Advice to Youngsters Entering College

Advice to youngsters entering college

By Reza Ganjavi

I went to university for many years (got two Bachelors and a Masters). During those years I learned certain things which I am sharing with you here. These may or may not apply to your particular situation.

It is important to find/study something you love else your life will be miserable doing what you do not love.

Important to do something creative aside from your studies, e.g. music or writing. Anyway, writing is a great skill - a key that opens doors. Writing a daily journal is a great practice - it's also therapeutic (emptying/bringing order to consciousness/means of self-knowledge/increased awareness). You can start by writing about daily activities and then deeper things like your thoughts and feelings. It is very important to have the ability to express an idea clearly, easily, logically in writing. Many people don't have this ability. It comes with practice and it's a great skill to you. It opens up a lot of doors in life. [Lot of things that are big in your head seem like nothing once emptied]

Survey results: Students who sit in the first couple of rows get better grades.

Good to minor or 2nd major in philosophy or psychology (make sure you have a good, clear teacher for your first philosophy course.) It gives you a broad view. Most people end up as narrow-minded specialists. Make sure you read books by Krishnamurti (found in all libraries and bookstores). Be careful about the philosophy teachers - they're either really clear and happy, or, the majority, who are confused - avoid the latter.

It’s better to go to a junior college first because there is less competition (don't have seniors or "upperclassmen" competing to get in the same class or compete with you for grade in the same class), and the transition from high school is smoother due to a smaller environment. Survey results: People who go to a JC have a better chance of graduating. [HOWEVER, one drawback of going to junior college first is that many Ivy League schools don’t take transfer students.]

One argument I heard against going to a junior college first was that Ivy League schools don't accept transfers. This turns out to be false. Therefore, there is no good argument for not going to junior college first.

Do not take time off (e.g. a year or a term). Get your degree in one breath. A sort of momentum is necessary.

Do not be afraid to ask questions. This is the most precious tip I can give you. Many others probably have the same questions but are afraid to ask them. Ask And Ye Shall Receive. If you are afraid to ask questions then you need to look at it. You need to develop the skill of self-knowledge - to be able to look at your fears, your anxieties, your jealousies, whatever it is that you're experiencing and be able to look at it without judging it, and when you see what you are (and writing helps with this), that seeing itself allows the thing to change and disappear and you become free form the fear. In our minds we may think, I will look like a fool if I ask, but no, it's ok to ask questions; that's why you're there - you're questioning things. Asking opens doors. If you don't ask, they don't open.

Survey results: Listening to classical music while studying improves learning (then silence, then pop music). From the night before the exam don't listen to radio/TV/music - let there be silence. In our world we're bombarded with noise.

Forget about TV; don't waste your time. I can get the news in 5 minutes on internet but on TV it would take an hour. Internet is not much better. Don't waste your time cruising nonsense.

Tape the lecture if it is very heavy and take notes off the tape. Develop fast note taking skills which is one of the best skills in life. Take good notes in lectures then clean up your notes if they are messy. Keep your notes organized. Order is essential in life. Chances are high that the lecture material will be on exams.

Make notes for the exam preparation and consolidate and organize them so they are very categorical and clear so they will reflect and stay in your mind in the same clear fashion. When you organize your notes well you can remember them better.

Develop discrimination skills in studying - if the volume you must study is heavy (usually the case), give priority to the most important points... If reading a textbook that is too verbose (many American textbooks are too verbose, according to a Norwegian professor I had), develop the skill to determine what is not necessary and go through it quickly.

A top woman executive said success=health. Stress management is essential for success in everything you do. Exercise reduces stress and promotes health. Learn yoga postures or other bodyworks and do them regularly to release tension and stay flexible. Walking is great (you can even sing when you walk). Avoid meat, sugar, junk food, coffee, tea (herbal tea ok) [update: I take some very dark chocolate sometimes I radiation polluted areas because of anti-oxidant effect but I don’t like the chemical rush], drugs, television (it sucks up time). Sugar (candy...) is especially harmful to the hormonal system and energy level. Sugar is addictive. (Someone once said: to be intelligent is to have no fear. I think it is impossible to live without fear as long as you eat meat!). It's important to get enough protein but there are many other good sources of protein available than just meat. Educate yourself about healthy eating, take a class on nutrition, or see material online. I am not a nutritionist; you can seek professional advice.

Avoid caffeine; you don't need coffee to study; if we don't waste our energy we don't need chemical stimulants to help you study. How do we waste energy? Most common way is by conflict: when you have a conflict with somebody or a conflict with yourself... conflict between what is and what should be, for example, which wastes the energy that is needed for change.

