Three Simple Tips for Being A Truly Better Student

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To me, being a high performing student is more than simply having a remarkable memory or constantly stressing over parents or grades. Being a top student also means being able to stand out in some way and letting your top qualities shine through, which is what schools like Harvard and Princeton are looking at.

(If you don’t believe me, know that the Ivy League regularly rejects valedictorians)

I’d like to consider myself a good student, and even if not perfect, I’ve learned over the years more of what it means to be a good student. Here are some five of the things that I’ve learned:

1. Develop a passion in different areas and be ambitious about letting it develop. I think this is one of the most important traits, not only for college admissions processes, but for life itself, really. For me, this meant getting involved in research/mentorships, social activism, and activities that helped me show both my passion for learning and my ambition for promoting societal equality. But for others, it can be music, acting, science, etc. The most important part, though, is making sure that you take steps to act upon your passion. Don’t worry about how it will look on your application – be passionate and ambitious, and the application will do itself. Beyond being excellent for colleges and college essays, becoming passionate and involved also is very personally satisfying, giving you a sense of worth and inspiration.

Another thing that worked for me is finding an inspiring person and remembering him or her. Personally, I am inspired by Professor Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor at Columbia. He is one of the youngest tenured professors at Harvard and has advised multiple post-communist countries and Latin American countries, directed numerous projects to eradicate extreme poverty in Africa, and authored multiple bestsellers. I try to keep in mind his brilliance in my wish to someday reach his stature.

2. Constantly push yourself, within reason, but without really worrying about the results. You know that amazing feeling of leaving the gym and feeling tired but inspired to continue the next day? It may sound odd, but that feeling should resonate after you are done learning. Similarly, even if you are like me and did terribly at the gym, you still should feel motivated. Try to find enjoyment in learning as this will make the process exponentially easier. Along the way, never be complacent about learning, and make sure to constantly improve yourself. For example, in 9th grade I took 5 honors classes and 1 accelerated, but no AP classes. By 10th grade, I had taken 6 AP classes and 4 courses at Stanford, and by 11th I had taken 5 courses at the University of Minnesota, 9 AP classes, 5 courses at Northwestern over the summer, and conducted my first research project. I scored some 3’s and 4’s and even got several B’s, but I learned a lot and ultimately pushed my self throughout the entire process. Above all, I learned more about my own weaknesses and realized that a top student does not mean one who somehow gets A’s in every subject imaginable.

3. Don’t get scared or stressed too easily. I already have somewhat covered this within the top two tips, but because this is such an important tip that underlies success, it’s worth mentioning again. It’s very easy to become over-stressed by work that needs to be done, but once you adopt the mindset that you are in control of your academic success because you want to develop yourself, not achieve some arbitrary standard set upon by top universities or strict parents, the stress comes down. Now, becoming stressed at procrastination is different but an entirely different matter. What I mean is that you should be OK with pushing yourself and taking harder classes without worrying about the grade simply because classes are about learning and not achieving grades. Even if you don’t achieve the best grade, reflect, find motivation, and try again. This also applies to things like the SAT and AP exams. They are important but, to be honest, I think passion and ambition are far more important. Passion and ambition are not bound by intelligence, so don’t be scared to leap into the unknown and try something new!




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