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How to Be a Student of Life and for Life

5. Read a lot and often.

– Books YOU’RE interested in should be a supplement to the books you’re told to read.

– Browse the bookstore and library at least twice a month. Make it a habit.

– Go to your university bookstore’s textbook section and read / skim / browse through the books required in classes you want to take but can’t fit into your schedule. “Take” the class on your own.

4. Be passionate about your classes.

– Take classes you’re actually interested in. (That usually starts with choosing a major you like—not one your parents chose for you or one that sounds impressive.)

– Take classes you’re curious about. Be adventurous and expose yourself to new fields.

– Visit your professors during their office hours. Be honest with them. You don’t need to bring in an organized conversation agenda for them to see your passion for the class and academic field. You can talk to them about things you don’t understand, about contrasting ideas, and about your confusion. Wanting to talk about something and explore it deeper demonstrates as much passion as knowing something already.

– Read the books your professors recommend but don’t require. Even better, read the books your professors wrote! Cite any of these in your papers. It’s not ass-kissing. It’s simply learning more from the person you’ve been listening to all semester.

3. Learn from people.

– Remember when you were choosing colleges and you told yourself you wanted to be in a place surrounded by other smart students? You’re here now. Take advantage of your environment. Talk to your friends about academics, the news, the world, philosophy, and life. You’d be surprised by the depth of such conversations and how much you can learn in just a 45-minute lunch.

– Listen to and think about real conversations you have with friends or overhear from strangers. Not all learning is academic. There is lots to be gained from everyday informal conversations (even gossip!) about relationships, friendships, and work. These are parts of life too!

– In addition to visiting your own professors, you can even email professors you never had and ask if you can talk to them during their office hours (if they have time when none of their actual students are there). This is particularly useful if you need a bit of guidance in a field you enjoy and study on your own but don’t have the time or prerequisites to take courses in.

– Listen to those special people who love you unconditionally and want the best for you: your parents!

2. Seek out other ways of learning

– Attend special lectures organized by your university, other universities, or your town. Use your university’s calendar webpage to browse such events. (BU’s:

– Visit museums. Go on guided city tours. Watch films.

– Every day, jot down the things you encountered that you were curious about. Then JFGI. (Just f’in Google it!)

1. Learn from experience and life.

– As much as you’ll learn from books and people, at the end of your life, would you rather have read about and heard about life or experienced it? Dare to make your own mistakes. Dare to experiment. Skip your business class and go out there and teach yourself what works and what doesn’t work in serving people. Close your psychology book and go out there and find out for yourself how humans behave. Forget perfecting your Writing101 assignment and practice your own craft by writing in a journal, writing letters to friends, and starting your own blog. You’ll learn from it all. What is failure anyway?

– Remember that whether it’s academics or life in general, you are the only person who can decide which “classrooms” you want to enter, you are the only person who can decide what experiences will count as lessons, and you are the only person who can decide how well you do. You are your own best teacher and you alone are fully in charge of your own learning.

– Remember that you can learn anything you want. It won’t show up on your transcript or resume, but it will show up in your life. You won’t be graded on it, but you will gain from it. That’s what real education is about and that’s what real life is about.

Be a student of life and for life.

– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

Writing resumes and cover letters

As the summer and graduation date approach, the economy may seem too depressing for those who are still struggling looking for a job or internship. But even in these tough economic times, students can improve their odds of finding a job with an appealing résumé, BU advisors say.

Deborah Halliday, the Assistant Director of Boston University’s Office of Career Services, gives some pointers.

She says:

  • Because a résumé is often the only chance to show a company one’s strength and experience, résumé writing is critical in job searching.
  • “Employers go through the résumés very quickly and they’ll screen you out if the résumé doesn’t appeal to them.”

Some of her advice:

  • Write customized résumés. Consider the expertise a particular job is looking for and keep the résumé relevant.
  • Don’t list courses that are obviously in your territory (for example: Microeconomics and Macroeconomics if you’re an Economics major).
  • Create a master document including ALL your work experience and pick the items relevant for each particular job you’re applying for.

Some resources she suggests:

  • The website of Career Services provides tutorials and templates to help students organize their résumés.
  • The Office of Career Services helps people format and write resumes.
  • Some BU schools, including COM and SMG, have their own career center.

