Effective way to write notes in college

Tegan Hirman – Opinion Columnist

One common theme I have noticed here on campus is that not many of us know how to take notes “effectively”. In high school, I had a basic understanding of what it meant to keep notes. Bullet points, highlighters, and sticky notes were your best friend. Not much has changed in college except for the amount of material. I find myself spending more time, perhaps 6-8 hours of my free time a day taking notes. In highschool, at most 2 hours of my evening was dedicated to note taking and studying.
Another difference I have found is the structure of lectures. Teachers in highschool told you, “you should write this down,” or, “this will be on the quiz”. In college, you do not have that lectionary, you are expected to take down notes in class, and quickly. You also have study guides in highschool. Well not any more. This was a rude reality check for me personally. However, after a few weeks of tears and a blow to my ego I figured out a method that just might help you.
First things first, you do not need a notebook. Yes, you heard this correctly. I highly recommend the laptop method of writing down lecture notes for a few reasons. Number one, speed is key. As your professor is talking, you might notice that they slow down at times, or repeat the same sentence twice. That’s a clue to type, and fast. Before you know it, they are onto the next topic.
If they write points on the whiteboard, they will not ask if you have everything down as they did in high school, (As I assume everyone has noticed). They erase and move on. For me, typing is second nature. Handwriting on the other hand, well…I cannot read my own handwriting. It’s actually awful. I also cannot write very fast. I spell words wrong, not having the luxury of auto-correct or miss a keyword the professor said because I was too focused on the previous sentence. My second point, typing notes is a great method to stay organized. Using the number, bullet point, or highlighting tool keeps your notes nice and clean. If I print my notes and use them on a test, I know and have proven to test better than using hand written notes.

This brings me to my next note taking strategy, look for anything that is italicized or in bold in your text.

More times than not, professors will use those as key definitions or terms on a quiz. It’s a fast and effective way to not take too many notes. This brings me to the big question, how many of you have pages worth of notes? I know I do, and I barely read every word. If anything, it makes test taking harder.
My suggestion is to read through your chapter or assigned pages before taking notes. Then, skim through a second time, highlighting anything that furthers the author’s main argument. For example, I have to read a novel titled “Rethinking American Women’s Activism”, it is not sectioned with bullet points or main chapter discussion like other textbooks might. I have to read through first which will take me an hour to make, perhaps 30 minutes to highlight, and 2 hours to type notes for the whole week.
I also tend to spend too much time studying. I do not give myself any breaks during the day, or evening. I am constantly in lectures, in meetings, studying, taking notes, or sleeping. I often find myself wanting to read a new novel I am interested in, watch a new movie, listen to music, or hang out with friends.
The biggest challenge I have faced thus far, is letting myself take breaks. As my mom once said, “Tegan you need to give yourself grace”. It’s true. We are in week 4 of school and I am already experiencing burn out. So, what are some ways you like to relax? Some of my favorite activities include taking photos, crocheting, online shopping, and taking long walks outside. I will never get through 4 years of college if I do not take time to focus on myself. Reflect on today’s happening as I browse Urban Outfitters for the 10th time. I encourage you to think the same way. If it helps, jot down a note in your planner to take a 15 minutes break at so and so time. It keeps you accountable and encourages you to do so.
At the end of the day, I am new at this. I do not by any means have everything figured out. I do however have new found strategies that have helped me this past week that I thought I would share with you. Thank you for taking the time to read my column. Have a nice day, relax and good luck studying.


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