High School vs. College: Note Taking

Family Modules

Module 1 Part 4



Objective: Families will apply a note-taking strategy and then compare the results with each other to evaluate the effectiveness of their note-taking skills.

This activity will focus on the skill of note-taking that successful college students learn. This is just a starting-off point. If your note-taking skills are not “up to par,” don’t worry! There is plenty of time to polish this skill.

Estimated time 30-45 minutes

Materials needed:

Classroom curriculum Link:

This section corresponds with Module 1 Activity 2 of the College Bound classroom resources.

Learn About It

  • In many college courses, material is presented via lecture. So note-taking is a very important skill to have at the start of your college career. Note-taking enables you to recall information at a later date, particularly for an exam. Good college note-taking habits include reviewing notes regularly, often within 24 hours after taking them; reciting key concepts from class; and connecting the lecture to the reading material. These habits, combined with active listening, can help you learn and retain large chunks of information.
  • In high school, your teacher may have handed out notes, or provided guided notes, for you to highlight items and fill in the blanks.
  • In college, it is rare for professors to provide notes to students; they're more likely to provide information via lecture. Some professors may provide PowerPoint slides prior to class, but this is not common and is often done only at the request of a student. In college, you will have the opportunity to try different note taking styles and strategies. You may even select different strategies depending upon the course content. For example, you may use one note-taking style in your psychology course and a totally different style in your biology course.
  • Though some students hand-write their notes, others prefer to type them. Some professors encourage computer use in class, but others find computers distracting. Don’t be surprised if you’re required to use a pen and paper to take notes in class.

Learn more about the use of assistive technology for note-taking in the Digging Deeper section of this activity.

Note-taking Activity

Activity Description

With a parent or family member, select one of the videos listed below and take notes using notebook paper. You may apply any note-taking strategy or style that you prefer. Anything is acceptable. When you're finished, compare the notes taken and see what each of you missed from the video lecture. Talk about what you could do to improve the notes you take.

Financial Theory

This lecture gives a brief history of the young field of financial theory, which began in business schools quite separate from economics, and of my growing interest in the field and in Wall Street. [Transcript]

Fundamental of Physics, II

The course begins with a discussion of electricity. The concept of charge is introduced, and the properties of electrical forces are compared with those of other familiar forces, such as gravitation. [Transcript]

The American Novel Since 1945

Professor Amy Hungerford continues her discussion of Richard Wright’s classic American autobiography, Black Boy. [Transcript]

Introduction to Ancient Greek History

Professor Donald Kagan explains why people should study the ancient Greeks. He argues that the Greeks are worthy of our study not only because of their vast achievements and contributions to Western civilization but also because they offer a unique perspective on humanity. [Transcript]

Introduction to the Old Testament

This lecture provides an introduction to the literature of the Hebrew Bible and its structure and contents. [Transcript]

Objective Check

Parents Chime In

The categories listed above are suggested labels for the sections of your notebook. These are based on the information most incoming students receive from their colleges, but should be modified as necessary on an individual basis. Use this time to help your student think of other aspects of transition that could be included and help personalize this process for your student. During the college search process, students may want to create notebook sections based on each school they are seriously considering. Within each section, they would keep all of that school’s information, such as applications, brochures, flyers, maps, promotional materials, pros/cons lists, notes from visits, etc. You’ll continue adding to this notebook both in class and at home throughout the year.

Have you accomplished today's objective?

Objective:Families will apply a note-taking strategy and then compare with each other to evaluate the effectiveness of their note-taking skills.

If so, congratulations!

If you don’t feel like you have effective note-taking skills at this point, don’t worry! You will get better at it with practice. Here are some other places you can practice note-taking:

  • Community event
  • Church
  • Family meeting
  • Watching television

Digging Deeper

LiveScribe Pen:

Read and Write Gold:

Dragon Naturally Speaking:

Sonocent Audio Notetaker