6 Ways You Can Use Evernote To Dominate Your Classes

During my first year in college, I discovered – among many other things – an amazing app called Evernote.

It would only be slightly hyperbolic to say that Evernote is my second brain. Sure, it’s lacking in neurons and glia – but more than any other app or system, Evernote serves as an ultimate repository for information I want to remember.

Evernote is almost always open on my computer, and it’s a frequently visited app on my phone as well. I use it for everything – brainstorming and writing new articles, developing questions for podcast guests, keeping software licenses, tracking lists of Magic cards, etc.

In school, Evernote was just as indispensable as it is now – and today I’m going to show you six ways I used it to make my classes easier.

1. Take Fast, Organized Notes on Your Laptop

The paper vs. laptop debate has raged on for years, and will probably never stop as long as paper still exists…

…but when all paper notebooks are engulfed in flames someday, while my notes are in the cloud with triple-redundant backups on servers in Argentina, the moon, and 8721 AMOS (possibly my favorite asteroid, but I’m pretty fickle with my minor celestial body favoritism), I will have the last laugh.

In all seriousness, though, taking notes was the main use I had for Evernote while in school. Since I can type a lot faster than I can write, I was able to take detailed, high-quality notes on my laptop in the classes where I actually cared to take them.

Getting good at the keyboard shortcuts (here’s a giant list of them) means you can quickly created nested lists, bold or italicize key terms, and structure your notes easily on the fly. It also means that your notes stay nice and legible for the entire duration of your class. I don’t know about you, but when I hand-write my notes, they tend to degrade in quality over time.

Keeping your notes in Evernote will also help you keep them much more organized and searchable. If you just take notes in Word or another text editor, you end up with either one obnoxiously long note for your entire class, or a bunch of unwieldy files that have to be named and organized manually.

Aside: Since there are still lots of files you’ll have to organize outside of Evernote, take some time to learn how to organize them the right way.

On the other hand, keeping organized in Evernote is as easy as making a notebook for each course, and then creating a new note for each day in class inside that notebook.

Evernote Organization

2. Link To and Pull In Outside Data as You Take Notes

Sometimes your teacher will present a concept in class, but they won’t give you quite as much detail as you’d like during the actual lecture. I remember this happening a lot in my finance class, where I’d often need to go over concepts more slowly to fully understand them at first.

If you’re taking notes on paper, you can star these concepts or make side-notes like “Research more on this later”.

However, if you’re taking notes in Evernote, you can easily hop over to your browser, Google the concept, and then create a hyperlink to whatever you find right inside your notes.

Or, instead of just creating a link, you can use the Evernote Web Clipper to clip an entire article into your notebook, then link to that note within your current note.

My information systems notes are full of these kinds of links, and they definitely helped when I would get home and review the notes I’d taken in class.

3. Scan Your Paper Notes and Make Them Searchable

I know that some people are die-hards for the old-fashioned and will never let go of paper notes. I also realize that some classes don’t easily lend themselves to notes taken on a keyboard – math notes being a prime example.

When I took my statistics class, I actually took all my notes on paper. The speed boost of a keyboard is kind of trashed when you have to write down lots of complex symbols that don’t fit well on single lines. So really, I get you.

Also, Evernote has you covered as well. By simply taking a picture of your notes with your phone, you can gain all the organizational benefits Evernote offers for your paper notes as well. As someone who took paper notes in a few classes and laptop notes in others, I definitely appreciated being able to have them all in one organized place.

Of course, this lets you do all the basics with your paper notes – tag them, date them, link to research materials, etc.

But there’s one huge benefit that goes beyond those basic capabilities. Evernote actually makes your handwriting searchable.


This is mind-bogglingly helpful when you’ve got 60 pages of notes at the end of a semester and you’re trying to study for a cumulative final.

Need to find your notes about a specific vocab term? Just type it into that top bar. No more flipping though your notebooks looking for that one page with the Spider-man drawing and the formula for Bayes’ Theorem on it.

4. Create Brain-Dumps Before Writing Papers

I recently got an email from a student, who said his biggest challenge as a student is:

“Procrastination, especially when writing essays.

He’s not the first to say it, and he won’t be the last. The truth is, writing papers can really suck. They’re especially awful when they’re assigned in class and have a page-count goal; however, even as a full-time writer, I often get stuck and procrastinate when trying to finish my own articles.

