In college, doing homework for one class while in another class will become significantly less possible and significantly less smart.
High school and college. Both are four years (usually), both are educational (usually), both involve taking classes (pretty much always). But they represent different courses on the menu of life — and to devour them both successfully, you need to tackle them in different ways.
You can’t dig into your steak with a spoon and start slurping just because it worked for your soup, right? Right. So with that delicious image rolling around in our heads, let’s dig into some high school habits you should leave behind when you head off to food — err, school:
• Thinking in terms of reading, writing and ‘rithmetic.
“What’s your favorite subject in school?” is a question you’ve probably been asked by relatives, teachers, pen pals and personality quizzes hundreds of times over the past 12 years. By now, you’ve obviously picked a camp: “English” or “art” or “tied between math and history.” (Or “lunch!”) Maybe you’ve even shaped your career goals around this preference: “I like math so I want to be a math teacher! I like English so I want to be a writer!” Sound like you? Well, that’s totally fine — as a start.
But there is more to life (and majors) than math and English, and limiting yourself to course selections and extracurriculars based on these kinds of tags could prevent you from figuring out what your really love about those topics (and thereby finding your true calling). Maybe you loved the logic of math — but you love the logic of computer programming or cognitive science even more. Maybe writing is your thing — but what you want to write is policy, not poetry. Starting in college, these subjects branch out and connect and overlap, so branch out with them. Because if everyone followed through on their high school interests and career goals, there would only be about 10 jobs in the world … and an awful lot of people eating lunch.
• Doing other homework during class.
Right now, it’s entirely possible and sometimes even smart to fill out your Spanish packet during English class. You’ve got the multitasking skills to simultaneously conjugate verbs and analyze Charles Dickens — the subtlety to pull it off without making your English teacher feel unloved … and Spanish class in 45 minutes. Go for it.
In college, doing homework for one class while in another class will become significantly less possible and significantly less smart. It’s hard enough to understand a lecture on cultural semiotics or multivariable trinomials without the added distraction of trying to read 30 dense pages on postmodernism — and vice versa. Even if you manage to “listen” and “read” at the same time, chances are you’ll forget every word in the next 10 minutes. This stuff requires focus — lots of focus — so do yourself a favor and work ahead. Pro tip? Working lunch. Paninis and postmodernism taste great together.
• Seeing school as an obligation.
Guys, this may be high-level but it’s a big one. In high school — even if you liked high school — you probably saw the school day as something to “get through.” You put in your seven hours, doodled countless smiley faces, ate lunch off a tray and waited for the shrill sound of freedom. If you didn’t have to go every day, you probably wouldn’t have.
That won’t work in college. Why not? Well, there’s the price-tag explanation, of course: Your parents are paying through the nose for every breath of fresh campus air that passes through your nose — and there’s really no point in them spending all that money if you’re going to treat Princeton like prison camp.
But more importantly, college is where you decide how you’re going to approach life. There’s a big difference between four years of tightly structured, legally mandated instruction in topics that may or may not be interesting or useful to you (you know, “high school”) — and four years of exploring different fields to figure out what you love and excel at in a supportive environment (college). You can choose to see college as another holding period, where you do what you have to until the weekend, think about other things, and wait for graduation… but if you do, it’s likely that that’s how you’ll treat your entire life — only “graduation” will become “retirement” and instead of taking four years, it’ll take 40. College isn’t a repeat of high school; it’s the reward for high school. Seriously — choose to see it that way!
Bonus: One habit to keep
Take handwritten notes. OK, you don’t have to — especially if your handwriting is subpar and your focus is superb. But consider it, because the number of students who can actually “just take notes” on a laptop is very, very small. You’ll regret all that tweeting and online shopping come exam time, when you realize the only “notes” you have are the Facebook chat messages you sent to your friends about weekend plans, and now you actually have to read the textbook. Trust me: colored pens and spiral notebooks.
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