Reviews by students

Note: The reviews are from people who received detailed personalized advising from us. We no longer offer this service. The reviews are maintained for historical purposes and also because there is overlap between the advice we offered in our personalized advising and the advice on our blog and information wiki.

Reviews begin

The wiki is really good, especially the book recommendations and the uncommon-advice-ish ones (like those about academia and the usefulness of basic science research). I found the studying resources to be nicely up-to-date, with relatively recent and good research. The tip about shallow processing was especially useful, I think people often do lazily assign x amount of time to some task instead of just thinking they’ll “finish it”, but they probably still shallow process their way through it. The 80000 hours posts were a good kickoff to check out the rest of the blog. I’ve also been checking Quora out more, and I think that was a good suggestion. Linking to the Vannevar Group was also a pretty good idea and I have decided to research entrepreneurial-ish science more along those lines. I look forward to the wiki being filled up more, so far it has been very interesting.

I’ve realized that I need to be much more focussed and that I _can_ focus if I want. Uncontrolled curiosity isn’t some kind of inviolable, holy meta-preference anymore than procrastination or bad study habits are (although it might be indicative of something like an important preference). Sprinklers will not change the world, even if most firehoses don’t get around to it they have a better chance. I have really been able to straighten and flesh out my priorities since the interaction sort-of-ended, notably focussing (more intelligently) on math, physics and programming (or making plans to that effect). The other very important thing has been learning about effective altruism. As I mentioned in my really sincere LessWrong comment, I had not given it nearly enough practical and me-directed thought before. I expected, mostly under the wannabe-rationalist radar, that whatever I did would make a huge contribution to the world and that it would be fun, exciting, useful, and figure out some great and amazing scientific problems/hypotheses. However, I had been wondering for a while, “How do they do it? How do all those scientists get the stats right, how do they find the difficult questions, how did they get that good?” And that led to the other set of thought-provoking questions, “Maybe they’re screwing up in a lot of ways; maybe things are much less coordinated than they seem.” And most scientists are _not_ effective altruists. I’ve also realized, with the framing of their questions, how much less I care about a lot of other things. I’ve also tried hard to cut down the habits I have / things I do which only make me fit better in the excellent-scientist reference class vs. the things which will actually help me — like learning calculus like the back of my hand and getting some economic intuitions. I still have to take a day to figure my preferences out a bit better and my biggest issue now is good old akrasia. Mostly, I think it’s the akrasia that’s slowing me down now — and stopping me from using a lot of their [Cognito Mentoring’s] advice. — Student.

I’m really happy to have reached out to Cognito Mentoring! Talking with Vipul helped my clarify my thoughts on what I wanted to study, and how that knowledge could be applied. He also offered me an extensive list of resources, and detailed advice on important considerations. Speaking with Cognito Mentoring is a great opportunity for any young person who wants to accelerate their learning. — Jean Fan (conveyed by email)(personal website)

They responded very quickly, asked a bunch of good clarifying questions, and their advice was quite detailed and seems good, though I won’t get to put any of it into practice until school starts back up again in a few weeks. Overall I’m quite pleased with their advising so far, though I can’t speak to their results yet with confidence.Ben Kuhn, Junior at Harvard University (personal website)

I’m very pleased with their advising. They responded quickly, and provided thorough answers that covered many aspects of my questions. I am impressed by the amount of useful advice I received after just a few messages. — female CS major considering transfering (conveyed by email)

The Center of Math videos have been really useful and I am currently working through the multivariable calculus sequence. I don’t think I would have found these otherwise, so I thank them. I also really appreciated the speed of their responses (despite the fact that most of my questions weren’t especially time-critical). I think I will be contacting them again once I have heard back from colleges, and their advising may influence my college choice to some extent, so it remains to be seen. — female high school senior interested in physics and engineering (conveyed by email)

I found out that majoring in math at UW was not a good choice for me. Cognito Mentoring pointed me to Alex K. Chen’s Quora content and connected me to him through email. Reading Alex K. Chen’s answers on Quora has also been immensely useful. Finding out Quora as a resource has also been useful (I knew of its existence before, but not of its utility in finding out information about e.g. UW and the university experience in general). In particular, this post convinced me to contact UW admissions to have my intended major changed from mathematics to computer science (which should make me eligible for direct admit to CS). I also plan to follow Alex K. Chen’s advice once I am at UW.

The Cognito Mentoring wiki (though still under construction) has been useful. I have begun watching some of the Center of Math videos (I had found them at one point, but lost the URL, and couldn’t relocate the website, so it has been good to find it again) and Vipul’s math videos (for some reason finding the videos was difficult because the main page of the channel doesn’t list all the videos…), which are closer to the math that I had wanted to learn, and still want to learn.

It was very useful to receive targeted information about UW and math, but I feel that a lot of the advice could have been placed on a website (i.e. the advice was general enough that having them available for everyone would have saved time for all). I realize that the Cognito Mentoring wiki will solve this problem.Issa Rice, then a male high school senior joining University of Washington (UW) in Fall 2014. You can read his updated retrospective review of Cognito Mentoring here.