How to Highlight Books & Notes in College

Have you ever seen that picture of a textbook completely covered in yellow highlighter that just says, “Highlighting. You’re doing it wrong.”?
I literally laughed so hard at that the first time I saw it because I have definitely gotten those textbooks before! 

(And in all honesty, I’ve also been that highlighting offender.)
Sometimes, it’s just hard to know what to and what not to highlight. Like, what if you need to know this in the future? Clearly, that neon yellow will lead the information right into your brain and let it stay there forever!

Here is my system for highlighting (and reading) textbooks:

First of all, go into your textbook with a purpose. Just reading a chapter start to finish without a purpose is like walking into Target without a purpose (dangerous and costly).
When you know what you’re looking for (either by using a study guide, looking at class notes, or reading the guiding questions that the end of the chapter), you’re more likely to pull out the importantinformation.
Scan the pictures and headings to get an idea of what you’re SUPPOSED to learn from the chapter. Then really focus on learning that thing! You and I both know every chapter doesn’t need to be 30+ pages. Don’t waste your time reading every word.

Create a routine, just like everything else. You may want to use one color for vocabulary terms and a different color for important ideas. I always, ALWAYS write my notes right in the margins using a mechanical pencil. It just makes it so much easier to have all of the info right there together!
If you use a consistent system, you’ll automatically look for vocabulary words to be pink, or learning theories to be yellow, which would make it a little more memorable!

Also, don’t forget about the wide variety of office supplies that can make your textbook reading more interactive! Use Post-It flags/tabs to save pages where important theories/concepts/charts, etc. are. You can highlight away, but what good does it do if you can’t find the page again?
If you’re not totally comfortable with writing straight into your book, you can use medium-sized sticky notes and stick those in the margins of important pages instead! Plus, sometimes a little extra color makes textbooks a little more bearable.

Don’t forget to bring the information “out” of your textbook.By that, I mean pull out those important terms/concepts/ideas that you highlighted and put them on index cards. Hang them up on your fridge, the wall above your computer, or on your mirror. This brings the information to you instead of you having to do work to get to the information.
Also, Target and school supply stores have that giant paper that you could use to create diagrams, etc. and literally hang them on your wall (provided your husband/roommates wouldn’t mind too much).

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Good Habits for College Classes

Class. To go or not to go? 

That usually seems to be the question. 

I mean, we know that  it’s probably best to go… but the freedom of not having to be there is just so tempting sometimes.  

Plus, there is always so much to do. Occasionally, we’re just positive that we could be more productive if we skipped class and spent that hour by ___ (insert biggest stressor of the day) instead. 

If going to class feels “unproductive” to you, here are some ways to change that and get the most out of your time spent on campus!

Here are my top “good” habits for college classes:
Bring Your Planner
Not only would I never in my life have come to class without my planner. I kept it open in front of me at all times. This just kept  dates in my mind (next class, we’ll be talking about this chapterthat assignment is due a week from today… etc.). I definitely, definitely suggest doing this!

Listen Proactively

For my new teaching job, we’re reading the book Teach Like a Champion. There is a technique in the book called SLANT, which provides an easy for students (or “scholars) to know how they’re expected to sit. Our brains usually take their cues from our bodies, and if your body is saying “Hey, this is interesting and I’m excited to hear it! Then your brain will pay attention, too (probably).
S: Sit up
L: Listen attentively
A: Ask and answer questions like a scholar
N: Not your head
T: Track the speaker

Stay Active

Unfortunately, most college courses are still lecture-style. As in, you’re sitting passively, listening (or looking like you’re listening) for nearly the entire class period. If you struggle with staying focused the whole time, I would definitely suggest writing the whole time. Just start taking notes at the beginning of class, and keep on until the end of class. This does two things: First of all, it keeps you engaged, actively doing something throughout the lecture! And secondly, you leave with some pretty awesome and thorough notes that your classmates will totally envy.
Build Class Time into Your Schedule

Remember at the beginning of this post where I talked about to go or not to go to class? The answer is always the same: GO TO CLASS! Even if you have the study guide, Even if your professor puts the Power Points online, Even if you have a friend who promised to take notes for you. Build class time into your schedule and stick to it!
Keep Your Class Stuff Organized

If you’re going to math class (bless your heart), keep your pencils, calculator, book, graph paper, altogether in the same place every time! The worst thing is showing up unprepared! Try getting some of those $10 canvas bins from Target and making them your “class bins”. This will make it easy for you to grab your stuff and go (and hopefully keep you on time)!
College classes can be annoying, boring, and feel like time wasters BUT they’re also the reason you’re there!

Just show up, take notes, and try to learn something (of course)! 😀 

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How to Prepare for a New Semester

How was last semester for you? 

Did you easily breeze through, flitting from class to class, turning in perfectly completed assignments that your professors praised profusely, all with perfect makeup and a manicure? 


Did you feel so overwhelmed that you rushed from class to class, looking like a drowned, harassed rat, somehow managing to type up and print out assignments just as they were due, all while driving around in a car that hasn’t had an oil change in 9 months with half of your closet in the backseat? #nojudgment

Oh, you want to know how my fall semester went? It would be that second one. 

Starting a new job at a new school in a new school system had me completely overwhelmed. So overwhelmed, in fact, that it reminded me of my first semester of college:

My first semester of college went a little like this: I was super excited about the first day of class, then the semester started and I don’t remember anything else until Christmas. 

My first semester of teaching in public school went a little like this: I was super excited about the first day of class, then the semester started and I don’t remember anything else until Christmas. 

(I told you they were similar).

So, THIS is the time to set ourselves up for success over the next semester! We know what to expect, we have a general idea of how long things take and the general expectations that we’re held to. It’s time to prepare for a kick-butt spring semester! Are you ready?! 
Let’s get started, shall we?

First, always, always, always start with a goal! 
Your goal will guide everything you do. Keep your focus on that goal and you will take intentional steps to achieve it! Organized Charm is literally filled with posts about goal-setting, from how to determine them, to how to write them, to how to follow through with them!

Second, as they say, a goal without a plan is just a wish. 
So get yourself a beautiful new planner! I just happen to know of a great one 😉 Everyone is different and different types of planners work for different people. Really do your research before committing to one and make sure it works best for YOU!

Third, what left you feeling overwhelmed last semester? 
For me, I kind of hated how messy I let my home get. I hated it that I sacrificed workout time for my work schedule (as in, I literally have not worked out since Daylight Savings Time ended). And I really hated it that I spent less time with my husband than I used to. So, for the new semester, I’m working on ways to not let those parts of my life get pushed aside. Remind yourself that school/work is only a PART of your life. It isn’t your life.

Fourth, take action now! 
If you know that something will be challenging to do once school has started, then get it done now! Once the new semester starts, I won’t have time to get my oil changed or go to the dentist, so those are tasks that I can cover over the break. Of course, enjoy your break, but also deal with stuff that will stress you out once you’re back in school!

Fifth, designate checkpoints! 
I don’t know how it’s possible but semesters seem to simultaneously fly by AND drag on at the same time. When you’re in the middle of it, it can feel really overwhelming, so set some checkpoints to keep you motivated! They can be short-term goals or little motivational reminders on your phone or in your planner! Anything to remind you that you’re on the right track, even when you feel like you aren’t making any progress.

The best way to prepare for the new semester is just to do as much planning as possible! For every minute you spend planning, you save yourself 11 minutes in the future! 

And in the midst of the chaos of a new semester, those 11 minutes will be gold! 🙂 

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