Guide to Use Evernote for College Notetaking

Evernote is a powerful app for college note taking. In fact, it’s so useful that it’s been called the Swiss Army Knife of note taking apps.

Its strong functionality and easy to use interface were the reasons Evernote ranked as our top overall pick in our comparison of the best note taking apps for students. 

As the app comparison explains, Evernote is a great choice because it has robust organization tools, including reminders. You can add files such as images, and the text within the images is searchable, which can be a major time saver. Evernote has a free version, or there’s a student discount on Evernote Premium. 

Now that you know the basics, let’s jump into the best way to use Evernote as a college student. 

1. Make Your Info Portable with Multi-Device Access

The first step is to get your gadgets connected and synced so you can use a single Evernote account to access your notes from any device. 

For example, you can use Evernote on your iPad during class. Later, when you’re in the library, you can access those notes from your laptop. You can even use Evernote for micro-study sessions by reviewing notes on your phone when you’re waiting in line.  

The Evernote app is available on iOS, Android and Windows. It can be installed on a phone, tablet or laptop. You also have full access to your Evernote account via the web. 

With a free Evernote account, you can use the app on a maximum of two devices. Plus, you can use the web version on an unlimited number of devices. 

2. Get Organized for the Semester

The crux of Evernote’s usefulness is your ability to organize notes. This is done through a combination of individual notebooks and stacks. Similar to how you use file folders, you can create a notebook for each class you’re taking. All of those notebooks can then be organized into a stack to group together the semester’s classes. 

This organization structure is how you’ll keep your Chemistry class notes separate from your History notes, and this note-taking system is easy to edit as your personal preferences evolve. 

You can also use Evernote Tags to add labels to individual notes. Tags such as study guide, lab notes or term paper can help you quickly locate information. Plus, tags can be organized into hierarchies too. 

3. Use Evernote’s Handwriting Feature

You can use Evernote to type notes using a standard text editor that includes helpful formatting tools like bullet points. However, not everyone likes typing during class. 

If you’d rather be hand writing, you don’t have to revert to paper. Evernote syncs with the Penultimate digital handwriting app for iPhone or iPad. On Android devices, you can handwrite using your finger or a stylus such as the Pixelbook pen.

With these options for digital handwriting, you’ll have the freedom to hand-draw diagrams, write chemistry formulas, solve math equations and more. Plus, you get the learning benefits of longhand note taking. 

Your handwritten notes are stored within Evernote so they’ll be easily accessible. Plus, they’re also searchable. With Evernote’s optical character reader (OCR) capabilities, the app understands handwriting as though it were typed text. So if you took handwritten notes from a lecture about Hannibal crossing the Alps, a search for the word “elephant” will help you find the exact lecture. 

4. Pen and Paper Won’t Hold You Back

Even in the best of circumstances, college classes aren’t entirely digital. 

With Evernote, teacher handouts, sticky notes, past exams and other paperwork can quickly be added to the app with the scanner function. By adding these documents, your papers will stay organized and readily available. 

Plus, these scanned pages are also searchable, just like the notes taken via digital handwriting. 

5. Capturing Teacher Whiteboards and PowerPoints

Many types of files can be added to Evernote. This is especially useful when your professor distributes the slides from a lecture or a series of homework readings. These PDFs and files can easily be organized into your digital notebooks. It’s as easy as drag and drop.

Plus, when you’re in class, you can also snap a photo of an important lecture slide or diagram. If you’re using the mobile app, there’s a camera feature within the Evernote app so you can capture the information without missing a beat. 

6. Flag Class Notes For Follow-up

With Evernote, you’re not solely dependent on your memory. You can add reminders directly to notes that have time-specific information, deadlines or need further action. 

These reminders will auto-populate a to-do list that’s pinned to the top of your note list. You can sort them, mark them as complete, and you can even choose to get email reminders about due dates. 

7. Staying on Track by Using Checklists

To survive college, you’ll need to track homework assignments, project deadlines, exam dates and so much more. The checklist function in Evernote lets you develop task lists so you can stay on track. You’ll also get the satisfaction of marking things done. 

8. Turn Your Syllabus into a Living Doc

In many classes, your syllabus will give you exam dates, homework assignments and details about what to expect for the semester. Rather than your syllabus PDF being static and unchangeable, Evernote lets you draw and write directly onto a PDF. 

With this tool, you can edit the syllabus to keep track of your progress, make edits to the professor’s teaching plans, and help yourself stay on top of your responsibilities. 

8. Augment Notes with Audio Recordings

For most students, relistening to lectures isn’t an efficient or helpful way to study. However, there are instances where you may want to capture audio content, and Evernote lets you do this directly from the app. 

If you have the permission of your professor, you can capture their explanations of difficult concepts or group discussions when you’d rather be participating instead of taking written notes. Plus, you can also use the tool to capture voice notes to yourself.

9. Add Content from Textbooks and Readings

Evernote is a great tool for gathering all your study materials together. When all of your information is in one place, you won’t waste time searching through disorganized papers and books. 

While doing homework, important files, images and documents can be added alongside your class notes. You can also use the integrated Web Clipper to take screenshots of web pages so you’ll have easy access to articles on a subject. 

10. Improving Note-Taking Speed with Evernote Shortcuts

This tip isn’t for beginners. However, as your skill and comfort increase, keyboard shortcuts can help you to work faster and accomplish more. 

Whether you want to start a new note or update text formatting, keyboard shortcuts are especially useful for college students trying to keep up in a fast-paced lecture class. 

One estimate found that for every keyboard shortcut you use, you save about two seconds. That could add up to an average of 64 hours per year of lost time.

11. Why You May Want to Upgrade

The free version of Evernote has a great set of features that covers a broad range of what most students need for their class notes. 

However, there are a few notable features that might warrant upgrading to Evernote Premium.

  • Offline access: This can be useful for students who want access to their notes while using an internet-blocking app to stay focused.
  • Version histories: Historical info can help you see how documents change so you can revert back when you need to. 
  • Integration with Google Drive: This is especially useful if you’re using Google Docs for a major report or senior thesis and you want full integrative access between your class notes and cloud storage. 

For students, Evernote Premium is half price. The cost would be about $4 per month or $48 per year. Keep in mind that the discount is only available for one year so you could end up paying $96 per year in the future. 

12. Access Your Classmate’s Notes

While many note taking apps offer individualized solutions for better class notes, there are alternative approaches where students can benefit by accessing shared class notes. 

With an app like OneClass, paid note-takers upload high-quality class notes. Users can then access these shared documents to improve their own learning. If you’re struggling with the material, you can avoid falling behind because you’ll have on-demand access to helpful information. Plus, even if you missed class, you can still find out what happened. 

Not all students are skilled note-takers, but with OneClass, you can still have access to high-quality notes. 

While Evernote gives you the tools for taking class notes and organizing information, OneClass gives you access to shared notes so that you can seemingly never miss a class. 

Find out how OneClass’ study resources have helped more than 90 percent of users improve by at least one letter grade. 

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