Friday, May 27, 2016

Dear Anthony

Congratulations, Anthony
Jesuit Preparatory School, 2016
Dear Anthony,
Congratulations! What a job you’ve done! And look what lies ahead! I am proud to know you and your family. 
I want to share some things that were helpful to me in one way or another along the way toward graduating magna cum laude from Baylor.
Background: from middle school through high school and into college I was a terrible student. When I applied to Baylor, I had a 1.7 GPA – proof of my poor performance in school. The Dean at Baylor gave me a list of prerequisites and told me to come back if I could make straight A’s in those subjects. She was surprised when I showed up a year later with all A’s in chemistry, biology, anatomy, physiology, and so on! What helped:
  • Never missed a class, was never late, always sat up front, and paid total attention in class. I was unafraid to ask questions during or after class – or before the next class. 
  • As soon as possible after every class I recopied my notes (adding material from texts if needed to help me understand). In this manner, I heard the material, wrote the material, and rewrote and started integrating the material. It was like pre-studying for tests. I don’t know how I would interact with a computer or PowerPoint in this process – maybe read carefully back through notes and use text to add to them? I don’t know.
  • Changed my handwriting from scrawlish to as neat as possible.
  • Treated school like a job – I worked at it from 8am to 5 or 6pm. I didn’t take long social lunches, but I always ate lunch and didn’t study while eating. I also took other breaks and changed my study locations during the day when I started getting sleepy. In
    undergraduate school I took most of most weekends off; in graduate school I had to work harder – that was a 6-7 day/week job. 
  • Group projects are a fact of life. And there are always people who don’t do their part, are late, and are otherwise non-productive. Be assertive in identifying smart, motivated people (they’re often quiet people) and connecting with them to work together. This is an important skill.
  • Often studied with other people – again, choosing carefully. You’ll make good study connections over time.
  • Avoided situations and people who wouldn’t help in my journey. I don’t mean I didn’t help other people; I did. But I avoided people who were unmotivated, drinkers, stoners, gamers, and so on. I went out some on weekends, but it was not one big party. I actually had a very good time in school, and have been having a good time ever since. 
  • I recall seeing some legitimate research showing that students who worked part-time in college tended to do well – working apparently does not have an adverse effect on grades.
  • Always bought used books. If it’s such a great book and worth the high price charged for new, you can always get one later.

Garden at Road's End, outside Fort Bragg
Being a good student is hard work and the rewards are many. You get to learn a lot, test yourself, spend time with smart people, meet new people, see new things, and open up your life in other unanticipated and wonderful ways.
School can be a gateway to an amazing life.

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