Taking notes in Post Secondary

Taking notes in Post Secondary

by Geoff Howell
Jobs People Do | JobsPeopleDo.com

You’re writing as fast as your hand will go – the words from the screen flying onto your page in a barely legible chicken-scratch font as you race to get the entirety of the note. You begin to feel the ache of writing in your wrist and the end is in sight. Your pace quickens. You know you are going to get this one completely written. Then to your dismay, the slide changes and the third page fills the screen, despite protestations from your classmates.

Note taking in post-secondary is not for the faint of heart. Unlike high school, and elementary to a degree, note taking is a ruthless affair that leaves many first time students frustrated and flustered.

Unlike secondary school, the teachers in the post-arena are not always as patient with note takers as their secondary counter-parts. The professors move through topics at lightning fast speed, generally due to an overwhelming amount of content to get through in any given class.

It is this need to get the content to the students on time that drives the fast-paced nature of the post-secondary classroom.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, and there are many useful hints and tips that are out there that the student has at their disposal to counter the blitzkrieg speed of note taking.

First and foremost, and this is quite prudent, you must learn to not write a note verbatim, or word for word. By trying to accommodate the style of note taking from your secondary school classrooms, you will find yourself in the proverbial dust of the post-secondary classroom. It happens to all of us the first time in, so don’t feel like you are a slacker or not up to snub for post-secondary.

So, if you are not writing your notes verbatim, how are you going to translate what is on the screen to your pages?

The first answer to this is simple, paraphrase. Paraphrasing can, and most likely will, become your best friend. By taking the hard learned paraphrasing skills from all those research assignments of your past and adapting it to this new challenge, you will find that the note taking process becomes a whole lot easier. You will quickly learn what is the most prudent information in any given note and that will aid your paraphrasing even more. For survival in the post-secondary school arena, this would be my first recommendation for how to jot down your notes.

But what if paraphrasing still isn’t working for you? Then I would suggest learning, or devising, your own form of short hand so you can compound a phrase or section of a note into a symbol, as opposed to two-three words. This style of note taking is incredibly quick and convenient, but it has one major draw back. The one thing you have to watch with this style of note taking is, and this may seem silly/obvious, remembering what all those symbols mean. A lot of the time you will utilize the same, or similar, icons to represent certain aspects of a note; however, if you don’t expand those relatively soon, you will find that you may have forgotten what some of the points mean [which is not something that you really want because all of a sudden you will only have half a note!].

A neat and efficient way of taking a note, and one I utilized the most while in college, is a combination of paraphrasing and short hand symbols. In my experience this was the most beneficial because you get the prudent information while using quick little symbols to speed the process along.

The final, and less helpful – as there are varying factors at work – pointer for note taking may seem like a no brainer. With the inclusion of computer-based projectors in the classroom these days, notes tend to be created in Power Point. What does this mean for you? Well, with the notes being a computer file, a good portion of professors will generally end up uploading the day’s notes to your student portal for future referencing.

Although this may seem like a way of nixing jotting notes down, I strongly advise against those thoughts. Yes, the notes will typically be online. Yes, you will be able to print them off. But, and this is such an over looked aspect of note taking, by writing your notes out by hand you are actually learning the content more than if you were to simply print and read. Printing the notes also creates an inconvenience because if there is something you don’t understand within the text, your teacher will not be on hand to clarify.

Post-secondary note taking is a battleground, and if you learn how to adapt to the change in conditioning, you will make your way just fine through your two-to-three years of higher learning. These are just tips and pointers from my own experience, but you will soon find and develop your own method, which will work for you. Like all things, by knowing ahead of time of what you will be facing, then the better prepared you will be.


Currently there is one comment:

  1. Grace says:

    Paraphrasing, personal “short-hand” and downloading notes. All good!

    Don’t underestimate downloading, though; if you know you can get the content later, you can always review the notes then, highlighting or making notes on the page, and checking with your prof if you need clarification. That way, you can actually “engage” with the content in class, asking (and answering?) questions in real time.

    Thanks, Geoff!

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