For Freshmen. By Freshmen.
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Jun 14 2016
by Alexandra Carpenter

8 TED Talks You Need To See Before You Head to College

By Alexandra Carpenter - Jun 14 2016

1. "Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator" - Tim Urban (TED2016)

A "master procrastinator"...sound like you? Well, you're not alone. Tim Urban has already outed himself, beginning with his tale of cramming his senior thesis into a mere 72 hours (not to mention admitting to putting off his TED preparation.)  Through a myriad of cartoon analogies, Urban explains the chaotic brain of a procrastinator. He blames the "instant gratification" monkey for our procrastination and credits the "panic monster" with our miraculous last-minute work ethic. His fun exploration of a common problem many students face is both informative and hilarious.

2. "How College Loans Exploit Students for Profit" - Sajay Samuel (TEDxPSU)

It's obvious: an important aspect of the American dream – college education – is not what it used to be. Prices of tuition are sky-high, and resulting student debts have increased beyond reason. While students “back in the day” could receive an education through things like the G.I. Bill or part-time work, most students now are at the mercy of limited financial aid and loans. Sajay Samuel examines this problem from a unique perspective: post-secondary education has become a consumer good because student debt is profitable. He applies economic principles to the growing problem of student debt in America. Ultimately, he suggests a system of “Income Based Tuition," where the cost of a degree is based upon to the number of resources required to obtain it and average earnings for a student’s chosen field of study after graduation. His ideas present a potential shift in the entire realm of higher education.

3. "Why You Will Fail to Have a Great Career" - Larry Smith (TEDxUW)

Don’t let the title fool you – this talk is far from gloomy. Instead, Smith’s method of presentation is entertaining in itself. He lays down the cruel reality of failure with overflowing wit while still leaving an optimistic space for the discussion of success. He differentiates between “passion” and “interest," and elaborates on all the many things that keep us humans from following our dreams. Smith’s advice may be given in a pessimistic context, but his talk leaves us hanging in a way that suggests endless possibility. As college freshman just starting out on the path to our careers, perhaps we will benefit most from his advice.

4. "What Do You Think When You Look at Me?" - Dalia Mogahed (TEDVancouver)

Dalia Mogahed describes her experiences as a woman in America who loves her Muslim faith. She details the effects 9/11 had on her life, and how negative stereotypes have impacted her environment. She emphasizes the Muslim community’s shared anger over the attacks on the World Trade Center, and her frustration with intolerance. Mogahed even pulls from neuroscience and discusses how the “toxic air of fear” is harming Americans as a whole. This talk is an inspiration for anyone who has ever struggled with an identity or prejudice of any kind, and is also an eye-opening perspective for college students who will be entering a more diverse world on their college campus.  

5. "How to Start a Movement" - Derek Sivers (TED Long Beach)

Through the narration of one of the more ridiculous and humorous “movements” ever portrayed, Sivers explains the formation of a movement of any type. College campuses are a hotspot for movements of all kinds, and this talk points out some important milestones in a movement’s success.

6. "My Philosophy for a Happy Life" - Sam Berns (TEDxMidAtlantic)

As a tribute to this incredible teen, who passed away in January of 2014 at the age of 17, I thought I would include his presentation in this list. Sam had been diagnosed with progeria, an incredibly rare disease that causes premature aging and other complications. Sam was a percussionist, honors student and Eagle Scout during his life, and played a huge role (along with his family) in raising awareness of progeria. He was also the subject of a documentary about his (very happy) life. In his talk, he counters the typically depressing conversations about serious illnesses and instead talks about the things in his life that make him the happiest. Sam shares his beliefs on how to have a happy life, no matter who you are or what challenges you face. He encourages all of us to focus on the things we can do, surround ourselves with friends, and keep moving forward.

7. "I Got 99 Problems...Palsy is Just One" - Maysoon Zayid (TEDWomen San Francisco)

Zayid is practically the image of strength through adversity. This multitalented actress, dancer and comedian shows what TED women are made of as she shows off her stellar personality while also discussing her background and how she achieved her goals in spite of cerebral palsy. Zayid defied the odds from a young age, as the encouragement of her family helped her to live a normal life (which, as she notes, is only a mere 1% of her struggles). What is most striking about Zayid is her ingenious humor as she reflects on her childhood and career. Not only is this talk enormously entertaining, but Zayid’s spirited personality spreads an infectious motivation to anyone watching.

8. "How to Make Stress Your Friend" - Kelly McGonigal (TED Edinburgh)

We’ve all heard stress is bad for us, right? Of course we have. It has been correlated with various diseases – things like heart disease and depression. But, is the enemy actually stress itself? McGonigal highlights a study that suggests stress itself may not be the problem. Instead, studies are suggesting that the psychology of stress – the way we think about it – is the real culprit. Viewing stress in a negative light has shown to have negative effects on our bodies. Most importantly, McGonigal cites human connection as the most effective way for your body to handle stress. Whether you view this talk through the lens of a science nerd or with a more sentimental perspective, this talk is sure to give you some pointers on dealing with college stress.

These eight talks are inspiring, motivating and a great way to kick off anyone's college career. Give them a look (and listen) this summer!

Lead image credit: TEDxOakland University on Flickr Creative Commons

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Alexandra Carpenter - Temple University

Alexandra is a rising sophomore with junior standing at Temple University and is majoring in psychology with minors in biology and criminal justice. She plays multiple instruments and occasionally writes music for piano. In her spare time, she enjoys collecting record albums and listening to music, mainly classic rock and heavy metal. She also is an avid writer of fictional stories and is working on two novels.

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