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Taking Notes in Large Lectures at UMass Amherst

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Photo of classroom at the University of Massachusetts with text: Seating Location is Important, Use Online Resources, Ask Questions

For me, one of the biggest changes transitioning from high school to the University of Massachusetts Amherst was the sheer size of the lectures. Freshman year, I was in lectures that had hundreds of students in them; when only a handful of months ago I was used to classrooms of twenty people. When it comes to note taking in a large lecture, it can be challenging at first, but if you follow these tips, excelling in these classes becomes easier! 

Here are tips on how to take notes during lectures at UMass Amherst:

1. Which style of note taker are you?

There are a lot of different styles of taking notes, but if I were to generalize them into two categories it would be the writer, and the thinker. Figuring out which type you are is essential for these large lectures. A writer follows every single thing the professor says and writes, and takes note of it in their notebook or computer. A peer of mine does this, and has explained to me that physically taking down every single thing mentioned during lecture is beneficial for their learning process. A thinker doesn’t necessarily take notes of every detail, but rather focuses and pays attention to what is being explained. I personally consider myself to be a thinker. During the large lectures I would take physical notes for major points, while really trying to conceptualize the material the professor was talking about. Overall, the style of note taker and learner you are can also really depend on a handful of variables. Some include the professor’s style of teaching, as well as the material which is being taught. Finding a sense of rhythm during large lectures is easy once you have experience attending a few.

2. Seating Location & Questions

Something that a lot of freshman students overlook during their first academic experience at UMass Amherst is sitting in the right seats, and asking questions. Believe it or not, where you sit in a gigantic lecture hall really has an impact on your learning experience. I found this out the hard way, because at first, I would always sit in the very back. Because of this, I found myself on my phone all the time, or distracted. Then when I moved to the front, I suddenly felt a sense of accountability, and began to fully pay attention. In addition to this, asking questions during lecture is just as important. Don’t be afraid to ask a question, because you will only be adding to everyone’s learning experience. With hundreds of other students listening to the same lecture as you, chances are at least one other student has the same question as you. Having a more interactive experience within lectures will only make your notes better! 

3. Use Online Resources

Lastly, another new feature I had to get used to when transitioning into college was the online interface and resources each class provides. For starters, nearly every single one of my freshman lectures were recorded and posted online. This was incredibly helpful, because if I wanted to go back and take additional notes on things I may have missed, I was more than capable. On top of this, a lot of professors post their slide presentations online — so you can go through them again on your own time and take even more notes. There were even online discussion boards for the class to talk about the material or questions they might have on the class. All of these online resources will help you succeed in any lecture.

In conclusion, being a good note taker in large lectures may be intimidating at first, but it is more than possible to succeed, and quickly learn how to do it effectively and efficiently. Determining what style of learner and note taker you are, and realizing all of the factors that will increase your learning experience both in and out of the classroom, will set yourself up for a great freshman year!


Transitioning to College

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