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Stage 1: Note-taking

This stage focuses on recording information, whether it’s spoken by your teacher or read in your textbook. Below are some tips.

  • Use the Cornell note-taking method. 
  • At the top of the page, write a concept question that your notes will help you answer.
  • Write points and details on the right side of the page. 
  • Use words you can understand when you look back at your notes.
  • Use shorthand, so you can write faster.
  • Write in phrases rather than complete sentences. 
  • Leave space between the main points, so you can add more information and revise later. 
  • Indicate key ideas, concept changes, and links between information (you can do this by drawing asterisks by the key idea, underlining, or highlighting).

Stage 2: Note-making:

In this stage, you will begin to think about why you’ve written your notes down, what questions do they answer? You will also make connections, test your knowledge, and begin the review process. 

  • Write the questions that your notes answer on the left side of the page. 
  • Link key chunks of information. 
  • Exchange notes and ideas with your peers and quiz each other.
  • Review!

 Stage 3 Note-interacting:

In stage 3, you will continue to test your understanding and review, and you will condense your notes into a summary. 

  • Write a summary of your notes that answers all of the questions you’ve written. 
  • Quiz yourself by covering the right side of your paper and answering the questions on the left.
  • Review! 

Stage 4 Note-reflecting:

Focus on problem areas and continue to review before your exam!

  • Use feedback from a professor and from being quizzed by a peer or yourself to figure out what you don’t fully know or understand yet. 
  • Spend more time learning and reviewing those concepts.
  • Regularly review your notes for a unit before your exam. Spending even five minutes to review is helpful.



Reflect on the Year As a Whole

Look holistically at your accomplishments and things that you want to improve on. This has been a crazy year with a lot of emotions and stressors. Be gentle with yourself, and try not to judge yourself too harshly. 

Michelle Shory, Ed.S. and Irina V. McGrath, Ph.D. are both district instructional coaches and Google Certified Trainers in public school districts. They both state that, “reflection is also a great way to consolidate learning, process our feelings, and share about ourselves [...] Creating a year-end reflection is often a good culminating project, but it seems to be essential this year. Allowing students to reflect, share, and document their feelings about this time in an open-ended way can serve as a reflection of learning, as well as documentation of a once-in-a-lifetime event (Ferlazzo).


Plan for Your Triggers 

As a college student, you probably know what your usual end-of-the-year triggers are (rise in temperatures, dehydration, allergies, etc.). Those are things that you hopefully have figured out a way to combat as the final weeks of the spring term wind down. Of course now, with Covid-19, there will most likely be some additional triggers that you will need to combat in order to stay positive and focused.

Negative thoughts about the future and a lack of a usual study space could be an example. Take some time to plan ahead so that you can alleviate some of that anxiety. Some ways to combat these issues could be journaling, drinking enough water, investing in an extra fan, stocking up on your allergy medication ahead of time, etc.


Incorporate Self-Care and Positive Thinking

We’ve talked about these two aspects quite a lot in this blog. Now more than ever is the time to put those practices that we’ve discussed into use. “Self-care activities like deep breathing, quick exercises/stretches, and mini-breaks really do have physical and psychological calming effects” (Waters, MSW).

Even if they seem insignificant as you're reading about them, make a commitment to incorporate some of them into your day, especially as you go through long periods of studying or sitting at a desk.

In addition, it’s important to do our best to avoid negative thoughts and ideation as much as possible. Of course, we are all human and we’re bound to get sad and down on ourselves and our situations during this time.

But it’s a good idea to practice mindfulness and avoid indulging in “catastrophizing (magnifying the negative aspects of a situation while discounting the positive ones), permanence thinking (assuming that setbacks are going to last forever and problems never improve), and/or false helplessness (assuming–without evidence–that you are powerless over a situation)” (Watson). Doing so will leave you feeling healthier, happier, and more motivated overall.  


Listen To Your Brain and Take Breaks

Give yourself a break! Be kind to yourself and recognize that most people don’t function optimally with the incorporation of eight-hour studying days or all-nighters. Space out your work, and take plenty of water and stretching breaks.

Break down large tasks into smaller chunks so that they feel more manageable. That way, you can feel a sense of accomplishment every time that you complete a position of the task, and you can avoid that dreaded “burn out”. You can read more about that here. 




Life is pretty crazy right now. That should go without saying, but it’s important to acknowledge that fact. It’ll make it easier to move forward into what this spring term will hold. I’m sure many of you have a lot of questions and even some concerns about what exactly the next few months will look like for you both socially and academically.

The Academic Skills Center & The Tutor Clearinghouse is working hard to figure out how we are going to support students this spring term. Specifics like the potential for tutoring services, study groups, ASC workshops/meetings, and details about accessing our office/resources are all currently being discussed. In the meantime, we thought it would be beneficial to share some tips on how you can best tackle your upcoming online classes in order to enhance your understanding and overall academic success. 