The big problem is that we self-censor when writing. If you’re not in the “flow state”, then writing can be a painful exercise that basically goes like this:

  • Type a few words
  • Decide they’re crap; delete them
  • Repeat until you decide to go watch Adventure Time 

When I sit down to a blank page and simply try to write an article from scratch, I often have this problem. It’s just hard to avoid self-censoring.

That’s why I do a brain-dump in Evernote for each article I write – before I actually write it.

Essentially, I’ll just create a new note with a tentative title for an article idea I have in my Blog Posts notebook. Then I’ll just dump all my thoughts about that topic into a huge bullet list.

I’ll also paste in any quotes I think would go well in the article, and link to other articles I might want to pull ideas from.

Only after I’ve done my brain-dump do I start actually writing with a final product in mind. At this point, I’ve got a solid list of ideas to run through, so all my brain has to do is think about how to word them all nicely.

Try this technique the next time you’re assigned a paper to write; you’ll probably find the writing process much less painful.

5. Study from Anywhere with Your Phone or Tablet

In addition to making it really easy in create and organize notes and other content, Evernote is great for studying those notes as well.

I’ll be completely honest here; I really didn’t study all that much in college. While I did take notes, do a good amount of my reading assignments, and always did my homework, I was pretty bad when it came to actually sitting down and reviewing material.

However, I was pretty amazing at test-day cramming. Since I had the Evernote app on my phone, I was able to review all my notes easily while on the bus and while waiting for the testing room to open. While cramming isn’t the best strategy for learning things, it actually did help me out a bit.

Evernote has mobile apps for pretty much every platform, so if you have a smartphone, you can do this too.

If you have an iPad, you can also use Evernote Peek to turn your notes into flashcards.

With Peek, you can create a notebook of notes you’d like to study. Each note’s title will be the question on the flashcard, and the note body is the answer.

Once you’ve created some notes and loaded them in, you can use the iPad’s smart cover to quiz yourself.

Honestly, I prefer Anki when it comes to learning via flashcards (Martin wrote a great review you should read), but this is another cool option you can check out.

6. Save Online Quiz Results for Later Study

Those frequent quizzes you have to take on Blackboard? Usually they’re prime study material.

However, sometimes you can’t access your results after you’ve viewed them the first time. Even when you can , it’s a pain to go through all those menus to find each one.

Instead, just copy your quiz results into a new note in Evernote. That way, they’re available for you to study whenever you like.

Caveat: I’m note responsible if you copy material that’s not supposed to be copied. If it’s actual exam results you’re viewing (rather than a casual, homework-style quiz), ask your professor if it’s cool to do this first. Or don’t. I’m not your dad.


Now you’re armed to the teeth with Evernote tactics that’ll help you dominate your classes – and probably the rest of your life as well.

Here are a few out-of-class use cases where Evernote has been extremely helpful for me:

  • Noting details about on-campus jobs – employee office locations, development server addresses, and other hard-to-remember stuff all went into job-specific notebooks
  • Saving biographies and other personal statements that are useful when applying for scholarships, writing bios, and trying to make yourself more hireable
  • Collecting travel info – when I went to Japan the first time, my Travel notebook was indispensable for saving flight details, lists of hostels and places I wanted to visit, etc.
  • Getting ideas out of your head – I have way too many ideas, so it’s helpful to sock them away in Evernote so they don’t take my focus away from current projects

What other tricks do you use to make Evernote better? Let me know in the comments, yo.

Photos: elephant

Thomas Frank is the geek behind College Info Geek. After paying off $14K in student loans before graduating, landing jobs and internships, starting a successful business, and travelling the globe, he's now on a mission to help you build a remarkable college experience as well. Get the Newsletter | Twitter | Instagram

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  1. Hi Thomas
    I just realized that I couldn’t use evernote web clipper on this webiste

  2. I teach and students have 5 minute presentations. I audio record them and also critique them with a rubric template via Evernote. Once I add the tags and put the note in a folder, all of the presentations are in one place for me to calculate the assignment grades.

    I also have Evernote Premium so I can use offline notebooks, which is useful for traveling – if you can organize everything and sync it in advance. I often have maps and a variety of attractions to check out in various countries.

