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March 10, 2009

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Visit professors' office hours frequently. It's not only a good wayto clarify questions about class material, but it's a way to allowyour professors, who often preside over 100-student lectures, to put aface to your name. That'll help when you need to ask for recommendations or an extention on a paper.

Students are usually allowed to drop a class up until a certain numberof days into the class. Rather than sticking with a class that you don'tlike (for whatever reason, say, a lousy professor or a misleading coursedescription), you can drop it. But beware: know your school's droppolicy. Some schools will put a big fat W (for withdrawal) on yourtranscript indicating that you dropped a course. At most schools, getting the W depends on when you drop the class - the first two weeks are generally drop-friendly. While it's best to be fully informed about a class beforeyou register for it, thus minimizing any need to drop, bad classes do happen. Cut your losses.

If possible, you can take difficult and time consumingcourses during summer semesters -- when you're able to take fewer clasesat a time. For example, a lot of med school students take organicchemistry as their only course during the summer. This could mean thedifference between an A and a C. -- especially important for a class inwhich grad schools will want to know your grade.

In choosing a school and a course of study, almostevery choice is potentially the right one. Students who are alreadyfocused on a career path may feel locked into a certain choice ofschools, but that isn't necessarily the way to go. Going to the bestbusiness school in the country may seem like a good idea, but whathappens when you discover you hate accounting, economics, and managementcourses? If the rest of the university's departments aren't up tosnuff, you'll be stranded or forced to transfer. If you have any doubtthat your preferred course of study will be what you ultimatelyearn your degree in, don't be afraid to choose a university that isn'tthe best in your field, but is good in several.

The focus on internships and extra-curricular activities isn't whatit used to be. Over the past decade or so, the value of theseactivities seems to have lessened in employers' eyes -- the job markethas been glutted with students who had relevant internships andextra-currics, making it hard to see the value of any particularcandidate. Don't abandon these time-honored approaches to gettingundergrad work experience and showing broad interests and skills, buttry to do something different. If your schedule and your field of studysupport it, a private business venture (especially a successful one) canturn you into an instant stand-out candidate. Working on the schoolnewspaper may good, but publishing your own paper or magazine isbetter.

Want to add a class that's full? There are ways to ensure you have the schedule you want. If you are already aware that you wish to take a certain professor's class, contact her the semester before the class starts and tell her you're very interested in taking her class. Follow up with an e-mail a few days before the class begins. Another method is to simply attend the class, approaching the professor after each session and reiterating your interest in taking the class. When faced with this level of interest, most professors will allow you to take the class.

You'll invariably have to ask for an extension on a project at some point. Do not hand the project in a week late with some excuse about illness or fights with your roommate. Inform the professor or teaching assistant as soon as you realize you might miss the due date. Tell them that you misjudged your commitments and need an extension on your project. Your teacher will be much more inclined to grant you the extension without penalty.

Join your favorite clubs and activities as soon as possible if you desire a leadership position. And if you're looking for an internship, start in September. Many great internships, such at the CIA internship, have an application deadline in mid-September. Don't miss out!

Don't abuse your credit cards. Many students run up bills that take years and years to pay off.

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