I know, I know. You’re on Christmas break, and the last thing you want to be thinking about right now is school. But believe it or not, spring classes are right around the corner, and it’s always good to be prepared. With that in mind, I’d like to share with you a tool that has been absolutely integral to my college success: Evernote.
Evernote is a note-taking app for computers, tablets, and phones. Its slogan is “remember everything,” and I think that it lives up to its name. People use Evernote for everything from meeting notes to shopping lists to long-term project planning. And I think Evernote is a necessary tool for every college student to have.
One may ask why Evernote is even necessary. After all, there are a lot of students who prefer to take their notes by hand and a lot of professors who don’t allow students to bring technology into the classroom. And many students who do take in-class notes do so in a word processor like Word or Pages. But even in these cases, I think Evernote can still be a great tool for college students to have, and here’s why.
Evernote is a fantastic note-taking program. It clears out all the unnecessary fluff that a lot of word processors have and lets you simply focus on taking down the information you need. That doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful, though. Evernote allows you to create lists and tables and to insert images as needed. It also allows you to organize your notes into notebooks and add tags for further classification. But it doesn’t bog you down with a bunch of unncessary options or hide the features you need. Another advantage of Evernote over word processors is that it stores all your notes in one location. No more searching through your computer’s file system for your notes. Just search for the name of the note, and Evernote will find it.
Evernote stores your notes in the cloud, so they’re always secure. And you can get Evernote on all of your devices, so if you need to look up something from your notes quickly, you can just pull out your phone, and you’ll have all your notes right there. If your computer crashes or gets stolen, you can log in to Evernote’s website and access all your notes right in the browser. You can have all your notes with you anywhere you’re connected to the Internet.
But what if you take your class notes by hand, or what if one of your professors doesn’t allow computers in class? First of all, I would suggest taking class notes on a computer whenever possible. It’s more efficient, your notes are always legible, and you can quickly look up a term or section with Evernote’s search feature rather than flipping through pages of handwritten notes. And if you can’t/don’t want to take your in-class notes on a computer, you should consider typing them up later. It not only increases your memory of the information, but it stores your notes in a more secure location than a physical notebook than can be destroyed or lost easily. Plus, when you’re studying for an exam, instead of flipping through pages of notes looking for a certain topic, you can type a term into Evernote’s search bar and find the information quickly.
Plus, Evernote isn’t just for class notes. You can put your class syllabi, handouts, and presentations into Evernote so you have all your documents for your classes in one easy-to-access location. Evernote really is an app that every college student should have. If you’re convinced at this point, read on to find out how to use Evernote in college.
Before the Semester Starts
So you want to use Evernote next semester. That’s great. You should probably go in with a plan so that you don’t find yourself two months into the semester with a bunch of disorganized notes and no way to use them. So I’ll share with you my organization plan for usng Evernote at school. It’s not the only way of using Evernote in college, but it’s the method I use, and it’s worked well for me so far. Feel free to copy my plan or come up with another one that works better for you.
First of all, you’ll want to sign up for Evernote and download it to your devices. You can get access to all of this on the Evernote website. The sign-up process is really easy, and installing Evernote on any of your devices is very simple. All of their apps are really slick. You’ll find yourself using them a lot very soon.
Then, you’ll want to create some notebooks. Notebooks in Evernote, like notebooks in real life, are collections of notes that are grouped together because they all fall under a certain category. I create a notebook in Evernote for each class that I’m taking. That way, I don’t get any of my notes for my Religion class confused with my notes for Psychology. I also have a general School notebook where I keep notes that I’ll need over multiple semesters, such as my degree requirements and a record of what grades I’ve earned in previous classes.
Notebooks are pretty easy to understand. Tags, however, are a bit more complicated. If simply grouping your notes by class is enough organization for you, then don’t even bother with tags. If you want to be a little more precise in how you organize your notes, though, tags are the way to go. Tags are simply a way of adding more detail to a note’s categorization. You can add multiple tags to one note, and tags are independent of notebooks. I have a “class notes” tag that I use to label all of the notes I take in class, regardless of which class they’re taken in. I also have a “for future reference” tag that I use for syllabi and other class materials that I may need to look back at later. Tags can really come in handy if you use them properly, and with a little experimentation, you can find the tagging system that works best for you.
