Thursday, January 05, 2006

How to win at College

The last issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine included an article by graduate Cal Newport, based on his book How to Win at College: Suprising Secrets for Success from the Country’s Top Students, It is based on a number of interviews with very successful students. The book is available from for less than $10 and looks like it is worth the price. I will write more after I have read it. Here are the 10 ‘rules’ Newport presented in his article.

1. Care about your grades, ignore your GPA.
2. Annotate your daily ‘to do’ list – label every item with the specific times you plan to accomplish it. (I am going to use this tip myself).
3. Drop classes every semester. Newport counsels seeking out student feedback for every class, sign up for one or more classes than you actually plan to take. Attend the classes for the first week and drop the ones you like least. Don’t stick with bad classes, he urges.
4. Find a secret study space. (This was a secret of my success in college. My junior and senior year, I lived alone and could use my room for study – and I had two other secret spaces that were almost always available and always quiet.
5. Jump into research as soon as possible.
6. Do one thing better than anyone else you know.
7. Always go to class.
8. Start long-term assignments the day they are assigned. Don’t procrastinate!
9. Don’t do all your reading. Newport acknowledges the reality that it is impossible to do all the reading assigned for every class and offers an excellent strategy for dealing with this dilemma.
10. Maximize your summers. Treat them as a period when you are freed from the time constraints of classes to fully maximize your passions. You should begin the summer planning process during Christmas break.

There is a pretty good summary of more points as part of the ‘look inside’ feature on the website.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re point 9: Professors (and this goes for graduate as well as undergraduate courses) should try assigning amounts of reading that are realistically do-able. As one who has been a student and who has also taught a bit (and will be teaching more), I submit that it is far preferable, from every standpoint, to have students in class who have actually done all or the vast majority of the reading -- and I don't mean skimming, or whatever other "strategies" Mr. Newport advocates. Professors who assign amounts of required reading that no human can complete are arguably being irresponsible. Students who want guidance on further reading on particular topics can always ask. They should not be presented with syllabi compiled on the absurd principle that nothing "relevant" to the course can be left off.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many professors assign too much reading because there simply exist too many good sources that they love and that cover the topic at hand. In these situations, they aren't being "irresponsible," but they fully expect (and often explicitly specify) that some of the sources can be skimmed. At the same time, however, there are typically a few sources that should be read carefully. The trick in these situations is seperating the two.

9:56 AM  

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