Most of the time we are taking notes for multiple classes at any given time. Note-taking is a pain, but a necessary evil of our college educations. I’ve tried separate notebooks, one big notebook, separate binders, and one big binder to organize all of my notes for class.

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When it comes to note-taking there is not one method that is right for everyone, but sometimes a little insight from someone who’s tried them all can be helpful. Over the years, I’ve found that certain methods work better for my organization than others.

Keeping your class notes and handouts organized is a key to success when you’re trying for a high GPA. If you sit down to study and can’t figure out where the notes are, or the notes aren’t in any certain order, it is going to be difficult for you to study effectively.

Note-taking in Separate Notebooks

Having a separate notebook for each class sounds like a great plan until you bring the wrong notebook to the wrong class. I’ve done it, so many times. I used this method for a while, and it’s great because you have everything for that class bound together. Except for your handouts, your exams, your study guides, homework assignments, etc. So then you have to buy a folder or a binder to keep track of all of the excess paper you accumulate.

As you can see from the photo above, when I was using this method, I had so many different things to pull out when I wanted to study. This is the main reason I ditched this method of note-taking and organizing. It was just too much.

One Big Notebook

After having a separate notebook for each class, I decided to try a big 5-subject notebook. Unfortunately, for my note-taking, it wasn’t a success either. I ran out of room in one class section and ended up having that class’ notes separated by other sections. What a freaking pain!

Not to mention the fact that I still had to carry around a binder and/or folders just to keep track of the loose papers. Horrible, and it didn’t feel organized to me. I always felt like everything was a jumbled mess, especially when I would forget to take my textbook notes before the next lecture. Then things REALLY got messy.

I was sick of this really fast but I don’t change my organization method in the middle of the semester. I used this way of note-taking throughout that semester and had to brainstorm new ways to streamline my organization. My only option left seemed to be to have a binder for each class or one big binder. Yes, I tried it both ways, haha.


1st exam next week. Just tackled my study guide #eriecommunitycollege #substanceabuse

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Separate Binder for Each Class

This is the way I chose to organize everything last semester. It was definitely better than notebooks because I used loose leaf. This way, if I missed a class and had to copy someone’s notes I just had to stick them in the proper place. Or, if I forgot to write my textbook notes before the next lecture, I could still put them in their proper place.

While this method was way better than the notebooks, it still had its downfalls. I still had to always make sure that I was carrying the right binder with me to each class. Now I was taking night classes, so we had class one night a week per class, for three hours. So there were quite a few times I left my house with the wrong binder.

As I was studying for finals that semester, I found notes from other classes in each binder. It was crazy, and I knew that I had one option left to try.

One Big Binder, No Notebooks, No Folders

Fed up and wanting the best way to organize, I bought a 2″ binder (which by the way also saved me $$ in school supplies), 2 packs of loose leaf, and dividers. I have one section for each class I take, and I can easily move papers around if they get out of order. It’s easy to separate sections of the semester with the exams I get back, which is helpful when you have noncumulative exams. LOVE IT!! I’m upset I didn’t try this sooner.

I keep my binder in my bookbag, the only thing I swap out is textbooks if they’re needed in class. Like I said, moving the pages around is easy, the only extra thing I had to buy was a hole-puncher. But if you think about it, you’re still saving money. With notebooks, you have to have a binder or folder no matter what. If you have separate binders the cost piles up.

One binder, at Walmart, is about $4 for the 2″, and you can get a pack of dividers for less than $1. Loose leaf is also about $2 each pack. So you pretty much spend about $10 on supplies (besides pens and highlighters) per semester. Which I think is awesome.


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College brings a lot of papers. Notes and handouts all over the place. Which is best for you for organizing your college course notes? Notebooks or binders?

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