How I’m Going Paperless In College

It was a week before finals, and I reached into my backpack to study for an exam only to realize that the notebook I was looking for wasn’t there. I searched my entire apartment and emailed TA’s. I was freaking out! How was I supposed to study without having any of my notes, quizzes, or worksheets? The next day I found my notebook right where I left it in a discussion classroom, however, I realize I could have not been so lucky. Just the week before this incident, I left my apartment without my notes that I needed to work on in between classes and work. My lovely roommate had to reassure me that my notes weren’t lost and were just in my bookcase. Every night before class, I would organize what notebooks I had to bring the next day and what notes I had to print out. Of course, my printer would choose the mornings I was running behind to not work. Beyond all my bad luck with paper, I also noticed that the weight of all the worksheets and printed out notes would add up and make the climb up Bascom that much more dreadful.


This was when I decided that I was going to go paperless. Getting all my class notes and worksheets into one device has improved my organization drastically. While my main motivation to go paperless was to become more organized, it is also helping me reduce my paper waste at the end of each semester. Feel better about your school work and help the environment!


1. Getting the device

I have always been an Apple product lover so it was no question to get the iPad. I opted for last year’s version in order to save some money, but still be able to use the Apple pencil. The Apple pencil and iPad work seamlessly together; I honestly love it and would recommend it to anyone who asked. The one thing I have noticed is that, on occasion, there is a tiny bit of a lag.


There are other devices out there that make note taking more organized with less waste produced. Rocketbook is one of them. It is a notebook that connects to an app that you can download on your digital devices. You take notes and automatically sync them to Google Drive, Dropbox, Slack or whatever you use. Then, to erase the physical pages you microwave it! ReMarkable is another notable device that many students use for notetaking. The screen has a paper like consistency.


Note: If you love the feeling of writing on paper instead of a glass screen such as the iPad, there are screen protectors that can make it feel like writing on paper.  


2. Finding the note-taking app for you

There are many apps available on the iPad to use for note-taking. Notability has been rated the best overall app, and I heard from many people using it, however, it does cost money. I am mentioning this one because I have considered buying it for myself. The app that I am currently using and loving is OneNote through Microsoft, which I use by logging in with my account. When trying out different apps on my iPad I had some criteria to find the best for me. I wanted one that I could easily switch colors without needing to buy extra colors. A note page that would seamlessly add more pages was also important to me, as professors won’t stop for me to figure out how to add a new page to my notes for that day. OneNote seems to scroll on infinitely and has easy to use pinch zoom as well. The other thing I was looking for in an app was the organization within it to make sure my notes from each class wouldn’t get mixed with each other. OneNote features adding notebooks, sections, and pages. OneNote was the clear free note-taking app winner for me!  


3. Organizing the iPad

Organizing the iPad itself isn’t difficult, but the self-discipline to not download games on it is. When I first got the iPad I made a rule for myself that it was strictly going to be for school work with no temptations of distraction from my classes or homework. I keep all my games, social media apps, and anything else distracting I have saved to only my iPhone. Within the app OneNote, I have a “notebook” for each class I am currently taking. Inside each notebook, I have sections: Lecture Notes, Discussions, Lab, and Textbook Notes. Then within each of the sections, I split them up into different pages, one for each lecture or day. Outside of the app, I organize my photos for each class as well. I have a folder for each class so when I’m studying for an exam I won’t have to scroll through the whole camera feed.


4. Realizing that I still have to use paper

Going entirely paperless in a very paper-heavy world is nearly impossible. Although I am able to do all my worksheets and notes on my iPad, papers that are handed out in class, quizzes, exams, and assignments that professors require to be printed are inevitable. My tip is to have a notebook on standby and a printer accessible. Also, I am still someone who prefers a physical textbook in front of me instead of scrolling through a digital version.


I would rate going paperless 9/10 just because it’s not realistic to expect to go 100% paperless in college. So far my experience has been great and my backpack has never been lighter. As much as I hated on the iPad my high school forced upon us, I am now loving my iPad and can’t imagine going back to my pile of notebooks, binders, and folders. It’s important to remember that organization is the key to success.