Mind Mapping in College: Tips, Tools, and Examples

The amount of content you’re presented with in college can be quite overwhelming, which is why many college students realize that the note-taking and learning systems they used during high school—if they had systems at all—are ineffective in college. Mind mapping in college can make the transition much less overwhelming.

Mind Mapping in College

In this article, we’re going to:

  • show you how mind mapping can help you learn, study, and stay organized
  • provide some mind mapping examples that you can use for inspiration
  • introduce you to MindMeister, a free online mind mapping tool

The Benefits of Mind Mapping in College

Research has shown that mind mapping has a lot of benefits that apply to college students.

Mind mapping helps you tie new knowledge in with knowledge you already have. This makes the technique helpful when you’re trying to understand complicated subjects and when you need to memorize information for an exam.

Mind mapping also improves your writing, productivity, and creativity. Since you’ll inevitably be writing a lot of papers, becoming a better, more creative, and faster writer will help you in nearly every class you take as a college student.

So how can you take advantage of these benefits? Let’s look at some examples.

6 Mind Mapping Examples for College Students

If you’re looking for some ideas for how you can use mind mapping to get organized, study more effectively, understand difficult concepts, or become a better writer, consider these six mind mapping examples for college students.

1. Get familiar with class expectations by creating a syllabus mind map

At the beginning of each class you take in college, your professor will hand you a multi-page syllabus that contains many important pieces of information like:

  • assignments you’ll be expected to complete
  • the grading system the professor will use
  • information about essays and exams
  • the topics you’ll cover in the course
  • links to online resources or reading materials

By the end of your first week of school, you’ll have multiple syllabi from multiple instructors, each containing key details about your classes that you will be wholly responsible for keeping up with over the course of the semester.

Building a mind map for each of your syllabi is a great way to parse the information, remember what you’re responsible for all semester long, and get the details into a format that’s easier to skim for important information than multiple pages of text:

Class Syllabus Mind Map

Want to use the example above as a template for your syllabus mind map? Just sign up for a free MindMeister account, then make a copy of the template.

2. Use mind mapping for college-level note-taking

Research has shown that activities like highlighting text in articles/books and taking notes during a lecture are less effective ways to learn because they don’t inspire meaningful engagement. If you’re not meaningfully engaged with what you’re learning, you’ll be less likely to learn and less likely to remember what you did learn.

Mind mapping—on the other hand—does meaningfully engage you because it forces you to make connections and think through what you’re learning as you build your mind map. For this reason, it’s a far superior way to take notes when reading or listening to a lecture.

Mind Mapping College Notes

When reading books or articles for class, mind mapping your notes instead of just highlighting will improve your reading comprehension and make it easier to find important notes later.

And using mind maps to take notes during class lectures will let you capture ideas more quickly so you can focus more on what your professor is saying. And if you use an online mind mapping tool, you can even add images and links to your mind map to give your notes more context.

3. Use mind mapping to brainstorm ideas for papers and projects

One of the benefits of mind mapping is that it makes you more creative, which makes it a great brainstorming exercise for coming up with ideas for projects or papers.

Sit down somewhere quiet, start your mind map with a center bubble, and start adding your ideas as they pop into your mind. Don’t criticize any ideas at this point; the goal is just to capture as many ideas as possible.

And if you’re struggling to come up with ideas, just create empty bubbles. Your brain doesn’t like unfinished work and will work harder to fill in the blanks.

Example Brainstorming Mind Map

If you need to come up with ideas for a group project, consider mind mapping together in real-time using MindMeister. You can each sit at your computers and add ideas to the map at the same time, making sure everyone gets to contribute and you collect as many ideas as possible.

4. Create a mind map to outline your papers and essays

When you’re finished brainstorming and are ready to start writing your paper, create another mind map to capture your ideas, research, and notes.

Not only is this a great way to keep everything you need to write your paper together in one place, but a 2009 study also found that students who create mind maps before writing papers produce better results. Create a mind map, and your grades will thank you for it.

College Paper Mind Map

Take notes from the books and other materials you read in a mind map, and always write down your source in the notes section so you can quickly find it again if you have to. The map format lets you structure your findings and provides you with a good outline to use when it’s time to start writing.

5. Use mind maps instead of slideshows for class presentations

Leave everyone else to their PowerPoint presentations. If you use a mind map when you have to present in class, you’ll impress the other students and your professor with your originality.

Mind maps are just as good as slideshows at reminding you what you want to talk about and when, but they’re far better at keeping the attention on what you’re saying. Unlike text-heavy slides, mind maps contain only small amounts of information, so people have to listen rather than read to follow what you’re presenting.

MindMeister offers a presentation mode that makes it easy to present your mind maps in class. Check out our article on how to create effective presentations with mind maps to learn more or watch this video showing how it works:

6. Study better by replacing notes and notecards with mind maps

Because of the visual nature of mind maps, they make it easier to remember information than text-only study methods like reviewing your paper notes or using notecards.

And if you’ve followed all of the tips above, you’ve already taken notes in mind maps, so studying should be a piece of cake.

Unlike everyone else, you won’t have three books, two articles, 60 pages of scattered notes, and your professor’s slideshows to review. All you need to do is create a new mind map that combines the most important details from the other mind maps you created.

Once your studying mind map is complete, use these tips to memorize what you need to know:

  • Print out your mind maps and hang them up in your dorm above your desk or on your bathroom door. Even a quick glance every once in a while will help you memorize the map and its contents.
  • Try to memorize the structure of the map and then redraw it on a piece of paper to test yourself. If you have trouble remembering a specific piece of information during the exam, this helps you to mentally retrace the map’s structure until you can recall the information you’re looking for.
  • If you’re using MindMeister, you can to quickly open and close branches to quiz yourself in the same way you would using notecards.

Open and Close Branches in MindMeister

The Best Mind Mapping Tool for College Students

MindMeister is an online mind-mapping tool that lets you create mind maps quickly and easily. With our free-forever plan, you can create and store up to three mind maps in your account.

And if you decide that you need far more than just three mind maps, you can take advantage of our student discount and create/save unlimited mind maps for only $2.50 per month.

Using a mind mapping tool like MindMeister offers a lot of benefits:

  • You can create mind maps quickly and easily on any device, and you never have to worry about running out of room like you do when creating mind maps on paper.
  • You can add images and links to your mind maps, change the color and shape of your branches and bubbles, and even adjust the background behind your mind map to make your mind maps both highly functional and appealing to look at.
  • Multiple people can build mind maps in MindMeister at the same time, making it easy to mind map with others for group projects and other collaborative assignments.
  • You can use MindMeister’s presentation mode to create unique and engaging presentations to use in class.
  • You can turn branches of your mind map on and off, which is helpful when it’s time to study for an exam.
  • You can organize all of your mind maps into folders and use our search feature to quickly find specific mind maps and information you’re looking for.

Folders and Search in MindMeister

Mind Mapping in College Can Help You in Your Career, Too

College is all about getting you prepared to go out into the world and land a great career, and mind mapping in college helps with that, too.

In a 2017 survey of business professionals who use mind maps, people said that mind mapping at works helps them manage projects better, communicate more clearly, stay organized, make better decisions, and manage information overload. And people who are experts at mind mapping see these benefits in even greater amounts than beginners.

So if you use your time in college to become an expert in mind mapping, you’ll not only get the benefits of the technique while you’re in college, you’ll also enjoy those same benefits when it’s time to use the skills you’ve developed in your career.

Originally published in September 2014, this post has been updated with some new information on the benefits of mind mapping for college students and some new mind map examples.

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