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higher ed Getting ready to start college

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As we get closer and closer to July (can't believe I'm saying that), a lot of students are getting ready for their freshman year of college. How are you using Evernote to prepare? Keeping track of all the things you need to get? Organizing your schedule? How else are you using Evernote?

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As we get closer and closer to July (can't believe I'm saying that), a lot of students are getting ready for their freshman year of college. How are you using Evernote to prepare? Keeping track of all the things you need to get? Organizing your schedule? How else are you using Evernote?

Hi Megan. I think this will generate lots of great discussion. Thanks for posting!

I hope people have had an opportunity to read your blog post at


I have posted some of my ideas for using Evernote in a university setting (research journal, bibliographies, reading notes, etc.) at


I really like what some people have done with shared notebooks and their class notes. I have posted a few that I have found at


One thing that I would recommend for students over the summer is to purchase textbooks, scan them into digital form (PDFs), run OCR (optical character recognition) on them, and put the PDFs into Evernote. Why? They will be searchable (remember, Evernote only does OCR for PDFs with 100 pages or less, so you have to do the OCR yourself for these, or break them up into smaller chunks) and easily accessible anytime (works great in combination with an iPad for reading). Just think, when the professor starts talking about genomes, you can plug the word into Evernote and find all 122 instances of the word in your notes and PDFs. Great stuff. I haven't had to carry a book in a backpack for a couple of years now, yet I have more books in my little man bag than everyone in the entire classroom, thanks to Evernote and the iPad :)

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Oh my goodness. Evernote is so wonderful for school; I cannot even begin to describe how much it has helped me. I am naturally a data hoarder, unabashed in my inability to actually maintain it all, but so addicted to the idea that nothing can be spared. That sort of behavior simply isn't conducive to a good academic experience. :)

A Trap for Every Keeper

I know a lot of people use Evernote for every aspect of their life, and prefer to keep a minimal number of notebooks so that their personal search techniques are unimpeded; however, I must recommend students start an individual notebook for each class and then to bind those into stacks based on each semester. This will sequester the data from a lot of your other Evernote endeavors, ensuring a better level of organization for your classwork (as well as a definitive way of recalling an entire semester's worth of data). GrumpyMonkey's link to shared notebooks makes this even more attractive, because you will likely encounter many people who will take the same class. Imagine being able to help out friends who end up taking the same courses! :) Granted, I advocate quid pro quo in those scenarios.

Tabby cat

As to how you actually take notes is something very personal, but I will say Evernote has great shortcuts for generating well-structured outlines. Utilizing tables can give your notes a strong visual enhancement, but I personally prefer swiftness when taking notes—especially during lectures and seminars. You don't want to commit too much to organizing or you will miss the juicy content. Learn the easy shortcuts. When you create a bullet list, use tab to indent and shift+tab (or return) to return to the margin. This will give your notes a great form that translates well to mobile devices. I would take all my notes like this on my laptop, then on my bus commutes I would review them on my iPhone.

  • A rat can't clap during a symphony
    • Why?
      • It's little baby rat hands are too pathetic
      • It's not proper
      • Rats don't go to symphonies

Learn to tab & learn to love it. Keep the rat from clapping during your symphony. Embrace the tabby cat.

The Citing

Citations. They are just… Oh my lord. They are my bane. I would have a paper that I would be writing, and I'd literally stop and weep because I was so inept when it came to effectively (quickly) compiling the works I'd cited. I know there are tons of "citation machines," but merely maintaing every single source can be so overwhelming throughout the process of synthesizing your own ideas.

Sooo~ What I've been doing instead is using my iPhone to just take pictures of the bibliographical information—usually at the beginnings of most books. I just start a note with a title BIBLIOGRAPHY for X Paper, and collect them there. So long as you're vigilant, your life will be made much easier once you begin cultivating your works cited from this note. This is admittedly inefficient (charlatan!!!) because just typing the info out immediately would lead to less work. However, this is how I do it, and sometimes it is best to submit to your quirks for improved fluidity in your workflow.

I use the same strategy with quotes / passages. I do this instead of highlighting. Not only do I get to carry with me, permanently, a salient piece of text, but when I go to write my paper, it is simple to organize the pictures of passages chronologically, and the thesis I'd perhaps not solidified prior to my research then crystallizes rapidly. As GrumpyMonkey said, the OCR capabilities of Evernote also enable you to sift with efficiency should you need to find an elusive passage. Win/Win~


WebClipper. This thing is incredible. Doing research papers when the Internet was first emerging as a standard commodity for higher education was frustrating. The entire process of citing information from the Internet was anathema to all, due to its frequently illicit nature. It still is, thanks to copyright laws that are so highly contested and equivocal. The WebClipper changes this, I think. Not only does it pull articles with ease, but it validates the usage of more dynamic content by stabilizing and freezing it for easy reference in Evernote.

