Safety, Grades and Fun: A Compendium of Ideas

As I write this it occurs to me that I have the advantage, perhaps, of being more confident of your abilities than you are. The following are a few thoughts that might make it easier for you to achieve your destiny. greg I. The title speaks for itself. Nothing is more important than safety. II. During your college and graduate school years you will make -- literally -- hundreds of individual safety decisions. Make each and every one of them slowly, deliberately, and wisely. You can’t have fun next year if you’re not alive. Or if you’re crippled. Or if you’re emotionally debilitated. III. Grades. Ninety + percent of the reason an undergraduate student exists is to get good grades. Grades are almost your sole objective in life and excellent grades mean absolutely everything. It is how you are judged, and it is what will determine your immediate future following college. Grades are all that graduate schools care about. A slight overstatement, but very slight. Here are the things I learned to maximize your grade point average:

1) Doing extremely well for the short 5 years from your Junior year in high school through your Junior year in college will greatly maximize your chances of achieving tremendous wealth and success the following 50-70 years. So, if you ever wanted to do well, this is the time. 2) People that get good grades get good grades on purpose. They set out in the morning with the intention of doing what is necessary to get the A. 3) Take each class individually, one at a time, and look at it that way. What exactly do I have to do in each and every class to get an A? The classes I like, and those that I don’t. Those in my field as well as the others. They all count the same towards your GPA and therefore they all matter equally. This is science, not art. 4) What if you really hate a class, for completely legitimate reasons? Well, like a sports professional who is expected to get “up” for all their games, you are a now a professional student. It’s your occupation, and the way you are rated is by grades. Your family has worked hard to pay for your upcoming education and your part of the deal is doing well. So, Grin and Bear It, Win One for the Gipper, Burn the Midnight Oil, Get Over It, and other similarly annoying phrases. 5) Know exactly what is required in each class, in excruciating detail. To do well, you must understand the rules of the game completely. What is the test worth, the paper, the final? Every morning during the semester you should be able to answer the question, “What would my grades be if reports came out today?” 6) Over achieve where it’s easy to do so. Every singe paper you write in school should exceed the minimum requirement by 11-13%. (if it’s more than 13% you’re wasting your time.) If the minimum requirement for paper is less than 8 pages in length add one full

page of extra text. By the way, one line at the top of the paper is not a page of text. A page of text is a page of text. Also, never change the margins, font size, or spacing. Cite everything. The great news is you can use whatever you cite.

7) Always do extra credit the all too rare times it’s made available. Accept any offer to help a professor. 8) On your exams and papers, always take the position the Professor agrees with. Even if you are positive that you are right and they are wrong. Save your disagreeing for your beer swilling friends. Students that disagree with the Professor lose at least a half grade from the onset. The Professor starts the grading with an A-, and lowers it from there. 9) Similarly, professors like to hear their own opinions repeated to them. When specific phrases are repeated frequently on a single issue, put the phrase in quotes ala “XYZ” then repeat the same exact quote on the essay or in your paper. It’s good for at least ½ a grade.
10) If at all possible, do not work during your freshman year. There are enough transitions to make that year without trying to earn a living at the same time.

11) Choose courses that you know you can get an A in. A real biggie. The secret here is to choose a major you LOVE. Electives should be off beat and wonderful. Required courses? See #3 and #4 above. One advantage of most colleges is the incredible number of fascinating classes they offer, if you look for them. Madness in the Western World was the best class I ever took, anywhere. Remember, when it comes to medical school the English major will beat the chemistry major with inferior grades every day of the week. 12) Take courses from the past award winning “Teacher of the Year” (s). They didn’t win the award for being boring. Be sure to check the best at your school at 13) The numbers. Mentioned in #3 above for an individual class, this is the macro version. My point: Anything below a B drags your GPA down, big time. Each and every grade you receive should be an A, A-, or B+. That should be your expectation. 3 A-’s and a C+ equals a 3.35 GPA. But do nothing but bring that C+ up to a B, and a 3.35 GPA becomes a 3.525. Please try very hard to have your worst grade during your college career be a B. 14) Which means you have to start strong. It is very difficult to mathematically dig yourself out of a GPA hole. If you have a 2.6 your first semester, and then follow it with three 3.5’s in a row, you will go into your junior year with less than a B+ average. 15) How YOU Learn. In the next year you need to become a world class expert on how YOU learn. Do you study best at night or in the morning, in your room or in the library, on a sofa, or sitting upright at a desk? Do you ramp up slowly for a test, or pull an all-nighter and cram it in just in time for the 8 am exam like me? Understand your biorhythms, intricately. When should you eat to be at maximum efficiency – for an 8am exam? A 1pm exam? A 6pm exam? Napping. Learn to use more colors and lists and

highlighting. Pay very close attention to what works for you. Repetition. Repetition, Repetition. Focus. Quiet. And a plan.


Efficiency. Do it very well, so you can do less of it. More about this below.

17) In college, always be a face and a name, not a number. It will increase your final GPA by a shockingly high .15. First, always sit in one of the first two rows. Second, sometime during the first 3 weeks of the semester, after class ask an intelligent question to each professor regarding the subject matter. Procedural questions do not count, and you should let students asking that type of question go first. Then, and this is critical, go to their office hours with a different good subject matter question NOT immediately before or after a major test, midterm, or final. They will be sitting in their office all by themselves. Your stopping by to chat is why they went into teaching. It will show them you actually care. They will know and love you and when you are 1 ½ points below the A or A- cutoff, they will give you the extra half grade because you have a 14 out of 10 attitude. Your wonderful 3.65 will become a superb 3.8, or the difference between Harvard and Michigan for graduate school. 18) Surprisingly, if you do poorly in a class your first year or two (or more), you might be allowed to retake the class for a higher grade. Wow. Many universities now allow students to retake one or more classes, with only the higher grade counting towards your GPA. Please check your school’s guidelines - this can impact your GPA by .2 or more! 19) Once you choose your major, take the hardest required class during the summer at a different school. The credits will count, but not the grade. You can usually do this a couple of times. Note you probably need to OK the course with your advisor before you take it. 20) If much of this fails, after your sophomore year, TRANSFER. You get a brand new GPA. All that matters is your FINAL GPA from the school that finally granted your diploma.
IV. Fun. On campus, at least once every two weeks see one of the incredible speakers, plays, symphonies, artistic performances, or concerts. During college I saw Jacques Cousteau, Carl Sagan, Howard Cosell, Hunter S. Thompson, G. Gordon Liddy, Jimmy Carter, Jessie Jackson, Henry Kissinger, and 25 other luminaries speak. For free. A third of them I went up to ask a question afterwards – it is superb practice. Off campus -- explore. Places and other towns. When invited to go home with your friends, and you will be frequently, join them. You will remember those trips for the rest of your life. 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 3.8 Resources

1) To learn more about yourself and implementing your vision: Psychocybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.

2) For interviewing, and a positive mental attitude (PMA):

Knock 'em Dead 2009: The Ultimate Job Seekers Guide by Martin Yate.

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