How to Take Great Notes in College Classes! 10 Tips from a 4.0 Student

How to Take Great Notes in College Classes! 10 Tips from a 4.0 Student

One of the most important components of doing well in college is attending your lectures and taking good notes. I think taking notes in college is a lot different from high school for a number of reasons. In this post I’ll go over all my tips for taking great notes that will help you study for your exams!


  1. First and foremost, find out if the PowerPoint slides will be available online: Some professors put their slides on BlackBoard. These guys are going straight to heaven. If a teacher goes through their slides really quickly, it might not even be worth it to try and everything down during class. Maybe just keep paper and a pen and jot down some important points. If this is the case, I honestly recommend just showing up to class and listening really well, and then afterward you can copy your own notes from the slides online. **Side note- just because your professor puts your notes online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t copy them into your notebook! It will help you retain the information better than simply skimming over the slides. ***Additional side note: Just because the slides are online doesn’t mean you should skip class!!
  2. Take your notes by hand: While you might think you can get more information into your notes by typing, it doesn’t help you retain anything. We know that writing your notes helps you remember, so I would try sticking with the old-fashioned way.
  3. Record your lectures: Some people like to record the lectures and listen to them later. This can help you fill in any gaps in your notes. It’s important that if you decide to do this, you get the professor’s permission! I’ve never personally tried this, but some people say it really helps so I thought I’d include it.
  4. Develop shorthand: Unlike in high school, your professors are not going to wait for you. There’s a lot they have to go over in a short amount of time. So no, they will not leave a slide up if you didn’t finish copying it down. Know that you don’t need to write down absolutely everything, especially not lengthy quotes or definitions that you can look up on your own time. Abbreviate where you can so that you don’t fall behind and lose your concentration.
  5. Leave spaces: Skip lines between different topics to visually separate your notes. It will make them look less cluttered and overwhelming.
  6. Mark important points: If your professor explicitly mentions, “This will be on your exam,” you best be highlighting the shit out of that slide! Circle it with a colored pen, put stars around it, just do something to draw your attention to it or else you’ll forget. Don’t ever miss the chance to score some points!
  7. Write down your questions in the margins: If you notice any point during the lecture where you zone out or start to get lost, indicate that in your notes! It is so valuable to know exactly when things started to get fuzzy. It will save you from screwing up where it counts- on the exam. Oh, and make sure you ask your teacher or a friend about the questions you have after class!
  8. Re-read your notes after class: Either later in the day or the following day after your lecture, I really recommend opening up your notebook and reading over your notes. I usually do this at night after all my classes are done, because it’s not extremely difficult and the information is familiar. I will take out colored pens or a highlighter and circle the most important points from the lecture. This will really help you retain the information and will make the important points stand out when you’re studying.
  9. Type your notes into a study guide: I’m getting ahead of myself now, but I really like to condense the most important points from my notes into a study guide before the test. It helps me review, and I will hold onto my chapter study guides until the final so I don’t have to re-read the textbook.
  10. Remember, your notes don’t have to be a work of art: I’m literally an art major and I promise you, your notes don’t need to look like a freaking Renaissance-era illuminated manuscript. They just need to be organized, legible, and most importantly, contain all the important information covered during the lecture!


I hope this post was helpful. These tips helped me earn a 4.0 GPA my first semester of college. Remember, college classes are hard, but if you work smart and stay engaged, you can do well.

Thanks for reading and stay warm!


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