Chapter 1: ME & YOU & COLLEGE
Who Am I To Tell You?
I conquered college.
By this I mean:
I received my Bachelor of Science degree from Tulane University (in New
Orleans) with honors, sporting a cumulative GPA (Grade Point Average) of
3.9. I completed a double major in Economics and Mathematics, with an additional
minor in Theater Arts. You will see evidence of all three throughout this
I was on the Dean's
list every term, and was recognized as a Tulane Scholar. I was inducted
into the freshman honor society, the math honor society, and Phi Beta Kappa,
the national honor society.
I did all this
in three years - not four - saving lots of money.
On the strength
of this record, I was granted a full scholarship to the school of engineering
where I completed my Master of Computer Engineering degree in one year
Then I hit the
job market with a vengeance, earning over one million dollars before my
27th birthday (honest, you can check my tax returns). I worked exclusively
as an employee, at jobs which I received primarily on the strength of my
Would you be proud
of these accomplishments?
I am. My college
record has been, and will continue to be, a constant source of pleasure
(and profit) in my life. I'm always pleased to discuss my college experience
with anyone who is interested. My parents and relatives don't care if you're
interested; they will tell you about it anyway.
You see, my parents
were not only proud, they were also quite relieved. Before college, I had
never been a distinguished student; I got mostly B's and C's from kindergarten
through high school.
Which brings me
to a very important point:
I Am Not A Genius
I am not a genius.
It's so true, I
said it twice. My aptitude test results prove it.
Genius? No way.
not even gifted. About the best that can be said for me is that I am above
average and kind of weird.
That places me
right smack dab in the middle of the college crowd since most of the people
who contribute to my above-average-ness never bother to go on to college.
So how did I do
so well in college?
I Developed A System
High school never
appealed to me primarily because of my belief that it wasn't important.
Don't get me wrong, the basic reading, writing, and math skills are absolutely
Beyond that, however,
it seemed high school had very little to offer me, so I didn't put much
effort into it. Consequently, I was not a very adept student by the time
I reached college.
When I arrived
at college, I realized that college was important. So I worked my butt
off in my freshman year. When I saw a C on my first test in college, I
worked even harder. I studied all the time.
I earned a 3.78
GPA in my freshman year. I was very satisfied with these results, but my
overwhelming impression was that I had worked too hard. There had to be
an easier way. There had to be a way to do as well or better, and have
Before my sophomore
year began, I started working on my methods. I started budgeting my time
more effectively and learning how to study more efficiently. A few weeks
into my sophomore year I started to party.
I did not party
to escape. I partied because I was confident extra study time was not necessary
to make my grades. By the middle of my sophomore year I was partying every
night. Every night! (By the way, the word "party" means taking time to
do whatever you want, and not think at all about school. Everyone has their
own way to party. The question is: Do they have the time?)
I overloaded my
schedule with extra courses and, with the exception of the first few weeks
of each term, still partied every night. I finished that year with a 4.0
and enough extra credits to take a few courses during the summer and return
in the fall as a senior.
My system was working.
I was getting the hang of being a college student. The simple ideas I started
with before my sophomore year blossomed into elaborate theories and techniques.
I developed a complete system for getting the best grades in college with
the least amount of effort. My system allowed substantial free time during
the rest of my Bachelor's program and all the way through graduate school.
I used this free time either to relax and enjoy myself or to work for extra
3.78 for my freshman year was the lowest annual GPA in my entire college
This book teaches
Why Did I Invent This System?
There are three
great motivating forces behind all inventions. The two that got me were
fear and laziness.
I was afraid to
fail in college. College is important. I knew I needed a distinguished
college degree to achieve my goals.
I also realized
I was neither a genius nor a very good student. This also frightened me.
How could I succeed in college without the tools necessary to do so? Other
successful students appeared to work all the time. I was very lazy and
could never do that much work for four or five years. Their way wouldn't
work for me.
So, accepting my
fears and laziness, I knew I had only two options: Forget about college,
or invent a better way to do it. A way that could work for me.
You are no doubt
wondering, the third great motivating force of invention is libido (you
will certainly learn this in college).
What About You?
Yes, you. We're
in this together.
There are three
big assumptions I make about you throughout this book:
You are ready to be an adult.
Being an adult does
not mean giving up all fun in life. I am an adult, and I have a lot of
fun. Being an adult means being responsible for yourself and your actions.
"If you cut classes and blow off your work...
...they will simply flunk you and be done with you."
The only person
who makes you succeed in college is you. Know why? Because no one else
cares. If you cut classes and blow off your work, no one will care. The
professors and administrators won't dislike you and they won't condemn
you. They will simply flunk you and be done with you. Professors and administrators
are educators, not baby-sitters. They have plenty of other things to do.
If you can accept
and face the simple fact that your success or failure is entirely in your
hands, you are ready to be an adult.
You want to do extremely well in college.
You know what this
You can accept a new point of view.
You've been in school
for a long time and have many ideas about what school is like and how you
should approach it. This book will challenge some of those ideas. Keep
an open mind as you read the explanations.
Some people are
closed-minded. They stick to their own ideas, spending time and effort
trying to justify them. It takes less work and is more productive to consider
new ideas and approaches, rather than defending old ones. This approach
worked for Thomas Alva Edison, Marie Curie, George Washington Carver, and
millions of others. It can work for you too.
Remember, we do
things the way we do because we haven't figured out a better approach yet.
People who think they already have the best approach will never improve.
