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How to win at college: Start early, laugh often, and study abroad

Cal Newport has a popular new book out, but it’s one of his earlier titles that we recommend for high school seniors graduating in the coming weeks

With a new book out, productivity guru Cal Newport has been showing up everywhere – on top podcasts with Adam Grant, Tim Ferris, and Alex Huberman, in Fast Company and the New York Times Book Review, and in bookstores across the country. The social media-allergic podcaster, who daylights as a Georgetown University professor, shows in Slow Productivity that the age-old practice of ruminating and single-tasking are ways to do big things, do them better, and with less burnout.  

It’s a great book for any college-bound (or campus-bound) student–not to mention those aunts, uncles, and family friends heading to high school graduation parties (and looking for present ideas) over the next few months.  

“Imagine how beneficial it would be for you to explore the world while you are still young, to take in other cultures, to learn a new language, to get a huge new sense of perspective on your life,” Newport writes. “There is an easy way to make all of this a reality: Spend a semester studying abroad.”

“Studying abroad is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Don’t let it pass you by.”

“This global perspective will inform every aspect of your life, from the way you read a newspaper to the way you shape your career to your views on American politics. And most important, going abroad is a fun and exciting thing to do that will make you a more interesting, multifaceted person.”

As for the other advice included in the book, Newport and the students he interviewed advise:

  • Start long-term projects the day they are assigned (Chapter 4)
  • Build study systems (7) – “Building very specific study systems breaks a formidable task into achievable chunks, and it frees up your energy to focus on learning rather than worrying about your state of preparation.”
  • Do one thing better than anyone else you know (11) – “By mastering one activity in your life, you are putting a stake in the ground, giving yourself one thing to feel sure of, and making a declaration about who you are. Don’t let others dictate how you feel about yourself; strengthen your identity.”
  • Laugh every day (50)
  • Get involved with your major department (55)

See where we (and you?) are headed.

  • Students

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