Felt-tip black, ballpoint blue, and graphite grey make up the usual palette of most students’ notes—but by adding a dash of color here and there, you not only make your notes more fun to look at, but more effective for studying as well.
Adding color doesn’t necessarily add a lot more to your school expenses. Markers, highlighters, and pens are relatively inexpensive, while things like stickers, index cards, self-adhesive notes and tabs, and matching folders are extras. Tabs can go into books, notes and cards can help with reviewing and research, and stickers can go onto calendars and planners.
If lugging around these extras in different colors proves to be inconvenient, using white notes, cards, and tabs together with colored pens is enough.
Assign a color to each class according to what works best for you. If green reminds you of nature, for example, you might want to use a green marker or highlighter for all of your science notes. You could also assign colors according to how urgent an assignment is, like an assignment marked with red might mean “due tomorrow” (and therefore, “do first”).
Colors might also be used for labeling classes that need special attention or more time, like blue might be for Math (because of the practice exercises) or English (because of essay-writing).
One suggestion for organizing color-coded notes and materials might be according to how colors are ordered in the rainbow: red would come first, followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet. You could also start the other way around, with violet going first. If you don’t have or don’t like a certain color, you can always choose another color close to it or to replace it.
You might have to switch color assignments around a few times before you find a system that suits you, but you’re sure to get used to it before too long.
Color-coding can be a big help for remembering key words and phrases because colors make them more interesting and memorable. They are also great for keeping track of the seemingly endless amount of text you have to study. While using colors obviously appeals to students with a visual learning style, it can also help students with other learning styles to improve their visual learning skills.
Colors make organizing your notes a breeze if they should get separated, and easy to reorganize whenever you have to pull them out for a test. You’ll also be able to recognize notes on sight, which will help you find what you need more quickly.
Using colors can be particularly helpful when doing research—when you classify your data with colors, that will make it easier for you to sort and translate it into an outline, and eventually into a paper.
When using colors for studying, however, too much of a good thing can be bad. An entire page marked out with a hodgepodge of color could be far worse than a page without any marks at all. Another good thing about using colors while studying is that you have to be careful about using them—this means choosing which words and phrases to highlight, making sure that only the most important information stands out.