The Ultimate Guide to Taking Notes in College & Everything You Need

Taking notes in college is much different than high school. With fast-paced lectures and five plus classes to balance, the ultimate guide to taking notes in college will help structure your notebook.

My freshman year of college, I quickly learned that attending a university is much different than high school. The fast pace of classes and the necessary study time quickly overwhelmed me. But instead of resorting to my own studying and note-taking habits, I had to adapt to the college pace. And I'll tell you how! 

Finding a structure, organizing your school supplies, and turning this all into a pattern will transform your process of taking notes in college. Learning to take the right notes was one of the things I wish I knew before college.

From switching to handwritten notes to simply breaking out a handy highlighter, there are plenty of tips to consider when reconstructing your notetaking method.  If you want to know how to survive your first year of college, you need to take good notes. So starting from the basics, I have laid out 10 of the best ways to transform your learning process. 

Handwrite your notes in class.

Researchers have found that handwritten notes are more beneficial for learning than digital note-taking. Handwritten notes engage your mind more, resulting in a better chance of retaining the information. 

Though typing might seem more efficient because of the speed, this will only result in students writing down verbatim what the professor says. This will not only restrict the student from comprehending the information, but will result in unnecessarily lengthy notes. I also have to mention the fact that laptops and tablets can be distracting, compared to handwritten notes that will have student concentrated on the page throughout class. 

Make your notes as visual as possible.

Many of us are visual learners. And when it comes to college courses, there isn't enough opportunity to learn this way, even if most of the class could benefit. Take matters into your own hands, and make your notes as visual as possible. This can range depending on your preferences and how you best learn. Taking notes in college can be easy once you find the format that best works for your needs. 

I suggest using charts, diagrams, and a structured outline throughout your notes. This way, you will be able to look at the page and immediately understand the content based on titles, highlighted points, and structure. When your notes are neat and easy to study, your learning process will transform. 

Highlight the key points.

Taking visual learning one step further, color coding really works! As a great way to separate topics, highlight important information, and find coherence in your notes, highlighters are your friends. 

You don't need to go overboard; highlighters aren't meant to take over your whole page. But if you dedicate just the key points to be highlighted, the whole page will come together. This will also make rewriting your notes easy, pinpointing the most important information. 

Use bullets, dashes, and arrows, or any form of the outlining method.

An outlining method for taking notes in college is a great way to go. Providing yourself with a structure is the perfect way to remain organized, and when the time comes, study easier. 

The outlining method for notes is easy. You'll use three symbols: bullets, colons, and dashes. Begin your notes with a single bullet point, which will be the main topics. The first subtopic will begin slightly indented to the right with a dash, and any further details will be placed slightly to the right of this, using arrows, or a similar symbol in order to differentiate your details. 

Dedicate one section of your notebook for each class.

Using a five subject notebook will keep all of your notes in one space while still dedicating a single section to each class. Though handwritten notes are beneficial, they can easily become messy. 

But when you dedicate a section to each of your five classes, you will easily be able to keep track of all of your notes in one space, and never take the wrong notebook to class again. As a simple fix, simply assign these sections at the beginning of every semester, so things don't get confusing.

Rewrite your notes with only the most important information.

Rewriting your notes is crucial for studying. Though we can never guess exactly what will be on the test, you can make a good estimate based on the information that your professors stress. 

Instead of studying every bullet point on your page, narrow down the points that can be turned into a question. It's one of the ways to make your university experience better. Or if you're looking to form an essay out of your notes, rewriting them on your laptop can help you lay out the format of your paper. 

Rewriting your notes is also a very popular form of studying. By physically writing the information, you will be able to better retain the knowledge. Try writing them in a new way each time. This is done without copying your notes word for word, but rather putting the information into your own words. You'll retain the knowledge in no time. 

Stay organized.

Though this tip might not be specifically about taking notes in college, remaining organized in all aspects of your school work is crucial. If you have a place for each of your school supplies, your notetaking is sure to advance.

This also goes for organizing your workspace, your backpack, and your pencil case. Keep all of the tools you might need in your pencil case, from highlighters to pens and pencils to sharpeners and glue sticks. Plus, you never know when you might need a ruler or pair of scissors. Always be prepared!

Write down potential test questions.

While taking notes, further take advantage of your time in class by writing down some potential test questions. After class, you might not remember the most-stressed parts of your lecture. Your teachers will typically focus on the important questions during lecture. So just jot them down! 

This is a simple step, but your note taking will be taken to a new level. When you go back to your notes to study, you will already have questions to practice answering. 

Always keep your laptop, books, and notebooks handy, even outside of class.

Finding a backpack that can keep you organized is crucial for not only succeeding in notetaking, but in college as a whole. Like I mentioned earlier, staying organized, from your pencil case to your notes' outline, will help you in every aspect of your courses. Juggling five classes, plus any extracurricular activities, sports, clubs, or socializing, being a student is overwhelming. 

So finding the best ways to organize this chaos will also organize your mind. This is why you need a backpack that easily holds your laptop, notebook, books, planner, pencil case, and whatever else you'll need throughout the day. 

This way you're always prepared for class, can decide to take a study break whenever you want, while still having a successful day. Beyle provides a backpack for students to easily transport all of their necessities, while also includes a charging outlet, organizing compartments for devices, and weather-proof durable fabric. 

Compare your notes with a classmate.

This only takes a second. If you feel like your notes aren't as strong as possible, compare with a friend! 

Even if this means leaning over to the desk next to yours before class starts, your classmates should be more than willing to hand their notebook over. As one of the best tips for taking notes in college, comparing your notes can be the difference between five wrong questions on a test, or more! 

Review your notes right away.

To complete this guide to taking notes in college, I have to mention the importance of studying right away. As one of the easiest things to blow off, why are we only motivated to study once we have a due date? Studying right away will eliminate cramming, will make you feel more confident once the test comes around, and will help you to study in bite-sized amounts. 

Once you begin this process, you will soon fall into a pattern of studying immediately. After this turns into a habit, your grades will benefit greatly. I suggest using notecards to study because it is one of the most authentic and universal methods. You can use notecards to study literally anywhere you go, and by narrowing down your most troublesome questions, you'll be able to ace the test with ease. 

Now Reading
The Ultimate Guide to Taking Notes in College & Everything You Need
Read Next
Do We Need College Right Away?