Tips & Stories

Student Ryan Kessler Transformed His Workflow, Raised His GPA and Left His Textbooks at Home (Back-to-School Series)

Posted by Ryan Kessler on 01 Sep 2011

Posted by Ryan Kessler on 01 Sep 2011

Name: Ryan Kessler
Profession: Student
Location: Orange County, California


Ryan Kessler is a student from Southern California who will be starting college in the Fall. Evernote helped Ryan get organized his senior year of high school and raise his GPA from a 2.9 to a 4.4 (if you’re unfamiliar with these numbers, that’s really great!). Read on to find out how he did it.

I use Evernote, Everywhere:

I love…

  • The Droidscan app for scanning all of my docs using my phone
  • Nozbe for giving calendar context to my Evernote notes
  • tarpipe for publishing content to my various social streams with one single action

I use Evernote for…

My senior year of high school, I took 5 high school courses, 4 college classes and worked part-time, so I needed to find a tool that would help me stay organized and focused on whatever task I needed to complete. Evernote completely changed my workflow.

1. Evernote for staying focused

A big part of being a high school student is being able to switch modes extremely quickly. Within a few hours, you have to go from physics to history. Evernote lets me do this seamlessly.

I have a Notebook Stack of notebooks for various activities, including school and work. When I’m at work, I open my Work Notebook Stack and know that I won’t have any distractions because I wouldn’t see all of my extra-curricular stuff mixed into work stuff. [An introduction to Notebook Stacks]

2. Evernote for getting organized

My freshman and sophomore year, I was very disorganized. The problem wasn’t that I wasn’t managing my time well, it was that I couldn’t find the things I wanted when I needed them. I used to spend hours just sorting through my schoolwork to find one assignment. Once I started using Evernote, life became a lot more organized:

  • I got into a routine of sorting everything into Evernote as soon as I got it so I could instantly access it when I needed it. I attribute my GPA boost largely to my new-found ability to find everything quickly, from any device I was working on.
  • Once I get stuff in Evernote, I organize it. I have a tagging system to separate out tasks and projects.
  • I scan paper documents using Droidscan, which is a fantastic app I found in the Evernote Trunk.
  • I draft reports right in Evernote, where my research is close at hand.

3. Evernote for lightening my load and connecting all of my devices

I started using Evernote so much, I stopped thinking about it. I even started scanning textbook sections I needed that day in class so I’d have them on my phone. It got to the point where I would go to school with only my journal and my phone.

A lot of students bring their laptops to class because they think they need to carry around their files. With Evernote, I never had to lug around my laptop. Our school would rent out laptops from the library, so if I needed to print anything, I’d just stick it into Evernote in the morning, pop by the library at the end of the day, pull up Evernote on the Web and use the school printer. I never think of having a thumb drive anymore.

With Evernote, I can see everything I have to do, want to do, and already done. I never have to think ‘Oh, shoot, I left something in my locker!’ Maybe I forgot my phone in my locker, but because everything in Evernote syncs across every device I own (not to mention the Web), I know it’s still there and I could access it from my desktop at home, the school laptop in the library, or my tablet.

4. Evernote for group projects and class discussions

When you’re working with a group, you tend to get a lot of information passed back and forth via email. I started using Evernote to keep track of all of my group projects by giving group members my Evernote email. Everything related to the project would get sent to my Evernote account, where I could organize it accordingly and stay on top of the latest versions and conversations. [Emailing to Evernote]

We’d often have class discussions via a thread on a forum that my school subscribes to. Threads would get long and tedious and require you to login to keep track of the conversation. I would just clip it to my Evernote account and pull it up whenever I needed it.

5. Evernote for crunch time

Creating a study guide before a big test was so easy with Evernote. I would compile all of my notes from a certain time period and put them into a separate notebook. From there, I could reference only the materials I needed to study.

6. Evernote for learning a foreign language

I love Evernote’s Audio Note function to help me remember stuff, but it’s also a killer way to help you learn a language. I use audio notes to record myself pronouncing words, then play back the recording to see if my pronunciation matched my teacher’s pronunciation. When you’re learning a language, you need some way of hearing yourself to perfect your accent.

7. Evernote for building my future

I’m starting college in the Fall and will be studying entrepreneurship and design. I attended the Evernote Trunk Conference and saw Kyle Koch’s presentation about using Evernote for industrial design and was blown away. Evernote is crazy powerful for design and I’m excited to see how it fits into my ongoing studies and professional career. [Read Kyle Koch’s story]

User Tip: Note Links for Creating a Study Guide in a Single Note

Note Links are an awesome way to associate two notes incredibly quickly. I use Note Links to create a study guide in a single note. I often snap a photo of the whiteboard in class and then take notes as well. With Note Links, I can link my notes to the whiteboard image, giving additional context. [Learn how to link your notes]

Join the discussion about Evernote for Schools on our forum. Learn from educators and share your own experiences, best practices and tips.


