Starting college can mean a pretty big lifestyle change. Students take on a much bigger workload than in high school, while keeping on top of class lectures and maintaining good study methods. Note-taking methods for college are more complicated since college students are expected to retain and make use of information on a much higher level. It takes hard work and discipline, but that’s the point: The ability to work smarter is one of the key skills every college can teach you. Developing good note-taking methods in your college years will benefit you down the road.
Decide: paper or digital?
Only you know the best way you can take and retain notes, though most people fall into one of two categories: those who take notes the traditional way, with a paper and pen, and those who do so digitally, with a laptop or a handheld device. There’s no right answer—it’s up to you. But either way, it’s good to establish which works best for you and incorporate that into your college note-taking methods early on. That may involve making adjustments for individual classes. For example, a physics class or an art class might have you making drawings or sketches, which might be easier with a pen and paper than with a laptop. A good sense of how you work, and how that might apply to specific classes and activities, can give you a strong foundation for helpful habits.
Power tip: Evernote’s document scanning feature lets you have the best of both worlds: Take notes by typing, or hand-write them and scan them into the app to save digitally. Regardless of your particular methods, you’ll have the tool to make the most of them.
Find the note-taking system for you
Human brains crave routine. But, of course, that routine will vary widely from person to person. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach to note-taking methods for college is bound to cause problems. Instead, look for specific note-taking systems that work for your unique studying method. Some examples of good note-taking methods you can consider include:
- The Mapping Method: This method involves creating a mindmap from one study point and visually elaborating this point into all the sub-points required. This method is a great way to visually track lectures and notes.
- The Charting Method: This method works well for memorizing chronological information. Set up your study sheet with headed columns and categories and complete it with the required information. This method eliminates unnecessary content allowing you to focus on the important facts.
- The Sentence Method: In this method, you write each new fact as a new sentence. This is more structured than trying to learn a full paragraph of information. It works well when trying to document vast amounts of information, quickly.
A number of formal systems exist and you can adopt one that fits your needs. You might also come up with an amalgamation of several, or even a unique method that works just for you. The important thing is that it lets you work according to your rhythms and you’re able to take effective notes with it. Once that’s in place, it’s simply a matter of practice.
Power tip: Evernote lets you tailor your screen view to whatever note-taking method works for you. Separate your notes into categories—by subject, field, professor, or class time, for example—and add to them easily. And with Evernote, you can bring your digital notes with you everywhere: across your phone, laptop, or other similar device.
Most people think of note-taking as a very dull and technical process; nothing could be further from the truth. The purpose of notes is to help you retain information, but they can be so much more than just doodles on paper or random word types on an app. Simple touches like different colored notes, highlighter marks, banners and the like can help you engage the material on your terms. By using organizers that make sense to you—coupled with a bit of flair to stand out or color-coding to trigger associations—you can find creative note-taking methods for college that you didn’t know existed.
Power tip: Evernote’s Class Notes Template and Project Overview Template are two of many tools designed to assist students daily and are a great starting point. You can then add your own personal touches to reflect your needs—and they’re great for work and personal purposes, too.
Are you a visual learner?
The term “visual learner” comes from a neuroscientific theory called dual coding, which states that the brain processes information through visual input as well as verbal input. If you’re a visual learner, that can have a huge impact on your note-taking methods for college. Using methods like sketchnoting (note-taking through sketches) over plain old text can help you process verbal and visual concepts together, improving your information retention and increasing your system’s efficiency. Getting the hang of sketchnoting might take some effort and work. But if you’re a visual learner, it might be the key to getting the most out of your notes.
Make your notes work for you
The whole point of honing good note-taking methods for college is to help you retain knowledge more efficiently, so you do better in your studies while finding more time to enjoy the other aspects of college. A note-taking app can be invaluable in streamlining college notes and preventing wasted time by helping you stay organized. Best of all, you can tailor it to suit your unique style, helping you not only take great notes now, but keep the habit of good note-taking going through college and beyond!