How to Take Good Notes
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How to Take Good Notes

If you're gonna sit through class, you might as well learn something.

When it comes time to study, your notes can either be your best friend or simply useless. Taking good notes forces you to listen closely and comprehend what the instructor is saying. If you're going to sit through class, you might as well make the time worthwhile. Here's how:

Start each lecture on a new page. Write down the name of the lecture (if there is one) and the date. This will help you keep your notes in sequential order.

Write in your own words. Your notes are personal. They should be your way of explaining the lesson to yourself. This will help you a ton in understanding the material quickly and remembering it.

Keep your notes brief. Your notes should mainly be words, phrases, and very short sentences, not paragraphs. Concentrate on the main points and takeaways.

Create an indexing system. Abbreviations can help you find certain notes later. For instance, if you write a "V" in the margin by each vocab word, you can easily find all the vocab words you need to know and review them separately. Similarly, you could write an "F" by each formula, or a "Q" by any questions you want to ask your instructor.

Space things out. Don't try to cram notes into the margins or between lines. It's way easier to read your notes when they aren't jammed together. Try writing on every other line, start a new page for each new concept, or write on only one side of the page.

Bring an audio recorder to class. If your instructor talks fast, record the lecture. You can listen to the recording after class and copy down anything you missed. You could use the audio recorder on your phone, or you can find an inexpensive recorder at most office stores or online.

Type your notes if you have bad handwriting. If you write sloppily or slowly, bring a laptop to class and type your notes instead. Typed notes can also be easier to clean up and format after class.

Review your notes the same day. We can all forget things quickly. Make time to review your notes after class the same day to fill in extra points and identify any questions you want to ask your instructor.

These are some simple steps that will make studying easier and faster throughout the semester. Good luck!

Word to your flocker.

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College Life | 

Thoughts Everyone Has During Their "Easy A" Class

We've all done it.

We all know how it works. You want to boost your GPA, so you decide to sign up for the 3-hour class that your friends SWEARS is an easy A. You know, the ole' "just show up and you'll get an A" GPA booster. Cake.

So here I am, once a week from 6-9 p.m. learning about Africa from a curriculum that is incredibly similar to that of your 9th grade honors social studies course, delivered by a 70-year-old prof on the brink of death, pretending to take notes for a 20-question quiz with questions like "What year did Christopher Columbus sail to the New World?" Why? Because I had a shitty GPA my first three semesters of college. Here are thoughts that everyone has during their easy A class.

1. If I don't get an A, I'm going to send this teacher a plethora of angrily-worded emails.
2. This voice could put Morgan Freeman to sleep.
3. I wonder how many times this guy can repeat the same information in a 3-hour span.
4. Are my friends as bored as I am?
5. I'll ask Abe without talking.
6. He nodded his head.
7. If I lose points for being on my phone, I'll just drop out of school.
8. If I lose points for writing this article (while pretending to take notes), I'll actually drop out school.
9. Weren't we halfway through 30 minutes ago?
10. Okay, now we're halfway through.
11. That's three 30-minute periods.
12. Just gotta get through 10 minutes nine times.
13. Only eighteen 5-minute portions. We got this.
14. If I had to choose between this class and shaving my entire head, I'd start buying beanies for the winter now.
15. Great. Only 16 5-minute portions.
16. The brain named itself.
17. Brain is a pretty cool name.
18. Was the first person named Brian just a misspelling of Brain?
19. Glad my name isn't Brian.
20. If it was and I thought about that, I'd never sleep again.
21. I can't wait to drink tonight.
22. I'd pee out thumbtacks for a day if it meant I never had to hear the words "participation is crucial" again.
23. I need a haircut.
24. He's kind of funny if I picture him singing the lecture in an opera voice.
25. The word "Colonialism" has been written on the board for an hour now without anything else being written under it.
26. Wait...
27. That's what he's talking about.
28. I should listen.
29. Or take notes.
30. Or keep writing this post...
31. What? Don't judge me.
32. Abe hasn't written anything other than "Colonialism" either.
33. Seriously, imagine if your curriculum was a two-disc opera album.
34. There are other 20-year olds out there starting for professional sports teams, making millions of dollars a year.
35. And I'm in class, hoping to be an agent for one of them some day.
36. I kinda feel bad that I took a spot in this class from someone that might actually care about what this guy is saying.
37. Abe's writing!
38. It says, "1884-1885: The Berlin Conference"
39. I'll remember that.
40. I feel like a spy when I watch the TA walk by in the reflection of my computer, and I don't get caught because it looks like I'm just taking notes.
41. Little do you know.
42. At this point I only sip on my water because it's something to do.
43. Signed in for attendance. Throw me some points.
44. Wait, class is over?

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College Life | 

You Are Not Special. You're Not a Beautiful and Unique Snowflake.

Unless you can walk on water, GTFO.

You're not special. You're not a beautiful, unique snowflake. Don't ask your T.A.s to treat you like you are.