And that’s it. You’re all set up and ready to take on the semester with Evernote. So what should you do on the first day when you actually sit down to take your notes?
During the Semester
As I said before, everyone has their own way of doing things. I introduced my friend Blake to Evernote last year, and his note-taking style is totally different from mine. But I’m going to tell you how I use Evernote to take notes, and you can use my style, adapt it to fit you best, or ignore my method completely and do it your own way. I promise it won’t hurt my feelings. I’m just offering to show you my way in case it’s helpful.
When I’m in class, I create a note for each new chapter or unit we cover, depending on the class. This means one note may cover multiple class lectures if we don’t cover a whole chapter/unit in one day. Some people may prefer to start a new note each day, and that’s fine, too. Find whatever works best for you.
Although Evernote does keep track of when you created a note and when you last updated it, I prefer to actually put the date within the text of the note. You can do this quickly by hitting command + shift + D all at the same time. Every time I sit down to take notes in class, I put the date first. If I’m continuing a note I’ve already started, I add a horizontal line and then the date to mark that I’m starting a new day of lecture. This helps me remember what day I wrote down that information and gives the information some context. This may come in handy when you’re studying for a test.
How you choose to format the actual class content is up to you. I personally put the large topics in bold, with main points below them, and subpoints indented below the main points. This style isn’t for everyone and every class situation. It’s just the general rules I use when taking my notes because it makes sense for me. Some people prefer to use bullet points, and that works, too. As you start to use Evernote more, you’ll find the style that works best for you. Once you do that, your note-taking will go more smoothly, and you’ll be able to use your notes more effectively for reviewing and studying.
You’ll also probably want to add your class syllabi and study guides to Evernote. You’ll want to reference these often and have them quickly available when you need them. Evernote is great for that.
As the semester progresses, you’re going to accumulate a lot of notes. Don’t get overwhelmed or think this is a bad thing. All of these notes will come in handy when you have to write a paper or when the final exam comes around. If you’ve organized your notes properly, you should be able to navigate them with ease and use them to prepare for assignments, papers, and exams throughout the semester.
When Classes Are Over
May seems like a long way away now, but it’ll be here sooner than you think. And when you get finished with all your finals and start packing up for summer, you may be tempted to simply delete all of your class notes for the semester and never think about them again. Or you may be tempted to just leave them there cluttering up your Evernote app and taking up space. I would argue that neither of these options is best. Fortunately, there is a quick, easy way to store your notes efficiently in case you ever need them again. It’s called exporting, and it takes no time at all.
When you’re done with one of your classes, simple right-click on that class’s notebook and click the “Export Notes from…” option. Give the backup a name, choose the Evernote XML Format (.enex), and save the file wherever you like on your hard drive, or an external drive if you prefer. Once the file is saved, feel free to delete the notebook from Evernote. If you ever need any of those notes again, simply open that .enex file, and your notes will be added back to Evernote like magic. It’s that simple.
So there you go. That’s my guide to using Evernote for college. Most of these are just suggestions rather than hard-and-fast rules. As you use Evernote, you’ll find your own way of using it. The main thing is that Evernote makes your life as a student easier by simplifying the note-taking and note-storing process for you. If you’d like to give Evernote a try, you can sign up and download it here.
This is only one of the many ways you can use Evernote. I haven’t covered all of its features or potential uses in this guide. If you try out Evernote, I’m sure you’ll find it useful not only in school, but also in other areas of your life as well. I know I have. I may do a more general write-up on Evernote in the future for those of you who aren’t students. Anyway, I hope this guide has been helpful. If you’ve got any Evernote tips or suggestions for other tools that I should review, feel free to contact me anytime. Thanks for reading, friends, and I’ll see you on the Internet!