Get some sleep. Your health is the most important thing. Sacrifice some sleep. Your grades matter.
Cram. It works. Don’t cram. It doesn’t work.
Sit in the front of the class—ask questions, get known, discuss. Sit in the back of the class—you’re the most comfortable there and you can listen and read.
Meet anyone, everyone, anytime, every time. Network—the more the merrier. If you’re happy with the small group of friends you have, stick with them—they’re the ones who matter.
Pick the best and toughest and/or most well-known professors. They’re the most inspirational and you’ll learn the most and probably get a better recommendation. Pick the easiest professors. Are you really stupid enough to ruin your GPA by choosing good but tough professors?
Talk to your roommate about dorm issues you’re having. They’re gonna get worse. Ignore the issues. Is the conversation really worth it?
Keep in touch with your hometown friends—they know you best and they’re an important part of you. Cultivate college friendships—you’ve changed and you’re in a new place.
Party, go out, explore the town, stay in to laugh with friends. This life is about people and about having fun—right here, right now. Study, focus, lock yourself in the library. This life is about work and planning for the future.
Start a club, get an internship, get involved. When you graduate, job interviewers will ask you what you’ve done, not be picky between your 3.0 or 3.5. Be on track with good grades, good relations with professors, and good research experience. When you graduate, grad schools you apply to want to see solid academics.
I guess the only advice in college is:
Listen to yourself. What’s your mission? What’s your purpose? What’s best for yourself? What makes you happiest? Only you know what’s best and only you are in control of your life. Stay true to yourself—but when something whispers in your ear that you might be wrong, don’t be afraid of listening to it. Change a bit, experiment, balance.
- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009
Hey high school seniors, it’s April. Colleges just decided your fate for the rest of your life. If you didn’t get into your top choice and you think your life will suck, you’re absolutely right.
A recent study by the Department of Education showed that where you go to college is the most accurate predictor of success in the future. If you want to strut in your best business clothes every day for the rest of your life and shove past people on the city streets while talking on your cell phone to your significant other about how you’re 2 minutes late to your next boring meeting and that, no, you actually do not have time to see your injured son in the hospital today, tomorrow, or anytime soon—and everyone thinks this is success, right?—then it is absolutely essential that you get into your first-choice college.
The study shows that an overwhelming majority of such people (for convenience’s sake, a year after the study, they coined the word “tool”) went to the college they most desperately wanted to attend—and that if the college was ranked in the top 10 by the U.S. News magazine the year they enrolled, then their chance for success and wealth was exponentially greater.
But the study dives deeper and addresses more than just wealth, impressive titles, and “success.” Even if you’re one of the very very few people in the world who just want to be happy (c’mon now, who wants that?), the national overplay of college decisions this month will still color everything you do for decades to come. The conductors of the study analyzed the art of starving artists who do what they love to do and whose happiness levels were higher than the average person. They found that, whether in paintings, novels, or songs, the second most common underlying reference, motif, or theme was college admissions (of course, by far, phallic objects remain number one).
In the last part of this groundbreaking study, interviewers asked over a thousand people on their dying beds what their greatest regret was in life. More than two-thirds responded that they still wish they could rewind back to high school and do everything the white bread way, put a check mark next to everything they were told to do, and get into a better college they could brag about on their resumes for the rest of their lives. They said that they might’ve found a different—and probably better—calling in life if they attended a better college and that being stuck with an alma mater that was only ranked #11 has given them hot flashes and reminders of their inferiority throughout their lives, often leading to serious stress, destructive behavior, and even diarrhea.
The conclusion of the study? If you received a skinny envelope from a top-notch college, then you are screwed with a capital S.
Happy April Fools’ Day!! =)
I certainly hope that was quite obvious.
Whether you’re applying to colleges, applying to internships, or applying to jobs, no matter what stage of life you’re in, just remember: big names, rankings, titles, fame, grades, salaries, and promotions don’t matter much.
