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College Chronicles #13: Jake’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 Season Finale ContinuesTime to Change

This is the second of three wrap-up episodes for the College Chronicles series. Last week we presented Leena’s look back on her chaotic term. This week we turn to Jake, the computer science major from Tufts. When we first heard from Jake he was struggling to find a balance between academic performance and debauchery. During his freshman year he tried being a grind. He got good grades, but had no fun. He then tried to loosen up, but was dismayed to see his grades plummet and had to drop out of the frat pledging process to salvage the term.

By the time Jake and I met for coffee, in early October, he had found some success using the efficiency-based techniques in Straight-A to maintain good performance without sacrificing too much of his social life. At the same time, however, he was struggling with the problem sets in his tough computer science courses. In addition, he was beginning to look beyond graduation, and wonder what he should (and could) do now to help improve attractive options in post-diploma life.

Here is how he fared…

How did your semester end up?

Considering my final grades, I would say my semester ended up extremely well. I went to parties, I threw parties, I played rugby (until I got injured), and got straight A’s (three A’s and one A-).

I’m now a member of an entrepreneur club at Tufts, which appears to have a lot of resources to help you succeed in entrepreneurial and business ventures. [ed: one of Jake’s interests for post-graduation life.] I hope to spend a lot of time with this group next semester and get involved in some related projects.

What changes worked well?

Your method for solving hard problems sets described on Study Hacks was probably the most beneficial tip I received. [ed: this post was, in large part, a summary of the advice I gave to Jake when we met in person.] On Sunday, I’d review the questions, do what I could, and leave it at that. I’d go to recitation the next day and ask any questions. I would then meet with the TA and other group members the night before to clear up and finish any problems. These sessions each took around one or two hours.

What didn’t work?

One problem I had was dealing with group projects. It’s impossible to ask 5-6 other students in your group to adhere to your own “student workday” schedule.

This, along with the rather loosely-structured nature of my other courses caused the student workday approach to be fairly inconsistent. There were some weeks were I had tons of projects to do and problem sets I didn’t understand that ate up more time than I had allocated. Other times I had little work to do, and I ended up twiddling my thumbs, or over-studying and stressing out about whether or I’m working hard enough or if I should be enjoying me free time more.

Based on this experience, what advice would you give other students?

ORGANIZE YOUR TIME! Although I mentioned the problem I had with the student workday earlier, it still helped tremendously in terms of giving me peace of mind and a structure to my day. This comfort of having a structured day is half the battle in obtaining the confidence to do well in school and other extracurriculars endeavors.

Also, when you have pockets of free time during the day, really do something that gets your mind away from academics. While I did well academically, I made the mistake of not taking advantage of my free time last semester, and I ended up sitting around worrying about my grades when I should have diverted my mind to other endeavors.

Thank You Jake

We appreciate the insight you gave us into your experience. For all of our math and science readers out there, I’m sure it is heartening to see how the problem set beast can be tamed while allowing a social life to rage on.

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