Her tips on cover letters:

  • A good cover letter may help overcome a thin résumé.
  • “Employers understand that you don’t have a lot to put on your résumé if you are a freshman and they will be very forgiving about that, but you need to show a strong interest in your cover letter.”
  • Every cover letter has to be different because an effective cover letter has to draw connections between you and the employer.
  • “Talk about what you know about the company, why you want to work there and why you would be a good fit.”

– by Yue Huang
Boston University student

A Vision of Students Today

How to Pick Classes and Professors

Considerations when choosing a course:

– Are the classes you picked interesting and rewarding? Do the course descriptions turn you on? (For BU’s online catalog:

– Or did you pick them because they have easy professors? Or convenient timeslots? Or both, you lazy sloth? (Is your idea of education really sleeping in until 12 for an easy class that doesn’t take attendance—which means you can skip and actually sleep until 3? I see what you did there.)

– Do the classes have enjoyable readings and lecture topics? Are they even relevant to the course title? (Sometimes I’m not sure what my prof was smoking.) You can usually find info about this through old syllabi (either from a friend or from the online syllabi archive). For BU’s:

– Are you still “undecided” about your major but taking many classes in one department next semester? Are you absolutely positive you’ll be heading in that direction in the future, that your gamble is worth it, and that next semester won’t be as boring as watching a knitting race?

– Do you have AP credits for some courses? If so, when you register for some lower-level related classes, it could cancel your AP credits in a related subject. Check your course guide or ask your advisor to be sure.

– Can you fit a fun and social physical education class into your schedule? Do it. It’s only one or two more hours of class per week and it’s definitely worth it—especially if you meet someone hot. (What’s hotter than a hot person getting physical in class? C’mon now.)

(For BU: Your tuition comes with up to 18 credits per semester. Your usual 4-class courseload will add up to 16, which means you can take up to 4 more half-credit classes or 2 more 1-credit classes. Just a small sample of BU’s offerings: soccer, golf, skating, ballroom dance, hip hop, tap, ballet, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, tai chi, yoga, weight lifting, aerobics, kickboxing, CPR… you get the point. For a full list: To register for one, enter PDP into the course finder. But they don’t have curling. Sorry, Canada.)

– Can you fit a regular 2-credit academic class into your schedule? They’re usually easy on you, and the relatively light work to get an A or A- can boost your GPA. No, they’re not slacker courses though. You’ll still need to work a little. (For BU: Search CFA and SED. They always offer lots of cool 2-credit classes.)

– Are you allowed to overload and take an extra 4-credit class? Freshmen may not be allowed to. Also check if you can take 20 credits without paying more. Sometimes you need a certain GPA to overload for free before senior year.

– How many electives can you take before you graduate? Do you have time to take something completely random that you’ve always been curious about? Such as why bonobo chimps are constantly having sex? (I learned that in Cultural Anthropology. It was the defining moment in my college years.)

– Have you talked to your advisor about everything you weren’t sure of? Do you even know who your advisor is?

Considerations when choosing professors:

– First and most importantly: are they hot? Do they have lots of chili peppers on (For BU: Remember, we have the second hottest prof in the country. Obviously she teaches French. Brag to all your hometown friends. No, I’m really not kidding. Look her up on the RateMyProfessors homepage.)

– Second, do they have good academic ratings on The general gist is USUALLY dependable enough, but don’t trust individual ratings unless they seem fair and objective. Is there positive word-of-mouth about the prof too? Have your friends taken him? Can you use a Facebook Courses application to find the prof’s current students and send a message to them to ask about specifics? Previous students will be more helpful than you’d think. And no, this is not creepy or awkward unless you think it is.

– Have you searched for your prof’s description on her department website (something like Does she share your academic and research interests? Did she attend a grad school you want to attend?—she may be a good source of networking. Is her thesis interesting to you? (Knowing all this will also earn you tons of brownie points next semester.)

– Would she write a killer recommendation for you? Does she seem uber cool and fascinating? And again, is your professor hot?

– Is he famous? Has he won numerous awards? Does he publish an article every other day and even in his sleep? Is he the world’s leading expert on something other than cheese? Will you be able to brag that you took a class with him? Just take him.

