How to Take Better Notes in College Classes

Hey everyone,

My giveaway will be kicking off tomorrow! I wanted to make sure I had amazing photos of the giveaway, and it has been rainy/gray for the past few days.

Without further ado, here's my guide on taking better notes in college classes:



1. Sit in the second or third row of a big lecture hall. For me, it's always easier to focus if the people around me are focused. The people who sit in the first few rows aren't going to be perfect, but they're less likely to text underneath their seat, watch a NCAA basketball game, or work on homework for another class. Your professor will also remember you much better as someone who came to class if you are in those first few rows. (Have you seen how far away the last row is from the front of the room?!) Plus, compared to the first row, you usually get a place to rest your feet and bag...winning!

2. Figure out what learning style works best for you. Here's a guide to the types before you go on.

-Audio: Ask your professor if you can record their lecture. Make sure to tell them that you will not distributing the lecture, only using it as a reference for the future. This way, you can focus on the professor's overall concept without trying to get all the details down. Ideal if you are slow at typing! So many of my friends swear by this.

-Visual: Take photos with your phone! There are tons of complicated systems out there, but just draw diagrams in a plain notebook, then take photos to digitize your tables/graphs/etc. Make sure to label everything, so you aren't left with a lot of ?? at the end of the semester.

-Kinesthetic: If you need to be "in it" to focus, you might want to try to do the problems covered in lecture beforehand. Once the professor goes over the material, you know where you went wrong/need help, and can ask it right then and there.

-Mix of all: Type everything relevant. Typing is one of the few things you can do that activates audio/visual/kinesthetic senses. Also, this is how I study! I try to type the professor's words but also write down the importance of each concept. If a professor says, "this will be on the test", I am the type to circle and star that whole section. I know, at the time, it seems like there is no way you could possibly forget. I also know that a ton of people will be asking at the end of the term: "I know Professor X made a big deal about Chapter 4. Is that really important and we should go over it on our own? Or not covered?"

3. Back everything up in Dropbox or Gmail. You've taken the best notes on Earth. Unfortunately, your hard drive, also carrying your 40 page thesis, has lost all your notes. My system would be to save everything in Dropbox, then email myself a copy in Gmail to print the notes out (more on that later). Really, back it up!

4. Print the notes out. Highlight, notate, go crazy. Now, make a 1-page sheet of all the information you would LOVE to take into the test. You don't actually take this 'cheat sheet' into the test...you won't even need it! Math professors love to use this method in college (allowing a 1 page cheat sheet), as it often gets people to re-write their most important notes 2-3x. I've tried it for a ton of subjects. I also love that I now have a super portable of my notes for a test, so it's easy to study in 10-20 minute chunks of time.

5. Check in with your notes and syllabus at least weekly. This is super important! As a college tutor, it was crazy to see how much difference this made in people's grades. If a class has very few deadlines, make sure to check in with your notes and syllabus. If you figure out you have an issue with Chapter 2.4, you can solve it right then and there. Not alongside Chapters 4.5, all of 6, and 7.6. Even if you have all the time to study for that exam, your teachers/TAs/tutors will not. It's crunch time! 2 hours of a tutor in October could be 8 hours of you in December figuring it out on your own (kind of).

So those are my best tips for taking notes in college! What do you do? Will you try these tips?