Power of Color Coding

As finals loom over students’ heads, the most common items strewn about the library, coffee shop, and study lounge tables, is notes. 10 weeks of handwritten or typed hours in lectures and discussions pile up into a collective study guide for a final. But what do you do when you’re on hour 12 at the library and all your carefully-made bullet points start to look like floating dots next to hieroglyphics, or you suddenly can’t find the one term you need?  

If you’re finding yourself struggling to get through endless textbook pages or notes, and not just during finals, then you may want to consider giving color-coding a try. And if you’re already an avid color coder like I am, then get ready for the utmost praise of your craft.

The way I see it, there are three levels of color-coding: Basic, Intermediate, and Pinterest. Many average college students find themselves in the first two levels, and a select very small percentage who have impeccable handwriting and outrageous artistic skills reside in the Pinterest level. Here’s a breakdown of the above levels:


You really don’t do much with color in your academic life, maybe because you have limited faith in your artistic beliefs, or because all you really need to keep yourself is one colored pen per class. You live a simple color-coding life because anything more is just too much of a hassle.


You go a bit above and beyond the basic level. Each class in your planner has a designated color, but different types of assignments also are color-coded for one heck of a rainbow-ed planner. Your extracurriculars are also colored accordingly so that you know exactly how crazy each week of your quarter will be.

Image Source: Bich Tran 


You definitely have a bullet journal that you spend an entire day each month curating carefully with a planned (and very detailed) theme that you likely got from Pinterest or YouTube. You have perfected the art of fancy calligraphy fonts for the handwritten notes you take during lectures. You can draw straight lines without using a ruler. Your notes are a work of written art and probably are a heavily pinned Pinterest post, or at least were based on one.

Regardless of what level of color-coding you fall into or even if you don’t find yourself in one at all, there are definitive benefits to color-coding. Using certain colors to highlight or write may help you remember details when it comes time to study for a big test. Colors also make notes much easier to read and thus easier to study. Think about it, when have you ever been thrilled to open a textbook open to boring black and white text for your 30-page reading due the next day? But something as simple and classic as a yellow highlighter brightens up the page and, when you have to revisit those pages to study for your final, immediately draws your eyes in.

You might be critical of color-coding, as it does take some extra time and resources (and by that, I mean you’ll get really good at switching between different colored pens in class). But with a quick search, you can easily find studies done on the psychological and scientific benefits of color-coding and how it can help students remember terms or dates and study more efficiently. And who doesn’t want more efficient studying during finals?

Find some Pinterest inspiration and ideas here.