Archive for August, 2008

Surviving the Extracurricular Application Process

After my senior year college search, I thought I was all done with silly applications, essays and interviews until my next senior year job search. Oh, how I was mistaken.

Practically every activity on campus has either an application and/or interview process or comp process. You apply for a freshmen seminar by waxing poetic about marine biology. You write an essay on the proper use of punctuation for that literary magazine. You comp the Crimson with a few hundred other freshmen etc. etc.

This particular entry will focus on recruitment efforts that do NOT involve a comp, but instead have usually, a written application and then an interview for those passing the written part. (This obviously doesn’t include activities that involve try outs.)
There are a few basic tips to keep in mind to put your best foot forward when it comes to the extracurricular application process.

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How to Use the Q/Cue Guide

I worked for what is now known as the “Q Guide” one summer. I read many a review, tallied comments, double checked reviews, and pondered grammar. During that time, I learned many things about the inner workings of that review.

While it is easy to just read the paragraphs and accept them at face value, you really need to dig a little deeper to understand a given review in its context.

Here are a few tips to to best understand the Q Guide to help you decide which courses to shop and take.

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On Surviving Shopping Period

Harvard offers its students a stressful luxury known as Shopping Period. This is the time where students bounce from lecture to lecture, grabbing syllabi and wondering if they can stay awake for a given professor.

It’s a prime opportunity to pick core classes, figure out which math class you want to survive, and decide on whether you can survive on Flyby lunches for a semester.

There are a number of ways to keep on top of shopping period in order to optimize your new courses without getting too bogged down.

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How To Choose Your Courses as a Freshman

Freshmen are greeted by a 1000+ page book detailing all the courses they could possibly take (and many that they’ve never heard of) in the fall. Contrast this to even the course selection at the largest and most awesome high schools, and many a freshmen sort of freeze up, freak out at narrowing down what they want to do with their life, major, career and beyond!

While I can’t tell you whether to take that Psych 1 (yes the numbers start low here) class or that freshmen seminar, there are a few basic rules you can follow to make your life easier and narrow down your selection.

Course selection for freshmen should be primarily directed toward concentration exploration and workload/difficulty balance.

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Plan Backwards from the Deadline

Suppose you have a paper due the last week of classes. You can plan to handle that paper in a few ways:

  • Closing your eyes and dealing with it the week before
  • Planning your next steps
  • OR, planning backwards from that deadline

How often do you miss your own deadlines? You’ll say to yourself, ahh, I have time, I can start researching this next week! But soon, the weeks close in, and you’re left cramming everything together at the last minute in your dining hall, with a large cup of joe.

 Next time you have an important project, try planning backwards from the deadline.

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Stop Planning Your Mind Away

One of the best pieces of advice that freshmen receive is: Do not try to plan out your four-year academic career. This piece of advice will be tucked away in that guidebook that freshmen get, in a section addressing course selection and academics.

The guidebook will then continue in a reassuring tone: Just make sure you’re taking the classes you need to take in order to set yourself up properly for your classes next year.

As I’m looking forward to my junior, senior years and my career plans, I’m realizing just how wise that advice is.

There’s no need to stress yourself out by planning each detail of your life.

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Recommendation: Todoist for Your To Do List

In a previous post, I examined ways of organizing your busy busy Harvard life. At the time, I didn’t have a good “To Do List” or task management organizer for you.

Now, I am proud to recommend Todoist.com

Todoist is a website that allows you to create To Do Lists (complete with deadlines and project breakdowns) that would make any dork envious.

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New Semester Resolutions

Although every Harvard student wants to write “Be the BEST at EVERYTHING” on his or her new semester resolutions list, this isn’t obviously, a realistic goal.

Instead, take these resolutions as a time to focus your energies on aspects of your life that need improvement. If your list is too scattered, you might as well not have a list at all.

Before you get back on campus, take a few minutes to reflect on your priorities/goals and strengths/weaknesses to kick your semester off with the right perspective.

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Hacking the Mental Supply Chain

The supply chain and distribution network behind a simple product, like a lamp, is ridiculously intricate and complex. Chances are the lamp had to cross the seas, move through customs, hit a warehouse, get distributed via trucks or planes, hit the stores, get deboxed and brought out to the sales floor for a given store. And somewhere along the way, all of this needs to be coordinated.

Think of the sheer number of people involved, the time, the effort. But, somehow, we can keep massive grocery stores perfectly stocked with a few thousands different types of items. So, although the supply chain is exceedingly complex, the network becomes more efficient with increases in scale and follows a few basic principles.

If you consider the end product of thought and action — be it a novel, new business etc. — it too follows a mental supply chain of sorts, going from conception to finalization.

This post examines ways to improve the mental supply chain — decreasing the time/effort between thought and action and increasing efficiency overall.

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The Decision to Study Abroad?

What you need to know about…deciding whether or not to study abroad at Harvard.

Some students view a term abroad as an integral part of their undergraduate experience. That being said, amongst it peers, Harvard does not have the best reputation for encouraging studying abroad. While many things have improved in that past several years, there are still TEN important things to consider.

To study abroad or not to study abroad…THAT is the question.

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