One of the biggest things I learned my first year of University is that taking notes and organizing them is an art form. Or a science. Whichever you think is more important.
Seriously though. It doesn’t matter how many classes you show up to, or how thoroughly you read the textbooks or the assigned articles. If by the end of the semester when finals come around you don’t have all of your notes, and can’t make sense of them, good luck. With that having been said, I have my summer winding down, so I put together a list of things to keep in mind when taking my notes, and thought I would share it with you!
- Handwrite, when possible.
I know how much people love typing, and keeping their notes all organized on their shiny macbook, or in Google Docs, but writing out notes by hand works better for a lot of people. As long as you can keep up with the prof, take notes by hand! You can format your notes freehand, and it’s often easier to remember things when you write them down instead of typing.
- Re-write your notes ASAP (+ Reviews)
This is probably the most important tip for actually staying on top of everything. As soon as you have the chance, take your notes from in class, and then redo them. After you’ve sat through the entire lecture, you’re more likely to know what’s important and what you can leave out. When I redo my notes, I can always keep them way more organized. My writing when I’m not rushed is so much neater, and this step also helps to lock in the information you just heard.
- Notebooks or Loose leaf. Pick one.
When I was in highschool, not a soul used a clipboard. Then I got to university and was surrounded by them. First semester, I made the huge mistake of switching back and forth between my notebooks and my clipboard and loose leaf paper. by the end of the semester I had lost half of my notes, and absolutely nothing was organized. It was a mess. Both are pretty much the same, with a few pros and cons each, but pick one and stick to it!
- Binder clips will save your life.
If you do chose loose leaf paper, invest in a pack of small binder clips. That way you can carry your notes without a huge binder, and dividers. Even if you use folders, binder clips can further organize your notes. What I like to do is carry different subjects in their own folders, and within each folder have administrative papers, in class notes, copied notes, and textbook notes all separated with binder clips.
- Stick to 3 Colours.
As much as I love my Staedtler fine liners for organizing my agenda, they are absolutely no good for taking notes. When I’m in class I like to have three pens with me. A red, a black, and a blue. Any more colours and it becomes overwhelming and messy. By sticking to 3 colours, my notes stay organized, but colourful enough to see at a glance.
- Highlighters have their time and place.
I love highlighters as much as the next girl, but they have a time and a place. I made the mistake of going highlighter crazy, and it bit me in the butt. For textbooks, only highlight the really important stuff. Seriously. You don’t want to have a whole page highlighted because you thought it was important! Put a star next to it, underline it, but keep the highlighting for the things you want burned into your brain!
And when it comes to notes, I like to save the highlighters for studying for finals. By then you have all the information, so you know what’s important and what’s not. And by then you’ll also know what you find hard to remember or understand, and highlighting can ensure that you pay attention to it!