13 Lessons They Didn’t Teach You in School
After earning a Ph.D in neuroscience from UCLA, actress Mayim Bialik shares her learning strategies that also come in handy for life outside the classroom.
Interview by Damon Beres
1. "Sit in the front row, raise your hand, and ask questions."
"A lot of people are intimidated and don't want to do it, but for me it was to the only way to get my questions answered and keep going. They called me a goody two-shoes, but who cares?"
2. "It's normal to want to drop out."
"But once you've gotten that far, it's worth it to finish. There are people you can go to, ways to get around those feelings; you don't need to be in a dire situation to use Psychological Services."
3. "It's helpful to have at least one person who doesn't let you drop out."
"You often feel like your mom and dad, or your boyfriend, don't really get it. But it really helped me to speak to people in my department who finished, even though they too felt discouraged."
4. "Never underestimate the importance of taking good, thorough notes."
"I prefer organized, efficient, longhand note taking. I'm really grateful to my mom, who was a list-taker. I don't come from a fancy academic family, but my mom knows how to make a good list, and that really helped me. Don't be afraid to use too much paper."
5. "It's okay to cry when you don't do well on a test."
"Those emotions are there for a reason. You have to grieve your losses, but don't let them stop you from doing great things."
6. "Know your limits."
"I'm not a perfect person, and college is really the place where you find that out. You're with a bunch of people who were 'A' students. There has to be some distinction. There are people who are smarter than you. So: If you can't go to med school, what can you do?"
7. "Don't let other people's perceptions get you down."
"I was called a 'nerd' in a not very nice way by a girl on campus on my first day. Even in my science program there were people who thought I was too studious or cerebral. But there's a big picture to look at—education is a choice for a reason."
8. "There's ego in academia—even compared to show business."
"I figured when you get to grad school you're an equal [with your professors], but not so much."
9. "If you study too much, you get mononucleosis."
"I had walking mono in my second semester. I didn't have much of a social life, so that helped."
10. "Avoid frat houses and sorority houses."
"I say that with a sense of humor—I don't mean any dishonor to the Greek system—but it's okay to see college as a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in academics. It doesn't have to be an explosion of your life, where you try everything and do everything in your first year."
11. "Even if you decide on a career in science, it's still important to go to humanities classes."
"I actually did a minor in Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and that allowed me to exercise the other side of the brain. It makes for a nice, well-rounded renaissance-style person to try and cover everything."
12. "Teaching is one of the best ways to learn."
"As part of our graduate training, we had to be teaching assistants. I loved it. I loved interacting with undergrads, making up tests and explaining difficult concepts."
13. "One piece of technology can really change your life."
"I couldn't resist: A good TI-82 will get you all the way through an advanced career in science."
This year, Bialik teamed with Texas Instruments as the spokeswoman for TI-Nspire Math and Science Classroom Technology. Learn more »