Tip #1: Try to Create a Study Space

Getting into the mindset of taking online classes can be a challenge. One of the most important things that you should keep in mind is that it is essential to maintain (to the best of your ability) a peaceful study area. Without the physical prompts of moving from class to class, the ability to walk into the library, or the stimulus from seeing friends, time can blur together. 

This can be incredibly difficult depending on where you are. Some of you may not even have the luxury of having your own study space. You may be dealing with the very real realities of having multiple siblings/family members under one roof, a restricted amount of computers/wifi access, and/or your home just may not be a conducive environment to complete work. 

Eliminate distractions when you decide that it’s time to do work.  Do your best to ensure that your area is quiet, organized, and available for use during your class/study sessions. If necessary, speak to your family and friends beforehand about the importance of respecting your “work mode”. Along the same line, respect your own “work mode” by limiting your time on your phone or daydreaming while studying.   


Tip #2: Treat Your Online Class Like a Real Class

Circling back to your mindset, it’s important to apply all of those positive steps that you take when you approach your in-person classes on campus to these new online ones. This includes actively participating, taking study breaks, and building a study plan. First, figure out how you will best learn during this time period and then build upon that. Are you a morning person or would you work better later in the evenings? Do you need a desk or would you prefer to work in a comfortable armchair? Do what makes you the most comfortable but also allows you to be the most focused. 

Do all of the things that made you feel the most productive when you were in those physical classes. Although office hours may look a little different now, continue to ask for help when you need it. Don’t be afraid to send a quick email to your professor asking for assistance on a concept or research idea. Now more than ever, your professors want to see you succeed. There will be a learning curve for them as well, so keep that in mind and as the term starts off. 

Another thing to consider: just because your classes will now be online, doesn’t mean that all of your learning has to take place there! Don’t shy away from taking notes with a notebook and pen or using a physical version of your textbook to study. Try to keep your study habits in line with how you have always achieved success.

I personally love to create to-do lists and set calendar reminders for important projects. I also use the Pomodoro method (which I’ve detailed in one of my earlier blog posts, “How Planning Can Lead to a Successful College Experience”).

Take some time before the term begins to figure out a plan. This could include a schedule of how you want to complete your assignments each day, how long you would like to spend on schoolwork, when you want to go to bed and wake up every day, etc. There will be a lot more accountability placed on your shoulders now, and it's up to you how you want to manage it. Discipline yourself to stick to your time limits; for many, awards based systems work really well. 


Tip #3: Note the Differences and Embrace Them

Accept the fact that online classes will feel inherently different than learning on the Dartmouth campus. There will be different aspects that you will need to take into consideration. Do your best to stay as mentally engaged as possible. If your professor gives you a PowerPoint or a youtube video to watch, review it multiple times and take notes. Don’t let the fact that you are not in a physical classroom allows you to drift off and stop paying attention. 

Limit your use of social media and eliminate your use during class discussions. The temptation to check Twitter and Instagram will be all the higher during this next semester. Fight the urge by turning off your phone or deleting the apps for a certain amount of time. The more tech-savvy professors will be able to tell if you are on your phone during class. And even if your professor doesn’t notice, you will only be doing yourself a disservice by not paying attention. 

Finally, make an effort to build connections during this time. It will benefit you to come out of your comfort zone in the long run. “Online classes may sometimes make you feel like you are learning on your own, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most online courses are built around the concept of collaboration, with professors and instructors actively encouraging that students work together to complete assignments and discuss lessons (Northeastern University Graduate Programs)”.

Join a virtual study team. Engage in the online discussion boards. Reach out and discuss assignments. You will feel more connected to your online student community, and hopefully, some of these relationships will last into the next term when you can meet in person. 


Hang Tight and Make the Most of Your Term

This will be a huge adjustment for all of us. But If you're willing to put in the work, adapt, and ask for help when you need it, you'll be on track to having a productive and engaging spring term!

Keep in mind that all 20S undergraduate courses will officially be taken on a credit/no credit basis. So use this opportunity to dive deep into your classes and enjoy the learning process.



It seems like just yesterday we were all traveling back to campus from our long winter break. Now it’s the beginning of March, and it’s time to reflect and see if those goals and New Year’s Resolutions are on the road to being reached. With a limited number of class meetings left in the term and finals quickly approaching, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed with everything that is still left to be accomplished. ...continue reading "6 Tips to Finish Off the Term Strong"

As college students, we all know how hard it can be to stay focused on our studies. Constant distractions like Netflix, text messages, and the longing to hang out with friends can often make our academic goals fall to the wayside. It is up to us to use our tools and resources to make sure that we stay on track. ...continue reading "How Planning Can Lead to a Successful College Experience"