Jan. 29 is the winter career fair and as a senior in computer science graduating soon, the career fair is one of the more important events to securing a job out of college. That being said, I won't be able to attend lecture for the 29th. I know it's your policy to not send out lecture slides, but if I could get the slides for tomorrow's lecture this one time, it would save me the trouble and hassle of trying to finding [sic] someone to copy the notes from. Thanks Professor.


Look, I know that you need a job when you graduate. In order to attain the lifestyle in which you've become accustomed, you'll need lots of cash, so getting a job is critical. But look, you've got to navigate this situation with a bit more wisdom in order to get what you need from your T.A.

First, T.A.s hate it when you ask for an exception to one of their policies. Course policies exist for a reason; and it's super annoying to have to deal with yet another student who thinks they are special. Unless you can cure cancer, walk on water, or find me a job with a six-figure salary and amazing benefits, you're not special.

The more egregious error in the above email is where Jimmy told me that he just can't be hassled to find someone else in the class with the notes. Always do everything you can to not add to your T.A's plate. If you have a problem and need something, you'll be much more successful if your T.A doesn't have to go far out of his/her way. Take care of everything you can on your own (I believe in you!), and you'll find yourself getting more of what you want.

An email you could write instead:

Dear Professor,

My name is Jimmy, and I am a graduating computer science major currently enrolled in your ________ class. I just wanted to let you know that I unfortunately won't be able to make it to lecture this Thursday, since I'll be attending the campus's winter career fair. I'll make sure to get the notes from another student in the course and find out what I missed; however, if any of the concepts aren't clear to me or if I have questions, would you be willing to help me and to discuss them with me during your office hour? Thanks so much for your consideration.


Look at you! You are at least pretending to give a shit about your T.A's class, and you're going to make sure you get the notes from someone in the class because you're just that kind of guy. Bravo. You even made your T.A feel important (that feels so good since he or she is so not), by meekly and deferentially asking for a bit of their time. As a benevolent T.A, yes, perhaps he/she can grant you an audience. You also hit the tone right on the head--asking for a favor, but not expecting or demanding it. And we all know that when it comes to email, it's all about the tone.

If you happen to have one of those horrible T.A.s that mistakenly think that they actually are important people who owe you absolutely nothing and can't be bothered to waste their precious time on your request, this presents a much more difficult situation. But that's a post for another day, when T.A E.Z. will tell you what to do with these self-important, oh-so-serious, sexually-frustrated losers.

Until then, remember to lie to us and tell us how enthusiastic you are about our class and how awesome we are...we really like it.

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College Life | 

Five Tips to Manage Schoolwork Without Imploding

Sparknotes aren't all bad...

In college, you get a lot of work. Hundreds of pages of reading every week, exams to study for, quizzes, many, many problem sets. Add that to work, friends, clubs, and study groups and before long you're drowning. How in God's name are we expected to keep up?

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to help with juggling (and eliminating) excess quantities of homework while maintaining sanity--and your GPA.

1. Look ahead.
As tempting as it is to procrastinate, just looking over assignments well in advance of their due date gives you the chance to scout out potential trouble spots. In doing so, you allow yourself the opportunity to seek out time-saving help from TAs, professors, and classmates--help that isn't available at 3 a.m. the day your work is due.

2. Go to class and take good notes.
Your professors are the ones writing the exams and choosing assignments, and many give the precise notes that you need to complete them. While you might be able to find them on your own in the book or online, it'll cost you a time-consuming hunt. Going to class, even if just to get the notes, saves you the agony of searching for answers.

3. SparkNotes is your friend.
I know, I know, you're not supposed to do that. BUT for those gen-eds you don't care about, brief summaries and analyses give you a more comprehensive understanding with a smaller time investment. Then quickly skim through the actual reading.

4. Don't read your textbooks.
They aren't novels, they're reference books. Start by working through problems first, then jump to the relevant sections of the book to assist you when you get stuck or don't understand. The index can help you find those sections quickly--use it! With this approach, you start applying concepts as soon as you learn them, and you save time by skipping the reading content you already understand.

5. Before you even start larger assignments, divide them into small and easily manageable tasks.
Organizing your work this way sets you up to utilize short periods of available time to knock out smaller chunks in their entirety, rather than waiting on (or avoiding) a big block of time to slog through the whole thing at once. Added bonus: not having to suffer through completing a large project in one go.

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College Life |  Source: FlockU, Shutterstock

9 Reasons Students Need Laptops In Class

Save the trees and your grades.

With fossil fuels burning, polar ice caps melting, and the Great Barrier Reef dying, most colleges are pushing earth-friendly practices on their campuses. However, there are still professors who insist on banning laptops from class by claiming that they are a distraction, usually citing some new research report.

Forbidding computers in the classroom is detrimental not only to the environment, but also to us as students who want to learn successfully and responsibly.

That's why I've assembled this list. Comment with your own reasons and what you've done on campus to speak up against technology restrictions in the classroom.

1. Paper doesn't grow on trees
Paper requires trees to be cut down. 42 percent of trees cut down are used to create paper. I would like to skip the unnecessary clutter, waste, and disorganization by turning in papers, taking notes, and getting my syllabi and handouts online.

