The concept of elders giving younger generations advice isn’t anything new. As seniors rise, giving advice to underclassmen often becomes their new favorite thing, since giving advice lets seniors feel genuinely helpful while subtly affirming their superiority. Luckily, the JRP, one of FSH’s most significant academic events, gives seniors an ideal venue for advice giving: manage your time, ask for help and eat a good snack while working!
All of these encouraging words, though, have yet to erase the work juniors will eventually have to put into their research projects. But even if these words of guidance can’t get juniors out of the intellectual labor that the JRP requires, we at the Veritas Shield have found them fairly applicable to life itself. So, let’s take a second to consider how to help next year’s juniors use their flex blocks wisely and lead happy and healthy lives after their research projects are complete.
Pick a good focus
JRP Advice: Your topic will make or break your JRP experience. But, what is a good topic? Choose something that you know only a little bit about, something that would catch your attention from across the room, but nothing that you could write a paper on with your current level of knowledge. Choose a topic you’re genuinely curious about because your life is going to revolve around it for the next five months.
JRP-Inspired Life Advice: Picking a good topic is just the beginning of a life full of great decisions. If you can learn how to pick a good research topic now, then you’ll be just fine when you have to select a major worth spending the most vivacious years of your life studying in a library.
Did you do your JRP on voter suppression? Now get ready to ride your rusty bike to Social Justice 101 in your high-waisted, light-washed mom jeans cuffed just above the “There Is No Planet B” socks that keep your vegan leather Birkenstocks from blistering your unwashed feet. You’ll stay committed to the Poli Sci major you applied with because, well, let’s face it, the JRP taught you how to pick a topic that you love!
As you leave college and move into the “real world,” you’ll lead rallies and marches across the globe because you’ll know how to stay focused for an extended period of time without losing steam.
Know your process
JRP Advice: This whole thing is so much easier if you can just understand your ideal working conditions. For me, this looked like spending six-hour blocks of time at a coffee shop. I just sit and grind until I’m blind.
Learn how, when and where you work best because then you’ll be efficient with your time, and you won’t have to sit in flex blocks dragging your feet. The fact is, everyone works differently, so take agency in your process.
JRP-Inspired Life Advice: One day, hopefully, you will move out of your parents’ home, out of your childhood bedroom and into your own space. However, this space, whether a mansion, apartment, shack or house, will not automatically be curated to your liking. Sorry, but life isn’t a game of M.A.S.H. You don’t get to count to 23 four times and have your life laid out for you. You’re going to have to put in some serious effort here if you want your living space to be conducive to your lifestyle.
But since the JRP teaches you what kind of environment is most productive for you to work, relax or socialize in, that effort was just cut in half. Welcome to your quaint house off of York Street! We never thought your influencer career would take off, but here you are. You have $3 million in your bank account, and you’re living in a one-story, Spanish-style house with minimal street parking!
Congratulations! Your six air plants hanging from macramé hooked onto the ceiling and your dark-stained wooden coffee table with Rupi Kaur’s “Milk and Honey” laid on top make it clear to your 1.3 million Instagram followers, that you, indeed, have made it in the world of the internet and you have made your house into a home.
Don’t decide, just discover
JRP Advice: Look, it’s not easy trying to find 20 to 25 sources that will support your claim. So, bouncing off tip #1, choose a topic that you’re willing to be proven wrong about, and read all sides until you discover what is actually happening, because deciding the conclusion of your paper before you make a NoodleTools account just makes for more work.
JRP-Inspired Life Advice: Life doesn’t always comply with the simple to-do lists we make. For better or for worse, things, moments, events and projects change; they shift, and you’re going to have to, too. God forbid there is an outbreak of the coronavirus that threatens the elderly, those with respiratory issues and the immunocompromised. God forbid this virus shuts down travel, sporting events, small businesses, schools and social interaction until the sun decides she’s not so shy anymore and wants to come out and burn up that virus.
What are you going to do? Sit around and hope that the heat will actually put an end to all of this? Sit around, watch the economy hit the bins and gaze at your computer screen until you’ve run through the entire A24 repertoire and have the mental capacity of a severely depressed dog?
No! Get up. Get a hobby. This may be your life for the foreseeable future, so use your time to better yourself and the world around you. Learn to dance, start a blog, try working out, take up cooking, draw, paint and maybe even learn how to play that grand piano that’s been sitting in your living room for ages! No one (and I mean no one) benefits from digging herself into a hole of stubborn despair. But everyone benefits from learning how to play the piano!
Take advantage of the library squad
JRP Advice: Nora Murphy, Katherine Eisenstein and April Younglove are Charlie’s Angels, and you’re Charlie. First, build a relationship. Don’t just waltz into the library and demand a source list. Show them you’re actually putting effort into the JRP and that you care. Then, give them a mission. Physically go into the library or shoot them an email over the weekend and ask for help finding sources. Trust me, they will help you, and they will be more than happy to be apart of your process.
Oh, and the results? Incredible. Not only will you have less work to do, but you’re going to be building all of your work on material that your graders already approve of. So, as long as you don’t completely mail in the whole thing, you’ve got a much better chance of passing with distinction.
JRP-Inspired Life Advice: Life doesn’t always hand you lemons, but when she does, ask for water and sugar, too!
When people offer assistance, it doesn’t hurt to say yes. Sorry, but the logic is simple. Reaching out for a helping hand is part of being successful.
Do you think Obama ran his campaign all by himself? Of course not! Find the Axelrod to your Barack, the pal who has your back. Teamwork is beautiful, and so are you.
This article originally appeared in the Veritas Shield’s 2020 senior print issue.