You're entering a project. You want to be in your top shape. You want to have a stable level of energy. Sugar makes you go up and down. Up is [arguably] good but down is a drag. You want to wake up and go to bed having a stable level of energy. Caffeine, sugar, nicotine, etc., take you up then you sleep and your blood sugar is down and you wake up down and you take these things again and you go up and down... (This includes 'sodas' - Pepsi, Coke, and these stupid 'energy drinks', etc., with sugar and/or caffeine).

Be flexible about your body - take a yoga class...

Also be flexible about your major. Survey results: most people change their minds about their field of study during the first 2 years of college.

Learn to manage stress; a good start is at the physical level - proper diet - exercise -etc.

Develop relationships with the teachers - take advantage of "office hour" to answer your questions. If your grade is on the borderline and they know you and that you're trying, they will give you the higher grade. Reach out to the teachers. They're there to help you and are mostly reachable.

Unlike High School, you don't have to be in College. You're going to college because you're there to explore life, explore knowledge, see what you love to do, and enjoy the process. My greatest teacher said on the first day: don't worry about the grade; enjoy the class (see interview videos with him, Dr. Christian on If you're not enjoying find out why and remove the cause. This does not mean you do what's easiest. Sometimes it's hard work, but that's life; we can also enjoy the hard work. You will look back with fondness at your university years.

You're there to find out what you love and excel at it, do it really really good. Having a quality of excellence is an important, precious thing.

If more than one teacher is teaching the same course that you want to take next term, near the end of this term go to the different teachers' classes (before or after class) and ask a couple of students what they think about the teacher's attitude, teaching skills, and grading. Look at class reviews if the university provides them.

You're there to start a new life. It's very important to have order in your life and it starts with your body as discussed above, and your room. It is very important to have order in your room. If you're living away from home, parents are not there to pick up your room :). Outward order is the foundation of inward order which is necessary in order to think clearly and to be able to be calm. Disorder is more likely if your belongings don't have a proper place. Art means to put things in their right place. Orderliness is an art. The key to having a clean room is to make sure everything has its right place and its place is not just some random location in the middle of the room. you want to keep your room in the top order because that's a reflection of your mind. when you room is really clean your mind can be quiet. When your room is a mess you cannot have a quiet mind; your mind will go to that thing which is sitting in the middle of the room.

If you enjoy what you do you will excel in it.

Do it now - you'll have plenty of time for play later - do the study while you're young - you can always play later (and it'll probably be more fun).

If you manage your time right and don't waste it, you can do a lot...

It's very important to organize your time well. Use a calendar to organize your schedule. I used to do it on paper calendars, now in a spreadsheet: put down all the important dates for the year.... I do not like the fancy calendar/organizer management systems. Keep it simple: markdown time critical tasks on the calendar. I also maintain a to-do list in a spreadsheet along with other subject/place-specific lists. My organizing method has evolved. It started with a simple to-do list on paper. For years I used a simple paper calendar with a pencil until the Laptop came along.

Write your name on the inside cover of your textbooks.

It's very important to be grateful in life. Don't be afraid to say thanks. More thanks is better than less.

If you make a mistake it's important to apologize - to put your cards on the table and surrender. That's much better than trying to cover it up, bring excuses, lie, etc.

Alcohol is not a friend. It's common in American to drink and smoke but these things are not cool and they make you lose energy and do worse in school (and life). Be brave to save no thank you. I will have a non-alcoholic drink. Alcohol hurts the brain and makes me lose energy (makes me tired). Some people drink because they're inhibited psychologically; if that's the case then we should understand the limitations and that understanding can bring change. Same with marijuana for example, if it's possible to have a calm, peaceful, aware state "high", then it must be possible to have it naturally. See’s health section for article about smoking.

If you're healthy you can be happy and with happiness comes luck; there's no guarantee but it seems to be this way.

Be careful about getting Incomplete grade. Don't do it unless you have an urgent situation.

Don't be ashamed to withdraw from a class that's not working. If you got to get out, get out, but do it soon, in the first couple of weeks. If you're in an easier class, pump up to get an A - it helps the GPA.

It's better to take fewer units and get better grades than a lot and lower grade.

Choose your friends carefully. Grandma: A good friend can lift you and a bad friend can really hurt you.

Studying some of the works of J. Krishnamurti. Many of his books are available online on: -- as these are not licensed copies, consider making a donation to the publishers. This is one of his main books:

In relationship to roommates for example, and in any relationship, It's very important to not hold images of other people; to see them as they are there and then. The key is to have a quiet mind... Now is the key. It's magical because in that now the relationship can transform; in that now, love can be. Love can only exist in the present. It's not something you can put in a suitcase and take it. See "on image-making" on

If a course is tough and is not a degree course take it on a credit/no-credit basis. Then all you need is a C to pass and it doesn't affect your GPA. I did this with a class.

