college · productivity

Taking Strong and Reliable Notes in College

The first step to success in college is taking good notes. I believe that good notes are the foundation for strong study habits and for performance in college. Here are some tips for taking strong notes.


Handwrite notes if you can. If it is possible for you to handwrite notes, go for it. Handwriting notes is a tactile learning experience that typing does not match, in my opinion. I find that handwriting my notes helps me retain information better than typing my notes does. There is something about putting a pen to a page that my brain just likes. Additionally, using a notebook and pen takes away the temptation of doing other things while taking notes on your computer. We’ve all been tempted by social media and texts while taking notes on a computer. Going the old fashioned way takes away that temptation.


Make clear headings and subheadings. If your professor uses slides, follow the headings and subheadings on your professor’s slides, and make those the headings and subheadings of your notes. If your professor does not use slides, they will usually flag importance in their lecture by their tone of voice, or even outline the lecture on the board. Headings and subheadings will become important when you have to study for your test.


Write your notes outline style. I like to take notes in an outline style. When there is a new subheadings or subpoint, I write it on the next line and indent, and I also use a different bullet point. Different bullet points will help you differentiate your headings and subheadings. When you take your notes, you can nest your subheadings under headings.


Summarize your notes with a short paragraph in your own words. This tip doesn’t really work for me, but it might work for others. Summarizing your notes with a short paragraph can help you synthesize the material of the day, and putting the concepts into your own words can help you absorb the material better.


Color code your notes in a simple and functional way. Now, don’t color code your notes to the point where all the colors hinder your studying. I keep my color coding very, very simple. I might make my headings a different color, or I’ll highlight key terms in a different color. Keep your color coding minimal so that your notes do not get crowded. If you highlight everything, nothing looks important.

Fill in gaps in your notes by coordinating with your classmates or reviewing your textbook. Your classmates can help you fill in any gaps you missed in your notes. If you missed a part of class because you zoned out or excused yourself to go elsewhere (it happens to everyone!) leave a blank space in your notes and fill it in by asking your classmates for help. You can also triple check by using your textbook.


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