Tips on Taking Notes in College

taking great notes in college

A college education is a lot different than high school education. This means that everything from taking notes to taking exams can be really different. Not only do you have to study different for college, but you also have to take notes differently in order to prepare class assignments and for exams.

Taking notes may not seem like a big deal and may seem like something that is common sense, but in reality, it makes a big difference in your overall understanding of each subject. Usually, when you are taking notes it is when you are first introduced to a topic which is one of the most important parts of actually understanding how to memorize concepts.

One of the main reasons that students struggle their first year in college is because they do not know how to properly take notes and study for the type of education they are receiving in college.

There is no right or wrong way to take notes, it simply depends on the person and how each person needs to study and take notes in order to do the best that they can. This means that just because your best friend can barely take notes and gets an A on the exam, does not mean that you can.

Many students do not really have to take a note in high school because they are able to skim through things and do well on the test. No matter what class you are taking in college, even if it is a general education course that is known to be easy, you were going to have to put the effort in and take good notes in order to do well.

Any class in college requires you to actually pay attention, take notes, and put the time and effort to get a good grade in the class.

It is important to think about these types of things before you get to school so that you are best prepared when you actually get there.

If you were already thinking about these things now, you are probably going to do better than if you didn’t think about studying and taking notes until the first day of classes. One of the reasons for this is that you want to have all of the tools that you need to be able to take notes to the best of your ability.

Here are some tips and tricks about different ways that work for taking notes in college.

Ipad to take College Notes

The first thing that you need to start thinking about over the summer, is how you were going to take notes in college. If you were going to take notes on an iPad or laptop you need to make sure that you have access to this before classes start.

The university where I attend decided to give out free iPads to every incoming freshman this past year. The iPad also came with Apple pencils and the app Notability already on it.

At first, I was not sure if I was ever going to use this, but I eventually realize this was going to be the only place I was going to take notes. I took notes on my iPad every day using my Apple Pencil where I was able to change colors, use highlighter, add pictures and do many other things.

To me, this made a big impact on my overall studying and taking notes in my freshman year because I had access to so many great things using technology to help me. It helps me take notes quicker during classes and therefore I was able to take in more information.

Now, this does not mean that this is the only right way to do it or that this would work for everyone. Even some of my friends who had the free iPad decided not to use them.

However, if you were thinking about using an iPad with an Apple Pencil, I highly recommend it.

Notability also has A spot on the app where you can enable the voice to record. This means that if you’re having a hard time understanding the subject, you can actually record your professor while they are lecturing.

Notability is an amazing app and although it has a fee, it is definitely worth it if it is going to help you throughout all four years or more of your college career. They say that you take more information and when you write it, still having an iPad with an Apple Pencil not only allows your brain to feel like it is writing but also to use all of the opportunities that technology offers us.

Note Taking on a Laptop

Using your laptop for notes can always be a great thing because normally people type a lot faster than they write. Even though it has been said that you can take in more information when you actually handwrite your notes for class.

When you are going over notes to study it is sometimes more beneficial to have more information on the page. If things make more sense to you when you were typing them and using a laptop, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use your laptop every day for notes.

Another good thing to remember if you’re using any sort of technology for all your note-taking is to make sure that your laptop is backed up. If it does not back up to anything then make sure you save it to One Drive, Google storage or anything on the web. This way if your laptop is broken or stolen you still have access to your notes.

One other good thing is you can also have multiple pages up on your laptop, just in case you need to have multiple different sources of information up while you’re taking notes.

Once again if you were going to use something like a laptop or iPad to take notes, you also need to make sure that it is fully charged before you go to class. The worst thing that can happen, is when you get to class and realize that your laptop is completely dead with no way to access all of the information that you have been putting into your laptop the past few months.

This is why it is always good to have a backup battery or some other source to be able to take notes.

This seems like common sense but it happens frequently.

Some classrooms may have places where you can plug your machines into, but more than likely if it is a larger class you will not be able to charge it until you get home.

Old Fashioned Notebook for Notes

There is absolutely no shame in simply taking all of your notes in a notebook. Using a notebook makes a lot of people feel more organized and truly helps them understand the concepts better.

Writing something down on paper gives you some sort of permanency and you will not always get that when you’re typing something out or using any sort of technology. This does not mean that you can’t use technology to help you in other ways, but simply the actual notes will be taken on paper.

This means that you can actually use a real highlighter and get some fulfillment out of using real paper with real pencils.

Sometimes this is really what your brain needs to understand things, and that’s OK! I had so many friends who even though they had a free iPad, decided that for them personally using a notebook was the only way to properly take notes for them.

They would frequently tell me how writing their notes down would help them memorize things so much better than using their laptops.

Once again it’s really different from person-to-person, and you want to make sure that you’re choosing the way that will help you in the end.

Another great thing about actually using a notebook is that you can use sticky notes and dividers to organize your total notebook. And this way you’re not going to have to worry about not having access to your notes if your technology is dead.

The only bad thing about a notebook compared to a laptop is that if you lose the notebook all of your notes are completely gone, whereas if you lose your laptop your notes will hopefully be in the cloud.

But obviously mistakes like this happen all of the time and in the end, you still just want to choose whatever will help you learn the best. This is the type of thing that you’re going to have to figure out yourself. Each person is going to be different and you truly just want to do whatever is going to help you the most.

Use a Planner

Just as a side note, if you were trying to organize your thoughts and your notes, using a planner, is the best thing that you can do. You can write down what sections you’re going over in each class each day, and when you should have your notes for each section done.

This is the type of thing that can really help you as an overall student and especially with taking notes and preparing for each class. This is not mandatory and not every student does it, but it something that will be greatly appreciated once you are a student.

This is another thing that you can do you on an actual paper planner, or on an app, or on any sort of online calendar. Whatever works for you is honestly what you want to do. All of this is simply about helping you be the best student that you can be and get the most out of your education.


Overall there are so many different ways that you can go about taking notes for college. Each person has their own specific way that will help them learn the best. You don’t want to rely on what others are doing to choose the style of notetaking that will work best for you.

This is definitely something that you will have to figure out on your own on what works and what does not work. Taking notes is a very important step in your overall education process as a college student.

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