College: How to Make the Most of It
You don’t learn much in college. You endure insipid brainwashing. And don’t me get started on the dehumanizing Covid theater. Signaling is the only good reason to go. Still, once you’re on campus, you might as well make the most of it. I’ve been in college non-stop for the last 33 years, and I’ve been paying close attention. Here is how I advise you to get good value for all the time and money you’re spending.
1. Read teaching reviews before you pick your classes. Teaching ability varies widely, so even though the average is low, you rarely need to suffer with a mediocre teacher.
2. Always sit in the front row. Ask questions. Talk to the professor before and after class. Even if they seem like crazy ideologues, you can learn a lot by asking thoughtful questions. If only at the meta level.
3. Type your professors’ names into Google Scholar to see what they’ve been doing with their lives. Then go to office hours and talk to them about their work. Come with questions that clearly won’t be on the test.
4. Crucial: Start doing this when you’re a freshman! At that stage, no one will wonder if you’re just trying to suck up for a future letter of recommendation.
5. Go to the Faculty webpage for every major you’re seriously considering. Look at everyone’s research specialties. If you think there’s a 5% or greater chance that you would find a professor interesting, type his name into Google Scholar. If you still think there’s a 5% chance you would find the professor interesting, go to their office hours and ask him some questions about his work.
6. Don’t be shy. Most professors are bored and lonely. Even at top schools, they almost never meet anyone who knows and cares about their work. They want you to show up… even if they don’t know it yet.
7. If you and a professor hit it off, keep reading their work and keep visiting their office. Ask them to lunch. Becoming a professor’s favorite student is easy, because the competition is weak.
8. Be extremely friendly to everyone. Always give a good hello to everyone in your dorm every time you see them. “Good hello” equals eye contact + smile + audible.
9. Never eat alone! If you don’t know anyone in the cafeteria, find a small group of students that looks promising and politely ask to join them. Almost everyone will say yes.
10. See if your school has an Effective Altruism club. If it does, attend regularly. Even if you have zero interest in philanthropy, EA is a beacon of thoughtful curiosity.
11. Be a friendly heretic. Openly regard official brainwashing with bemusement. This will generate propitious selection: Many students are as skeptical of the orthodoxy as you. If you’re good-natured about it, they will reveal themselves to you.
12. During Covid, live your life as normally as possible. Bend every rule you can, and associate with the most non-compliant students you can find. Because your school is trying to dehumanize you, you must strive to retain your humanity.
13. Avoid drunken parties. They really are grossly overrated. Just counting hangovers and accidents, the expected value is probably negative. Strive to be uninhibited without artificial assistance. And remember: The people who really enjoy alcohol are also the people most likely to ruin their lives with alcohol.
14. While you’re avoiding drunken parties, try to find true love. Despite the Orwellian propaganda, you are extremely unlikely to be persecuted just for asking someone out on a date. Remember: You will never again have such an easily-accessible candidate pool. In the modern world, dating co-workers is dead, but dating co-students lives. For now.