Lesson 4: 90/10 Rule

In college, you won’t have enough time, and contrary to popular belief, you can’t just “make time” by not sleeping or cooping yourself inside your room and saying no to social events, because it’s important to have a balance. How do you finish things on time and succeed? The answer lies in a coding axiom called the 90/10 rule: “90% of a program execution time is spent in executing 10% of the code.”

Put into life and time management terms, you spend 90% of the time finding how to do all your work in 10% amount of the time. So, I realized that strenuously waking up at 8:40am to go to a 1.5 hr lecture could save me over 5 hours of  both unproductive and gruesome self-studying of the material. I realized that going to a 1 hour professor office hour would saved me the late 5am hours I would spend grinding on a multi or physics problemset. And even more importantly, I realized getting a good nights sleep actually led to a more productive day and therefore less time spent studying in general simply because I could pay attention fully in class without getting tired and zoning out, and be able to fully understand and learn the material!

So, when you think you’re taking the easy way out or “saving time” by skipping lecture to study or not going to office hours, or getting less sleep to do more, you might actually be doing quite the opposite!

Lesson 3: Your calendar is your best friend

In college there’s going to a million events–whether it be club activities, sports practices, social events, speaker events, classes, internship deadlines, etc; that you will want to go to, and it is important that the minute you see that facebook event you press “interested in”/”going to” or right after you receive that email about that application deadline, put it onto your calendar right away. There’s no way you’re going to be able to keep track of everything–and this is something I learned too late, because I wasn’t able to attend the events I wanted to go to simply because I would forget the time or day, or wouldn’t finish something I needed to do before I went to the event and ended up not going at all. Do not, I repeat, do not rely on your peers to be remind you of events to go to. You need to put things into your own hands.

Lesson 1: Surround yourself with the right people

I originally named this “Surround yourself with good/success-driven people” but I realized that being around the right type of people are subjective, because sometimes success-driven can cause high stress/competition/toxicity, so I changed it to “right people.”

But in all honesty, I still do believe that good/success-driven people is very important in College because if you go to a top-tier institution you’re going because you love learning, so you want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals.

This is where I came to fault when I first arrived in College. Even when you go to top university, you shouldn’t expect that everyone loves to learn. Obviously, there’s still going to be the kids who don’t and party all day or all night and never go to class or do their homework or assignments. I definitely didn’t expect this because I chose my institution because I thought that I would be surrounded by hardworking individuals, but I realized that wasn’t necessarily the case. Don’t get me wrong, the people I’ve met in this College are probably the most genuine, amazing, kind, nice, and overall awesome people I’ve ever met. I know everyone says this, but hands-down, the people here are what really makes my experience in college worth it. Although these people are absolutely amazing, when it comes to academics, they didn’t fit me.

Some background–I chose Carman as my housing/dorm and Carman is known as the “social dorm.” This means that every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and sometimes even Sunday nights you will see groups of kids going out of the doors of Carman to go party. Yes, four nights of partying sometimes ranging from 9pm to 4am. Since it physically appears that almost everyone I knew was going out, I caught onto the 4-night partying culture and would throw off assignments just to go party. This partying habit was alright for the rest of my friends on the floor because they didn’t have class Friday or billions of assignments due because they were in Columbia College (the non engineering school), yet I had weekly quizzes Friday morning in Multivariable Calculus (my hardest class), and on top of that I often had Computer Science ProblemSets due Friday nights. The first week, I remember procrastinating till the last minute to turn in a Problem Set for Computer Science simply because I wanted so bad to go out and party so I was extremely distracted, so I ended up turning in a terribly done assignment (and at that time I didn’t know you could use late hours because guess who skipped lecture) and I received a C for it. The worst part was that after I received such a low grade, it didn’t even bother me that much and I would still go out and prioritize partying simply because it felt like the whole world was doing it simply because the ones closest to me (which were the people on my floor) were. But the thing is, it isn’t the whole world. That’s why I really emphasize hanging out with the right people. I realized that some of my SEAS friends from floor 11 didn’t go out, and worked on the assignments. Along with them, my friends from other dorms (John Jay, Wallach, Furnald) all told me that they barely go out, which was shocking for me. And in correlation, their grades were all a lot better than mine. My mother also said that in the giant WeChat groups the parents keep for Columbia, the parents  all say that their kids rarely party because they can never find parties–which is just so ironic because on my floor people are always at at least 2-3 parties which then leads to us party hopping and joining them, so I never viewed “partying” as uncommon.

After realizing that partying wasn’t the common scene, I tried to cut it back and stay in to do work, but man is it hard when you’re surrounded by your friends going out and having the time of their lives. Or at least that’s how I felt at the time. In fact, when I came out of my room the next day, people on my floor would ask me, “Jessica where were you? We had so much fun! You missed out!” or if I’ve been working throughout the week and not attending the million of social activities we have, they’ll say “Jessica where are you? It Feels like we never see you anymore.” The fomo (fear of missing out) really kills me, so more often than not I succumb to the pressure and go out with my floor again. And the thing is, being with them is the best thing ever because everyone is so kind and I have such a great time, but in the end when I come back late and get almost no sleep, and end up sleeping till 2pm the next day and also getting no work done, which then results in me almost pulling an all nighter on Sundays, that’s really no fun at all. Another  thing I struggled with is that also when I do stay in and do work, I’m not the most productive either because I just feel lonely and unmotivated because everyone’s out. It takes so much effort to really do anything when everyone you know is out. I remember thinking back to highschool when me and my friend would just go to the library everyday afterschool or even back to middle school when me and my best friend would get all our work finished afterschool at her house–homework never felt like it took so much effort? It felt like an accomplishing feat, but now it feels like so much effort and no gain (just missing out on fun and not even getting the best grade because I’m rushing it out).

So, for those going into college next year, surround yourself with the right people. Because when you don’t, trying to stay on top of your work or even being a good student in general because so much harder than it really should be.



Wow it’s been forever…

Hey guys! My thanksgiving break just started yesterday, so I’ve been able to take some time off to write? Though honestly, this Columbia Engineering Core has really got me working on PSets on the daily, and I’ve barely been able to write or read at all–so this post will probably reflect some of the loss of fluidity/charisma I used to hold in my writing. Anyhow, now that the semester is surprisingly almost over, I’ve been meaning to hammer out a conclusion post about what I learned through my first few months in college, but I’ve really never gotten the time because I’ve either been working or try to catch up on whatever minimal sleep I’m getting. So, instead of writing a long and rushed essay, I’m going to update smaller, separate posts on my blog about what I’ve been doing in college, what’s happened so far, and lessons I learned   or any advice I have and then who knows, I might compile it into a longer, more aesthetically pleasing post on Medium (I’ve really been reading Medium for too long).