Tips for New College Students

Keep these in mind this fall

Are you an incoming freshman this fall? If you are feeling nervous about the experience, keep the following tips in mind when you move onto campus. They may just help you out.

Hit every orientation. Even if it seems boring or cheesy, it is the best way to find out how to navigate your campus, the rules of the road and especially what’s expected of you as a student on campus.

Get some experience living away from home beforehand. If there’s time and you’ve never even spent one night at summer camp, be sure to try house-sitting, a week-long camp or some other time away from home to get a taste of living on your own.

Have an open mind and be willing to learn as you go. Instead of getting wrapped up in the process of picking a major and meeting weekly with an advisor (tip: most advisors do not meet with students weekly!), take a breath and approach everything with an open mind.

Take advantage of the resources available to you! Check to see if your college has free tutoring, a clinic, a writing center, an exercise hub you can use… Most colleges have lots of free resources for students.

Get your books discount. With a few exceptions, most students purchase their books used. You can even read some of them for free online. Research each book before you spend hundreds of dollars on textbooks. You can also borrow them sometimes—some colleges even rent out books.

Use a planner. It’s the best way to stay on top of your assignments, tests and due dates.

Take photos. It’s easier than ever with your phone handy, but plenty of college grads regret not taking enough pics as undergrads. You may also want to keep a journal to chronicle your experiences.

Keep some time for yourself. Lots of new students get stressed about their grades and homework level without taking personal time to relax. That said, be sure to stay on top of your assignments and deadlines.

Also be sure to get involved on campus and make friends, whether it’s with a fraternity, sorority or service project. Also consider choir, debate and the honors program. Just do your homework and decide which the best fit is for you and refrain from over-committing so you don’t have too deep a load. Be sure to make friends with a couple of people living in your residence hall to make sure you always have someone you can call or ask for help.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Give kids freedom to foster creativity

Locked up kids just can’t be creative—and then they can’t solve global problems, either.

If there’s a single trait that is valued most by leaders and scientists, business people and employers, it’s creativity. Everyone is born creative; we simply lose our creativity as we are forced to conform to societal standards. You there reading this—you are creative regarding something. Maybe it’s arranging flowers or planning parties, telling tall tales or building things with metal or wood. You may not even think you’re creative, but you can whip up a gourmet dinner with a bottle of ketchup and two cucumbers. That’s pretty darn creative.

The more we aren’t allowed to practice our creativity, however, the more we lose it. It’s like any other muscle that doesn’t get exercise. And the more we lock up our kids, forcing them to do endless hours of meaningless homework or prepare for stupid standardized tests, the less creative they are. The less freedom they have correlates with, and perhaps causes, the decline of their creativity.

It makes perfect sense, too. If you have two hours each night to yourself and you could spend it playing, discovering, or even reading for pleasure, or you could spend it doing assigned work, which one is going to make you more creative? Do you think if Einstein, Edison, and Franklin hadn’t had the time to make mistake after mistake, learning more each time and creatively developing new solutions and creations, they would have ever made any discoveries? Had our nation’s leaders and innovative thinkers been assigned the homework and standardized tests that modern day children receive, we wouldn’t have half of the inventions we depend upon for our standard of living today.

Am I advocating for no homework? That’s an emphatic yes. I won’t even say, “But I know that’s impossible,” because it’s completely possible. I also think we need to nix standardized tests. If colleges want them, fine—let kids deal with them in the late high school years for college. Otherwise, give them time to be kids and really stretch those imaginative muscles—not just for their own sakes, but for ours, too. The fewer imaginative people we have in this world, the less colorful it is for us all—and the fewer solutions we’ll be able to come up with for the plethora of problems we face in this modern age.

Give your kids a minimum of two hours a day of daydreaming time. Let them play, build stuff out of string, make giant slingshots in your front yard out of jump rope and see what happens when they take apart an old toaster (in fact, BUY old stuff at yard sales for a few cents so they can do this!). What seems like nonsense or wasted time to you is actually genius at work.

Make college affordable

Apply for multiple scholarships

Affording college can be hard to do for many people. However, you may not know about why you should be working hard at getting all the different scholarships which are available to you. This can be a mistake as hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarship money goes unspent each year.

The main reason you should do the proper research on the scholarships is they are available for all different types of situations. Since these are available for all different situations you will be able to get the proper one for your needs and know that some people may not qualify for this degree because of what they do not have.

Another reason you should be looking at the different scholarships is that multiple scholarships go unfilled year after year. However, you will need to make sure you look at this and do the proper research because some of these are not well known which is why they go unfilled so often.

Something else you will like with the scholarships is you can often apply for more then one at a time. Since you can apply for more then one at a time, it is easy for you to get several scholarships and possibly not have to pay for any aspect of your college education.

