How to Take Notes in a College Class

take notes in college

I’ve gotten a few requests on a post about how to take notes in college or just how I take notes in general. Learning how to take good notes is an important part of succeeding in college. Fun fact: I utilized these tips when I took notes in high school as well. Note taking in high school and college really isn’t much different (at least it wasn’t for me). If you’re a high school student, I urge to to begin using these tips now in order to prepare yourself for college! I didn’t really have a set way of taking notes until the end of my freshman year of college so I recommend playing around with some of these methods and figuring out what works best for you!

Hand write your notes.

This is important. Studies have shown that writing down your notes helps you remember the information much better. In addition, paraphrasing what you hear and putting it into your own words allows you to learn and retain the information much better!

college notes

Figure out an outline.

Some students can just write their notes on the page without much distinction between topics or slides. And that’s fine! But I can’t work that way. I’m always testing out different ways to organize and outline my notes so they’re super simple to read later. I will use bullet points, dashes, asterisks, and numbers in order to distinguish between topics. It’s totally up to you! I’m still constantly playing around with this but it would probably help to find a good method that stays consistent.

Use a method to make the important stuff stand out.

Typically, I’ll just use a different colored pen but there are other ways to make that important info stand out too such as bracketing around the important stuff, writing it in a different font, underlining it, or putting asterisks next to it. You can see what I mean in my notes on aphasia in the picture below!

aphasia notes

Don’t write everything on the slides.

Unless the slides won’t be available to look at later. If your professor posts the slides online or emails them to you, there’s no reason to copy down every single thing on them. Instead, listen to what your professor is actually saying and write THAT stuff down.

Write questions in the margins.

When you’re going over the material and you have a question, write it down right away. Even if you don’t end up asking the question or it’s answered later on in the lecture, it can be helpful to look back on the questions you had while hearing the material for the first time.

Draw any charts or graphs that are helpful.

Even if it’s in the slides, I sometimes like to draw my own charts or graphs in my notes and label them in a way that is more helpful for me. Especially if it’s a class that is heavy on graphs and charts, it’s important to know the differences and what you should be looking at in each one! You can see an example in my Audiology notes below.

audiology notes

Notes aren’t just for class time.

Take notes on the chapters you’re supposed to read, take notes in your notes when you’re looking over them after class! Writing things down is more helpful than you probably realize, and you’ll thank yourself for it when test time comes.

What advice do you have for students on how to take notes in college?

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  • Elly Leavitt

    omg yes! handwriting my notes always helped me for some weird reason… I swear it made me memorize them better xx

  • Nicole DaRosa

    Handwriting and outlining are my life savors!! Great post :)

  • Using different colored pens is so helpful! I like to use bright colors for important things, and pencil or black for the bulk of stuff, and when I go back and study I use highlighters!

    Caitlyn | http://www.collegewithcaitlyn.com

  • Even though I’m a faster typer than I am writer, I always go for handwritten notes. I do agree with studies that you retain the info better when it’s on pen and paper. After class, I like to take my handwritten notes and type them up as a way to review them. Repetition is the key I found to successful studying.
    -Kim :)
    http://www.simplybeingkim.wordpress.com

  • Lily

    Oh i love this! I’m in grad school myself and this was so helpful!

  • Great tips Kayla! having this foundation will be super helpful for work meetings too!

    Rachel | http://www.theconfusedmillennial.com

  • These would even be great tips for taking notes in a board meeting — particularly about finding a way to make the important stuff stick out!

  • You go girl! Always killin it in the organization category!

  • So handy! I wish I had this when I was in college!!

  • Great tips – I wish I had taken notes like this when I was in college. I liked typing on my computer!

    xoxo, Candice
    http://www.candicenikeia.com

  • As a senior in high school, I will definitely be saving this for next year! Thanks Kayla!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

  • These are great tips! All of my notes were handwritten in college. It always made things easier to remember. Anything I was confused about, I always wrote questions or just put question marks near it so I’d know to go back and reteach myself later.

  • Amy

    Hahah, is it bad that I’m reading this in class while I should be taking notes? Whoops. These are such great tips! I usually type my notes in class because I can’t write as fast to get everything I need down and then I usually go back later and re write my notes!

    xoxo

    Amy | Pastel N Pink

  • These are great tips, Kayla! I love re-drawing graphs and figures to help me understand the concepts they convey. I also like to rewrite my notes outside of class to make them pretty. Like you, I like to distinguish between the different sections in my notes; it makes them look more organized.
    -Aly (welcometoalysworld.com)

  • omotundesther✨

    Great tips! Will implement all of them!

  • These are awesome tips! Notes were key for me in college, and I definitely needs to write them (it stuck better for me!)
    xoxo

  • Oh good ol’ college days… I always typed out my notes on my laptop – so much faster and neater (which is so important for OCD-plagued people like me!).

  • Close Ann

    These are good tips… some I didn’t even think of! Read my tips at http://practicallyclose.com/2016/11/05/how-to-take-notes/

  • Kay

    I use to have the bad habit of writing notes as fast as I could have. A teacher once just looked at me and said, “put your pencil down.” I was confused at first. He eventually clarified his thoughts with me:

    Notes are best used for your processed thoughts about the information lectured. It’s not about writing what the teacher says. It’s about writing what the teacher means. That includes things like emphasis. The teacher makes it obvious when “this will be on the test” even if they don’t directly say it. By putting your pencil down you have the chance to listen and process.

    I love your blog Kayla!

    • Love this advice! Thank you so much for reading my blog Kay!