Schooled on school: How to survive your typical lecture
At its heart, Princeton is a school. You have come to the Ivy League to learn from some of the nation’s brightest minds. But while you may arrive in the fall eager to dive deep into your courses, I guarantee you that you will have moments where persisting through your 10 a.m. lecture seems impossible. If you want to make it through a Princeton lecture, you must know how to win that battle. Consider this your 50-minute road map to victory.
(Note: These strategies will likely backfire completely in precept. Sorry.)
10:00 a.m. Lecture begins. You’re not there.
10:03 a.m. You sprint into the building and relax your stride as you walk into your lecture hall. Glancing at your watch, you check the time. Woo-hoo, only three minutes late! A moral victory, if nothing else. You look around for a place to sit, trying to find one that will not cause you to be the limelight of attention. Finally, you spot one a few rows away and make your way down as discretely as possible. Until you trip.
10:05 a.m. You’re in your seat and tug your notebook and laptop out of your backpack. You begin to sweat as your body catches up with your rapid change of pace from sprinting to sitting. Now you’re slightly gross and in even less of a mood to learn. You try to balance your notebook and laptop on the tiny foldout seat in front of you to no avail. You shove the notebook onto your lap and open the Mac in front of you.
10:08 a.m. Damp and flustered, you are finally somewhat ready to pay attention. Damn, the professor is already on the seventh slide. Luckily, you have the class website bookmarked! You find the lecture slides and attempt to understand what is going on. In the background, the professor drones on about probability theory. After a few minutes of struggle, you give up. Why do you even come? The slides always sum up his spiel anyway.
10:10 a.m. Disappointed, you begin the usual routine. Ah, zero Facebook notifications. You resort to stalking the cute guy in front of you who is completely oblivious to your ogling but luckily has not changed any of his privacy settings.
10:14 a.m. You next turn to PrincetonFML, the virtual gathering place of Princeton nerds and trolls alike. Giggling to yourself, you read posts about summer internship disasters. #princetonproblems, until it’s you. Then it is #forserious.
10:19 a.m. Checking your email, you realize you should probably respond to the message from your writing seminar professor that is four days old. Grudgingly, you hash out your response to her request to discuss the halfhearted attempt of an essay you submitted last week.
10:24 a.m. Ping! Your iPhone buzzes to life as you receive a text message from your best friend, sitting a couple rows in front of you. You start a conversation about the annoying girl sitting in the first row asking obnoxious questions every five minutes, and then you decide to battle it out in a game of Scramble with Friends.
10:31 a.m. The professor goes to write something on the board behind him. Oh no, must be important! He never writes on the board! If any professor ever writes anything, you should write it also. The untouched notebook finally makes itself useful as you mechanically copy the enigmatic expressions covering the chalkboard, wishing desperately that Google Translate had a math-to-English converter as well. Don’t worry, that kid in the first row will probably invent it in two decades.
10:36 a.m. Bored, you refresh your email once more to see your inbox has two new messages. First, the familiar black and orange text of an email from USG president Bruce Easop ‘13 announces the many study breaks and free food giveaways happening all over campus today. You make a mental note to stop by a few on your way to the library later tonight. Second, Urban Outfitters is having a sale! As if you’ve just downed shots of espresso, you feel fully awake for the first time this morning as your eyes skim through rows and rows of shoes in excitement.
10:44 a.m. The professor shuts off his PowerPoint and finishes early, thank God! One lecture down, only two more left for the day.
Assuming you go to your other lectures, this repeats itself throughout the day. Of course, most lectures here are worth — and command — your diligent attention. But half-baked note-taking is a staple of Princeton life and is as black and orange as Reunions.
So here’s the takeaway: Give your lectures a fair shot and trust that your professor wouldn’t be in front of the class if he weren’t worth his salt. But like with everything in life, have a backup plan.