If you’re getting ready to go back to school, or are just starting college for your first semester, now is the time to get organized. Between shopping for books or other required resources, planning your days around your class schedule, and juggling a variety of assignments, the sooner you can get your ‘ducks in a row,’ the easier the transition to school life will be. That might sound daunting with everything else you’re preparing to accomplish this year, but Evernote makes student organization easier, quicker, and even fun.
Note: Some of the features below require an Evernote Personal, Professional, or Teams subscription. Eligible Evernote students can get Evernote Personal for 50% off »
1. Find the note-taking method that works for you
Different types of note-taking systems exist because there are different ways of thinking. It’s all about finding the note-taking method that works for you. Start by researching the various note-taking methods out there and pick the one that appeals to you.
For example, some people thrive on organizing their notes into detailed tables with a lot of structure up front, while others prefer to jot down thoughts in an unstructured way, or a list of bullet points, perhaps synthesizing them into a more comprehensive form later.
There’s no wrong way to do it, as long as the notes make sense to you and it’s a method you can reasonably stick with. The most important thing to remember is to keep your notes consistent and format your notes the same way across all your classes, regardless of the method you use. Remember: You want your new note-taking method to become a habit that will set you up for success in class!
At the end of the day, if your notes help you remember the necessary information, and it’s easy for you to find it when you need it, you’re on the right track.
No matter how you like to format your notes, make them easier to find by adding the class name, date, and topic at the top of each one.
2. Use templates to save time
If you don’t want to use up valuable lecture or study time fiddling with the formatting of your notes, using a ready-made template can get you started faster. These templates are convenient starting points that you can modify for your own individual projects, allowing you to get a jump-start on organization. We’ve assembled some note-taking templates, professionally designed for students, to get you started.
You can also find these templates when you open a new note within Evernote. Whenever you need to start a new class note, just create a new note, and click the “Open Gallery” option under Suggested Templates. Then, you’re ready to begin!
For example, the Cornell Notes template is a particular favorite among many Evernote students, as it speeds up the note-taking process while organizing it into a structure that’s easier to understand later.
In many cases, you might find these templates helpful outside of class, too. If you find yourself relying on the Eisenhower Matrix Template to prioritize your projects or to-dos, there’s no reason why you couldn’t continue to use that for your internships or part-time jobs. After all, a diverse range of professionals use Evernote at every stage of their careers, so building those healthy organizational habits can carry over to your career after you graduate.
Power tip: Once you’ve modified a template to match your own way of thinking (or if you’ve created a note from scratch you want to reuse), you can easily save it to the template library. Then whenever you want to use it, click the “Open Gallery” template option in the blank note, navigate to the “My Templates” tab in the gallery, and it’s there and ready to go.
3. Organize beyond your classes
Explore beyond the school and note-taking templates. Self-care-oriented templates like the Daily Mental Health Journal and the Personal Stress Log can go a long way towards making even the most hectic semesters manageable, while the Save Money template can help the wallets of any student on a tight budget.
If you’re hoping to get a handle on your day-to-day but don’t know where to start, a simple daily schedule can make all the difference. Organize your classes, extracurriculars, study sessions, and your work shifts in one common place. Evernote has a whole collection of templates that can help you balance your busy schedule.
4. Digitize your note taking
Some people prefer to take notes by hand, feeling that it makes their note-taking process faster, more intuitive, and easier to remember in the long run. Maybe you have a lot of paper handouts to deal with or an old-fashioned professor who still prefers to write class lectures on a board rather than share out a slide deck. With Evernote on your phone, you can snap a photo of that handwritten information, so it lives alongside the rest of your notes.
Here’s how it works:
- Open Evernote on your phone
- Tap the “+” icon
- Select the camera icon and point your camera at whatever you want to save
- Evernote will auto-detect your paper and scan it to any notebook you want
Evernote recognizes text in those images, even handwriting, so you’ll save lots of time when you study your notes later. Just search like you would for any other piece of text, and Evernote will find the note and highlight the text for you.
Power tip: As soon as you see the whiteboard start to fill up, snap a picture of it into Evernote – before it gets erased (as long as you don’t creep up behind your professor, of course)! You can keep adding pictures to the same note, building up your store of knowledge from the class, and making sure you don’t miss valuable context.
5. Clip articles and videos from the web
Over the course of the school year, you’ll undoubtedly need to do two things to be successful in all your classes: find source material on the web, and cite that research in your annotated bibliographies. Evernote for students can help with that, too.
Add Evernote’s Web Clipper extension to your favorite browser, and save all kinds of useful articles or web pages directly to your class notebooks. You can choose to clip a full article, or you can use “clip selection,” which lets you clip and save a specific selection of text from a page. The web page URL is also saved for easy access when you have to cite the article in your paper. Plus, Web Clipper allows you to capture and annotate a screenshot of a page, allowing you to take the most thorough notes possible.
Say you’re taking a journalism class. You’re probably going to be required to read countless articles from various news sites, magazines, and other outlets to learn best practices and keep up with current events. But news-related URLs often change, making it hard to find them later. Rather than running the risk of “dead links,” simply clip them into Evernote instead and keep them accessible forever with the rest of your notes. You may be surprised by how much time, and how many potential headaches, that saves you!
