Tag Archive for 'culture'

Time Debt and Harvard’s Addiction to Over-Commitment

My Economics professor made an interesting analogy last week, comparing time commitments to “time debt.” Harvard students have a tendency to “promise” time to other parties that will be collected at a future point in time in exchange for things like grades, money, fun, etc.

Unfortunately, we too suffer from time inconsistencies regarding our time use. We commit to too much now, but have to perhaps renege on our promises later. Time inconsistencies are generally used by economists to explain things like addiction to procrastination, but at the core of it all, is a self-control issue. Whereas some people cannot help but to pull out their credit card to buy that new pair of shoes, we cannot help but to say yes to an awesome opportunity that will only maybe just take 2 hours a week.

The funny thing about “time debt” — a promise to pay back time/effort at a future date — is that the interest compounds. Time commitments snow ball, people expect and demand more from you, and soon your 2 hour a week gig ends up 3 or 4 hours a week, during a week, of course, of midterms.

So what is this “time debt,” and why in the world is this a problem of many successful people?

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Don’t Be THAT Boy or Girl: What Not To Do Amongst Other Smart People

Being clever and one step ahead, the typical Harvard student probably answered many a question in class, asked many a question, and was generally what most would term a “smarty pants.”

However, drop said newly admitted student into a class of 1500+ other really smart newly admitted kids and smarter, older, maybe wiser upperclassmen, and the game changes. Life Sciences 1a fills Sanders Theater, and no one likes that kid who asks the irrelevant make-me-look-smart questions at the end of lecture.

If you’re among smart people and you’re smart yourself, keep your attitude in check to gain respect from your peers.

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Being the Team Player Among Leaders

Everyone at Harvard is pretty much trained to be a leader. They arrive having been the president of the debate club, CEO of a small company and captain of the fencing team.

One of the major transitions is learning how to work as a team amongst a group of type A people. It’s easy to lead when people are used to following, less so when other people are used to leading.

There are a few strategies you can take to help lead a team of leaders without appearing to be THAT obnoxiously bossy person.

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On Surviving E-Recruiting

E-Recruiting is one of those phrases you hear tossed by upperclassmen as a freshmen. They bemoan it, love it, hate it, need it. And as a freshmen, you’re not quite sure what to make of it. But, once you hit sophomore year, that word “e-recruiting” is on everyone’s lips.

Some start early and fast — attending the recruiting sessions for SENIORS as sophomores during the first week or so of September. Others realize belatedly that deadlines start as early as mid-reading period for the first semester!

Here are a few tips for surviving e-recruiting (as it pertains for those searching for internships).

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The Perils of Move Out

Move Out is almost like a dirty word on campus. No one really likes to talk about moving/schlepping their queen-sized bed down 4 flights of stairs to storage. Few enjoy the awkward goodbye-acquaintance hugs? handshakes? (But thank god, no one asks, where are you going to be this summer? [That question was long hashed out two-three months ago, leading more people to know where you're going to be rather than where you are from.])

So what is Move Out actually like?

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On Surviving Reading Period

Reading Period is that time of heaven/hell when students have approximately a week and a half of “no” classes to spend time reviewing for their finals and writing their final papers. It’s wonderful because classes meet less often. It’s awful because it’s a mammoth amount of free time to re-remember what you should have learned this past semester.

Kids at other schools looong for this. Harvard kids have a tendency to love and hate it because it is and isn’t quite the original conception of the “Reading Period.” Sometimes classes still meet, sometimes you have four papers due and take-home finals.

Here are some tips I’ve gained from my 3 previous reading periods on how best to survive and utilize this precious but damning amount of free time.

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Happiness: The Most Underutilized Asset at Harvard

It is uncanny how many of my friends have confessed with particular enthusiasm: I hate Harvard. Some attribute it to the “sophomore slump.” Others complain — rightly so — about the arrogance, stupidity and frustrating qualities of our classmates.

I will admit it is true. One of the one true pastimes of the Harvard student is complaining about Harvard. From food to bureaucracy, from professors to classes, Harvard students are notorious for the amount of complaining they do.

But — for all of our complaining, we do very little to try to nip the unhappiness bud. It seems like we glorify our unhappiness: you think your life is bad? well, I just had 3 200-level problem sets due, a thesis to write, and ten organizations to save from self-combustion.

Right. This entry will be dedicated to why happiness is as important of an asset as time (arguably one of the most valuable things a Harvard student has, but that’s another entry).

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An Ode to the Moleskine

Yes sir, that is my lovely lovely moleskine. Yes ma’am, that is indeed a binder-clip pen holder.

The moleskine is effortlessly classy, slightly pretentious and absolutely necessary. It keeps me sane. It gets me to do things. It makes me almost feel like a math genius — almost. (I say that because I do in fact know of two math geniuses who carry around moleskines to sketch the mathematical equivalent of doodling.)

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The Negative Externalities of the Cult(ure) of Over-Committing

It is a v. well-known fact that Harvard students tend to over-commit themselves to difficult classes, time consuming problem sets, sports teams, term-time jobs and leadership and axillary positions in approximately 13 extracurriculars.

While the effects of over-committing are well-documented (anxiety, stress, lack of sleep), the external effects of over-committing are often glossed over. In fact, we live in a culture that praises the nearly over-committed. We want people to work hard and long hours to achieve what they want (money, fame, success), but we don’t want them to necessarily crash and burn.

However, a population of the (nearly) over-committed isn’t quite optimal either.

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The Internship: Turning Summer into a Pre-Professional Experience

What is an Ivy League School to do when it dares not offer any majors that could be of immediate practical/professional use to anyone?

What Harvard does not have as “concentrations:” advertising, public relations, political science, business, marketing, graphic design, education, so on and so on.

What is an over-achiever to do?

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