Freshman Fifteen

A little while ago, I was delighted to receive an email from a friend back home. She had been admitted to Harvard and wanted to ask me a couple questions. Amid mundane worries about the weather in Cambridge and about Harvard’s many course offerings were some more provoking in nature: How happy are you on a day-to-day basis? How often do you compare yourself to those around you? What advice would you give to a freshman entering college?

I want to touch on that last one because while advice is ubiquitous, it is often difficult to apply. “Start a fresh chapter,” people will say, or “be open to new possibilities.” What that means now in hindsight is change your name, cut your hair, and dump your boyfriend.

Life moves in limps and lurches. College, especially the beginning of college, is a sprint. And in the spirit of giving useful advice, here are fifteen actionable tips to help you run faster. Read the rest of this entry »


Summer Camp

PRISE, Harvard’s undergraduate science research program, is full of smart kids, grant money, and cutting edge experiments. But deep down it’s still summer camp. And summer camp has always been a time-warped, over-sexed, over-scheduled version of real life. So there’s the quiz bowl, the mandatory celebrity lectures, the repetitive dining hall back-and-forths, the awkward allusions to instances of PRISE-cest. Go forth and cross-pollinate!

Summer camp is often a fascinating social skills incubator. You’re forced to meet a hundred supposedly like-minded individuals, socialize with them, and walk away co-authors. If you don’t, you suffer the consequences, which may include sitting alone in the cafeteria or “not having a good time.” Both are fatal.

But seriously. I read an article in The New York Times that reported a recent spate of mothers bringing their 12-year olds in for leg and bikini waxes as preparation for summer camp. I saw it and thought, that’s bullshit. If they need any preparation, it’s this: Read the rest of this entry »


Meeting People

The top concern for a lot of anxious undergrads is the fear that meeting people will only get harder as they get older. It makes sense. On the surface, college is designed to facilitate your social life. You work, eat, and live with thousands of young, eager individuals. You have roommates. You are forced to do group projects. Clubs and social groups besiege you with invitations. Yet meeting intelligent, fun, perhaps datable people is still hard. So what do you think will happen when you’re living in an apartment, working full time, and eating lunch at your desk?

It will be tough, but with some thought, you can come out ahead in your post-college social life. Meeting people through common friends is of the utmost importance. A long-time friend of mine shared this concern. After graduating from MIT, she moved in with three friends from her sorority. Now, when they throw the occasional Friday-night party, they mingle with people from four different companies. Read the rest of this entry »


Eligible Women

The lack of eligible females is a common refrain heard at Harvard (and everywhere else). Yet I look around and see plenty of girls who are beautiful, brilliant, and determined. Even assuming an overly-generous evaluation on my part, there still seems to be a major discrepancy between the supply of dateable girls and the male perception of that supply.

Some of that discrepancy can be chalked up to bitterness on the male end (as the women of Harvard will be quick to point out), but the result still seems surprising. If you’re a nerd, there’s no better place to find a girlfriend than a school where people enjoy debating the relative merits of Python and Ruby and the relative demerits of Livy and Cicero. Your chances for a meaningful emotional and intellectual connection should be higher. Your complaints, if any, should be over things like looks. Read the rest of this entry »