Academic advice from Core veterans

With the semester in full swing, we thought this would be a good time to offer Core students some advice from Core graduates – a little reassurance and encouragement never hurts. Here are some tips from Core alumni on how to succeed in Core and other classes:

  • Don’t be scared by the amount of work—just try to have fun with the material; it’s so interesting! – Krystina Mainor, CAS ’11
  • Don’t be afraid share your opinions in class. It’s the best way to get to know your professors, and to let them get to know you. It’s also the best way to engage the material. Both students and instructors stand to gain most from the experience of the text when you’re engaged in actual discussion. – John McCargar, CAS ’11
  • Professors won’t always say no if you ask them for extensions. – Caitlin Outterson, CAS ’13
  • Take advantage of the fact that you will become very familiar with the people in your discussions. Use that familiarity to organize study groups, especially for Natural Science labs and exams. Everyone has been attending the same lectures and learning from the same professors. This means you can swap notes, clarify texts, and help each other answer questions. One study group can make all the difference in how well you do on an exam, not only because the discussion will boost your memory and confidence, but because you’ll be comforted to know that your classmates are all in the same boat. It doesn’t matter how big or small the study group is as long as everyone is committed to to understanding the material and doing well; natural study group leaders will emerge on their own. Also, don’t be afraid of the reading assignments. They may seem overwhelming at first, but I know from experience that it’s possible to finish the books. Even if you can’t finish a whole assignment, don’t let it deter you – it’s okay,we all fall behind sometimes. Just read through what you can. Know that whatever you read will be worth it, because you’ll discover that some professors spend a whole discussion on just one passage, poem or chapter from the weekly readings. If all you can do is read one page from the Bhagavad-Gita, don’t give up on it – read that one page, deeply. – Lindsey Gould, CAS ’10
  • You may feel a little out of place here at BU (because of the enormity and anonymity of the campus), but take solace in the Core as a sanctuary for both academic and personal development in a tight-knit family like community. – Tom Farndon, CAS ’12
  • If there is one thing I’d tell today’s Core student, it would be to not be afraid when the texts begin to enter the mundane aspects of your life. You might awake one morning and find yourself applying Epictetus’ teachings of stoicism to help you cope with the absence of your favorite breakfast cereal in the dining hall. You might lie awake at night and question whether your friendship with your roommate will ever reach an epic level similar to that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. You will be on the T, late for class, and suddenly the driver will announce the train is running express to your destination and you will think to yourself, “The grey-eyed one is with me.” So much of what you read, write, and discuss in Core will manifest itself in ways you did not anticipate. Enjoy it. Embrace it. Live it. – Kim Santo, SED ’00

Are you an alum with advice for Core students? Share the wealth of your knowledge by leaving a comment below, sending an e-mail to, or by leaving a message at the Core Facebook profile page.

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