If there is anything you quickly learn when you start college, it's that it is not like high school. Lecture-style classes and 50-page readings can be seriously intimidating, but with the right preparation and knowing how to take notes in college, you will be able to face your classes with ease — not to mention you will impress your college professor by actually retaining the things she said.
If you are stumped by your econ problem set or gender studies reading, it's easy to get frustrated. But as long as you approach your work with a clear mind and a positive attitude, you can't stay down for long. An important thing to keep in mind when you first start college is that this is a growing period. No one expects you to be perfect, and no one expects you to adjust in a second to a different kind of workload and different styles of classes. Sometimes you have to take it slow — and you'll learn so much more that way, anyway.
Print out that intimidating reading, and head off to the library. And then, pay attention in class with a pen in hand, and maybe a coffee by your side. You might just learn a few things with these note-taking tips.
1. Write Things Out By Hand
Your laptop makes your notes look super legible, and most people type quicker than they write. However, studies have repeatedly shown that students retain more when they write out their notes by hand. Typing allows you to virtually transcribe what your professors are saying, but jotting things down forces you to really listen, and filter out things that aren't as important.
2. Chew Gum
In high school, you most likely got in serious trouble for chewing gum. But college professors are generally cool with it, so long as you aren't blowing massive bubbles. Studies show that chewing gum while you're studying and then chewing the same flavor while you take an exam helps you to remember what you studied. So, chewing gum in a lecture could help you absorb more for your finals.
3. If You Do Prefer To Use A Computer, Have The Right Tools
There are many apps that college students should have —including some great note-taking ones like Evernote, which helps you to organize your notes by class and subject. You can even sync them between your laptop and phone, so you always have your notes on hand. You know, in case you need something to look at while you're in line getting coffee.
4. Bring Highlighters To Class
Highlighting your reading assignments before you get to class is always a good idea, but having them on hand during lecture can be handy too. Use them to mark extremely important passages, topics, and concepts that your professor stresses so that those points don't blend in with the rest of your copious notes. They'll likely be on an exam, after all.
5. Rewrite Your Notes
No one expects your class notes to be perfect. They will likely be a little messy, and maybe have a few doodles on the side. Before a big exam, rewrite your most important notes, adding in anything new you learned, or anything that you forgot to write down in lecture. Doing so with a classmate ensures that you have all the material you need at hand in a neat format that's easy to read and reread.
6. Think About What Matters
Most college classes are concerned more about big, important concepts than minute facts. In fact, most professors share information that may not even be directly related to what you need to know, simply because they find it interesting and it enriches your general education. Pay attention to what really matters, and don't write down everything word-for-word. When it comes time to study those notes, you'll be thankful for your selectivity.