2. Hand cramps hurt
After writing as little as a page of an exam essay, my hand feels tense and sore. Professors should make exams as easy as possible for their students -- they should reserve a computer lab, restrict Wi-Fi use, and let us type our essays like we are used to.

Even if this is impossible, professors need to allow laptops in the classroom for note-taking purposes. This leads me to my next point.

3. Professors talk fast
The average typing speed is 40 WPM, and that's going to be higher for those with more computer experience: college students. In general, it's just easier for us to keep up with quick-talking professors and their wordy PowerPoint slides by taking notes on a laptop. This means more thorough notes, more effective studying, and better grades. Sounds like a win-win to me!

4. It's time for age-appropriate independence
This isn't high school. As adults, it's up to us what we do in class. If we waste away on Facebook and miss important material, that's our fault, but it's also our decision.

But also, let's not assume all we do online is Facebook. Sometimes, time-sensitive emails or messages come through during class. Whether it's a message about work, from a professor, or offering a job or internship, it may be worth a minute or two of class time to respond as soon as possible. This does more than showing interest and professionalism -- it's often crucial.

5. Increased focus = better learning
There's a study that doodling actually increases focus and memory. So, what's wrong with a little mindless 2048 or Bejeweled? It can help you listen better, and, in those especially boring lectures, it might be your only fighting chance at staying awake and getting anything out of it at all.

6. Google rocks
Classes are meant to inspire learning. When a professor or classmate alludes to a book you haven't read or uses a word you don't know, it's nice to be able to actually know what they're talking about. This allows us to contribute better to class discussion and make sense of what we are supposed to be learning.

7. Google Docs rock
These are a great resource for backing up your data, sharing files, and collaborating on projects. Plus, they do more than just save paper --they keeps you organized. There's only so much room in a dorm for stacks of notebooks. Fight for your right to take notes how you want!

8. Scheduling isn't optional
Many of us prefer a digital calendar to the old-fashioned pen-and-paper equivalent. While both have their advantages and disadvantages, it's only fair to accommodate those of us who want to keep track of due dates, exam schedules, and other class events digitally.

9. Trust should be mutual
To sum it all up, students know best! It's our education, and we have a right to learn, take notes, make schedules, and use our time however we see fit. As soon as professors see laptops as a tool and not a threat, the bans will be a thing of the past. Everyone should remember: professors work for us, not the other way around.

Make a point to express your opinions to your professors, classmates, and, if you have one, your campus ecology club. With enough students speaking up, we're sure to see a change.

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College Life |  Source: @CoyKoehler

Do's and Don'ts of Classroom Boredom

No talking, no shopping, no sleeping, and absolutely no porn.

We all get bored in class. That's just the nature of the beast, but there is a proper way to alleviate classroom boredom. Here are some do's and don'ts.

Don't fall asleep. I kid you not, I have had people fall asleep near me and snore. Loudly. It is the single most obnoxious thing I have ever encountered while in a lecture. Oh, and it's also quite embarrassing if you wake up and realize that you've been drooling everywhere. So save yourself the potential embarrassment, and just don't do it.

Do bring coffee or any other form of caffeine. Spend the few bucks it takes to get some form of caffeine, so that you can stay awake during lecture. This will help your grades, your reputation with your professors, and it will also help you not bother the people around you.

Don't talk in the middle of class. This is one way to quickly be at the very top of some people's shit list. If you feel the need to talk in class, just don't. People don't like it, because you are disturbing class/preventing them from hearing what the prof is saying/etc. It's also just rude.

Do text your friends. If you have something that is really, really, REALLY important, then by all means, text your best friend about it. It's quiet, and less likely to disturb the people around you. Plus, it's still a very effective form of communication. Be warned, though. Some professors do not appreciate cell phones. I have seen people get thrown out of a class because they were texting, and I have almost been that person. It's terrifying. Truly terrifying.

Don't shop for your next outfit. In fact, I would advise against looking up anything besides the notes while in lecture. You may not want to be present in class, but other people are there to take notes. They don't want to have to watch you shop for a new pair of shoes, or the latest Seahawks apparel. And please, for the love of God and all that is holy, DO NOT WATCH PORN IN CLASS.

Do doodle, or write, or study. Anything that makes it look like you are writing down the notes for that particular lecture works. You're not disturbing anyone, plus, you look like you are actually paying attention.

Don't pack up early. I used to always wonder why teachers made students wait until the end of class to pack up, and then I came to college. Now I realize why - it is disruptive as all hell. Look, I get it, you have 10 minutes to get across campus to go to your next class, but you still have 15 minutes before this class ends. So don't disrupt your classmates by making the most noise a person can make while in a classroom.

Do come to class prepared. Bringing a notebook and a pen is all fine and dandy, but I'm talking about the real preparation materials. Bring a pair of headphones, because they are the easiest way to make a class go by faster. Bring a phone charger, because you never know when yours will die. Lastly, bring a snack, because learning while hungry is a no-go.