Note-taking is an important skill to hone, especially during post-secondary since it is key to understanding the materials being taught. It wasn’t until after my first year that I figured out the methods that worked for me. My note-taking style in high school wasn’t the same as it is today. Now, I use a variety of different tools to aid my note-taking process. In the past, I preferred to handwrite all my notes for my courses because it was commonly thought to be the most effective means to actively recall information. Boy was I wrong! Don’t get me wrong, I love highlighting key concepts, colour-coordinating topics, and drawing diagrams, but the issue was how much time it takes to do them. Having semester classes did help me maintain my note-taking habit. Sadly, this isn’t realistic for me in post-secondary.
By venturing into digital means of taking notes, I discovered Microsoft OneNote and it essentially changed the way I make notes. The best way to describe OneNote for anyone unfamiliar is it's like if Google Docs and Google Drawings had a baby.
I have one main notebook where everything is, further divided into each course, followed by pages with notes for the week. Not only can I freely format my notes so that it’s visually appealing, but it's a digital notebook that organizes all my stuff into one place. I don’t need to dig for course material. Instead, it’s perfectly laid out ready to be opened at any time!
You can also create new notebooks within the notebook, you can open new pages, create subpages to manage pages under the same tab. Your stuff is saved instantly after typing so no need to worry about losing it! It might seem overwhelming but TRUST ME when I tell you it's so easy to get the hang of and your writing hand will thank you for it.🙏.
Personally, I prefer inserting lecture powerpoints into the pages and annotating them using the draw feature. Not only does it save time, but I can add additional notes on top. Adding pictures, links and files are other functions I recommend you to take advantage of. It’s super easy to move files back and forth if you ever choose to change your layout.
The best way to maximize your use of OneNote is to figure out what your learning style is. Do you learn best through visualizing information and making connections between them (drawings, diagrams, charts, mind maps)? Do you prefer to type down formulas, key concepts, and procedures in a vertical layout? Or would you rather paste your PowerPoint lectures and just add comments if needed? 🤔 All learning styles can be accommodated through this app and makes studying way easier!
Some of my favourite functions include using the search bar whenever I need to recall specific information within my notebook. Typing keywords here will show you which sections they can be found, directly taking you to each page too! The search filter can also limit the capacity of your search depending on the specificity of where you want the key term to be found. For example, I wanted to find “ Freud” within PSYCH 101, so I checked off the section titled, “Current Section: PSYCH 101”. You can see that any text “Freud” is highlighted. Sharing notebooks is another function if you ever need to lend someone your notes. They can edit them directly and you’ll see their new additions immediately!
Using OneNote is my main method of note-taking and is one of the best changes I’ve made to my studying process. Their easy-to-use and customizable functions not only cater to each user but also makes the process of writing notes fun and feel less like a chore. I recommend everyone who is looking for a digital option of recording notes try OneNote out. Even if you aren’t sure about it, GIVE IT A TRY! Who knows, you might surprise yourself and grow to love it!!
Health Studies @ University of Waterloo
Campus Ambassador @ LEAP Canada
About The Author
Chessie (she/her) joined LEAP Canada in September as a Campus Ambassador and is passionate about helping bridge the gap between high school and post-secondary. She is enthusiastic about helping other students with their transition by creating informative resources to prepare them for their academic success. Aside from assisting students and studying, she enjoys baking, reading, and watching netflix shows in the comfort of her own home.