I am a firm believer in writing down most, if not all, of what my teacher says during class; anything that they bring up about the topic at hand is automatically scribbled down in my notebook, even if they specifically say that we don't have to write it. I do this for a plethora of reasons, some of them which are the act of just writing something helps the information stick in my brain, it keeps me awake during a particularly boring lecture (which we all know we've had problems with) and it shows to the teacher that I'm actually paying attention to what they're saying. All in all, it's a pretty helpful, and it's something I would recommend everyone should do...at least, that's what my mentality was in high school.
College is a completely different ballpark from High School, as we all know. The freedoms associated with it are ones that every high school student dreams about; the ability to leave class whenever you want, actually picking the classes that interest you, using a personal computer to take notes, and probably everyone's favorite, not having to ask to use the restroom. However, to go along with these examples, college students also have the freedom to do whatever they want in class.
No, I don't mean constantly be on your cell phone or whip out a George Foreman grill and start making lunch, I mean how you approach the class. If you want to be 10 minutes early to each class, sit in the front row and diligently listen to everything the professor says, you can; if you want to leave for class 5 minutes before it starts, sit in the very back row, and be on your phone or laptop the entire time, you can. How you pay attention in class is completely up to you, and unlike high school, the professor isn't going to care if you're paying attention or not.
I learned this relatively quickly once I started my first college classes; I remember being in a lecture and reading a book that got so interesting that I completely missed that class had even started, or that we had even begun to take notes. Once I realized that I had these new freedoms, I took full advantage of them, which eventually accumulated into me not taking any more notes for classes that I felt I didn't need to take notes in.
Now, this decision wasn't instant; the road to it spanned many months of actually wondering if I needed these notes. In the first couple of months, I had realized that it was much easier to simply look back in the book to find answers I needed, or go to Blackboard and find the professors power points and use them, rather than flipping through my notebook trying to find my notes, and hoping that I had the ones I needed. Maybe that's a testament to how horrible my notes were, but I like to think that they were actually somewhat decent.
Regardless, once I started using my new freedom to not take notes in class, I noticed an immediate shift in the classroom; the hours seemed longer, I struggled to stay awake in class, and my grades began to slip. Not by much, mind you, but enough to have a noticeable effect. At first, I didn't know what caused it, I was genuinely stumped on the matter. It wasn't until the start of my second year in college did I realize that my slipping grades and inability to stay awake in class correlated to my nonexistent note taking. So, in an effort to fix these mistakes, I began taking notes again.
Almost instantly, I was able to stay awake in class, and my grades had gone back to their normal levels. I still, however, ran into the same problem that I had when one year ago: I didn't use my notes.
I still wasn't using my notes, not because they were horrible and I was unable to make sense of them, but because it was still easier to just go back into the book or power points, and find the answers there. So, I was busting my ass in class to make sure I had gotten everything down, which in the end amounted to nothing. In fact, I was wasting money, as by filling my notebooks with information that I never use, I ran out of room for actual, useful information, and had to go out and buy more notebooks.
Granted, it wasn't a gigantic hassle and notebooks are relatively cheap, but it was still a problem that frustrated me. Why was I doing all of this when there was virtually zero payoff at the end? Sure, it kept me awake, sure it allowed me to understand the material a little bit better, but what was really the point?
To this day, I still don't know if I should be taking notes in class. The difference in my grade when I stopped taking notes was almost negligible, and now I wasn't wasting money buying more notebooks to fill in with more notes I didn't use. But at the same time, writing these useless notes allowed me to have a better understanding of the topic at hand, something that helped me for many upcoming tests.
To go off of that, however, I have passed multiple classes by almost not doing anything, simply because it was much easier to just pull the information I needed right off of Blackboard, so why bother? I could go all day with these kinds of circular arguments, but in the end, I decided that taking notes was an essential part of my college experience, one that I am determined not to miss.
Now, however, since the consequences of missed notes is so small, I don't have to worry so much about missing parts of the lecture. And I can tell you with one hundred percent assurance, that this happy little medium I found has made life in college, much, MUCH more stress-free.