26 Invaluable Study Tips From a Harvard Graduate

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: Joyseulay via Shutterstock)
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Harvard University is one of the most prestigious colleges in the country. While the Ivy League school only accepts around 2,000 applicants each year, it isn't completely out of reach to the general public. On top of taking Harvard's free online classes, curious minds can also get a taste of student life thanks to Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld's study tips.

Chua-Rubenfeld graduated from Harvard University with a degree in Philosophy in 2015. As the daughter of Amy Chua, a writer, law professor at Yale University, and self-described “tiger mom,” the student has good study habits—and now you can, too!

In order to share her secrets to success with others, she has opted to reveal 26 of her tried-and-tested study tips. Touching on everything from picking classes to perfecting the art of note-taking, this list is bound to help students improve their productivity and master their studies—something that Chua-Rubenfeld is passionate about.

“I’m reminded every day that the education I’ve been given is an incredibly rare privilege,” she told Esquire. “If I don’t reinvest that education by somehow improving the world, then it will have been wasted on me.”

For more information on Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld's upbringing, check out her mother's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Harvard graduate and daughter of a “tiger mom” Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld learned some study tips during her time at the Ivy League school.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Photo: Amy Chua

Here's how to study like a Harvard student according to Chua-Rubenfeld:

Preliminary Steps

1. Choose classes that interest you. That way studying doesn’t feel like slave labor. If you don’t want to learn, then I can’t help you.

2. Make some friends. See steps 12, 13, 23, 24.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: Jacob Lund via Shutterstock)


General Principles

3. Study less, but study better.

4. Avoid Autopilot Brain at all costs.

5. Vague is bad. Vague is a waste of your time.

6. Write it down.

7. Suck it up, buckle down, get it done.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: Africa Studio via Shutterstock)


Plan of Attack Phase I: Class

8. Show up. Everything will make a lot more sense that way, and you will save yourself a lot of time in the long run.

9. Take notes by hand. I don’t know the science behind it, but doing anything by hand is a way of carving it into your memory. Also, if you get bored you will doodle, which is still a thousand times better than ending up on stumbleupon or something.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: leungchopan via Shutterstock)


Phase II: Study Time

10. Get out of the library. The sheer fact of being in a library doesn’t fill you with knowledge. Eight hours of Facebooking in the library is still eight hours of Facebooking. Also, people who bring food and blankets to the library and just stay there during finals week start to smell weird. Go home and bathe. You can quiz yourself while you wash your hair.

11. Do a little every day, but don’t let it be your whole day. “This afternoon, I will read a chapter of something and do half a problem set. Then, I will watch an episode of South Park and go to the gym” ALWAYS BEATS “Starting right now, I am going to read as much as I possibly can…oh wow, now it’s midnight, I’m on page five, and my room reeks of ramen and dysfunction.”

12. Give yourself incentive. There’s nothing worse than a gaping abyss of study time. If you know you’re going out in six hours, you’re more likely to get something done.

13. Allow friends to confiscate your phone when they catch you playing Angry Birds. Oh and if you think you need a break, you probably don’t.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: cunaplus via Shutterstock)


Phase III: Assignments

14. Stop highlighting. Underlining is supposed to keep you focused, but it’s actually a one-way ticket to Autopilot Brain. You zone out, look down, and suddenly you have five pages of neon green that you don’t remember reading. Write notes in the margins instead.

15. Do all your own work. You get nothing out of copying a problem set. It’s also shady.

16. Read as much as you can. No way around it. Stop trying to cheat with Sparknotes.

17. Be a smart reader, not a robot (lol). Ask yourself: What is the author trying to prove? What is the logical progression of the argument? You can usually answer these questions by reading the introduction and conclusion of every chapter. Then, pick any two examples/anecdotes and commit them to memory (write them down). They will help you reconstruct the author’s argument later on.

18. Don’t read everything, but understand everything that you read. Better to have a deep understanding of a limited amount of material, than to have a vague understanding of an entire course. Once again: Vague is bad. Vague is a waste of your time.

19. Bullet points. For essays, summarizing, everything.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: sheff via Shutterstock)


Phase IV: Reading Period (Review Week)

20. Once again: do not move into the library. Eat, sleep, and bathe.

21. If you don’t understand it, it will definitely be on the exam. Solution: textbooks; the internet.

22. Do all the practice problems. This one is totally tiger mom.

23. People are often contemptuous of rote learning. Newsflash: even at great intellectual bastions like Harvard, you will be required to memorize formulas, names and dates. To memorize effectively: stop reading your list over and over again. It doesn’t work. Say it out loud, write it down. Remember how you made friends? Have them quiz you, then return the favor.

24. Again with the friends: ask them to listen while you explain a difficult concept to them. This forces you to articulate your understanding. Remember, vague is bad.

25. Go for the big picture. Try to figure out where a specific concept fits into the course as a whole. This will help you tap into Big Themes – every class has Big Themes – which will streamline what you need to know. You can learn a million facts, but until you understand how they fit together, you’re missing the point.

Harvard Graduate Study Tips Study Like a Harvard Student

Studying Tips (Photo: Look Studio via Shutterstock)


Phase V: Exam Day

26. Crush exam. Get A.


h/t: [Bored Panda]

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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