My college experience and best advice – Compress

Note: This is part of a series on my experience and best advice for college. Visit often to get the rest.

5. Took extra classes each semester.

So even though I got both degrees in only 121 units, I still had to knock out those 121 units.

Friends of mine went to different schools where the classes themselves are compressed, so instead of the usual 14 weeks (or however long they usually are), their classes were maybe half that. If you can get into a school like that and enjoy the learning style, go for it.

That’s not what I did, though. I took classes the traditional way. I just took a lot of them at once.

I started out taking 14 units per semester (12 was considered full time, but 15 would allow me to graduate in four years). The second year, though, after being inspired by Steve Pavlina, I decided to try to take more classes. I jumped to 18 and did that for two semesters in a row.

I remember talking with a girl who was taking 17 units when I was taking 14 and thinking she was nuts. But once you try it, you adapt. You learn to take the pressure, and after a while, it doesn’t even seem much worse than usual.

And the cool part is, the more classes you get used to, the easier it is to add just one more. For example, if you’re only taking one class and you try to add one more, you’re doubling your course load in one shot. But when you’re taking 6 and go for 7, you’re only increasing your work load by a sixth. Not so bad.

The key is to just do it.

6. Attended summer classes.

Okay, now these classes were accelerated. I loved them. They were less formal (as though the others were, right?), but the students seemed more serious about their education. Plus, with even smaller class sizes, I got to know the professors even better (more on this later).

Overall, I’d definitely suggest summer classes. They keep you in the rhythm of school, and you’re probably not going to do anything fantastic with your summer anyway. Really, you’ll appreciate your week of spring break even more too, which seems almost impossible.

[Note: For the second summer, I even overloaded that too, so accelerated and compressed, which is awesome… and had to get special permission (more on that in the next part).]

[Update: #7 wasn’t on here until after I published this.]

7. Procrastinated.

This is the death of college students. But like many kinds of death, it’s what provided life.

There’s a well known law that no one seems to pay attention to in practice:

“Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

My way around letting projects expand was to put them off. If I only had one hour to finish an essay, I’d be far more productive in that hour than if I’d worked on it two weeks before it was due.

Another method is called time boxing and works really well if you have the discipline to follow-through with it. The method is that you asign a project a given amount of time, work on it for that amount of time, then stop when your time’s up no matter where you’re at in the project.

I didn’t have that discipline. I couldn’t create soft deadlines and keep them. So I went with the risky, hard deadlines provided by the professions. Perhaps not the best way to do it, but that’s what worked for me.