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How Do You Ivy League Students Do It?

kona680kona680 Registered User Posts: 36 Junior Member
edited October 2011 in Columbia University
How do guys manage to get A's in such an extremely rigorous demanding environment all the time? How do you keep up with everything? What strategies do you guys use?
Post edited by kona680 on

Replies to: How Do You Ivy League Students Do It?

  • tsar10027tsar10027 Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    I practically never go out. For example, right now it's friday night and I'm in the library, and will be for the next few hours. I study 4-8 a day. Every weekend I study as if midterms are just around the corner. Pretty much, I'm always thinking about, or doing, school work.

    And I only have a 3.81

    It's midnight here on a friday at Butler library and there are plently of people still studying.

    At least at Columbia, you get quickly socialized into the study-hard ethos.
  • honied_dreamshonied_dreams Registered User Posts: 459 Member
    I think it's somewhat of an overblown myth that students in the Ivy League work THAT much harder than students at other universities. Most I knew at Columbia understood that the hardest part about it was getting in. Yes, the classes are tough, but if you're smart enough (and most who get into these schools are) and motivated enough it doesn't take too much effort to succeed. It also depends on the major. I took courses in the philosophy, comparative literature, art history, visual arts, biology, psychology, Russian, and French departments and the work required for each were drastically different. Papers and work for French and comp lit, for instance, were graded much more generously than work for Russian or art history--without trying I would make As in comp lit and trying very hard would make an A- or B+ in art history. Psych and bio had tremendously easy coursework, especially for lecture since you didn't even have to attend class; the most difficult part was putting time in for any required labs. And visual arts, despite popular opinion, was the most difficult, time-consuming, and least credit-rewarding of all (3 credits for 6 hours in class + 6 or more hours in the studio).

    Oh, and most people I know never got all As. After deciding I didn't want to worry too much about grades, and after a few very tough years in off-campus housing, I ended up with a 3.80, enough to graduate cum laude.
  • tsar10027tsar10027 Registered User Posts: 242 Junior Member
    This is a conversation on a private Columbia website:

    Original Poster: "Quick question, which is a better life-choice: Immerse myself entirely into academics and graduate with a 3.9+, or enjoy my time here by living a balanced life with studying, dating, and going out?"

    Responder: "I'm a senior who's been on the former track; now that I'm applying for fellowships, grad schools, jobs, etc. we'll see if it's "paid off." Here's the truth though: I have not gone on a single date while at Columbia, I have not had sex while at Columbia, I have acquaintances but no one whom I'd consider a friend, and quite honestly I won't be sorry to leave (except for the fact that I'll be leaving Manhattan, which I've taken full advantage of--alone). So my advice is: live a balanced life. I suppose I'm part of the academic "cream of the crop" at an Ivy League school, and I have some notable achievements to my name, but on a daily basis it doesn't make much difference. REAL TALK. "

    Another responder: " in my experience, studying begets more studying, which, you might notice, is an exponential relationship. not to say you can't have friends or a life, but it depends on the kind of person you are. For the vast majority of people i know, it's one or the other, but not both. going the academic route "guarantees" a future for you, as much as a future can be "guaranteed." going the social route doesn't guarantee anything -- neither high grades nor a good relationship nor a secure future. But, you get to live in the moment, which I suppose has its benefits too. In the end, it depends on your personality -- don't force yourself into either path, just see which way you naturally lean -- whether it's maintaining a high GPA and working hard all the time, or being willing to have a lower GPA but going out occasionally."

    I transferred to Columbia from UC Berkeley, and I can say that Columbia is much more rigorous and challenging. I don't know about other Ivies, but getting a 3.8+ at Columbia is about as tough as anything one might do in college.
  • iggs99988iggs99988 Registered User Posts: 161 Junior Member
    I was going to start a separate thread on the subject of "rigor" at the university but this seems like a good place to ask. How does one distinguish the difference between universities in terms of difficulty? The reason I ask this is because I'm going to a CUNY city school and I can't wrap my head around what makes a given school more challenging. I want to be as realistic in my expectations as possible if/when I attend.

    is it
    a) there is a greater quantity of work assigned
    b) a more intensive analysis of a given subject
    c) a more involved presentation of a subject(a more involved method of teaching)
    d) deflation of grades based on a competitive curve
    e) all of the above

    Please indicate the ratio, if any, of the above. ie 70 percent A 30 percent B. thanks so much guys.
  • iggs99988iggs99988 Registered User Posts: 161 Junior Member
    Bump.......
  • honied_dreamshonied_dreams Registered User Posts: 459 Member
    I think it's probably equal parts a, b, and c. Others talk about grade inflation/deflation a lot, but I've never really experienced that.
  • hellojanhellojan Registered User Posts: 1,632 Senior Member
    I'm finishing up this semester. I have a 3.93 and I've made all of one friend along the way - and that relationship was sustained by sharing a major and a handful of classes. I've gone out, on average, two or three times per term.

    That said, I've never done anything out in the city unless it's been listed on a syllabus. I'm in a fraternity but I think that most days the majority of my brothers, especially the younger guys, probably think I've already graduated.

    That's how I do it.
  • pwoodspwoods Registered User Posts: 1,096 Senior Member
    I just want to say this thread is really reassuring. With the exception of one anomalous semester, I have a decent GPA, but I've been concerned I have a ****ty social life. It's so reassuring to hear that I'm not alone.
  • brandnew3773brandnew3773 Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    I'm sorry but I am unable to believe that Columbia is so rigorous that you are unable to have a social life in order to excel academically. I mean I have to think that it is definitely possible to have oner a 3.8 and go out and have fun at least once a week. At least thats what I hope...
  • broken_symlinkbroken_symlink Registered User Posts: 690 Member
    I wouldn't think so...

