Take notes in class. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one, it’s optional, and you look like a total dork (which has happened to me many times); do it. Don’t worry about prettiness, because you probably don’t have time. Just scribble down the information you’ll need. This will often serve as a base for your notes after class.
Handwrite when you can, but if it’s in a lecture or something like that and you don’t have the time, then bring a tablet or laptop.
If you’re the type of person who does like pretty notes, use colored pens + highlighters (be liberal about highlighters), doodle, add strips of washi tape as borders if you can’t draw, use cute banners. I love cute banners. Try some of these. 
Pretty notes really do help a lot, especially if you’re a visual learner, but consider whether the time and effort it requires outweigh the benefits you get from it. They’re a luxury.
Your margins are useful for extra notes, reminders, etc.
Grid paper is the best kind of notetaking paper.
Bullet points are your friends.
As are sub-bullet points.
If you’re defining something, set the thing you’re defining apart by writing it in all caps, highlighting, cursive, whatever.
Be consistent with your notetaking system. Try to keep all your notes in the same place, so that you can review when exams or a unit test comes with them.
When you’re reviewing, take notes again, but worry less about meticulousness. Skim what you’re sure you know and only write down what you don’t know.
Notebooks are better for keeping things together, but if you’d rather write on separate sheets of paper (I do this quite often), then group together your notes that are on the same topic with folders, binders, or a paper clip. Your notes won’t be that useful if you can’t actually find them when you’re done.
The same applies to digital notes - folders are a friend. Also, name your things.
Sticky notes are your friends - they add visual interest with minimal effort. You can also use them to quiz yourself by writing a question down on the note, and the answer is underneath.
If you’re like me and you’re lazy, then you can take old assignments and cut out information from them, then tape it onto your notes - assuming you won’t need that assignment later, of course! This way, you’ve got all the information in one place.
As you’re writing, read it aloud. You’ll memorize it better this way.
What you’re remembering from your notes is more important than how they’re written.
If you’re taking notes digitally, then (depending on the subject - I’d say science is the most important) adding a diagram becomes easier, though they won’t necessarily be pretty. Make use of that.
Separate key concepts. Don’t cram everything together (she says, having written diagonally across her previous writing so she could cram in more information). If there’s a lot of information, give yourself some breathing space, visually and mentally. Take it one concept at a time.
While I don’t use one myself, color coding systems are a great idea. Make one for yourself, and even if you need to keep referring back to a key, you’ll get the hang of it in time. Note that you’ll probably have to carry a lot more pens around.
Or, you know, just be minimalist and use 1-3 colors. It’s enough to give a sense of color scheme without taking a ton of stationery everywhere.
HOWEVER, the most important thing you should get out of taking notes is that they’re useful to you. How to accomplish that is up to you, even if the methods you use are unconventional or don’t mesh with the advice above.
Current Favorite Improbable Interior Design/Architecture Things in Monogatari World
ararararagi’s ridiculous avant-garde bathroom with the stained glass windows and the big glass arch ceiling and those weird spinning cube things that just. hang out randomly distributed around the room with one lonely club-foot bathtub just sitting in the middle of it
those tangled red ladder things that are just sort of piled up in the corner in the araragis’ living room. what are they for. do you climb them. are they some kind of modern art. are araragis cop parents secretly hipster art collectors on the side.
obviously they are hipster art collectors what am i talking about
the fire sisters’ really uncomfortable-looking round bed that you can only get to by climbing a mini spiral staircase
nadeko’s giant ominous crisscross shadow window
the park that for some reason has a little mini roller coaster around it that you operate by peddling. i say for some reason but the reason is obvious and i want it to be real
the cram school ruins that are all surrounding a giant tree that has to have grown at least like 400 years before the concept of cram schools
the mister donuts all alone near a highway in the middle of a random desert (in japan) that everyone still just casually goes to
This was a birthday gift for a friend, quicker than my usual approach. Been a long time since I’ve done a watercolour! Been super busy at class, cramming new concepts into my brain. Doing this sunflower was pretty relaxing.
Your mind wanders back to your twitter feed, filled with nothing but hateful words from Jack’s fans. You can’t believe you were ever part of that fandom. You used to be just like them, but that was all before Jack fell for you. Before he chose you.
“Just go away,” you mumble as your phone lights up again. You turn your phone over so that your screen is facing down, just another gesture to shut everyone out.
“Um, sorry baby,” you hear your boyfriend Jack say hesitantly. You turn around, hurt evident in his eyes.
“I’m sorry, babe, I didn’t mean you.”
“Oh,” Jack’s face lights up. “Okay. What’s wrong?”
“Just stressed out about finals,” you smile slightly, the smile not quite reaching your eyes. Jack notices.
“I can help you study if you want,” Johnson offers sweetly. You just shake your head, knowing you’ll never get any studying done if Jack tries to help.
“I’m sure you’ll do fine on finals, baby,” Jack says, walking up behind you and placing his hands on your shoulders. He kisses the top of your head and then walks into the bathroom, turning on the shower.
After fifteen minutes of hopelessly cramming concepts and formulas and theories into your head, you finally give up and pick up your phone, just for a moment forgetting what is waiting there.
The illuminated words hit you like a ton of bricks, the hateful comments tearing at your heart. You love Jack. Why can’t they see that? You make him happy. Isn’t that what they should want?
You throw your phone at the wall with all the strength you can master, watching as the screen shatters into small shards.
“Y/n, what the hell?!” Jack runs out of the bathroom. Your back is turned to him, and silent tears roll down your cheeks as you stare down at your smashed phone, breathing heavily.
“Stop it,” Jack aggressively turns you around and hugs you into his chest, stroking your hair gently as he whispers sweet nothings into your ear.
“It’s not fair, Jack,” you sob. “I never did anything to them.”
“I know, baby,” Jack sighs. “I can’t find one thing to hate about you. You’re so beautiful and smart and funny and always so, so happy. Don’t let them break you, baby.”
You think about your silly outburst and giggle, stepping back and wiping away your tears.
“I really love you, Jack.”
“And and I really love you y/n. C'mon, you’re exhausted. Let’s just watch a movie for the rest of tonight.”
“I CALL DIBS!” You screech, shocking Jack as you take down the flight of stairs at lightning speed.
Is there a way to memorize a lot of stuff in a short period of time (like a night before)?
That is called cramming. It’s not great for actually learning the content over a long period of time, but we all do it.
Remove all distractions from your study area. Make sure you’ve eaten food already, there aren’t any friends around who aren’t helping you study, and stay off social media.
Start with the main ideas - the big picture concepts. When I cram, I write the concept down and highlight the most important/unique word in the sentence so that it stands out in my mind. Then I read the concept allowed until I could repeat the concept or idea without looking at it. And then I would go to the next one. You are focusing on recalling the information, not necessarily on reading the information.
There will be difficult information to memorize. Use mnemonic devices for those. (Examples) For me, the sillier the acronym the better. You can also make up little rhymes.
Once I finish that process with all the topics and questions I thought might be on the test, I go back through all of them quickly. If there were ones I couldn’t remember immediately the second time around, I put those aside and do them again until I had it down without looking at them.
Side note: Make sure you take short breaks ever hour or so or you will burn out very quickly.
The more you study/cram, the more you will evolve your methods to better meet your individual needs. If you find something works better for you than how I studied, definitely go with that!