To Our Graduates
First and most importantly, con-GRAD-ulations! I am so proud to see you all headed off to college! But, just like your parents I assume, I am not quite ready to let go without giving a bit of advice.
All the little habits we have instilled in you during your years of work with The Ladder Method were not meant to just get you through Middle School and High School; they are meant to give you the confidence, the self-esteem and the best tool box necessary to achieve whatever you want from college and beyond.
“But How do I survive this crazy, scary time of change?!”
Okay here are the best tips that I wish I had known when I went off to Cornell way back in 1995!
Tip 1: Don’t Get Caught Up In The Freedom
When you first get to college and get the schedule for your first classes, you’ll probably notice: Look at all of my free time! In High School, you probably had classes with nightly homework, and frequent tests, quizzes or papers. Most college classes are not like this! You might have just a midterm and a final, or just a couple papers.
This might look like it offers you more freedom, and it does! Freedom to start earlier on these major projects. Less frequent assignments mean that they are worth a very large percentage of your grade! At the beginning of college, it can be tempting to see these less packed class schedules and use that time to be social. That’s great, but DO NOT forget to organize yourself early for these big assignments, and continue to study.
Tip 2: Read, Read and Read more
Unlike high school where your teachers gave you power points, there are no more power points! You are expected to take thorough notes in class! Your professors will expect a lot of independence and independent thinking.
Also, there is no “homework” assigned like high school. Instead, your professor will expect that you do the reading—nightly. That is your homework! The most important thing you can do to stay on top of your work in college is do all your reading, and outline and review the chapters. Just taking lecture notes is not enough: college exam questions are drawn from the readings, and professors expect you to do all of it! Luckily for you, you know exactly how to read, outline and master a chapter, because we taught you how to do it! You got this.
Tip 3: Remember What You Love
One of the most exciting parts of college is that you control your own time. In high school, you have scheduled classes, scheduled sports practices, scheduled extracurricular activities, and that’s all on top of enough homework to take up most of your “free” time. We’re amazed that you did it all!
It’s possible for all of those things to continue in college, but there is one key difference: it’s your choice. You can choose to do everything, but also, more dangerously you can choose to do fewer things. There’s no shame in taking things off your plate to offer more time for self-care, but remember the things you do that are self-care! If you relaxed by painting or playing an instrument, bring that stuff with you and make the time! Part of having freedom is having the freedom to do things that bring you joy.
Tip 4: Balance Your Load
A weird thing about college, particularly at a prestigious school, is that it can start to seem like people are bragging about doing as much work as possible. You’ll hear things like “Oh man, I have 5 projects due next week,” or “I haven’t slept in three days!” These are not impressive facts: they are signs of poor organization and load management. If you schedule out your time and class schedule effectively, you can plan out your study time and extracurriculars in a way that works in time for important things, like dinner and sleep. There’s no glory in overworking yourself, and it only leads to anxiety and stress.
Tip 5: Be Yourself
This is our most cliche piece of advice so far, but you’d be surprised how hard it will be to follow. There is a lot of pressure at the beginning of college to present yourself in a way that seems “cool,” or that will help you “fit in.” Nearly every first year college student has struggled with this, and they all realize the same thing: the best way to “fit in” is to find a community that accepts you for who you are.
Colleges are big places, which an unbelievable mix of people and stories. There is absolutely a group of people on any campus who are going to think that you, YOU, just as you are, are the person they’ve been looking for. They may not find you right away, and you may not find them. Sometimes it takes time, maybe even a semester or two. But they’ll never find you if you’re putting on a mask to impress the first people you meet.
I have watched all of you grow and mature (from afar) into incredible young people. I just hope with all of my heart that we given you all the skills you need to succeed in this exciting new chapter. We’re so proud of you, and look forward to hearing about all of your achievements (don’t forget us when you’re famous!)
Good Luck! Ps if you ever need us, we are always here.
Founder (and your old tutor)
The Ladder Method