Draft: Surviving College

I received a note from Fr. Alden, the principal of Colegio de Sto.
Tomas-Recoletos (San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines). He
gives my SurvivingComputerScience talk notes to students who are about
to take up computer science. (Awwwww… =) ) He’s planning to give
practical college survival tips to senior high school students. Here’s
what I came up with on the train home.

- Know where you’re going. Even before you attend your first day of

classes, think about what you’d like to do and whom you’d like to be
when you graduate. Attend career talks for seniors even if you’re
just a freshman. Find out what kind of job you want and what you
need to learn in order to do it. You can change your plan, but it’s
important that you have one.

- Love what you’re doing. If you know where you’re going and you love

what you’re doing, studying will be much easier. Find something
you’re passionate about. The sooner you find this, the more you’ll
enjoy your studies and the more you’ll be able to do.

- Ask questions. Don’t be afraid of looking stupid. Your classmates

might know more than you do now, but they started with nothing. They
learned by asking questions. If you don’t want to ask questions in
class, write your questions down. This is important because
questions are very easy to forget. Write them down so that you can
talk to your teacher after class. Your teachers are there to help
you. Ask questions.

- Review. While listening to the lecture, it’s easy to believe you

understand everything. Don’t be fooled. Go over your notes again.
Try to solve problems without looking at the answers. Try to explain
whatever you’re studying to your friends or to your family. If you
can’t explain it in your own words, you need to think about it more.

- Make mistakes. Don’t be afraid of failing. Your teachers need to

know when you’re having problems with the lessons. It’s better to do
badly than to pass without understanding anything. This also means
don’t cheat. Cheating makes you think you can do things when you
can’t. Worse, it makes you think you _can’t_ do something without
cheating, when you actually can (with a little more work).

- Take risks. College is the best time to make mistakes and learn from

them. Whenever you run into a problem, think about that problem. Why
did it happen? What can you do to solve it? What can you do to make
sure it doesn’t happen again?

- Go for more. College gives you whatever you want to get out of it.

If you just wait for people to spoonfeed you, you won’t get much.
Don’t turn off your brain when you leave the classroom. Don’t limit
yourself to the syllabus. Learn. Your teachers know more than they
can teach in class. Your classmates know a lot, sometimes more than
the teachers do. You can also learn many things on your own. You
have to take that first step.

College is whatever you want college to be.


Do you have tips to share? I’d love to hear from you. Please use the
feedback form at the bottom of this page,
or write me e-mail at [email protected] . Thanks!