There are two things that change in college that necessitate the need for good note-taking skills. The first thing is that classes move more quickly, and more information is presented to you in each class. This leaves little time for in-class review sessions to make sure each student has covered the material. The second thing is that the format of many of your classes will change to include more lecture time. Your professor will spend a good deal of his or her time presenting information to you. Your notes, therefore, might be the best (or the only) study guide that you have for certain subjects. Here are some thoughts on note-taking.
Understand your learning style
Often in high school you were given note-taking methods by your teachers, who would ask you to take notes according to that method. You might even have been required to turn in your notes as a part of your grade in the class. This was designed to expose you to different ways of note-taking and get you in the habit of taking good notes. In college, unless your professor explicitly says otherwise, the only purpose for you to take notes is for you to make sure you can study and learn the material. For some, this may mean taking very detailed notes of everything, for others, it may mean jotting down main ideas, thoughts, and references to textbooks for further information.
Some learn better by taking a lot of notes. Some absorb information better as they write it down or type it in and rarely refer back to their own notes. Others have trouble writing or typing notes and paying attention to the lecture at the same time. Each of these require a different note-taking habit. Find what works for you. Don’t make things hard by trying to take notes in a way that doesn’t help you.
If you type faster than you write, then bring a laptop to class. If you are one of those kinesthetic learners that absorb information better by writing it, then maybe write it down and then type your notes up later for review. Use your phone! In high school, many of you likely got in trouble for having your phone out at all in class. Now in college, it’s just another tool at your disposal. Use your phone to take pictures of the board or presentation that contains information. Then you won’t need to write it down. If you have trouble keeping up on notes and listening to a lecture at the same time, or if the subject matter is moving too quickly, record the lecture with an audio recording device, and play back the audio later to get what you missed. Don’t be afraid to ask for a digital copy of PowerPoint presentations and other materials the professor uses in his lecture.
Reinforce you notes by comparing with your classmates
Remember that you are not the only one in your class. It’s always a good idea, particularly if the subject matter is complex or dense, to get with some of your classmates and discuss the material that was covered in the last class. Other people will get some things you missed. You’ll be able to give them insights as well. Your classmates are there right along with you, struggling to learn the same material. Why not work on things together?