Get Smart Quick(ly): A Guide to Instant Intelligence (Senior Section Exclusive)

Sophia Bollag, Staff Writer

Let’s face it: now that we all know where we’re going to school, the initial college-related stress is over, but a new kind of panic is setting in. What if we’re woefully unprepared for the intellectual atmosphere of a college campus? What if we’re pathetically uninformed? What if we show up on campus to find that everyone is discussing the latest Supreme Court case, or foreign elections, or something else about which we have absolutely no idea. Many of us are probably tempted to start reading something to ameliorate our deficient knowledge, but the question is—what? Have no fear: the Mirador has compiled a list of what you need to do to become better informed with minimum effort.

Start reading the New York Times news blog. If you have to read anything, read this. It includes only the most important, newsworthy news articles, so you don’t have to wade through the entire publication to decide what to read. (Available through the Amazon Kindle Store)

Bookmark “The Crisis in a Nutshell.” “The Crisis in a Nutshell: Quotes of the Week” is a list of quotes, usually compiled a few times a month by The New Yorker news blog, “The News Desk.” The quotes, mostly from politicians and journalists, range from thought provoking (“Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.” –Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York City) to hilarious (“I believe the N.R.A. has been too timid.” –Newt Gingrich, speaking at an N.R.A convention). At the very least, it will help familiarize you with important names.

Like the Economist and The New Yorker Cartoons on Facebook. Why? Because cartoons are funny, and the cartoons these pages post will make you feel smart. It’s a win-win situation. Additionally, the Economist posts articles as well as cartoons. Sifting through the infamously dense coverage in the print version of the magazine can be intimidating. Their news feed on Facebook, however, is far more accessible.

Follow the Byliner. Actually, scratch that, stalk the Byliner. Like them on Facebook. Follow them on Twitter. Subscribe to them on Pinterest. The Byliner posts links to works of long-form journalism. Nothing, and I mean nothing, will make you feel well-informed on a topic as quickly as reading a long-form piece will. Admittedly, it’s difficult to get through a 3,000+ word article on a topic you’re not interested in, but at some point, one of the Byliner’s tweets will show up on your Twitter-feed and make you say, “Gosh, I’ve always wanted to read an article about the giant island of garbage that has collected in the middle of the ocean,” or “Wow, what a coincidence! I’m really interested to know ‘how fantasy crept back into the cultural mainstream,’” and you will be exceptionally glad you followed them.

Start watching “Politico Playback.”  Like the cartoons, “Politico Playback” is funny—really funny. It’s a short video uploaded everyday by Politico, one of the country’s best political newspapers, that features the best political jokes from late-night TV shows like The Daily Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Even if you don’t gain any real political knowledge from watching it, you’ll at least have an idea of what the current hot topics in politics are.

Follow Fareed Zakaria on Twitter. Zakaria is a genius, so following him on Twitter can only elevate your own level of intelligence. Additionally, he is an expert on foreign policy, something very few other people are experts on. Being able to talk about anything he talks about is a sign of true cultural, political, and economic awareness.