How I Take Aesthetic & Effective Notes ☆


Briana Fulciniti '20, Staff Writer

I think most students can agree that note-taking is a crucial part of learning new information. Taking notes by hand helps the brain retain information better, and by having an effective system for note-taking, you’re not only learning the material well, but you’re also making neat and informative summaries that are valuable to have when practicing for a test or an exam. Better notes will help you remember concepts, develop meaningful learning skills, and gain a better understanding of a topic. Effective notes will even lead to less stress when test time comes around! Learning how to take better study notes in class helps improve recall and understanding of what you are learning because it: 

  • Ensures you are actively listening to what the teacher is saying
  • Requires you to think about what you are writing
  • Helps you make connections between topics
  • Serves as quality review material for after class

So, with that being said, here are my “Top 10 Tips” for how to take neat and effective notes: 


1.Keep a Separate Notebook for Each Subject

This may seem like a strange first tip but I promise it will make sense. Having a specific notebook for each class makes organization super simple. Since you are using one notebook for a particular subject, when it comes time to do homework or study for an exam, all of the information is in one place. Lastly, it allows for creative freedom. You can customize the style of notes for that particular subject. For example, your math notes will differ from your history notes. Having a designated notebook for each allows you to create an individualized note-taking experience. 


2. Write the Title in an Aesthetic Font

In the words of senior Grace Kepperling, “aesthetic titles make you happy.” Not only is it super fun to experiment with different font styles, it makes the title recognizable when you are flipping through your notebook. Similar to Tip #1, you have full creative freedom when it comes to titles and headers. If you would like to read about my favorite font styles and ways that I create titles, I would happily write an article about that. 


3.  Color Code Your Notes Based on Chapter or Topic

Just to make your life even easier, color coding your notes based on chapter or topic is extremely helpful. My favorite way to incorporate color in my notes is to use a coordinating color of pen and highlighter. This way you can see how terms relate and the most important aspects of the unit stand out amongst the rest. 


4. Create a “Style” and Be Consistent 

There are multiple different types of note-taking “styles.” I’m sure a majority of you are using the classic “Outline method.” This one follows a simple, bullet point style. As the notes get more specific, the bullet points become more and more indented. A second method that is proven extremely effective in higher-level education is the “Cornell Method.” This involves dividing the paper in three separate sections. The majority of the paper is used for the main topics and notes from class. On the left-side margin, leave space to include questions; whether that be questions that the teacher asks or questions you may have while learning the material.


5. Find Your Favorite Stationery Products 

Perhaps my favorite part of handwriting my notes is the stationary. There are millions of stationary products out on the market ranging from brush pens to ball-point pens to pastel highlighters. Finding stationary that you enjoy using makes the process of handwriting notes that much more enjoyable. My first tip under this category is to find one pen that you enjoy writing with. I suggest trying out a few different types and determining what size tip, type of ink, color, etc. you find works best for you. 


☆ Disclaimer: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BUY EVERY SINGLE STATIONARY PRODUCT ON THE MARKET IN ORDER TO HAVE AESTHETIC AND NEAT NOTES. It can be very overwhelming when you see how many products are out there. I suggest starting out with a simple black pen, one colored pen, and an optional matching highlighter. That way you can discover what you need and what you don’t. 


6. Create a “Terms” List at the Beginning of each Unit or Chapter

This tip is actually one I just started integrating into my notes this year. I found myself skimming over my notes and desperately searching for terms that may have been hidden in the material. Typically, the terms or vocabulary words are the building blocks of the unit. Becoming familiar with the terms will hopefully help the rest of the unit make sense. I suggest placing the terms list at the very beginning of each unit, allowing for quick access. 


7. Use Colored and Labeled Diagrams 

Drawing labeled diagrams or conceptual charts is another very effective way of learning a specific topic. Not only are you avoiding unnecessary writing, you are creating a visual representation of a major topic. I recommend labelling and using color to make it even more visually appealing. This tip is great for those of you visual learners like myself. Some popular ways to diagrams are tables, cause/effect charts, mind maps, and flow charts. 


8. Utilize Post-It Notes

I am a bit of a perfectionist. My biggest pet peeve while writing my notes is when accidentally forget to write down an important point from the last topic and there isn’t enough room to fit it where it’s supposed to go. But fear not! I have the solution: Post-It Notes. Post-It Notes are magical. You can get any color, size, and shape your heart desires. You can write down missing points, questions you have, emphasized terms, quotes, diagrams and so much more.  


9. If You Type Notes in Class, Rewrite Them As a Way to Review the Material 

If you are someone who prefers to take notes in class on your laptop, I totally understand. It’s quicker and definitely requires much less effort. My suggestion is to take your notes normally in class and then take that information and convert them into handwritten notes in a notebook. Not only does this help you recall information, but you are actively learning the material again. I find this very effective in AP and lecture based classes especially. 


10. Be Patient 

This is a process. It’s not going to happen overnight. Don’t get discouraged if your title is lopsided or if you accidentally spell words wrong––it’s okay! The best thing about note-taking is that your notes are for you and you only. I don’t want you to feel like you have to emulate the perfect font or style of notes you see online. Discover whatever you need to help you get the most out of your classes.  Spending just a little bit more time on your notes, making them neat and filled with information, will be a life-saver. I promise.