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Monday Master Class: Five Pieces of Unexpected Back to School Advice

August 25th, 2008 · 22 comments

Advice, Advice Everywhere…Back to School

The good thing about this season is that back to school advice is available everywhere you turn. The problem, however, is that once you’ve read one article about smart course selection or staying organized, you’ve read them all.

In this post, I want to offer a collection of advice that’s off the beaten path; nuggets of wisdom you won’t find anywhere else. As always, don’t let me have the last word. If there’s an unexpected  tip you’ll be using this year, let us know by leaving a comment.

Five Pieces of Unexpected Back to School Advice

  1. Party Hard the First Few Weeks.
    Your social life needs a running start. Once the term progresses and schedules tighten, it becomes harder to fall in with new crowds. Build your social momentum by partying hard now, while you still have the time. This will make it easier to keep the invites and social options rolling in all the way to finals.
  2. Quit Most of Your Activities.
    I don’t know you. But I can assume you’re probably doing way too many activities, fueled by some vague belief that this makes you more impressive or is necessary to get into law school. Ugh. Here’s what you should do instead. First, read this article. Second, quit all of your activities except the one or two that you’ve been involved with the longest. Third, work hard during the fall semester to take on a difficult project within the activity, and follow it through to completion. Fourth, in the spring semester, use your newly earned respect to pitch an unusual project that will impress outsiders because it defies easy explanation. Fifth, read this article so you understand what the hell I’m talking about. Sixth, reap the disproportionate reward for replacing a laundry-list with focus and innovation.
  3. Buy a Fancy New Planner.
    A moleskin is nice. It makes you feel like a young Picasso. My new productivity crush, however, is the beautiful muji chronotebook (which will be released any day now). Whatever you choose, there’s a simple justification for upgrading: the excitement of buying a planner that’s cool and fancy will make you more productive. It shouldn’t. But it does. So treat yourself.
  4. Drop One of Your Courses.
    Once again, I don’t know you. But I will assume that your course load is tougher than necessary. You think this makes you look talented and smart. Here’s the reality: no one cares. So drop one of the tougher courses and spend your free time obsessing over your new planner.
  5. Apply for Something.
    Go to the building that houses your major department. Find a bulletin board. Read the attached flyers for fellowships, scholarships, and special programs. Choose one. Apply to it. The cooler sounding the better. Do it now, before things gets too busy. Great things comes to those who actually do things. Not just recognition, but also experience and connections and unexpected random future opportunities. So place yourself in the top 1% of your class by actually taking the time to try.

(Photo by dyobmit)

22 thoughts on “Monday Master Class: Five Pieces of Unexpected Back to School Advice

  1. jennifer says:

    I know in my school if people want to take a hard course without having to worry about the grade, they take it credit/non or pass/fail. What do you think about this option?

  2. Study Hacks says:

    I know in my school if people want to take a hard course without having to worry about the grade, they take it credit/non or pass/fail. What do you think about this option?

    That’s okay, but why not just wait to take the hard course when you have the time to take it or just not take it at all?

  3. Nate says:

    Just in time for the semester to roll in this Wednesday!

    Thanks Cal. I will most likely do options 2-4, as I already have social networks and will keep my eyes open for opportunities referenced in option 5.

  4. Nate says:

    I apologize for the double post, but what advantage(s) does the “muji chronotebook” have over the “Daily Schedule/ Things to Remember” technique described in the “Straight A’s” book?

  5. Study Hacks says:

    I apologize for the double post, but what advantage(s) does the “muji chronotebook” have over the “Daily Schedule/ Things to Remember” technique described in the “Straight A’s” book?

    No advantage. It just looks really cool!

  6. NK says:

    Nate beat me to my question. Having a shmancy planner seems contradictory to the “tear out a sheet” method.

  7. Study Hacks says:

    Nate beat me to my question. Having a shmancy planner seems contradictory to the “tear out a sheet” method.

    The simplified method in STRAIGHT-A is about getting you started with time management. It’s simple. It works. After a while, however, students often morph their system — going to GTDCS, for example. At this stage, upgrading the single sheet to a chronotebook — or whatever — can help keep the thrill alive.

  8. D says:

    Another piece of advice I would share is if you are struggling in a class and the teacher does not interest you, audit a couple of classes in the same class taught by a different teacher. If the different teacher teaches it better to you, switch into that class. I think it makes sense!

  9. Nate says:

    I plan to use a combination of GTDCS and the “tear out a sheet” method this fall. To be honest, I usually just use GTDCS to collect my tasks and organize them into groups, while the tear-out schedule bridges the gapbetween organization of tasks and sitting down to do them.

    Without a tear-out schedule that I am accountable for, I would most likely be the laziest person alive.

  10. Nate says:

    Second apology for a double post –

    The Muji Chronotebook is only available in NYC for those in the US. Instead of ordering it by phone and having it delivered by FedEX, I’m doing the following:

    – Drawing a Black and White (outlined with black) circle on two opposing sides of a piece of printer paper
    – Labeling 12, 3, 6, and 9 o clock
    – Making enough copies to last me through the semester
    – Having the Copy Center in Staples cut the copies in half and bind them in my own notebook

    Problem solved! I guarantee that it will be much cheaper too.. Just not as appealing, but fully functional!

  11. Study Hacks says:

    The Muji Chronotebook is only available in NYC for those in the US. Instead of ordering it by phone and having it delivered by FedEX, I’m doing the following:

    That sounds cool. You should (a) send me a photo of the complete homemade Muji; and (b) let me know how you like it. Might make a cool post.

    Another piece of advice I would share is if you are struggling in a class and the teacher does not interest you, audit a couple of classes in the same class taught by a different teacher. If the different teacher teaches it better to you, switch into that class.

    Absolutely. This is something I recommended in one of the early chapters of HOW TO WIN.

  12. Jill says:

    I’m doing some last-minute shopping on Friday before moving in on Monday and a “date book” is something on my list.
    Thank you for giving me an excuse to buy a super fancy one! 😀 “But Mom! It was expensive, yes. But I’ll be more productive!” 😀

    Great article.

  13. jennifer says:

    That’s okay, but why not just wait to take the hard course when you have the time to take it or just not take it at all?

    well sometimes students aren’t sure if the course will fit into their schedule another semester, and sometimes you just want to take a hard

  14. jennifer says:

    course that is described by other students as being absolutely wonderful, but “a bitch to get through.” =)

  15. Study Hacks says:

    well sometimes students aren’t sure if the course will fit into their schedule another semester, and sometimes you just want to take a hard course…

    True enough. But as a general rule, keep in mind that there will always be way more exciting activities and wonderful courses than you have time to take. At some point you have to turn some things down. The key is deciding what that limit will be my. For me, it’s a schedule that leaves significant amounts of free time.

  16. Aaron Zaccaria says:

    Excellent article, especially for incoming freshman like myself. Productivity is a huge issue since I’m still making that transition from high school, so thanks!

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  18. Mike says:

    hey cal,
    me again hehe… I’d like to ask what you would recommend for college students in terms of materials like notebooks and such and also if there are any good daily planners you’d recommend?
    I’m thinking of a moleskin but not sure yet…

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