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"Academics, Social Life, and Sleep. Choose 2 only" The illusion that you can't balance all 3

A very common joke many students will bring up, especially when they are studying difficult majors, is that you are so busy studying that you only have time to either get enough sleep or spend time with your friends. You can only choose two of the three pillars we've identified on our home page. Is this actually true?


The truth is, if you want to get a high GPA (i.e. at least a 3.8+), regardless of what major you are taking, you will have to prioritize your studies over social life and sleep. However, you DO NOT have to sacrifice either of them. In fact, none of us, the majority of which who have STEM degrees, have had to abide by this "rule". Why? Because we have optimized our plan of studies to make it easy to get a top GPA.


Before we go into what we mean by optimizing. You may be arguing that you are supposed to study the hardest classes so you can learn the most and make the most out of your money. While this may be true if you are doing a PhD, that thinking is too narrow-minded. Unless you are doing medicine or specializing in a field, your core, aka mandatory classes are more than enough to provide you with the framework to get a good job. Jobs and good grad schools care about your GPA way more than the classes you take (since GPA is the most reliable indicator of how well you did in college). Therefore, you should be more concerned with getting a good GPA than taking the hardest classes to "challenge yourself" or "learn". If you want to learn a course that you are curious about, either audit the class or ask for your grade to be a "Pass/No Pass", so you don't risk ruining your GPA.


Optimizing your plan of study means taking the easiest classes necessary to graduate. In your Freshman year, you SHOULD NOT be taking sophomore level classes. The majority of classes should be a retake of what you learned in high school, so your classes can be as easy as possible. What we mean by this is if you did well in a certain subject, consider taking it again in college instead of skipping it. If you are afraid of doing poorly because the class is a "weed-out" course, then you should ask your academics adviser if you can test out the course.


For example, a lot of international students are weak in English as it is not their first language. This means they are at a disadvantage as they compete with native speakers in a Freshmen intro to communications class (which is a class you will likely take). Many colleges provide the means to test out of the class. This means you can study the fundamentals over the summer, take a small test during your first week of class, and if you pass, you don't have to take the class.


In your Freshman year, you should meet as many people as possible. Stick to the ones that you like, leave the ones who are toxic. With more in your Freshman year, you can easily find multiple friend groups whom you can stick with until you graduate. This saves a lot of time as you don't have to find friends during your busier years. That is why we recommend you live in a learning community or a social dorm, as this is the easiest channel to meet people without potentially hurting yourself, such as rushing for a fraternity.


If you schedule your classes where they don't start after 9am, you can easily have 8-9 hours of sleep a night. As long as you keep the same sleep schedule everyday (11pm - 8:am for a 9am first class), you won't suffer from insomnia. After all, most students stay up pretty late, so trying to sleep early may be a bit hard with all the distraction!


These are just some of the ways we were all able to balance the 3 pillars. As you can see, it all starts with what you do in your Freshman year:

1. Take the easiest classes in your Freshman year, use the high GPA to hedge your other harder mandatory classes. Use the high overall GPA to apply for good jobs and grad school

2. Meet all your friends in your Freshman year when you have time. Stick and build the relationships over the next 3 years. Live with them again in a dorm or off-campus. Treat them like your brothers. This saves time from needing to find new friends in the future when you have less time

3. Make sure your classes start later in the day so you can get more sleep.

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