How do you know if you can handle the work?

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Discus: Ivy League Schools: Harvard University: 2004 Archive: How do you know if you can handle the work?
By Keo (Keo) on Saturday, April 24, 2004 - 12:03 am: Edit

I know the work at these top universities is extreme. I got into quite a few including this one. I just didn't want to act too hastily. How does anyone know they can handle the workload? Anyone know of anyways to prep yourself to handle that level of work without being totally crushed in your first year? I have a friend who went to Princeton and his first year was the worst of his life as I recall.Getting in is certainly a great thing and all but surviving the full 4 yrs... anyone got any advice of how to prepare for something like this?

By Austin316 (Austin316) on Saturday, April 24, 2004 - 02:24 am: Edit

Heh, during orientation they packed a big classroom full of new students and gave us a talk about Harvard, congratulated us, yadda yadda yadda. It was all jocular and the professor said something like the following:

"See, the faculty here at Harvard have a secret. And I'm going to share with you what that is. Tenure. You come in as a new student, and the faculty know you're smart. There's no question about it. I mean, you're at Harvard, right? In fact, you may even be smarter than some of the faculty! I'm sure some of you are. But the faculty have a leg up on you: they know more things than you do. That's how they can teach you. And when they think you've started to know too much, they recommend you for a degree and you're outta here! And because they have tenure, they stay! Every one of you was admitted because we're confident you can do the work. We *think* we're right about that. And we'll find out, starting next week, if indeed we were. And if we weren't...then we'll just ask you to leave!"

I don't know anyone who's left. I know freshmen who are thriving. They're working at higher levels than were attainable at their high schools for the first times in their lives and are doing a helluva good job at it. I also know freshmen who are intimidated by everyone around them 'knowing more' or 'working harder' than they are. They're in survival mode as opposed to thriving mode. But you know what? I wouldn't call the workload 'extreme.' You have to remember that there is a body of knowledge out there and it's going to be taught different ways at different places. But, you're still getting taught from the same body of knowledge. Harvard doesn't necessarily ask you to KNOW more; Harvard asks you to THINK more. You've got to take what you know and push the limits in critical thinking or creative problem solving. This is harder for some than others. There's a learning curve at work, too. The more you work at it, the better you become. The more interdisciplinary you become, the wider the range of critical techniques you can apply to the multiple subjects that you're studying. The more you read, the more ideas you can extrapolate from & the more viewpoints you're exposed to & can apply to your own thinking. I could go on about this, but I won't!

That prof who lectured us the first week was right. The faculty (including those who sit on admissions committees) know more than you or I do. After studying you and learning about you, they know that you can do the work. That's their job & they have a stunning success rate at it. At least, that's what I can tell from the people who I know & the stories I hear about people I don't. And what's more than that - I'm realizing it about myself, because I was also intimidated.

4 classes is the average courseload. It's definitely manageable. I found that I had a lot of extra time on my hands when I was *just* doing coursework. So I branched out into other things. That's when scheduling can become hectic, but that's also when you find out that you can rise to the occassion. I kid you not: the coursework here will stretch your mind. It will poke & probe your brain. It'll •••• you off sometimes. I'm definitely not saying it'll be easy. But it's not impossible by any stretch of the imagination. You'll probably beg your TFs and profs for extensions sometimes. You might even avoid doing some of the work altogether. And in the end, it'll work out fine because you've earned a certain level of respect and it'll be accorded to you. The work here is meant to help you grow. It's designed to make you even more mentally nimble than you already are.

My advice to you is simple. Accept the challenge & grow as you go. Stretch yourself & test your limits because you're in a priviledged position to be able to do so. It's an exciting and fulfilling process - have a little self-discipline and a lot of fun while experiencing it.

By Tomonlineli (Tomonlineli) on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 09:04 am: Edit

Probably one of the best written pieces on preparing for college that I have seen. Kudos!!!

By Raiti (Raiti) on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 08:37 pm: Edit

WOW! You are a great writer Austin. It just gave me confidence that I will succeed at CU.

By Austin316 (Austin316) on Tuesday, April 27, 2004 - 10:33 pm: Edit

Right on, Raiti! And thx Tom

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