Getting into college is the start of something you will really like to do because your future career may hinge on it. This is when you should know more information about how you can afford college, even if it means applying for multiple scholarships at once. 

Harvard Loop: Admissions scandal, a con man and more

$2M for getting into Harvard.

Harvard admissions roulette

Mark Zimny was a former visiting assistant professor at Harvard who swindled a Chinese couple out of $2 million by promising them that he would get their sons into Harvard. I guess the Chinese couple, Mr. and Mrs. Chow, are partly to blame for the turn of events as there is a belief that you can buy your way into some of the elite universities in this country.

While this might be true, a lot of these universities are proud of their meritocracy and getting admitted is pretty complicated and there can be no guarantees here.

The curious case Adam B. Wheeler

This is such an astonishing story of a 24-year-old who managed to fool the Harvard admissions committee into believing that he was a transfer student from MIT who had graduated from the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy. What was even more amazing was his faking of the College Board report of his SAT score to make it a perfect 1600.

Even after attending the Cambridge, MA campus, Wheeler had even more desires and it was his fraudulent application to be a Rhodes Scholar that finally did him in. Wheeler really needs some medical attention.


More bad news about the culture at Harvard this week with "IncestFest." The residents at the dorm Kirkland House are having a bit of a controversial party where party-goers will be those that have been randomly assigned to live next to each other at the hall. These elitists will choose who to sleep with at this party and they can have several partners.

On to some good news

There are some good things that are happening with HBS receiving $40 million from the family of an ex-U.S. labor secretary Elaine L. Chao.

That is not all. The Harvard Crimson are set to dominate. Harvard will renovate its football stadium which is actually the oldest in the country. A new basketball arena will also be built in a decade. The football team have been riding high this season and they defeated Bucknell 35-7 to stay undefeated and on top of the Ivy League.

The Harvard cheating scandal

For some reason, it wasn't shocking news.

Failure is so hard to taste, even at an institution like Harvard that celebrates the lessons that failure instills. 125 students are being investigated in a freshman government class. But former students of the university attest to having seen a lot of cheating happening. This is definitely the case in most universities, whether public or private.

But I do agree that it would be more so at the world's most prestigious university because now we have a bunch of Type A students that think success is guaranteed and any possible chances of not getting the grade they desire is viewed as frightening. Harvard is looked upon as an esteemed institution and being able to succeed in such an environment is widely regarded. There is some pressure that comes with this and the debt that a student is faced with upon graduating.

The thing that is surprising is that most bright students including myself avoid failure like the plague. It is pretty well-known that greatness comes from having failed greatly and a lot of people associated with Harvard like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have dropped out and gone on to monstrous successes. Here we have the case of students trying desperately not to fail an open-book, open-note, open-Internet, take-home final exam.

But it isn't about failing, it is actually about not getting an A. The other problem is with taking shortcuts. Whatever happened to reading a whole book and writing up a report for class in high school? In the Internet age, we can say goodbye to that as students are quick to point out that everything can be looked up online.

Harvard's DNA storage

More advances by the university

DNA is actually a very efficient storage method, but it is not very practical right now. It costs thousands of dollars to encode a book to DNA, but the cost is expected to gradually fall as the years go by. It is expected that by the next decade, DNA storage will become useful and economically feasible.

Harvard researchers pursued this promising idea because it has been discovered that as little as four grams of DNA can store data that humans produce in one year. That means that there will be lot less storage space when compared to the flash drives and hard drives that are commonplace storage devices at the moment.

But the problem with DNA storage is that it will be time consuming to read the data and there will only be a need for DNA storage for specific things that take up a lot of space. Geneticists and biologists want to make DNA storage the wave of the future and this adventurous recent attempt at converting a book to DNA is a pioneering achievement.

DNA is very versatile and it has the capacity to store various types of information. In this instance, the geneticist George Church at Harvard University decided to use his own manuscript which has even JavaScript code combined with words and pictures.

The Harvard researchers hope that this breakthrough will lead to more advances in natural information storage systems. It may not be too long before you save your favorite TV show or novel in a strand of DNA!

How to invest like Harvard

Harvard and other Ivy League schools can teach you and me a lot about investing.

I have talked about investing and academics in this blog a couple of times already. But I wanted to talk more about it in this week’s post anyway. Ivy League schools are generally perceived as being the best academic universities in America.

In order to be the best, they have to attract the best and this is done by offering generous scholarships, not letting tuition increase too much and maintaining funding research and infrastructure. All this is made possible by those large endowments that Ivy League schools sit on. The endowment can be thought of as savings.

But the thing that most individual investors can learn from Harvard and other Ivy League schools is how they have managed to get high returns on their endowment. The Big Three managed to get over a 20 percent return over the last year. This is not always the case, but a lot of the Ivy League schools have obtained impressive returns.

