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Be an Overachiever: College Note-Taking Tips That Will Help You Succeed

There’s more than one way to take college notes. This could be both a good and bad thing. As a college student, it’s nice to have a few options as professors usually allow laptops and mobile devices for note-taking purposes. However, this means that it’s up to you to discover the method that you like best.

You’ll need to find a way to take notes that’s enjoyable for you and helps you learn the material. For example, just because you like to type on the laptop doesn’t mean that this is how you absorb the lessons best. The best college note-taking skills take time to develop. 

To develop these skills, it’s best to know a few note-taking tips that’ll help you succeed in your college career. It’s time to start acing all your courses. Continue reading below to check out several note-taking tips and to find a method that works best for you!

1. The Cornell Method 

The Cornell Method is based on how you create your paper’s layout. To create this layout, you’ll need to have one horizontal column at the top where you place the title and the date. Under this horizontal column, create two vertical columns. 

One column (on the left) should only take up about 30% of the page. The other column (on the right) should take up the other 70%. At the bottom of the page, create another horizontal column at the bottom of the page where you can title this, “Summary.” 

When taking your notes, use the smaller left column to make labels such as “Questions” or “Keywords.” Then, in the right column, you’ll write down all of the associated questions or terms. 

2. Using Charts

Charts are a great way to help you take notes and stay focused. This method works well when taking a lot of notes involving facts and statistics. When using a chart method to take notes, your paper will look like a spreadsheet. 

For example, the top of the spreadsheet can have columns titled, “Method,” “Examples,” “Description,” and more. Then, below these columns is where you’ll fill out all of the information. This method could work well when taking notes for math or science-related courses. 

3. Creating an Outline

The outline method is one of the more popular methods and is most likely what you were taught to use in high school. This method allows you to structure and organize your notes in a way that works best for you. Not everyone’s outline method is the same. 

When using this method, do what makes the most sense for you. Use bullet points, dashes, stars, and other symbols to mark important points and write their details below them. Be sure to use the same symbol for all main points and the same symbol for subpoints. 

This helps you keep things concise and organized. You’ll easily be able to read through your notes knowing what’s what.

4. Using Boxes

Some people are great visual learners. If this is you, then you might benefit greatly from using boxes to take notes. When using this method, you’ll create several boxes on one paper. 

Each box has a title and is dedicated to a specific section of your notes. Inside the boxes, you’ll jot down bullet points on key terms related to that boxes’ section. This makes reading through your notes quick and easy. 

It also helps you make connections between different topics. The best way to go about creating box notes is to start by taking notes down as you normally would. Then, go back over them and group your notes into their designated box. 

5. Focus on Key Points 

No matter what type of note-taking method you like best, always focus on the key points. These are the terms that you want to highlight. Be sure to stop yourself from going highlighter crazy and highlighting everything. 

Doing so defeats the purpose. You then want to jot down a few notes about these key points to help you remember why they’re so important. 

6. Write Questions as You Go

When listening to a lecture or taking notes as you read from your text, there’s a good chance that you’ll have a few questions. If you don’t have any questions, then you might need to go back over what you read. When questions do arise, take the time to write them down as you go. 

You can do this using the Cornell Method or simply on a sheet of paper labeled questions. When lecture is over or when you have the time to speak with your professor, ask him or her all of the questions that you have written down. Then, be sure to take notes on your professor’s answers as well. 

7. Take Notes by Hand

Although you might feel tempted to use your laptop or mobile device to take notes on, it might be best to avoid this altogether. Sure, it’s cool to have more options, especially ones that were never given in high school, but taking notes by hand is more productive. 

When typing your notes, you don’t process them as well as when you jot them down by hand on paper. You can always transfer them to your laptop afterward if desired. If you’re not sure if using your laptop to takes notes works well for you or not, do a test run.

Spend one note-taking session using your laptop and another writing them by hand. Then, see which notes and material you were able to remember best.

Boost Your College Note-Taking Skills Today!

If you’re new to college, then it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by everything around you. Note-taking shouldn’t be one of these things. Boost your college note-taking skills by following these simple tips above!

And when you’re done taking notes and using your textbook for the semester, be sure to click here to see how you can sell your textbooks!

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.