    Its only my first semester here, but so far I've been going out once a week and I feel like I'm doing horrible in my classes. I'm in seas though...
  • brandnew3773brandnew3773 Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    Well for those of you who said that you have *relatively* no social life due to the amount of time you spend studying, my question is this. What kind of students were you in high school? Were you the kids who spent little time studying and still did very well in high school of were you the type who worked extremely hard and earned each and every A in school. Because I feel like the type of students who even bother to go on this website are more likely to be the "try hard" smart kid rather than the "naturally" smart kid. Just a thought...
  • iggs99988iggs99988 Registered User Posts: 161 Junior Member
    I think there is a popular misconception between the proverbial highschool "coaster" and the hard working student. The fact is, in highschool any relatively able student can do well by doing a minimal amount of work. At college and especially more traditionally difficult universities, anyone who does exceptionally well puts forth a GOOD amount of effort. While that constitutes varying degrees of academic discipline for different students, it seems like unless you are a prodigy and predisposed to certain God given talents, you will have to bust your a ss for that gpa. And those prodigies, even at ivy leagues, are a small minority of 5 percent or less I would venture to guess.
  • confidentialcollconfidentialcoll Registered User Posts: 2,491 Senior Member
    the critical question is who is most likely to be posting on this site, is it the hard working person who spends time socializing and part of a club or it the hardworking person who spends most of their time at their computer?

    i did not graduate with honors, but I was president of a big club, went out at least twice a week, had many friends, exercised regularly, went to sports games and Columbia traditions and generally slept 6-8 hours a day. in the end I had a high enough gpa to get me several interviews and offers for front office (revenue driving) jobs in prestigious financial companies.

    a good friend of mine and classmate was serious about work but partied more than me, had a girlfriend, was president of his frat, and graduated top 5% of Columbia college. so entirely do able to knock your academics out of the park and have a great life as well

    I'm no genius, but I mastered working efficiently under tight deadlines, college taught me to work smart, to do group work, pay attention to the most important material, the stuff profs thought was core to each class. I think some of my peers learned more material more thoroughly than I did, but I left college having honed the life skills better than they did. 12 hours into your first job, no one remembers or cares about gpa. at your first interview after that they care much more about what you did at your job than what you did in college. Columbia students often are caught up in the sprint to getting an interview or law school admittance, rather than the marathon of being successful in a career.

    college needs to teach you how to be as successful as you can be, by living a balanced life, optimizing time, working both hard and smart. worry a little less about that specific allusion in Dante's Inferno.

    working smart and taking good risks is a skill that you develop often under tight time constraints, it's not an innate talent that few have while others cannot attain
  • joso2015joso2015 Registered User Posts: 195 Junior Member
    here are my thoughts:

    i went to a really good high school and came to columbia very well prepared. on my very first lit-hum paper i got an A while most of the class got C's or B-'s. I was pretty surprised (nonetheless thrilled, huge confidence-booster). However, writing is my strong suite - whereas in my psych class, I just recently got a C on my midterm. It really just depends, honestly.

    I've gotten pretty much all A's, but one B- and a couple B's on pop quizzes. However, when I do score poorly, it's only because I don't adequately prepare. For instance, on that C midterm I started studying ONLY the night before and fell asleep on top of my book not having studied enough (lol).

    And in terms of my social life, I have gone out/done social things at least twice on weekend nights, often three nights (no classes friday), since i've been here. Honestly, it's not that hard to balance. There's a ton of work, obviously, but it's not like it's impossible to do. Also, I'm not a science/math/engineering major, so I can't really speak for those people or their workloads.

    In the humanities, what I've experienced thus far is a pretty heavy amount of work. I had a week to read the Odyssey, which is a pretty damn big book, at least for someone coming out of high school. So yeah, a lot of reading, but you won't die. You just have to sit down and do the damn work during the day so you can party at night on the weekends. Again, I'm only in my first semester so I can't speak for later years or different majors, but in my experience so far I have to say it's not really that hard to manage. Of course, you gotta be smart enough to do so, ;)
  • juilletjuillet Super Moderator Posts: 12,493 Super Moderator
    I think it's somewhat of an overblown myth that students in the Ivy League work THAT much harder than students at other universities. Most I knew at Columbia understood that the hardest part about it was getting in. Yes, the classes are tough, but if you're smart enough (and most who get into these schools are) and motivated enough it doesn't take too much effort to succeed.

    I don't agree with this at all. I'm a graduate student who went to a good liberal arts college outside of the Ivy League, but in the top 100, when I was an undergrad. Now I'm a grad at Columbia who TAs and works with undergraduates in a variety of capacities. The students here study longer and harder than students at any other undergraduate college I've ever gone to or visited. They're in the library on the weekends, which was pretty much unheard of at my campus. Most people don't get straight As, that's true - but for Columbia undergrads, the pace of life is ridiculous. The atmosphere here is quite stressful.

    But, comparing the stats class I'm TAing to the stats class I took in undergrad - as well as other classes I've TA'ed or been involved with (some grad classes here are mixed with undergrad classes) - I don't believe that any of the things that iggs99988 asked are true, at least not in my department. I've actually noticed less work, as students are in my home department were required to write research papers for almost every class in the psych department but I have yet to TA or witness any class that requires one here (there was a group project that I supervised, but it's not the same). None of the classes I have TA'ed were graded on a competitive curve, and the analysis doesn't seem to be different or more intense. In fact, since I went to a small LAC I've noticed that there was more discussion and intensity in my home classes; the format here is mostly lecture. Even the few seminars I've taken didn't seem very different from my undergraduate experience, except people were a bit more afraid to talk here.

    I'm a graduate student at Columbia and I have a social life, so I'm pretty sure it's possible to be an undergrad and have a social life.
This discussion has been closed.