    Finally, the IFTTT options are very useful. One recipe I use is archiving my Instagram images. Also, I use one for my social media Delicious bookmarks so that now I have that list in my Evernote database for easy reference. also see https://konlinejobs.com

  3. Hello Thomas
    I’m a High School student in the Netherlands who saw you by random on YouTube. Now I am trying to combine apps and make one giant system that makes everything go more smoothly, profesionally and most importantly, productively. Anyhow. For the note taking section of my bundle of apps and gadgets, I’m really torn between EverNote and OneNote. The main reason being that I have used OneNote almost ever since I have a Microsoft Account. And while onenote has a far more user-friendly UI. Evernote does seem more powerful but lacks feautures such as drawing on notes. Now getting to the point. For a High School student who does all of his notes on paper (laptops aren’t allowed in class) but still want to effectively make use of an online note software, which one is better? EverNote or Onenote. I’m really torn since I’m used to OneNote and can’t easily switch to a completely unfamiliar program. Maybe you can make a video on how you use evernote with note taking and that stuff. Or make a comparison video. Anyways, if you have advice, I’ll be glad to hear it.

  4. Hello Frank,
    I am currently a freshman at Iowa State and found you through my Psych 131 class where the grad student who was teaching us showed us a few of your videos. I was wondering, recently Evernote has put the features that attracted me the most, like searching through paper notes and PDF annotation (this one would be very useful for my World Religions class), behind a paywall. I normally don’t mind spending a few dollars on making myself more productive, I did spend thousands of dollars to go to college after-all, but it is extremely pricey, with their middle option being almost $40/year and their most premium option being $60/year. I was wondering if their is an alternative that you have found that won’t break the bank or if I should just take the hit anyways. Sorry for the long comment but Go Clones!

    • RIP I meant to say “Thomas” but my brain kept thinking “Frank Thomas” since your name is so close to the baseball player but thanks againg.

      • Ok. I have been using OneNote more a majority of the semester already, but it is very frustrating to use for me and it doesn’t seem to sync as seamlessly as it could. I am curious to know if you are using the upgraded version or if you can tell me if it is still worth it to use the free version. Thanks for the extremely quick reply.

      • Yep, I’m the same – OneNote just doesn’t work for my workflow. But, unfortunately, there’s nothing else that even comes close.

        I used to have Premium, but I recently downgraded to Plus. The only upgraded features I really use are note sharing and offline notes, so it made sense.

      • Awe man! I just tried the free trial version of it and it works SOOO well compared to one note. This sucks. Oh well.

    • Hey, so I have one more question. It appears that the Evernote app comes with its own note scanning type of capability and I noticed you suggest using a third party app. I assume this is probably because the videos and blogs are a little outdated but I’m curious if you still use the third party apps or if you use the one directly in Evernote.
      Thanks again.

      • I use Scannable because it has a faster workflow with fewer button presses. If you don’t scan much, though, Evernote’s default scanning works just fine.

  5. Hi Thomas Frank,
    I’ve been reading through your book and it has been extremely helpful in staying on point in college. When I got to step six of your book, I started wondering. If your using evernote, as only online notebooks for college, then would you just use the documents tab under finder for projects, random homework assignments, and other non-note related material? Does all your files on evernote take space on your computer? Also what is the benefits of using dropbox over having a system under your document tab already (besides being accessible anywhere)? Does it save space on your computer and how can you ensure it’s backed up? Since, I already have a system in place under the documents tab of finder, I feel dropbox serves a too similar function, and I’m unsure as to which would be most productive. Please advise. Thanks.

  6. I never knew evernote was so useful. I will be sure to add it to my tools tomorrow for sure!! Thanks! =D

  7. So glad I read this. I have evernote but it up until now it sat useless on my devices. I’m a music major which generally means I’m taking notes on manuscript paper or I’m taking notes on regular paper and drawing in the staff. I love the idea of scanning in notes! Thanks for the great way to stay more organized.

  8. This is great advice for college. I think Evernote can be even better though, so I’m making an app built on top of the Evernote platform, made especially to help students learn more efficiently and effectively

  9. Because of your post I have downloaded Evernote. I facillitate a group and I think I can use it during meetings. People are always asking some stupid question that interests me, its off topic so you can’t go after it then, now I have a way to get back to it.
    Nice utility in this post.

    • Glad you found it useful! I use Evernote for that reason as well; I’ve always got way too many ideas and questions to deal with at once, so it keeps them safe for me 🙂

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