Backpack Essentials and Note-Taking Tips

By Thompson Rivers University Modified on September 03, 2021

Not sure what to bring on your first day of class? Unsure how to take notes in a university lecture? TRU student Lauren shares her best advice!

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Backpack Essentials and Note-Taking Tips

Lauren Keller is a new-to-Thompson Rivers University (TRU) storyteller and will be reporting on her orientation and transition experience throughout the upcoming year.

As I was preparing for my move to residence, it occurred to me that while I had thought about what to pack for my dorm room, I had yet to think about what to bring to class.

Will I be taking notes on the first day of class? Should I bring a laptop or a notepad and pen? I don't want to spend that first week feeling unprepared; not only is that kicking off your first semester on the wrong foot, but it's also a recipe for anxiety.

I spoke a Writing Centre Coordinator and Student Success lecturer, who advised me on my backpack essentials and how to engage in the classroom.

What to bring to class:

  • 3 ring binder with paper (rather than a notebook); this way, you can easily re-write and organize your notes and handouts
    • Have one binder for each class
    • If you prefer using your laptop, check with the instructor beforehand to make sure that's allowed. Connect with Accessibility Services if you have questions about classroom accommodations.
  • Agenda
  • Healthy food and a water bottle
    • Pack a lunch and lots of healthy snacks to keep your energy up throughout the day.
    • Staying hydrated means your brain has a better chance of staying awake! Be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day, and re-fill your bottle at one of the many fill stations on campus.
  • Leave your phone at home. (Okay, we know you'll bring it to class anyway... so put it on silent. Even if it's on "vibrate," it will distract you during class, and your brain will have a difficult time re-focusing.)

When you get to class:

  • Be prepared: do the readings ahead of time
  • Sit front and centre; this helps you pay attention and sends a positive message to your instructor!
  • Participate! This means you're thinking critically about the material and helps you remember and later recall information.
  • Pay attention to repetition, introductions/conclusions/transitions, and other "clues" the instructor gives you; this information is important and might be on the test!

When you're taking notes:

DON'T write down everything! Instead, focus on these points:

  • Keywords
  • Draw pictures and diagrams
  • What is written down on the board
  • Use one side of the paper in your 3 ring binder; this will help you stay organized
  • Create your own "shorthand"; for example, create "I'm lost" symbols and use consistent abbreviations
  • Label, number and date your notes
  • Leave space and use colour
  • Try out a new note-taking strategy (pdf)! Research the "Cornell format," "mind-mapping," or "outlining" methods
  • Prefer taking notes on your computer? Try out Notability, Typora, Evernote, OneNote, Bear, or Notion!

Check out the website for more info on the Writing Centre or Student Success courses.


Visit the TRU website to learn more

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