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How To Take Notes in College: Gathering Your Supplies

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

With the fall semester quickly approaching (or for some already here), it’s time to think about school again. For some of you, you’ll be making the jump to college this year. Unless you’re majoring in underwater basket weaving, you’re going to find a marked increase in the difficulty of your classes. Note-taking is vital to your success in college. Before you think about how to take notes, you need to think about what you’re going to take notes on and with. Your choice of note-taking supplies can have a big effect on how well you do in your classes.

Notebooks and Binders

It’s an age-old college question. Some students prefer having a bound notebook so they don’t lose anything, and others prefer a loose-leaf three-ring binder for more organizational freedom. Making the right choice for you is important, and is something that only you can decide. Here’s a short tour of some of the more popular note-taking mediums you’ll see in college:

  • Bound Notebooks. These work out great if you’re prone to losing notes once you take them. With a bound notebook, you’ll be sure that all your notes are in the notebook exactly where you wrote them. On the other hand, you cannot move them, or change the order (unless you’re okay with tearing out pages and gluing everything back together).
  • Spiral-Bound Notebooks. During back-to-school sales, these one-subject notebooks can be had for as little as ten cents. They might be a good choice for some of your easier classes, or ones that don’t require much note-taking. Keep in mind that these notebooks will be travelling with you in your backpack every day. The wire binding on spiral-bound notebooks tend to get crushed in your pack, so they may not be the best to use for all your classes.
    Spiral Bound Notebook
  • 3-Ring Binders. For the person who likes to control every aspect of their note-taking, this is the perfect choice. With a three-ring binder, you can have your pick of binder, paper, and organize them however you want. The downside is that the binders tend to take up a lot more space in your backpack, and require more discipline on your part to keep them organized.
  • Class Slides. In some of your college classes (particularly large lower level classes) the professor will present his lectures in the form of a powerpoint presentation. If you’re lucky, then he’ll also email or post online his slides. If this is the case, then the best option may be to simply print them out and take notes directly on them. This saves you the hassle of having multiple sets of papers when it comes time to study for the tests. If you have all of the semester’s slides in advance, you can print them all out and take them to a copy shop (there will likely be one con or close to campus) and get them bound. This will give you all of the slides in a spiral-bound format to take notes on.

Type of Paper

Many students overlook this important part of their note-taking supplies. Whether you use a notebook, or three-ring binder, there are multiple kinds of paper that can be had. Here’s just a few:

  • Ruled. Everyone is familiar with this kind. If you’re taking classes where the professor is going to be doing a lot of lecturing without drawing many diagrams or pictures on the board, then this paper is perfect. You’ll be able to write down everything the professor says in a neat lined format.
  • Plain. You’ll recognize this as the blank copy paper that goes into your printer. The advantage of this paper is that there are no lines, and no rules. You can take notes however you want. If you’re going into a class that requires drawing a lot of diagrams and figures such as geometry, calculus, or engineering, then this paper might work well for you. However, if you have a hard time writing in straight lines without guidance, then this paper might be less than ideal.
  • Squared. (Also called graph paper) For engineering or math classes this is almost the ideal paper. It is printed with both horizontal and vertical lines to make writing and drawing easy. If you’re going to be drawing precise diagrams then you might want this kind of paper. The lines will allow you to draw figures accurately, as well as take notes in straight lines.
    Graph-Paper Notebook
  • Engineering. For engineering students there is a special kind of paper called engineering paper. This consists of a large squared section with blocks in the margins for titles, footers, and other notes. If you’re in engineering school, this paper may actually be required for some classes, so you might look into getting some.

Pens and Pencils

Just like notebooks and binders, you will see many students that refuse to take notes in anything other than pencil in case they make a mistake. Others scribble away happily with their ball-points pens. Which is better? Well that’s up to you!

  • Pens. If you don’t like writing in pen normally, then you won’t like taking notes in pen. However, if you’re going tyo be doing a lot of writing in your classes, then a pen might be a good choice. It’s much easier to scribble out notes with a good-quality ball point pen than scratching away with a pencil.
  • Pencil. If you like pencils, then go for it. Professors do make mistakes when writing on the board, and it’s nice to be able to go back and correct your notes without resorting to crossing, or x-ing out entire blocks of notes. If you’re doing a lot of mathematical operations, or drawing diagrams, then a pencil might work better.
  • Other. There are other great writing utensils out there besides a plain pen or pencil. New pen/markers like the Sharpie Pen work great for taking notes and don’t bleed through to other pages.

Black Sharpie Pen

Your note-taking supplies are a vital part of your classroom success. Take the time to research different kinds of notebooks, paper, and writing utensils. Once, you’ve found a system that works for you, taking notes will be a breeze and reviewing them before a test will be much easier.


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