With midterm season coming to a close, finals week will be here sooner than you think.  As you’re preparing to end the semester on a high note, be sure you’re getting all that you can out of your lec­tures and dis­cus­sions in class.

To help you out, here are some tips to sharpen your note-taking skills from expe­ri­enced Hillsdale stu­dents.

Lara Forsythe’s notes

Be Efficient

It is important that your notes are clear and nav­i­gable. A good way to practice this is to take as few notes as you can while still making sure you get the essen­tials down.

Senior English major Lara Forsythe said that when she was a freshman, she took as many notes as she could.

“I used to take way too many notes,” Forsythe said. “Unless you’re sure you’re going through your notes later, just copying every­thing down is not very sus­tainable.”

Forsythe said to fix this, she writes only the important points.

“Be more picky,” Forsythe said. “It helps you listen better— you’re pro­cessing it and deciding if you should write it down.”

Another easy way to take more effi­cient notes is to abbre­viate. Senior art and English major Katie Dav­enport said she abbre­viates names with one or two letters and shortens other words by writing only four or five letters.

Be Organized

Making your notes uniform makes the best notes stand apart from the rest.

Dav­enport uses an outline system for her notes so that she can keep her infor­mation in a neat way that shows how infor­mation is related to other infor­mation.

Katie Davenport’s notes

Senior eco­nomics and math major Duncan Voyles uses a dif­ferent outline.

“At the top of the notes, I put a topic,” said Voyles, “and then break it into squig­glies, then sub-dots [which are] indented, and then per­sonal anec­dotes in the margins.”

For math major Josh Pautz, notes come in two colors. He keeps crit­i­cally important infor­mation in purple and less important infor­mation in blue. He keeps com­ments and asides from the pro­fessor off to the side bracketed in either purple or blue to indicate their rel­ative impor­tance.

Josh Pautz’s notes

Another way to organize your notes is in the Cornell Method.

Rowan Macwan’s notes

To use this method, create two columns in your notes. In the right column, write all the notes as you nor­mally would. In the left column pretend that you are playing Jeopardy and write a question that cor­re­sponds to the material directly next to it. Alter­nately, you can write down a few words that describe what the topic is.

Review Your Notes

Whether you tran­scribe each word your pro­fessor utters or you write two sen­tences all class, and whether you have beau­tiful notes or a heap of words piled on top of each other, your notes will mean nothing if you do not review them.

If you use the Cornell Method, you have a study guide built into your notes. Read the ques­tions in the left-hand column to yourself and do your best to answer them.

In classes where you must mem­orize a lot of infor­mation, one easy way to keep track of the infor­mation of your notes is with flash cards.

When Davenport’s classes require her taking many detailed notes of her classes, she reviews them by typing all her notes and studying those.

Forsythe said she makes her notes beau­tiful so that she will want to study.

“Have really neat hand­writing,” she advised.

Lara Forsythe’s notes

She also rec­om­mended using beau­tiful note­books that will last so that you will treat them better. After all, she said she wants to keep her important note­books for a long time to come so that she will con­tinue learning from them.

Note-taking is an art, a skill, and most impor­tantly, nec­essary for success in your college career. The most important thing is to find some­thing that works for you and stick with it. If you want to tweak it, go ahead and try. After all, the only thing worse than bad note-taking is doing note-thing about it.