What I mean by dynamic content is that you can go to Twitter or this forum, clip salient discussions, and have a better, permanent document that can be attributed to your research. I much prefer this instead of, say, screen capping, copy pasting, or downloading source codes and all the content yourself.

More progressive professors might enjoy having a PDF compilation of such referenced web content, and readers of your research will, too. I believe this will soon become a standard activity for a researcher who would like to preserve the best representation of her sleuthing.

Dually noted

If your professors are as tangential as mine were, you will often have moments in your note taking where you're like "what are they talking about? this sounds important but it doesn't belong here! NO! you're ruining my beautiful floooow!"

So have one note open that acts as the sort of core for a lecture, and another note open to catch the weird little crumbs that tend to be shed by teachers. Those crumbs tend to be quite important, too. Keep them. Keep them and eat them.

Syllabi curious

Treat your syllabi with reverence. Scan them, retype them, just put them in your Evernote and keep them available in a very visible place that you will see that is not hidden. This will save you so much angst when it comes to knowing what you should be doing, when you should be doing it, when it is due, what criteria to fill for projects, and more. Some dedicated people will input these things into their calendar personally, but having the original document is ideal, especially in circumstances where deadlines are misinterpreted.

Ugh, I could keep going, but this is already too long. I hope it helps someone!ヽ(・ω・ヽ)

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Thank you so much for these tips!

I will be going back to school this Fall and I hate dragging around lots of books and papers.

I love the idea of scanning the syllabus! I feel you should always have them with you @ school so it will be awesome to just pull that info up on my tablet. :)

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Looks like some great ideas here! As said earlier in this topic, there are endless ways that you can organize your Evernote account. I like to use Evernote for pretty much every aspect of my life, so I have a separate notebook for each of my classes, with all of them in a single stack. This allows me to keep things separated by class, but at the same time, I can close the stack if I don't want to think about school for a few minutes.

Keeping your textbooks in a digital form is an excellent idea! It's actually why I ended up getting an iPad. I wanted to be able to carry around all of my class materials without actually having to carry all of my materials. Having searchable books makes everything easier. All of my friends are jealous when I can just easily search through a massive text book to find the one sentance that I need to reference.

JCM listed some great ideas in his reply! Check them out. Also, the links that GrumpyMonkey posted are excellent. Keep the ideas coming!

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Evernote is beyond wonderful for school, especially the OCR. I'm a science major, and I take notes in a very graphical fashion (imagine a cross between a bulleted list and a mind map). So, all of my notes are handwritten, and then I just use my scanner to get them into evernote, OCR, and magic happens. This allows me to have my entire collection of class notes, syllabi, paper research, etc. with me wherever I go, in a searchable format. Convenient and useful.

Naming Notes:

I structure my notes much like GrumpyMonkey does (I got the idea from Dan Gold's blog post about GrumpyMonkey's system). All fo my note titles are prefixed with the date: YYYY-MM-DD, and several keywords. I don't like tags, so I use the keywords in the titles as pseudo-tags, so that when I search intitie:"keyword", it's just like clicking on a tag, but without the mess of having a tagging system. I do use multiple notebooks, unlike the system described in the blog post, because having everything in one notebook (class notes, cool facts, research papers, etc) started to confuse me, along with my adoption of GTD, the "one notebook" system just didn't fly for me.

For my scanned class notes, I like to name them in code, something short and simple that will identify the class without having to write that long name ("Introduction to Research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry" is an example of an obnoxiously long name for a class). I begin my class code with the department. My school happens to already have department codes, but if your's does not, the first four letters of the department name will suffice, (ie: History becomes HIST, chemistry CHEM, Psychology PSYC, and so on). For the Introduction class mentioned above, the department is Molecular Biology and Biochemistry, which my school codes as MBB. The second part of my code is part the class number. In my school, the class number consists of 8 digits, the first two signify the school program, the next three are the department numbers, and the last three identify the class. I only use the last three identification numbers in my code. For the example class, it's number is 01:640:215, so 215 is the part I use in my identification.

End result:

Introduction to Research in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry ==> MBB215

The shorter keyword is easier to remember, harder to make a typo on, and therefore more useful when you implement the search feature.


Oh, the search feature. It really is wonderful for those moments when the professor mentions an example from last week, and you have no clue what he's talking about. Or, when you need to review a concept from last semester because it will (for reasons unknown) pop up on the next exam. You get my point. It's useful, and I use it in excess. For example, if I need to review the basics of resonance, I search for a note from my Organic Chem class, from september, with the words resonance in it my search looks like:

intitle:"2011-09" intitle:"CHEM315" resonance

An additional plus to using title keywords as opposed tags is that the only search prefix that I need to know is "intitle".

This is just my system, and different ones work for different people, so I would recommend being open minded the first month or so, play around with different systems and parts of systems you hear about to see which one's best for how your mind works.

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