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Take Note: 4 Best Notebooks for College Students

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4 Best Notebooks for College StudentsWe could fill a notebook with stories about all the terrible notebooks we bought in our college years. Whether it was the convenience store version whose cover fell off after one class or the tissue-paper quality wide-rules we stocked up on because they were on sale, we’ve made many a notebook-buying mistake in our time.

To ensure you don’t make similar poor paper decisions, we sat down with Less Harper and Dee Scolardi of the RSVP Stationery Podcast about their love of all things paper (and, as you’ll see, pencil).

Tip 1. You might want to invest a little if you’re a paper snob. For Scolardi, one of the most important things to consider is paper quality. “Since I write in pencil, it is very important to have just the right paper that allows a good ‘feel’ when writing on it,” the grad student and writing tutor says. “What I mean by feel is that I enjoy very little feedback between the pencil and paper and don’t like a scratchy sound or feeling when I write.”

Is cost your notebook modus operandi? For copious note-taking classes, Harper’s go-to is a DIY ream, which tends to easy on the wallet and lighter on the backpack. “Looseleaf lets me carry around one binder and transfer out of it after class, totally lightening my load for carting things across campus,” says the Boston-based therapist, artist, and blogger.

Scolardi, still a college student, suggests going case by case in deciding what kind of notebook to use. “For general class stuff, I tend to use a one-subject spiral notebook with a durable cover. I prefer notebooks with poly covers, since cardstock covers tend to tear away from the spiral edge by the end of the semester,” she says. For ongoing projects and her thesis, she steals a page from Harper and goes with a looseleaf binder. “I like the ability to move pages around in the binder or take certain pages out to use as references as I am writing.”

Did we mention these two have opinions on notebooks? With Less and Dee’s paper pedigree firmly established, we asked them to dig deep on some pulpy specifics and then, insisting they play favorites, and dish on their picks for best notebooks for college students.

Q: All right. Brass tacks: wide rule, narrow rule, or neither?

Less: “College rule forever. I can pack more info onto each page, and take up less paper. Plus, writing on wide-ruled paper makes my handwriting look even worse than usual.”
Dee: “6mm rule for life. College rule is also acceptable (~7mm).”

Q: Legal pads – yay or nay?

Less: “I love legal pads. In my former life as a HR professional, I used legal pads (cream colored) for all my daily to-do lists and quick notes for work. When I finished with the page, I tore it off and had a brand new clean sheet of paper.”
Dee: “I don’t really use legal pads much, but when I do, they are pastel colored. They are great for making mind maps or jotting down messy notes.”

Q: One of our most popular posts on the blog is Best Pens for Taking Notes. Do you have a favorite pen for taking notes?

Less: “Honestly, I really like pencils for note-taking. I prefer a dark smooth pencil like the Tombow 8900 in B or Staedtler Norica. I sharpen 7 and keep them in my pencil box and when one is dull I grab another. I wait to sharpen until break or between classes. I rarely have a need to until then. If I’m forced to pick a pen, I really like a Uniball Signo 207 or Papermate Inkjoy in black.”
Dee: “I really only use pencils for note-taking. Like Less, I prefer a smooth, dark pencil. My favorite pencil is a shocker – it is the Neon Casemate (Pen + Gear) pencil. At around 8 cents a pencil, you can’t go wrong. If I use pen, it is a Papermate Inkjoy in blue. I am planning on experimenting this semester with color-coding some notes and for that I will be using the Inkjoys.”

Q: Any other tips for our readers?

Less: “If your school offers a class or workshop about note-taking or studying, sign up. Even if you were a top-notch student in high school, college is a lot different than high school. Though your old study habits will help you in college, part of college is learning new things and learning new ways to study can be very eye opening. I really felt like I ‘knew it all’ when I started my graduate work. Attending a couple of the workshops on managing the reading load and methods of note taking really helped me to simplify some of the stuff I was doing, and got me more organized.”
Dee: “Purchase what feels comfortable for you. Opinions on notebooks are fairly subjective and you want to be using something that will facilitate easier note-taking and studying. One thing that has been helping me a lot in college is to re-write my notes. I used to be really concerned with making my notes look perfect in real time, but that is an impossible task. Instead, as a study tool, re-write your notes after class in whichever way is best for you. I also find that having a color-coding system works best for me (pink=vocabulary, yellow=general highlighting purposes, orange=quotations, blue=references/citations, green=data).”

And their favorite notebooks? Drumroll, please….

Yoobi Composition Books | Best Notebooks for College Students on the Textbooks.com BlogYoobi Composition Book
Less: “These are inexpensive and super cute. They have a ton of color and patterns available and switch them every new school year. They fair well with a lot of different writing tools, and with 200 pages, have enough space for a full semester of notes. Plus they are available at Target and online. Added bonus: they donate to underfunded schools.”

Pen+Gear Poly Cover | Best Notebooks for College Students on the Textbooks.com BlogPen + Gear Poly Cover Notebook
Dee: “These notebooks are a sleeper hit. I purchased them on a whim since they were only 97 cents each. The paper is super smooth and rivals some of the expensive Japanese paper that I use. The back cover is made of thick chipboard so there is no bending or excessive wear with these notebooks. There is also a folder in the front of the notebook that is especially useful.”

Mead Five Star | Best Notebooks for College Students on the Textbooks.com BlogMead Five Star Notebook
Less: “Yes, this is more expensive than most other options, but the notebooks last and last. I have torn out the used pages and used the fresh pages the following semester. Their spiral bindings don’t smash either.”

Kokuyo Campus Sarasara Dotted 6mm Rule | Best Notebooks for College Students on the Textbooks.com BlogKokuyo Campus Sarasara Looseleaf and Binder
Dee: “This is my go to paper for looseleaf paper. It is incredibly smooth and versatile. The dotted rule is great because it allows you to draw an impromptu graph on the page or a box to section off your notes. This paper is A4-sized and will require the purchase of a binder as well. I have this paper in a Kokuyo Campus Slide 30-hole binder. There is not a single aspect of this setup that is disappointing. It is expensive to get started at around $20 for both the binder and a pack of paper, but with the tighter 6mm rule, you will find that you go through less paper. This paper is nice and thick so highlighting will not bleed through to the other side of the paper allowing you to use both sides.”


Follow Less at Comfortable Shoes Studio and Dee at The Weekly Pencil. Listen to their podcast regarding all things stationery at RSVP.




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