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47 Comments RSS

  • Joli


  • Richard


  • Russell Porter

    Thats great! I did the same thing – started using Evernote in Grade 12, now starting 3rd year of university, Evernote has definitely raised my grades. My system is ScanSnap S300M for scanning tests (great for reviewing for finals), iPad for class, and Macbook for home. It is great that evernote works across every platform, as sometimes I need to pull up my notes on a lab computer at school, then I use the web app.

    • Ray McBain

      You use ScanSnap. Can I use instead the Neat ADF scanner? I use Neatworks to manage my scans. So far, so very good.

  • Kathy

    This was such a great reminder to me to snap pics of my hand written notes and send them to Evernote. Ryan, you had some great ideas, and thanks for sharing them. No wonder you are doing so well!

  • Katxena

    The great thing about your system is that you’ll still have your notes in the future. One of my biggest regrets in life is allowing myself to “forget” things I learned in school by not having better and more useful notes.

  • Bob Smith

    4.4? That’s ridiculous, the systems in place to allow someone to have > 4.0.

    • Bob Stanke

      Some GPA systems go to 5.0. FYI.

  • Amy

    Oh Bob, are you the embellish, edit, or typo police? Don’t worry be happy

  • Amy

    The kids rocks with his creative suggestions!

  • Jeremy Roberts

    Love it! So many uses for Evernote! Great example of using technology across devices so you can live life and not carry luggage 🙂

  • sikis

    good for post

  • Shane Phillips

    I use Evernote to take a pic of my schedule at work a lot quicker than writing it down and plus use always have it in Evernote. Iam in the process of installing a500 gb hard rive in mt MacBook pro 09 and I love not losixng all my notes because Evernote works on all my devices.

  • Gordon

    I read Ryan’s note with Interest. He has really grasped the important aspects of organization. The incredible thing is he then selected a variety of tools to do what he needs. Including Evernote. I bet you that Ryan will go far in whatever endeavour he selects.

  • Jim Sewell

    I am impressed with Ryan’s creative use of an awesome tool to reach a goal and the great article explaining how he does it! Well done, sir.

    Regarding 4.4, some schools grade on a 5-point system… the point is he made a very impressive improvement in his GPA and took advantage of the tools at hand to do it. A sign of true “smarts” and not just “regurgitative skills” like the girl I graduated college with – 4.0 in comp sci and couldn’t program her way out of a paper bag.

    Great job Ryan and thanks for sharing!

  • Summer

    Awesome! As for the 4.4 in a 4.0 system, when you take college courses, they count for more credit than the typical high school course, allowing someone to earn higher than a 4.0 while they’re still technically in high school. I have a friend who ended up with an Associates Degree when she graduated high school just because she started taking college courses so early and often. Great work, Ryan!

  • Carol

    Students who take college-level classes while still in high school can, indeed, have more than a 4.0. Good job, Ryan!!

  • Mel

    I’d hire Ryan…purely for his organizational skills, who cares about squabbling about the GPA.

  • Joel Barde

    Nice Work!

    I sure wish I had discovered this product in high school. I first got it a few months ago, and have it to be tremendously useful.

    Have you synced Evernote with Study Blue? Study Blue allows you to make digital flashcards out of your notes. And you can use them on both your PC and phone, which allows you to test yourself where ever you are.

    So get Study Blue. And boost the 4.4 to a 5.6 (if that even exists…).


    Joel Barde

  • sundrapitts

    Great use of tech skills. I am trying to learn more about this to help me organize my Bible studies as a retired teacher.,

  • Geekboy

    Love the post! Is there an equivellant iPhone scanning app?

    • Ty

      I would recommend using JotNot Pro for the iPhone. In a simple interface it has a ton of customizable options that allow you to adjust each document the way you want it whether black and white, grey scale, or color. I’ve been using it for nearly a year and I absolutely love it.

    • Ty

      I would recommend using JotNot Pro for the iPhone. In a simple interface it has a ton of customizable options that allow you to adjust each document the way you want it whether black and white, grey scale, or color. I’ve been using it for nearly a year and I absolutely love it.

      Best of all it allows you to tag, allocate a specific notebook, and send the document directly to Evernote.

    • Zeamo

      I just tried using JotNot Pro app on my iphone & it works! — after getting the clip you want & the exposure you want you just email it to Evernote.

  • Bill

    Yes, DocScanner

  • Jazzbo

    …and how about an iPad2 scanning app?

    • Pastor C

      I’m new to Evernote but MUST get BETTER ORGANIZED! Thanks for the information and encouragement. I too am interested in iPad2 scanning app. Thanks.

    • Yourcastle

      Try Evernote for iPad

  • jimmyodd

    Tell me more about your tagging system :). Sounds interesting

  • Wayne

    Its great to see that there are students putting new technology to good use. The internet doesn’t always have to be for crap. I wish there were tools like dropbox and evernote when I was a student.