People, purpose, laughter, and love matter so much more. People for this interconnected world. Purpose for having a sense of direction and meaning in life. Laughter for enjoying every day to the fullest. And love for caring deeply about anyone and everyone. They’re what life is really made of.
You may or may not have tried your best in high school. That’s behind you. And you may or may not have been accepted into your top-choice college. Just lead your beautiful life wherever you end up going, whether top choice, second choice, or last choice. Enjoy what you were given. Make the most of any route. Look forward to a fresh start. May you always make all the difference you can with all your gifts to the world and in whatever situation you are in. That’s your choice—not anyone else’s.
- by Nathan Chow
Boston University Class of 2009
Dear High School Seniors,
College application season is here. You’ve worked more than three years in planning, shaping, and doing all the amazing things you’ll be putting in your college applications.
Whether you’re proud of what you’ve done or you think you could’ve done better, you have to admit that for the most part, there’s little you can do now to change any of the main application factors or start fresh for any of them (other than writing your personal essays).
Having AP and Honors classes, having a high GPA, having high standardized test scores, having glowing teacher recommendations, and having experience in demanding extracurricular activities—you can’t go back in time and study a bit harder for your tests, get a better teacher recommendation by participating more often, or suddenly join a few more clubs.
But here are some ways to bring out the best in what you can no longer change:
Classes and GPA
- If you didn’t have Honors classes or good grades your freshman year but did in later years, it’s okay. Admissions officers will love how you’re progressing academically and how you’re challenging yourself. Most likely they’ll notice this trend on their own when looking at your transcript, but if you’d like, you can mention your progression in one of your personal short responses or in the optional additional info section (NOT your personal open-ended and creative essay, which should be a specific and focused story).
- If you took an “easy” elective class instead of a traditionally difficult liberal arts class and you honestly had a reason for doing so, mention it in a personal short response or in the optional additional info section. In my senior year, I wasn’t able to take AP English because I wanted to take the Intro to Video Production class. I was applying to colleges as a film major and had every reason to do this.
- It actually may not be too late to retake a test and send in a new and better score. This can even be done after you finish your application and press that “submit” button! You may want to let the admissions office know that they can expect a newer test score later.
- When you ask for a recommendation, be sure to list your specific accomplishments from the class. Don’t assume your teacher remembers everything you did.
- Even if she remembers a lot, what she remembers might not be parallel to the “theme” you want to show in your application. For example, if you’re applying as an art major, you don’t want your English teacher spending so much time saying how great you were at grammar. You want him to talk about the time everyone handed in self-made novellas and yours was so exceptionally and professionally made with full-color drawings on every page and even homemade book binding.
- What was your final grade? Did you regularly outperform your classmates on tests? Was one of your projects or papers exceptional? Were you a leader in discussions and good at drawing out responses from classmates? A good debater? Did you participate when no one else had the courage to? Did you have the commitment and maturity to stay afterschool whenever you had trouble understanding something?
- Turn your “extracurricular resume” from description-based to accomplishment- and number-based. If you were the secretary of a club, don’t say you “organized notes” and “emailed members with meeting times”—everyone knows that’s what secretaries do. Be specific with things YOU did that other secretaries before you or across the country probably didn’t do. Two examples: “increased number of members from 12 to 27 with active Facebook page and Twitter for the organization”, “facilitated smooth communication by electronically archiving notes from meetings to Google Documents for all members to easily access.”
I hope these ideas prompt some of your own creativity in filling out your college applications. Remember that seeing the past with a new set of lens and selecting what to focus on is still being honest. Tweaking the truth or exaggerating is not.
You’ve worked ridiculously hard the past few years. Be proud of everything you’ve done in high school so far and know that it’s normal to wish you did more of this or better at that. But the past is over. Focus on the present. Make the best of what you’ve done. You can and will do even better in college!
I leave you with one of my favorite quotes:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; and Wisdom to know the difference.”
- Reinhold Niebuhr
Boston University Class of 2009
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: http://bu.edu/calendar)
- 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