If you get a grade you don't agree with, if it's a special situation, escalating it to the Dean might help.

“Students Who Snooze Morning Away Have Lower GPA. Forget using ``all-nighter'' study sessions to get better grades. A recent survey of university students in Utah suggests that students who habitually go to bed late and sleep in the next day get lower grade point averages (GPAs) than students with early-to-bed and early-to-rise sleeping habits.”

“For now, students wanting to maximize their academic performance should improve their sleep habits, eat breakfast each morning, and use a day-planner to improve time management, the researchers said”.

Journal of American College Health talked to a 25-year-old who's been at it for 6 years in college and this term too she is thinking about getting incompletes. It's holding up her whole life - and she's ready to drop it and do something else! Can you imagine, after a 6-year investment (which included a lot of partying). It always amazed me how in the US where I observed some student lives in University, some still party, drink and drugs like there is no tomorrow - but I've known people like that who just get stuck.

Encouraged her since one month is left, she should treat Incomplete not as an option. To eliminate the unessential, treat it as an urgent matter and put this behind her so she can move on with her life. To keep the objective in mind and take the shortest (straight) path there -- she can't afford any detours.

She's taking algebra for the second time, in college. Told her, you gotto approach it with no fear. You gotto approach it simply, not to treat it as a problem. Find the beauty of it. Once you get a hang of it, then it's easy, like rope jumping. It's really important in maths to get someone who understands it and has passion for it to explain it to you.


My Dear Katie

The tendency in the US is for kids to move away from home when they enter college if they're so lucky to afford it. It doesn't have to be that way. There are often very fine schools in the neighborhood and people often forsake that just to move away. I am not against moving away. If you find a good school with a possibility to live at or around the school and can get in and can afford it, more power to you. But please also consider the alternative:

- Going to a community college is a great move. I asked your mom to print my article that talks about that.

- Also, you have your whole life to live away from parents. I would definitely consider staying at home 2 years and going to community college, getting good grades, and most importantly, finding out what you love to study -- and the American school system is really good for that as they give you flexibility to explore what you love through the General Education courses you take that you can apply to any field.

Often kids want to move away to have more freedom and be away from the pressures, etc. that might exist at home, but it's perfectly possible to stay at home, especially if parents give you plenty of freedom and love, which seems to be the case in your home.

My message is, always think for yourself, explore, and be flexible to change your mind, and not get locked into a self-made constraint that "it has to be this way", and see what life brings and what doors open, and never be afraid to do what may not seem traditional or what most other kids do. Do something because deep inside you feel it's right.

Good luck my dear and feel free to talk to me anytime about your inquiries and explorations.


Dear F. Thanks for the email. It was good chatting with you. Here's what I promised to send... There are many reasons to start looking at other options than just taking a year off to me it appears that going to university in NZ makes perfect sense. There's a lot you can do between now and your trip to let ideas sprout in your mind...

You can learn a lot more at this age in university than on a job. Qualifications are gained by going to university -- and that's an investment in yourself. Hundreds of millions can work in a cafe... the main risk is many people who take a year off with that idea don't go back for a long time if ever and why? You can have a GREAT time this coming year - it might click - you write - someone writes you back - you go check out universities there - they accept your units - and you take off from there and love it

Look deeper at each field (degree program) -- look at job prospects, master's program possibilities (which fields you can go in) / short list - eliminate things you really know what it is and really don't want to do.

Get list of universities in wellington. Write to them -- something along the lines of:

I'm Frances, Parents from NZ, Been in UK, Creative writing - don't like to pursue it as a degree, want to come to NZ for university, can I transfer my units there? Can I take general education courses in my first year there until I decide what degree to go for or if not, can you help me decide (do you have counseling service), I'll be there in July and can come and see you...

If they demand that you declare a degree and you really can't figure one out go for a generalist degree like English, philosophy, history, polical science, liberal-arts, psychology, etc. -- there are many directions you can go from there.

As my mom said, it's much easier to study when you're young. You can always goof around, travel, etc., etc., when you're older now your brain is ripe and you're thirsty -- so drink up.

Here are a few good books (attached). let me know if I can be of any help - don't hesitate to contact me - I had people help me when I was in your shoes so I'm glad to help - bounce ideas around, etc. - and I won't tell your dad if you don't me to (LOL) (copying him here for now.