College Chronicles #12: Leena’s Advice For You

College Chronicles is a blog-based reality series that follows real students attempting to overhaul their study habits. Click here for the series archive.

The Conclusion of College ChroniclesTime to Change

It’s hard to believe the fall semester is over. It seems like it was not that long ago that we decided to launch the College Chronicles experiment. Our goal was to follow a few students through a full term at college and learn what it is really like to revamp your study habits under the pressures of real life. We had a lot of ups and downs, and I think, in the end, gained some excellent insight.

This post represents the first of three wrap-up episode — one for each of our students. I have asked them to reflect back on their term, and share the lessons learned. We start with Leena…

Our Friend Leena

Leena, the double-major from MIT, certainly had a roller coaster experience this fall. She came to us in chaos. Did not take well, at first, to the advice provided as a potential remedy. Hit rock bottom. Then reconstructed her life in her own way — ending up with a custom-crafted, highly effective system for surviving the MIT crucible.

I asked Leena to reflect back on her College Chronicle experience. Here is what she had to say.

How Did Your Semester End Up?

This particular semester has probably been the most difficult I’ve had in college. But I think its probably been one of the most useful semesters in terms of learning about myself.

Once I made the decision to take next term off [to recharge and take an internship], I figured at that point, all I had to do was end the best way I could. So I followed your method of test preparation and went to office hours to clear up questions I came across whenever I happened to have issues. I actually got a solid A on my final paper in my neuro class, and my TA emailed me to tell me how awesome it was.

The semester didn’t wind up perfect — but all in all, this will probably, ironically, be the best term I’ve had at MIT in terms of academics. I think this partly because of my higher grades, but mostly because I’ve finally seen that I am perfectly capable of getting A’s at MIT, something I didn’t really believe before.

What Changes Worked Well?

  • The act of realistically plotting out when I was going to do things and how much time they would take.
  • GOING TO CLASS. It makes life so much easier.
  • Studying early enough to ask my questions at office hours.
  • Doing homework in office hours.
  • Not going back to my room until I absolutely had to.

What Changes Did Not Work?

  • Trying to organize my papers. I reverted back to my usual pile.
  • A workday that started in the morning and ended at like 8 or even 10 at night with few breaks. I guess I’m not destined to be an investment banker.
  • Taking notes in different ways. It’s more about the act of writing stuff down for me.
  • Making too many changes at once.

Based On Your Experience, What Advice Would You Give Other Students?

  • Go to the doctor if you don’t feel well. Understand that that is okay, and that the correct course of action when you’re having a hard time is NOT to just slog through it and hope for the best.
  • Don’t try to be hardcore. Don’t be the kid who is all proud of himself because he is double majoring in two obscenely difficult majors. Nobody actually cares if you are spreading yourself thin or being hardcore. Do you really see yourself in 10 years thinking: “Man, I am so proud of myself for taking that exam in thermo bone tired because I stayed up till 5 hacking/playing smash brothers/drinking/doing something else ‘cool’ and getting a C.” Hopefully not.
  • Sleep at night. If you can’t, figure out why you can’t and then start sleeping at night.
  • Know you’re not alone. If you feel overwhelmed, or sad, or freaked out, or lonely, and think that for some reason everyone else is adjusting well and you’re the only person who is struggling and has problems, you aren’t. Almost everyone feels that way at some point. Go talk to someone about it.
  • Keep in touch with old friends and your family
  • Don’t be afraid to do different things. If you think you want to or need to, take time off. I’m so, so excited about this next term – I have awesome job offers. The only thing I’m not happy about is that I didn’t do this earlier.
  • Have fun. Nothing is more important than having fun. when i look at any time in my life, the most successful and happy times were the ones when I made having fun a bigger priority than doing well in school.

Thank You Leena

I think I speak for all Study Hacks readers when I thank Leena for taking the time to share her experiences with us over the past few months. I think we all learned some valuable insights from her willingness to share.

7 thoughts on “College Chronicles #12: Leena’s Advice For You”

  1. Leena – Wow, that is really awesome; this was my first semester with the Study Hacks advice also and I really feel good about the grades I received. Congratulations.

    Cal – Are you planning on shadowing another group of students, will College Chronicles live on?

  2. @Amy

    I’m not sure if I’ll exactly the same thing again this semester, but I definitely like the idea of continuing to introduce more reality-based posting. I think it’s useful to see the advice being put into practice in the real world.

  3. Having missed the entire series up until this episode, I really strongly encourage a “Second season”. I am passing along Leena’s experience and advice to my blog readers and to my students. Leena, kudos to you for figuring out how to work things at MIT, and best wishes for your success.


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