  • Pastor C

    Any more info on using Evernote on the iPad2?

    • Yourcastle

      Here is an article describing the process!!

  • Rachel

    I need ipad2 scanning app also

  • PhantomPrgr

    This is great advise and ways to use evernote; certainly forced me
    to expand my knowledge of this app. My only question; is why even bother with droidscan? I simply take pictures of the stuff through evernote. Unless, you are telling met that I can convert a picture of a document to a word document that I can edit later?

  • Irene

    This app looks terrific, but is very complicated to learn how to use on my own. I wish someone could give me a live or YouTube Demo. Thanks!

  • Rob Zdrojewski

    I am a middle school technology teacher who will be introducing Evernote to my 7-8 grade students soon. I absolutely love Evernote and see it as a perfect way for kids to collect artifacts for their digital portfolios.

    If others have similar ideas on how to introduce Evernote to middle school aged kids, please email me: robz at robztraining dot com (anti-spam email format!)

    • Zachary Latta

      Surprisingly enough, I’m an 8th grade student and I love to use Evernote for school.

  • Adelaide Smith

    Great information. I’m a retired Operating Room Nurse who is trying to write blogs but, would like to gather information a particular subject.
    Any ideas how I can do this?

  • waterfox

    I turned my boss on to EverNote and I am yet to use it fully. I need something to keep me really organize for work. I have a MAC as my desktop and an IPad, blackberry requirement for work-now i just have to align them all.


  • Jean Paul Gamarra

    It amazing how technology used correctly can create great outcomes and reward, in this case in point, you have done something most older people can’t do, take the valuable resource around you and optomized it to become succseful. Its great to see another leader in our great culture. Remember being a great leader is producing rather then bragging and showing off. If I could ask you a question, or if you were entertaining question, what application would you used to put all your work together to present it in school or a jod?

    If some else reading along an laughing cause he might not answer, take good look at what he has done. He basically just became smarter, more efficient then the president of you know from were. Importantly bring all this future together I will defitntly keep this story as a inspirational peace stored away “guess were?” In my Evernote

  • Jean Paul Gauto

    Last name was in correct, over an out

  • Hazel

    How to create + organise stacks on phone?

    Question: I was really excited to read Ryan Kessler’s tips on organising notebooks into stacks. But I can’t find how to do it from my iPhone, as the instructions tell you to right click and hover, which you can’t do from a phone. Any tips?

  • Mary

    Good going! I am fairly new to evernote and see it’s potential, but haven’t had the time to figure out how to implement all these great suggestions. I would love an Evernote coaching session (hint hint!)

  • Timur

    Thanks, gave me a push for my own ideas of using evernote in studying

  • Claudestephane

    Any thoughts on print command finding my Network printer , failing on checking selected printer’a capacity?

  • Ralph Soule

    I wish he had specifically explained the graphics/screen shots better. The post is very good except for that omission.

  • Ashley Quinn

    I’m a grad student and I love Evernote and its the first app I tell any of my friends about. I have an iPad 2, and on it I have all my books through Kindle, Nook, or iBooks. Professors put PDF files online for class readings, I simply open them in Evernote, where I save them in that class’s notebook, and with Premium those are even searchable. Love coupling the other products with it too. For instance, Skitch. In class, our teacher draws a rough sketch of India and describes 3 different general locations where Mahayana Buddhism may have originated. With Skitch, on my iPad, I quickly captured a google map of India, circled the 3 regions and numbered them, and then saved that note into Evernote, linked with the notes I was already taking in class. Between Skitch and Penultimate, I can make an illustration happen, which was the only downside I saw to Evernote last semester. I can audio record the whole class, or just when my professor is about to tell a good story, or a fellow student about to play a song. I take photos/scans (Genius Scan) of all handouts and syllabi, so I’m never flipping through trying to find the right piece of paper – I can even hand the paper back to the Professor and let them save it for next time. When I have email correspondance with a professor I can forward those emails to the appropriate notebooks, if for instance class is canceled, or there’s a youtube video we’re supposed to watch before class.
    And with work: Over the summer I had two jobs, keeping my schedules straight was very important. What was especially frustrating was that sometimes a schedule would get posted, and then magically changed a few days later without the employees being notified. When my boss tried to chastise me for not showing up for a shift, I showed him my timestamped pic of the schedule, and then he went and had a word with the scheduler instead. Plus, the photos were then synced to my desktop super easily, and because I prefer to enter events into iCal on my computer, rather than a mobile device, I could easily pull up the two work schedules for the week and get those in my calendar. Never missed a shift.
    Seriously, LOVE LOVE LOVE Evernote.

    would love it even more if I could do a little more on the iPad app with columns, font, color within a note.