Best Way to Take Notes in College: Handwritten or Typed?

College students in class.

If your class notes leave a lot to be desired, you’re not alone. For many students, note-taking can become a mindless task that does little to help them understand key ideas. Whether you’re just starting out or want to improve your grades with more effective note-taking in class, it’s never too late to learn how to take notes in college the right way.

How to Take Good College Notes 

We hate to disappoint those college students who prefer to “just listen” and “absorb the material” in class—but experts say that good notes are essential to understanding classroom concepts. However, there is no one best way to take notes in college. Though some students use note-taking methods ranging from outlines to concept mapping and beyond, you don’t have to learn complex formulas to take great notes.

Should You Write or Type Your Notes? 

If your penmanship can be hard to read, typing out your notes will help immensely. Even the neatest writers can take illegible notes when they’re in a hurry. And anyone who’s missed a sentence or two from the professor understands the struggle of playing catch-up. To that point, most young people these days type faster than they can hand-write information. If using a laptop is allowed in your classroom or lecture hall, and you have an instructor who talks fast or covers a lot of information quickly, typing digital notes can actually be a life-saver. 

On the other hand, some class subjects present more visual information and thus require a more visual note-taking approach. Unless you’re a graphic designer, making quick sketches or diagrams on a computer isn’t an easy task. In addition, research has shown that people simply retain and recall information better when they watch themselves hand-write it versus type it. 

Effective Note-Taking in Class

When you need to learn a set of facts, detailed notes are a must; be sure to review them within 24 hours for best retention. When learning concepts, listening for the overall idea while recording key points will help. Pay attention to your professor’s visual and verbal cues. Repeated words or phrases are usually noteworthy, and gesturing or emphasizing certain words should be your clue to start writing. The lecture’s introduction and conclusion often contain summaries of the key points, so pay special attention during these times to avoid missing important information. Write down questions asked during class as well as those that arise while studying your notes to help you better comprehend the content.

Find Your Note-Taking Style

As we mentioned, there’s no single best way to take notes in college. The class material and your learning style help determine what’s right for you. You might prefer to create outlines containing main topics divided into subtopics and key points. Fact-heavy notes could be divided into categorized columns using the Charting Method. Or, with the Cornell Method, the page is divided into three sections: 

  • a small column for after-class notes 
  • a larger column beside it for in-class notes 
  • a summary section at the bottom 

Whichever style you choose, you should find that effective note-taking in class makes you a more active listener and gives you plenty of material to review. 

So, Do You Need to Keep College Notes?

While some classes are simply required to graduate, keeping notes from coursework directly related to your major could help you succeed. You may not be thrilled about hanging on to old notes, but revisiting them could improve your understanding of other subjects, future classes, and even the real world (once you’re out in it). 

Find College Student Storage for Notes and More

Knowing how to take notes in college will help you make the most of your time in school. Effective note-taking in class can not only make you a better listener but also provide excellent study materials for the semester along with useful knowledge to reference in your career. No matter if you’re working toward a bachelor’s degree or already graduated, it’s important to designate an archive location for all your old handwritten notes. They can stack up fast! Self storage units are perfect for keeping notebooks, thumb drives, and other papers handy yet out of the way. College student storage space can also help keep your place clutter-free while allowing you to keep tabs on off-season clothes and other belongings. If you’re in Michigan or Ohio, find your nearest facility to rent or reserve a storage unit online that’s conveniently located near you!

More From National Storage

Find a Unit Right for You Today!

Rent or Reserve Now