray and then you can go back later to fill in the blanks under those main points.
Consider using flags to help organize
I am a huge user of not just sticky notes, but all of the other products that are similar to sticky notes. I really love organizing my notes using the sticky note flags - I usually will organize my notes by chapter or by lecture, to help me when I review before an exam.
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