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First-years, I'm sure you're tired of receiving advice from parents, older siblings and friends, and even cheesy college survival handbooks. Be yourself! Befriend your RA and professors! Beware of the freshman fifteen! I'm sure you've figured out by now that things don't quite work that way. People are only themselves after the first few weeks and before that, they're just nicer versions of themselves—you rarely see your RA and your professor hardly has the time of day to talk, and the freshman fifteen doesn't really exist (it's more like freshman seven). But Columbia TA Christine Smallwood has some advice you can actually use: "When you leave your room for class, leave the laptop behind."more The New York Times has a nice collection of perspectives from TAs, including Smallwood, a Ph.D. student assisting with "Foundations of American Lit." Her advice in full:

Devices have become security blankets. Take the time to wean yourself. Start by scheduling a few Internet-free hours each day, with your phone turned off. It's the only way you'll be able to read anything seriously, whether it's Plato or Derrida on Plato. (And remember, you'll get more out of reading Derrida on Plato if you read Plato first.) This will also have the benefit of making you harder to reach, and thus more mysterious and fascinating to new friends and acquaintances. When you leave your room for class, leave the laptop behind. In a lecture, you'll only waste your time and your parents' money, disrespect your professor and annoy whomever is trying to pay attention around you by spending the whole hour on Facebook. You don't need a computer to take notes — good note-taking is not transcribing. All that clack, clack, clacking ... you're a student, not a court reporter. And in seminar or discussion sections, get used to being around a table with a dozen other humans, a few books and your ideas. After all, you have the rest of your life to hide behind a screen during meetings.

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