Book review: How to Win at College by Cal Newport

How to Win at College by Cal Newport. New York: Broadway Books, ©2005

I have written a lot about studying for the board exam in this blog. The most effective tip for the board exam is having a solid foundation and learning from college. If you have learned the subjects thoroughly in college and already know your best study environment, reviewing for the board will not be that challenging. I've seen some people with weak knowledge of the fundamentals and bad study habits, and they did not pass the exam.

Once upon a time, I was a college failure. I failed many subjects in my first university and felt like a loser at everything. When I changed my school and my course, I was determined to do better this time. Then I discovered the Cal Newport's blog, Study Hacks Blog: Decoding Patterns of Success. Cal is a professor and a computer scientist, and I began reading and applying his studying and productivity tips for students.

With my determination to learn, I tried my best to change my studying habits. I noticed a change: I enjoyed school more, got higher grades, and eventually graduated with honors. I wasn't planning it, I just learned to enjoy my studies and my subjects that working for them didn't feel like a chore anymore. It was when I was less stressed about my studies that my grades improved.

In college, I just didn't study my lessons and my books. I also tried to learn the best methods of learning. I borrowed books on studying and improving one's mind. In my subjects, I didn't rely on one textbook but sought out better books on the subject and read them in advance.

While I'm an avid reader of Cal's blog, its the second time I read a book of his. The first one I read by him was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I picked this one up even if I already graduated from college since I needed some tips on reviewing for my comprehensive exam (graduate degree) next month.

This book is perfect for high school graduates preparing for college life and confused college students who want to make the most of their remaining time. This book is divided into 75 short chapters, each focusing on an important tip. You can read one chapter at a time on a topic you like or an area you want to improve on. They are practical and realistic, you can apply them right away and see if it works for you.

The advice that I like most and recommend to you is always attend class. Even if you don't feel like it, the regular attendance at classes has more advantages than always being absent for no reason. Another tip is write as if you're going for a Pulitzer. In college, you will do a lot of writing so it's better to read and write early on. Writing is a skill we can hone in college, and it is useful in our future work. The book warns against cramming and procrastination and encourages careful planning.

The important thing in college is to set your own goals and work hard for them. My college life was focused on studies and less on parties, but it was the way I chose it and I was happy with it and don't have any regrets. The best education is still outside school. You'll only be in college once, enjoy it. But its even better if you also excel in it!

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