In college everyone takes notes differently, and it is important to find the method that works best for you. Maybe it’s through using assistive technology like the Smartpen, typing notes on your computer, or making good old-fashioned hand-written notes. Every professor has a different style of teaching, and sometimes your style of note taking may need to change with various professors. Some professors provide notes with blanks to fill in, others provide power points, and some don’t offer any note taking structure at all. In the latter type of class, it is totally up to you to pick the important information out of the class lectures and write it all down to study for upcoming tests.
Fortunately, disability support departments at many universities offer an accommodation known as note takers. These are people, usually fellow students, who sit in a class and provide copies of their notes for other students. If you don’t want note takers to know who you are, they can drop the copies off at a central location (like the disabilities support office) for you. The note taker may be paid by the university or be doing it for volunteer hours. Either way, this is a great resource available for students to use in order to make sure you can review the important information for tests.
A great strategy for taking good notes in class yourself is, when possible, take the time to make yourself aware of what will be covered in each class beforehand. For example, if you know what chapter you will be covering in an upcoming lecture, you should read it in advance. That way you can have a better understanding of the material than you would if you were seeing it for the first time. A bonus advantage to this strategy is that if you can’t grasp a concept when you read it, you will know to pay extra close attention to that topic in class. The more exposure you have to the material, the better you will remember the impotent elements, so it’s smart to review your notes a day or so after each lecture so that the material stays fresh in your mind for the test. Also, making a friend in every class is ideal. If you ever miss a class, you can ask to borrow their notes. (Note: this should be used for times when you can’t make it to class, not when you don’t want to make it to class.)
Many classes in college have cumulative final exams. This means that the final exams include everything you have covered over the whole semester! It’s important to keep all your notes and handouts from each class together and organized until you’re positive you will no longer need them (a.k.a. after the class is over). Digging through everything you own to find something important for class at the last minute is no one’s idea of fun!
Personally, I ask all my professors to send me the notes or Power Point files for each class meeting ahead of time. That way I can print them out and take them to class with me. I then take notes on the sides of each slide. This allows me to spend more time focusing on what my professor is saying rather than copying the basic terms off of the slides. Instead, I will have the time to write down the examples, antidotes, and any other side notes that the professor gives to support the basic information typed on the slides.
Sometimes I am not lucky enough to write down everything before the lecture moves on. But I still try to write down key words or things that seem super important, like something that has been repeated a few times or if the professor has taken the time to talk about something in more detail. I also may compare notes with friends so we can fill in any info we missed during the lecture. Another option is to go talk to your teachers before or after class or stop by their offices. They love answering questions about their subject and want to help. But like I said, note taking varies from person to person, and it takes time to figure out what note taking styles work best for you. Once you figure out the strategies that work and use them, you are far more likely to succeed in your classes…even if it seems difficult in the beginning.