How To Win At College

May 12, 2012 § 2 Comments

For many, college is a huge expense.  Most of us don’t receive a scholarship.  The majority of students don’t have parents with the means to pay their tuition.  And even fewer of us work for a company or organization that will foot the bill.

Attending college is not only a great expense in relationship to the direct costs we pay (i.e. tuition, fees, room and board, entertainment, extra-curricular, text books…oh the cost of text books!), but also a period of time which we are give academic studies precedence over our working life.  This is a huge cost to incur, so we must earnestly endeavor to ensure the benefits we get from attending college outweigh the cost.

But how do we ensure that we are going to net positive gains from our college years?  Cal Newport’s book, How to Win at College, breaks down the formula for collegiate success into 75 rules, strategies, and techniques that will make good on the promissory note of the book’s title.

Newport disabuses his readers of the idea that one cannot be a standout student and still have a social life.  Academic success and real-world ambitions are not enemies, but compliments according to Newport.  What’s more, Newport insists, is that anyone can do this and, with prudent planning, one can do this quite painlessly.

Newport, now a professor of computer science at Georgetown University, exemplified this central thesis of his book:  he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Dartmouth College and continued on to complete both a master’s and a PhD in Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Georgetown University professor begins How to Win at College with a brief introduction about the types of students whom he interviewed to compile the 75 “do’s and don’ts”, then jumps right in with the first lesson:  Don’t do all of your reading.

Instead, Newport suggests that one ought to make piece with the fact that most professors will assign more reading than humanly possible and prepare for class in a smarter, more practical way of skimming the main points, taking notes of them, and then filling in the gaps during the lecture.

The next lesson, one that I find extremely useful, is to create a Sunday ritual, because, “Sunday sets the tone for the week that follows.”  Newport urges his readers to resist the urge to saunter about and start the day off with something that will give the day momentum—like a jog, a read of the Sunday paper, a hot cup of coffee, a conversation with a loved one, etc.

Another gem from the book is the advice to never nap.  Newport asserts that napping is bad behavior because it’s a huge time-suck, it derails one’s normal sleep schedule, and is very addictive.  Rather than napping, even when one is sleep-deprived and extremely tired, Newport implores people to resist.  Gather fresh fruits and cold water to consume, exercise, do simple chores and all of the other things you’ve been putting off.  Return library books, organize your class binders, watch a movie.  Anything but napping or going to bed at an abnormally early hour.

Some of my other favorite lessons are: blow the curve once a term; always be working on a grand project; build study systems; and don’t network. With three degrees from ivy-covered campuses, Newport knows how busy life can get as a student trying to foster academic, career, and social goals.

All in all, the book is extremely well-written which makes it an easy, pleasant, and inspirational read.  The book rewards reading no matter if you’re an undergraduate student, some other type of student, or even just a young professional.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

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§ 2 Responses to How To Win At College

  • points well made! if i wasn’t already convinced by your urging to read this book, i’ll definitely have to check it out and recommend to people actually in college!

  • Eric says:

    ‘Academic success and real-world ambitions are not enemies, but compliments’. I like that alot. Can’t wait to check out this book. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think of it once I’m done reading

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