Higher Learning
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Higher Learning

Three Keys to Success This Semester

Do college — and life — better.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

I was working on a draft for another Medium piece when it hit me — today is the first day of class at Penn. Traditionally on this day, I make a social media post that includes the phrase “do the work.” Spoiler alert: That’s about to happen, like in the very next paragraph. But as we begin this year working and learning from home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more is needed, from all of us. We have to go higher. So allow me to briefly speak on that, and offer three things that have helped me thrive this summer, and I think, will help you too.

  1. Do the work like it’s the most important thing in the moment. I have immersed myself in a few different projects over the last couple of months, and they helped me rediscover focus and time management that I haven’t experienced in years. I’ve certainly tried to write about it and offer it up to others, but I struggled to put it into consistent practice myself. That changed for me this summer. The best way I can summarize what’s been working is to do what some of you are already so adept at — dive deep. I didn’t understand binge watching shows because I rarely had the time or patience. But I was able to leverage that type of approach in my projects, discovering all sorts of new ideas and focus in the process. Give yourself the time and permission to get lost in the YouTube rabbit hole, or read all of the links in an article and take notes afterwards (rather than skim, fail to grasp, and forget), just as you scroll and swipe for hours on your socials, soaking up new content. Do extra research for your paper and pull what you need from your curated reserves, instead of stretching your limited, last-minute content. Listen closely to your lectures, podcasts, and audiobooks, and don’t just have them on in the background. Do more in a more focused block of time, then move on to the next thing knowing that you’ve gotten more than enough from your efforts.
  2. Connect intentionally. We’re not just going to bump into people these days. Make the time to reach out to friends and family. Be purposeful in seeking out new mentors and resources, and schedule the time to meet online. Office hours, tutoring, therapy, and advising aren’t cancelled; they are a click away. Study groups too. Put follow throughs and check-ins on your calendar, and do them religiously. This is about productivity and being human. We need each other in ways we don’t realize, but we won’t have the same kind of access that we’re used to, and it will leave us feeling empty some days. Have meaningful conversations daily, to give and receive, and to refresh your soul.
  3. Create joy. I used to say “find joy,” and maybe you can still do that, but we may be better served by making more of an effort. Commit to a hobby, an exploration, an adventure, or a series of such things. Try new recipes, learn to play an instrument, take a virtual dance class, go for hikes or bike rides, paint something on canvas, write songs, design graphics, finish your screenplay, launch a small business, shoot a short film, take courses and do virtual workshops that matter to you, post on Medium, and keep learning more about yourself. Do something every day, for as long as you can, that brings you joy. When you stop looking forward to it, try something else. You need and deserve this, and the good vibes will flow well beyond our socially distant circles. We all need every bit of that energy.

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Go. Grow. Graduate. Change the world. Now is the time to go higher. www.learnhigher.com

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Brian Peterson

Brian Peterson

I am a husband, father, writer, educator, and generator of ideas. Working on my follow through. Latest book, Higher Learning, out now at learnhigher.com.

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