Study Hacks Blog Posts from December, 2008 - Study Hacks - Cal Newport

Case Study: How Tyler Aced a Difficult Course

December 31st, 2008 · 11 comments

Tyler Gets NervousA New Beginning

Our friend Tyler, whose quest for student simplicity I profiled last April, recently sent me a message. He was nervous about a course he was taking for his linguistics minor. The grade was based on bluebook essay exams. As he recalled: “The last time I took a bluebook course I almost failed it.”

We traded some e-mails. I gave him some advice and he sent back some updates. The final result: he aced the course.

In this post, I explain how…

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Let’s Teach Ramit That Study Hacks Readers Rock!

December 29th, 2008 · 8 comments

An Innovative Scholarship

Earlier in December, my friend Ramit, who runs the wildly popular I Will Teach You to Be Rich blog, announced the I Will Teach You To Be Rich Scholarship for Social Innovation. The concept is simple. You pitch him an entrepreneurial idea you have for making the world better. It can be something you’ve already started or something you’ve dreamed of doing. He’ll choose the best idea and give its originator $2500 as well as advice and access to his considerable contact network.

Let me put this another way: if you have a cool idea for helping the world, and you win this contest, Ramit can provide exactly what you need to make it a success. If you’re in high school, the result will be the type of innovative pursuit that lets you breeze into your dream school. If you’re in college, it will put you in a completely different league when seeking post-grad opportunities.

In other words: This is a chance to transform your student life.

Let’s Show ‘Em What We’re Made Of…

I want a Study Hacks reader to win this scholarship. This type of project fits perfectly with our Zen Valedictorian Philosophy (specifically: The Law of Innovation), and you’re some of the brightest, most motivated students on the planet. So let’s show Ramit what we’re made of…

Here are two items to sweeten the deal:

  1. Ramit always complains about how few people apply for his scholarships. This means that if you have a good idea and actually take the time to enter, you have a great shot.
  2. I will help you win. If you want to enter, send me a draft of your idea and I’ll give you feedback to help make it irresistible.

The full rules for entry can be found here. The deadline is January 15th. Send me a draft of your entry by January 10th and I’ll give you my feedback. If you’re looking to become a standout, this is a perfect opportunity to start down that path.

How to Avoid Fighting With Your Parents While Home for Christmas Break

December 26th, 2008 · 16 comments

Study BreakA Christmas Tradition…

It’s a tradition as deeply ingrained as overdosing on eggnog or decorating the tree: college students home for the holidays getting into fights with their parents about school. There are uncountably many different ways for these fights to be kindled, but once raging they fall into one of two predictable paths: the always popular “you don’t understand how hard I study” theme and the well-worn classic “I know everything and you’re hopelessly naive.”

This post, in the spirit of the season, teaches you how to avoid such brawls. Below are three simple pieces of advice. Give them a read now and the vacation days ahead might just remain merry.

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Q & A: How Much Does Intelligence Matter at College?

December 17th, 2008 · 59 comments

Contest Update: You have until midnight tonight (EST) to send in your entry for the HP Magic Giveaway. Remember, I’m giving away $6000 worth of computers, printers, and software to one lucky winner. Click here for the rules and information on how to enter. (Note: the contest is now closed. I’ll announce the winner on Friday.)

An Interesting Question…Doogie!

A student recently sent me an interesting question. It’s a topic I’ve thought a lot about, so I thought I would share my answer with you.

Here’s the original question:

To what extent does intelligence matter in college success? I have a group of friends that try very hard at school, yet fail to score the grades a select group of people I know are able to do. This question captures my concern about grad school admissions: no matter how hard I try, there will always be hundreds of other “geniuses” out there.

I responded: I don’t believe that intrinsic intelligence plays any significant role at the college level.

Let me explain why…

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Announcing the Rules for my Free Computer Giveaway

December 14th, 2008 · 25 comments

HP Magic

4 Is The New 1

Earlier this fall, I teamed up with HP for the Freshman 15 giveaway and was able to give a brand spanking new laptop to a most deserving student. As I announced a couple weeks back, HP, now teamed up with Microsoft, has returned with an even sweeter offer: 4 brand new computers for me to give away; not to mention printers, software, DVDs, the whole works…

Today, I officially open my contest. The rules are listed below and you have exactly one week to enter.

But before I continue, I should clarify, in case you’re wondering: I get nothing out of this promotion. (Sadly.) That is, HP is not paying me. Their hope is that by giving away thousands of dollars of free stuff they will generate good will with you guys. My interest is only that I like giving you free stuff!

The Official Rules

The rules for my contest are as follows:

  • You have to be a current college or graduate student to enter.
  • You have to e-mail me by midnight EST on Wednesday 12/17 with a proposal for how you would play Santa Claus at your school this season if you were to win. In other words, make a pitch for how you would distribute this equipment at your school if you were to win the contest. (Of course, I assume that you’ll keep one of the machines for yourself!) Is there a club that really needs it? Do you have an idea for a campus-wide contest? Do you have a plan to use the giveaway to drum up some media attention or raise money for a worthy cause?
  • You don’t have to live in the United States to win.

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How Allison Used Her iPod to Ace Biology

December 10th, 2008 · 36 comments

Contest Update: This Saturday I’ll be announcing the rules for the HP Magic contest. If you’ll recall, I’m giving away 5 brand new computers, a wireless printer, a bunch of free software, and more. While you’re waiting for my contest rules to be announced, check out this site for a list of the 49 other blogs also participating.

Post Update (4/8/09): Stefan from the Dutch School Kid blog has posted an article summarizing his experience trying to use this technique to study for his own biology course. 

iTunes Notes

Panic Mode

It was two weeks before her biology final, and Allison, an undergraduate at McGill University, was starting to panic. She had been trying to review her class notes but found the process increasingly tedious. Her concentration would not hold, and the material was not sinking in.

Allison knew she was more an audio than a visual learning, but recognized early in the semester that David’s technique of recording entire lectures to review later would be too inefficient. (The lectures were loooonnng and dddrrryyy.) She needed something more punchy.

That’s when she noticed the iTunes icon on her computer desktop and hatched a clever plan…

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How to Ace Essay Questions Using the Three Minute Rule

December 8th, 2008 · 15 comments

Blue Book Phobia

Blue Book

As we tumble toward final exams, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address one of the most dreaded denizens of the season: the blue book essay exam. Nothing strikes more fear into the heart of a liberal arts student than seeing that big blue book, full of empty, lined pages, just waiting to be filled with paragraphs pregnant with novel insight.

These exams are tough. But in this post I will teach you a devastatingly effective trick for squeezing out the most possible points once you sit down for the test itself. Of course, this advice assumes you’ve done smart preparation (see last week’s post on exam prep mistakes for some pointers on this topic). But assuming you know your stuff, this advice will teach you how to strut it.

It all comes down to the three simple minutes…

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