Power tip: With Web Clipper, you can even clip YouTube videos. Links display as embedded videos, so you can play them from right inside your notes. That’ll come in handy if your professor posts any lectures on their YouTube channel, or if you find any other videos that relate to your studies.
6. Prioritize what matters with tasks
Tasks are among the most powerful tools in Evernote. Not only do they help you keep tabs on what to-dos need to be completed and when, but they’re designed to live seamlessly with your other Evernote content, including lists, notes, documents, and of course, your calendar.
Because Tasks live inside your notes, all the information you’ve collected to take action on is right there beside them. You don’t have to switch between your notes and your task manager or waste time trying to find things. Keeping tasks within related notes also helps you stay focused since you see exactly the tasks and notes relevant to whatever you’re working on at any moment. There are robust options for filling them in with a wide variety of helpful details to keep you productive.
One great strategy for maintaining forward momentum throughout your studies is to break every project down into bite-sized pieces. Not only does that make it easier to know what to do next, but the feeling of crossing one item off your to-do list after another keeps you motivated.
7. Integrate audio recordings
Do you learn best from hearing information spoken aloud? Evernote makes it easy to record audio that lives in your notes as well. That way, you can always replay your professors’ lectures and refer back to them in your notes when you get back to the library or your dorm room.
8. Keep emails with your notes
Did you know that your Evernote account comes with its own email address? Forwarding important emails into your Evernote makes it easier to keep your thoughts and conversations about a class or project in one place.
Find your Evernote email in your account settings, and then save it as a contact. Now, when you get an email that you want to save (such as reminders about tuition payments or messages from your teachers), just forward it to the notebook of your choice. You can even set a reminder, so Evernote will let you know when it’s time to follow up.
Power tip: Let’s say you’ve been struggling to wrap your head around some concepts in a philosophy class, so you’ve opened an extensive dialogue with your professor via email. Before you know it, your digital back-and-forth with her about the existentialist themes in French philosophy is over a dozen emails long. Rather than leaving them buried in your student inbox, you can forward them to your Evernote account so that your professor’s insight and advice live with the rest of your Philosophy 101 notes.
9. Make searching a breeze
Some people prefer to organize their notes like a virtual file cabinet. You might have one notebook per class, or perhaps you have a notebook stack, which you can think of as a digital binder. But if that feels overwhelming, or if you just want to “brain dump” information, tags are your best friend.
Like hashtags in social media, tags in Evernote let you find related notes regardless of what notebooks they’re in. We suggest using two tags for a particular class note: one for the class the note is associated with, and the other for the note’s subject matter. If even that feels like too much, just rely on search. Since all your class notes are in one place, you can use any computer or device and find what you need.
That way, if you’re taking an astronomy class, there’s no need to feel overwhelmed by all the new information you’re given about different planets, extraterrestrial phenomena, and mathematical formulas necessary to measure the distance between stars, moons, and the like as long as you use Evernote. If you create tags like “Saturn,” “Galaxy,” and “Telescope,” you’ll save yourself potential headaches down the line, easily finding all the notes on a particular topic with one quick search as you study for your next lab or exam.
10. Build healthy habits
For students on Evernote Personal, there are even more tools at your disposal. For all your repeating to-dos, recurring tasks make sure you never miss a beat, no matter how much you have on your plate. These recurring tasks might include registering for the next semester’s classes, cleaning your dorm room, doing laundry, or even calling your family at home (you know they miss you!). You can use preset options like “weekly” and “monthly,” or set your own custom intervals like “every six weeks.” Reminders will give you a gentle nudge every time a task is about to reach its due date. The more recurring tasks you set, the easier it is for them to become part of your regular daily habits.
Evernote also gives you access to handy mobile widgets on iOS and Android devices, which saves precious time and taps for busy students on the move. When you’re away from your laptop, just a few clicks on your phone or tablet’s home screen gives you a quick glance at your most important information, without even needing to open the Evernote app.
Power tip: Picking up textbooks, dorm supplies, or snacks? Use the Notes List widget to keep your shopping list handy. Need a quick refresher to see what’s on your plate? That’s what the Tasks widget is for. You can even use the Actions widget to save time searching for the info you need before opening the Evernote app.
Evernote students get more done
Evernote can’t take your classes for you, but it can reduce stress and show you how to be organized for school. Whatever you’re studying or however you choose to take notes, keeping consistent with your note-taking habits will help you stay organized.
Evernote offers a wide variety of tools to help you build organizational skills into your daily habit. So the next time you get an assignment, plan a party, or even set up a study meeting with a classmate, don’t hesitate to hop back on Evernote and quickly create a task. Future-you will thank you for the added peace of mind!
Evernote Personal is available to eligible college students at 50% off the regular price. It’s an affordable way to track, keep, and find everything you’ll need for college and beyond. Sign up now »
This article was originally published on August 17, 2017. Updated on August 3, 2022.