If any one of these
assumptions is wrong, don't waste your time. Throw this book away before
you hurt yourself.
If they are correct,
read on. You will not be disappointed.
What Is College?
Stand in an empty
classroom. What do you see?
Nothing, it's just
a room. It isn't a college classroom until a bunch of people assemble there
and make some agreements. College is a collective agreement among people.
When everyone gets together and agrees that professors have authority,
students have responsibilities, and each person will play his or her role
throughout the term, then you have college.
College is a miniature
society, which behaves politically. Human nature dominates and rules the
situation. This fact is your greatest asset.
This book delves
deeply into human nature. We will talk about you, your professors, and
You will begin
to understand yourself and those around you. Then you will be able to use
that knowledge to succeed in college.
What Is A Student?
A student is a person
whose job is to attend college. A student is a matriculator (the college
name for student). The goal of matriculation is to receive a college degree.
Going to parties,
getting a tan, and taking road trips with friends are nice extras in college,
but they have nothing to do with being a student.
The first and foremost
priority of a student is to be a student. Students who lose sight of this
don't do well.
This does not mean
you will never do anything but study. It means that your priorities should
always be clear when deciding what to do next. Just keep in mind while
you are attending college that you are a student first, and everything
What Is A Professor?
A professor is a
person with a Ph.D. who has too much to do and not enough time to do it.
One of the duties
of a professor (by no means the only one) is to rate you on your performance
as a student. This has surprisingly little to do with your learning anything.
The professor's job is merely to report your grade to the Dean's office.
Most of what professors
are evaluated upon has nothing to do with teaching. They do research, publish
papers (publish or perish), and spend a lot of time playing departmental
politics, which can make them very moody on occasion.
What you learn
is up to you. The professor will present material, then look to you for
evidence on which to base your grade.
it if you learn something, but they are not responsible for your learning.
They are only responsible for failing you if you supply no evidence of
As you will learn,
supplying evidence of learning and actually learning are two different
things. Fortunately, this system enables you to do both.
Uncle Bruce Was Right
Before I left home
for college, I asked my Uncle Bruce if he had any college advice for me.
This is what he said:
"In college, if
you get good grades, you have a good time. Many people goof around a lot
and seem to be having a good time, but by the end they are very unhappy.
The people with the good grades wind up the happiest."
He knew because
he was one of the goofers. The next several years of his life were a great
disappointment. Ultimately, he decided to correct his mistake and go back
to college, which lead to his next pearl:
"It's tough to go
back to college."
Going back to college
was a tremendous struggle. He succeeded because he learned from his earlier
mistakes. Now he is doing quite well, but he will never be able to reclaim
the years he wasted between his first half-hearted attempt at college and
his second sincere one.
Get it right the
first time. College can be of great benefit to you, but only if you do
it right. The first time isn't easy, but it is the easiest.
Why Choose This Book?
This is not the
only book about going to college, there are many. Some are written by teachers,
some by students, and some by advisors. They are good books, but they tend
to cover the same basic points. They give you the standard advice on how
to study and make grades, with little explanation of how it actually works.
explains in great depth what other books only mention. It also covers many
new and powerful techniques you simply won't find anywhere else (at least
not before publication of this book).
Other books cover
many extraneous topics that have little to do with your success in college.
What to pack for college and doing your laundry are things you will certainly
deal with, but you can figure them out for yourself.
Too many pages
are spent on these ideas, at the expense of valuable knowledge that can
help you directly in college.
has one focus: Enabling you to graduate with the most impressive degree
possible in the shortest possible time, using the least amount of effort,
while having the most fun.
Another thing I
find distressing about other books is the lack of qualifications presented
in these books. It is very rare for the authors to say exactly how they
did in college. Not unheard of, but rare.
You have seen my
qualifications as a student. I have also been a teacher at the high school,
college, and business levels. I have, without exception, received very
high ratings on all teacher evaluations.
I can do and
I can teach. Those are my qualifications.
This is Conquering
College. This isn't like the other books. Other books tell you how
to get through college. This book tells you how to GO through college.
Like a buzz saw.
How You Should Read This Book
On first reading?
From start to finish. Don't skip around. Each chapter builds on material
presented in the previous chapter.
This is a new approach
to being a student. There are new terms and ideas. If you skip the background,
you won't understand what you are reading.
You will not be
able to use this as a reference book until you understand that to which
it refers. Read it straight through once, then skip around.
There is also some
genuine college vocabulary in this book. If you come across a word you
do not understand, check the glossary. The glossary is located conveniently
in the back of the book for your edification and reading pleasure.
A Point Of Style
I worked very hard
to make this book interesting and fun to read. Yet the system it teaches
is very intense. This is not a contradiction, it is merely a style. A style
intended to help you learn.
There are many
important points presented in this book. They are often presented in a
humorous fashion, but that doesn't make them any less valid or serious.
This is my teaching
philosophy: The best way to get a point across is to make it both clear
and amusing. After all, if something isn't enjoyable, how excited will
you be about doing it?
There are people
who don't approve of this style. They believe information must be lifeless
or joyless in order to be worthwhile. Here is my advice: If you can't take
your information with a little bit of humor, perhaps you are taking things
a little too seriously. Let me refer you to my favorite quote (which I
learned in college):
"Please don't mistake
my levity for shallowness, any more than I mistake your gravity for depth."
You're going to
learn how to Conquer College, and you're going to have a good time in the
Relax, turn the
page, and open your mind...