College. A new era, a new world, a sea change from your high school days. Suddenly you’re grappling with a ton of new responsibilities, attending a whole heap of classes, and navigating unfamiliar territory. Trying to juggle lectures, assignments, jobs, relationships, and other activities? It’s easy to get overwhelmed, and you are most definitely not alone.
Research shows that—in addition to accruing debt—managing time and spreading oneself too thin are the most common challenges facing college students today. How do you cope when there are only so many hours in a day? It’s time to level up your time management and organizational skill set.
The right strategies and tools can simplify your life significantly, enabling you to get super organized and stay on schedule. Being in control puts you in a position to excel in school and crush your coursework. Not sure where to start? We’re here to help.
Effectively capture information during lectures
Lectures—whether in-person or online—are key to academic success. Without them, the texts you read lack perspective, and you might find yourself struggling to weave all the concepts together. Even if you’re in class and focused, important information can be missed during lively discussions. While some instructors provide class notes, that’s a poor substitute for the lectures themselves. It can’t be avoided: effectively absorbing lectures is a must. Here are a few pointers:
- Read the material before class. Note questions or areas that require clarity. This way, you’ll be able to follow the professor’s lecture more clearly.
- Don’t try to write down everything. Instead, focus on the main points, key sub-topics, and keywords, noting any questions you may have.
- Lecturers usually give verbal cues to signal important ideas or concepts. They will cite specific points, make notes on a whiteboard, or begin a given passage by stressing its importance. Comments at the beginning and end of the lecture tend to be particularly important as well.
- Spend time as soon as possible after class reviewing your notes. It will make studying and homework a lot easier.
Power Tip: Use Evernote’s document scanner app feature to quickly capture information from a whiteboard, screen, or handwritten note, then search later for specific words in the images you’ve saved. You can also record and save discussions and lectures directly to Evernote, eliminating the need to jump back and forth between different apps. It simplifies the process considerably, letting you focus on the lecture rather than losing sleep over whether or not you’re getting everything down.
Implement a note-taking system for assigned reading
There are a number of formal note-taking systems that can help you capture key information, highlight vital points, and create strategies to aid your studies. Different methods lean on different techniques, and what works for one person might not work for another. Some of the more popular methods include:
- The Cornell Method, which divides the page into sections with emphasis on the “3R’s”: recitation, reflection, and review.
- The outlining method. Here, the notes are grouped into topics and subtopics.
- The mapping system. Also known as the mind-mapping method. Effective for students with strong visual associations.
- The sentence method. This entails writing down key sentences in a manner that makes sense to you.
Power Tip: Evernote has ready-made templates for general class notes, as well as the Cornell Notes system. No matter which method you use, try highlighting key points to underscore their importance, explore customized styles and layouts, and attach any important files to your notes to keep everything unified in one app.
Research like a pro
It’s not just about the lecture or the textbook. Research is a critical part of college coursework. It can also be a massive headache, as searching for very specific information and supplementary evidence can prove tedious and tiresome. Speed up the process considerably by formulating a general framework, homing in on a specific strategy and utilizing the right tools.
Follow these simple steps to guide your research journey:
- Identify a topic. Start broad but narrow it down. The more specific you can be, the better you can guide your search.
- Refine your topic and identify sub-topics. With your topic and sub-topics in mind, spend 15-30 minutes researching each one. Focus on areas that offer quality sources that will yield enough data to support your main thesis.
- Find key sources. Pick three to five of the most cited sources as your foundation. Choosing a few key sources lets you engage more deeply with each one, gives you a solid perspective, and helps keep you focused.
- Skim the sources and take notes. Read the key resources with an eye on absorbing the main points first, taking notes as you do so.
- Match research time with paper length. As a general rule, each page of a given paper should entail no more than 30-45 minutes of focused research.
- Cite sources. Every academic paper requires you to cite the sources of your information.
Power Tip: Make Evernote your go-to research buddy, using it to organize your information, clip and save online articles, capture documents and images, take audio notes, and even share what you have with peers. You can even add your own notes to PDFs and images.
Don’t let the many demands of college life get you down. Stay on top and on track with the right strategies, skills, and tool set. When your research and study time is productive and efficient, you’ll be primed and ready to ace all your courses.