College Note Taking Tips

Struggling in a college class or just looking to improve your note taking? Check out this post for tips & tricks to keep those notes organized and resourceful!

Taking notes is an essential part of any college student’s life. For me, I’m either in class trying to scribble down as much as I can, or I’m back at my dorm rewriting the notes I took during class. I like to have my notes clean, organized, and colorful! I’m much more likely to enjoy taking notes and studying if I find them visually appealing. Want to have killer notes? Take a look at my suggestions below!

Of course we all learn differently, so feel free to adapt my suggestions to your own note taking routine! And don’t forget to grab a copy of my Tips & Tricks for Note Taking Freebie! Print it out, keep it in your notebook, and always have handy tips on how to improve your notes.


Did I mention rewriting? Rewriting is essential for organization and learning! Do you have notes that you’ve taken on the computer? Or, how about notes you took during lecture? Rewriting is the key! So how do you properly rewrite?

  1. Take notes during lecture (preferably handwritten)
    • Jot down anything mentioned that isn’t on the slides or the professor has explicitly said “THIS WILL BE ON THE TEST” Why miss out on free test hints?
  2. After class, compare class notes to the book and lecture slides
    • Are there any major topics not covered in lecture? Any charts or graphs that may be particularly helpful?
  3. Start at the beginning of the chapter, section, etc. create new notes by combining important info, diagrams, and definitions from lecture slides, the book, and your class notes.
    • If the lecture slides has a word in bold but gives no definition, write down that definition from the book.
    • Maybe the book has a really awesome, helpful chart that could be paired with a part of the lecture notes.

Rewriting your notes will allow you to focus on three things:
1. the material itself
2. how the material relates to the other material I’ve already learned
3.  the main ideas of the material.
Plus, because you’re handwriting everything, even those notes you took on the computer, you get the added bonus of working on your handwriting, hand lettering, and doodling skills! I mean what’s the fun of taking notes if they’re not pretty??


Organization is extremely important when taking notes! I like to use headings and bullet points to make sure everything stays in order. For a major topic (like the title of a chapter), I like to use large letters. Minor topics and subheadings are written in all caps to provide some differentiation from the rest of the notes.

college note taking tips

Bullet points are my best friends when taking notes! They allow me to sumarize what needs to be said, and as you can see from the picture above, I’ve really developed my own system. Circle bullet points mean one thing, lines mean another, and arrows mean something else. I really like to use arrows to provide more information on a certain bullet point. Arrows can also be used to show how certain topics relate to each other!


The emphasis category of my note taking is really my favorite part about taking notes! This is the time when I get to add color and decorations to my notes, and who doesn’t like that?!


Highlighting my notes is really the only way I can keep track of what is what. It allows me to easily find what I need when I’m skimming through.

college note taking tips

I’ve developed my own system for highlighting. This is really the only thing that stays the same throughout all of my notes for every one of my classes! The system is as follows:
YELLOW = formula
PINK = vocabulary word
ORANGE & BLUE = other important things that don’t fall into the two prior categories

college note taking tips

By having a system for highlighting, it’s really easy to see how it can clarify my notes! Sometimes it can look a bit overwhelming (like the picture above), but I know that that specific page is one that I will need to study a bit more than the others.

college note taking tips

As you can see in both the picture above and below, I also use highlighting to distinguish different parts of a diagram! By highlighting in this way, you can easily see what is equivallent in terms of the diagram.

college note taking tips

doodling & hand lettering

Okay so I saved the best for last! I am obsessed with hand lettering and doodling. I mean I strive to be like all of the notes on tumblr under the studyblr category. And if you haven’t checked out that category on tumblr yet, you’re seriously missing out.

college note taking tips

I like to use banners to emphasize my headings. As you can see from the pictures, these headings are usually a main topic from that lesson. Borders are also some of my favorite ways to emphasize headings.

college note taking tips

Okay so I don’t have many examples of hand lettering in my notes, but I promise I use them. Sometimes it’s hard to do intricate hand lettering during class because I’m also trying to pay attention to what is going on. I typically use hand lettering for headings, quotes, and subtopics.

college note taking tips

If you’re looking for some doodling and hand lettering inspiration, check out my Pinterest board!

Don’t forget to download your free copy of my Tips & Tricks for Note Taking Freebie to help you organize and prioritize your notes!

If you try out any of these tips and tricks, make sure to let me know! Do you have any specific ways you like to take notes? I’d love to hear!

-Abigail Gray