The strategy is to diversify and get the endowment exposed to foreign markets with a lot of investment in emerging markets. There are venture capital and hedge fund investments. An example of an investment in an emerging market is to put money in rubber plantations in Indonesia.

There are certain investment policies that endowments are governed by. For instance, there could be a instruction that only between 10 percent to 14 percent should be allocated to bonds. When bond prices increase, these endowments will look to sell so that their holdings don’t exceed 14 percent. This is also known as selling high. When bond prices fall, these endowments will start buying to keep their holdings above 10 percent in the portfolio.

This is totally contrary to what the majority of retail investors do. But it is fair to say that retail investors will not have the same advantages as a $20 billion endowment. In other news on the Harvard Report, a woman was allegedly raped in the early morning hours in Harvard Yard. The woman was not a student and not affiliated with the university.

President Obama's 'Regulatory Czar' to get back to Harvard Law School

Cass Sunstein was one of the top advisors in the Obama administration

Cass Sunstein is widely known as the regulatory czar and held an illustrious position as head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs for a period of three years. The regulatory czar had been lauded by not only Democrats but Republicans as well who saw him as responsible for reducing the financial burden that a lot of government regulations impose. Even business leaders were highly appreciative of the work that Sunstein did.

President Obama met Sunstein when they were part of the faculty at the Law School of the University of Chicago. As much as many applauded Sunstein's efforts in implementing creative solutions to the issue of public policy, there were many of those people who disagreed with his cost cutting efforts. For instance, the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has run many contradictory ads that attack the Obama administration for creating policies that kill jobs and cost the United States economy billions of dollars.

I guess there will always be those that will applaud and criticize you, but Harvard Law School will be happy to welcome Cass Sunstein back. Harvard will benefit greatly from this man who has experimented with policies and regulations. He brings a world of expertise for students to learn a lot from!

It is the reason why Harvard is such a great university because it counts among its alumni such big names that have proved to be movers and shakers in the world whether it be law or government or business. It is two Harvard alum that are contesting the presidential elections too!

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's freshman year roommate seeks an Olympic medal

More insight of the brains behind Facebook.

I know that Zuckerberg's roommate Samyr Laine is special being a Harvard alum and an Olympic athlete, but it is his insights into the Facebook CEO's character that intrigue me. So far, everything I have read about Mark Zuckerberg has impressed me greatly. It has made me want to learn more.

Rumor has it that Zuck created Facebook in an attempt to show how great he could really be to an ex-girlfriend. Additionally, he had a point to prove to the Harvard elitists who would not let him into their select clubs. So Zuck spent a lot of his time on the computer and came up with The Facebook. How can you not love that?

But what really is true about Zuckerberg? These days it is hard to know and it takes a guy like Samyr Laine to give you the facts with a straight face about the Facebook CEO. The two former roomies actually played a lot of PlayStation when they were roommates in Harvard’s Strauss Hall.

I guess these two guys represent what Harvard is all about. They were just regular guys that played PlayStation together, but right now Zuckerberg is at the helm of one of the most talked about companies on this planet and Laine is competing in the Olympics in the triple jump.

Even during his Harvard days, Zuckerberg was known to hack computers really fast and even was once an hour late for a computer science exam because he overslept, but ended up getting the highest score in the class.

Ideas for higher education online

Whiteboards for a better online educational experience

The NY Times just ran an Op-Ed piece written by Mark Edmunson from Virginia Tech. The gist of the piece was that universities are heading too much, too fast in the way of online education. He offers some pretty sharp criticism of the online education and offers reasons for in-class education instead. 


Mark Edmunson’s primary critique of online education is that the students have too little input in the courses. He describes many of his courses as “works in progress” and as tailored to the needs of both his individual students and his classes as a whole. 

As a former TESOL instructor in South Korea, I can totally relate to his perspective. When I taught classes, most of the students were primed to learn, but some had difficulty participating directly in the classes because of shyness. Putting the students in groups and having them interact with each other in English was the primary method of facilitating discussion amongst the students. 


A few years ago, the only option was to teach in person, but there are several ways to teach remotely that need more attention in higher education. 


Three years ago, I taught with a cyber-school based out of Maryland whose primary objective was to teach English to Korean elementary school students in remote areas. South Korea is one of the most wired nations in the world. Using whiteboard software, we were able to have real-time classes with the students in Ulleuong-Do, which is a tiny island off the eastern coast of South Korea. 


I showed up larger than life on their classroom screens to teach them issues; the Korean on-site tech site was always available to assist with a bad connection or when things went wrong. The beautiful part was that I got to teach from my own living room.


The classes were small enough so that I could individually interact with my students from a distance. The downside was that I couldn’t circulate around the classroom to check their work, so the students either had to read it or upload it using Marratech software. 


Of course, nothing beats interacting with your students in person. For small sized courses, real time classes online make sense. For larger classes seen in big lecture halls, asynchronous classes make even more sense.