As a parent, back-to-school makes you realize the passage of time.
This year my daughter carefully picked out her outfit and then donned - for the first time - fake nails before deciding that they were impractical for the first day of school. Fortunately, she came to this conclusion on her own. But those fake nails reminded me of the limited number of “back-to-schools” she (and I) had left.
As much as I want to bulldoze the path in front of my daughter, I know the obstacles she faces in school are hers to face. What I can do for her is what I hope to do in this article: give advice and maybe some inspiration about how to keep “back-to-school” in perspective and have a great year.
So, how do you make the most of going back to school?
1. Get organized. There’s a momentum to getting organized at the start of term, so ride that wave until it crashes upon the shore of midterms if you can.
There are dozens of other ways to get organized, but those four are the ones that consistently make the biggest impact on my to-do list and feelings of organization.
2. Learn to use ChatGPT to its fullest. Initial reports about ChatGPT emphasized its ability to help students cheat. That’s certainly ONE use, and it’s one that will continue until teachers adapt their assignments to include the use of AI rather than stubbornly putting their fingers in their ears🙈.
But ChatGPT can be used in surprising ways to help students, including:
Summarize large quantities of information (even PDFs)
Or, you know, build your own.
3. Get in shape. The chart below from 2022 comes from the ACHA’s NCHA (say that five times fast). That’s the National College Health Assessment from the American College Health Association. How much time do most college students spend on physical fitness?
I’m no doctor, but when I look at that chart, I see at least 62.4% of students that aren’t getting enough exercise, though you may quibble with me about what the right amount is for yourself, of course.
Exercise is not only good for your body, but also your brain.
In short, if you want to do well mentally this semester, don’t underestimate the benefit of preparing yourself physically.
4. Don’t overcommit yourself. You might be tempted to sign up for every class that interests you or join every club that appeals to you or take on every opportunity that comes your way. But remember: quality over quantity. Focus on what matters most to you and what aligns with your goals.
5. Eat Your Frogs. Eating Frogs is the idea that there are certain unpleasant tasks you need to do that will otherwise build up, so devoting time each week to those tasks means you hold your nose and open wide and then don’t have to think about it the rest of the week. [source]
What does that look like for students? Well, imagine if every Sunday you studied for roughly two hours for future midterms. During each session, work on the most important and challenging task for that course. This task could be reviewing notes, making flashcards, solving problems, writing outlines, or doing practice tests. This is your frog. Eat it first.
Imagine what an impact such deliberate practice could have over the course of a semester [source].
6. Don’t forget your purpose. You might be tempted to lose sight of why you are in college or what you are studying or where you are heading or who you are becoming. But the more you stay in touch with that purpose, whatever it may be, the more palatable the late nights will be, the better your performance, and the easier the tough choices about how to spend your time.
I’m not here to weigh in on any questionable fashion choices you’re making as you go back to school. Sometimes as a father - and as an advisor - it’s smarter just to close your trap.
But I hope that these tips inspire you to make the most of this special time, one that marks the start of an excellent year.
P.S. It’s been a minute since we’ve emailed this list. We’ve been busy getting our current crop of students through their admissions essays and interviews, but we’re planning to be back in your inbox weekly with actionable and somewhat irreverent advice.
P.P.S. If you’re interested in booking a free introductory meeting with Passport, anyone who does so will get two bonus hours with any of our Ultimate Packages or above (1 free with a custom package). Just mention this promotion to your advisor when you book your meeting.
This week’s newsletter is by Rob Humbracht, founder and CEO of Passport Admissions and lead author of The Savvy PreMed. He is also CEO at ReelDx and Co-founder of HEAL Clinical Education Network. Follow him on LinkedIn.
Next week you will hear from Ryan Kelly, Head Advisor and Editor at Passport Admissions.