(Just a disclaimer: All my favorite professors were “no-names” who had the time to keep exchanging emails and even Facebook wall posts with me even years after class ended. While I learned lots in “famous” professor classes and was inspired to read a LOT of the professor’s work, I was never mentored and given individual attention in these classes the way I was in classes taught by Professor Nobodys. Keep a nice balance between these two types of professors.)

Some of BU’s most famous: Elie Wiesel (duh), Ray Carney (film scholar; leading expert on John Cassavetes and independent cinema; AMAZINGLY inspirational—I would recommend him!), Leslie Epstein (director of creative writing; his son Theo is the youngest general manager in MLB (Red Sox); his father and uncle wrote the Casablanca screenplay!), Robert Pinsky (former U.S. Poet Laureate), Osamu Shimomura (2008 Nobel Prize winner in chemistry)

– Has she won a teaching award at your university? She may not be famous, but she might be a more competent teacher than the famous ones. She can pinpoint your mistakes, explain concepts effectively, and inspire you. (For BU’s award-winning professors: and

– Have you googled him? (Who else thinks Google and Starbucks should merge and take over the world?)

– Have you searched for her books on Have you read her articles, publications, and previous work? Would you love to spend a whole semester talking to her about her work?

– Have you searched for his resume on

– Last (and this is VERY important for changing bad grades): does your professor like cookies, brownies, and other assorted baked goods? Oh, and can you bake?

Very Random Things For Boston University Course Registration:

– When you register, type in your registration code ahead of time. Don’t wait until your registration time to do that.

– Add all the classes you want to your planner. Even add all your backups. I’ve seen people add only 4 classes. Your planner can fit up to 30.

– When it’s time to register, click “Register for Classes.” Then click “Go” next to “search by planner.” You’ll register a lot faster than all the n00bs who manually type in all their course numbers individually.

– Just worry about registering for all the classes that are filling up real fast. Scramble to take those. Then, a minute later, register for the rest.

Options for Getting into the Full Class You Really Want Without Whining About It:

– Stalk your online registration site (for BU: StudentLink) twice a day every day during winter or summer break. I can almost guarantee someone will drop the class. This has worked EVERY semester for me.

– If the class has a lecture and a discussion, hold onto a discussion section if one is open. They’re usually 0 credits. Now you just need to wait for the lecture to open up. (Some schools have policies against this.)

– Email the professor. Introduce yourself and demonstrate your interest in the class and the prof will probably agree to sign you in. Or even visit the prof’s office hours. Or search for his current class times and find him right after a class.

– If the new semester starts and you still aren’t registered, go to the class as if you’re part of it. Absent students on the first day are usually dropped. You’ll be able to take their spot. (Which also means if you’ll be absent on the first day of class for a course you want to keep, make sure the absence is legit and that your prof knows about it! Otherwise someone could steal your precious class and hot professor! You DID choose classes based on hotness, right?)

– Have an upperclassman or someone with a better registration time hold a spot for you before the class gets full. Have him drop it at a coordinated awkward hour a few days after you register. (Some schools have policies against this.)

– Ask what your advisor can do about it.

– Settle on finding a different professor—one who might be less hot. It’s okay. Personality counts too.

– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009

The Hidden Lessons of College

College hides its real lessons. They dress themselves up as lectures, tests, papers, oral presentations, projects, social interactions, new settings, new people, roommates, and extracurriculars. While you may be taught chemical formulas, assigned a paper about Freud, given a group project about economics, challenged by very different roommates, living far from home, or given the responsibility of leading a club, what you’re really learning is how to learn, think, write, listen, talk, manage time, manage people, care about and shape the world-at-large, be an active citizen, and be independent—all crucial skills relevant to every workplace.

Your major plays a small role in your college experience and an even smaller role in the years following graduation. As long as your university provides a haven that allows you to learn from your mistakes and develop your strengths and weaknesses—all in a nurturing environment—then you’re getting a valuable education.

Remember that in college, everyone is rooting for you. Take advantage of it before you head off into the “real world.” Learn everything you’ve always wanted to learn, grow in all the ways you’ve ever wanted to grow, and change in all the ways you’ve ever wanted to change.

Dare to be vulnerable, wrong, adventurous, curious.

Have faith in being confident, right, independent, influential, social.

And have pride in being yourself and developing your full potential.

– by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009