I would like to recommend an app that has been so important to me that it has replaced part of my brain.
Evernote is my go-to note-taking application. It saves my shopping lists, my guitar tab, my plans for an upcoming trip to Hawaii, and even a list of common questions I get from my students. I have Evernote installed on my computer, my ipad, and my cellphone. I'm always astonished that many of my students haven't used Evernote yet, so that's why I wanted to recommend it here.
Evernote is backed up to the cloud but syncs with all your devices. You will never again leave behind a paper in your dorm room, or lose work because your thumb drive malfunctioned, or even forget the url for that interesting blog post on medical school admissions!
So, what are some tips for making the most out of Evernote?
1) Use tags to sort your notes into how you wish to recall them
Tags are automatically listed alphabetically, and if there's one or two tags you find yourself accessing most often, just add a "!" or a "#" in front of them, and they'll show up at the top of your tag list. You should at least have one tag per course you're taking, another for your favorite restaurants, another for travel, and one each for your hobbies.
2) Pro-tip: sort your untagged notes by setting up a saved search
In the search bar, paste the following: -tag:* This will produce a list of all of your untagged notes. What's cool, too, is that Evernote will always save that search, so when you go to search, it will offer -tag:* as a "recent search". I sort my notes once a week to keep my brain organized.
3) Install the web clipper as a browser extension.
Evernote works with Chrome, Safari, and Firefox (though not very well with Firefox). Let's say you're reading an article about medical school admissions that you want to save for later. Clip it to Evernote, set a few options, and voila, your post will automatically be clipped into your brain for later recall. Can you think of a better way to save web-based research for your classes?
4) Insert other files right into a note.
This includes pictures, attachments, you name it. And the premium version of Evernote will even search for words and phrases inside your images, pdfs and other files!
So those are some of my best tips for getting the most out of Evernote. Give it a try, and your brain will never be the same.
P.S. As a good use case, here's how one college student uses Evernote to stay organized: