advice for a-100

I’m getting ready to head off to a welcome reception my class is hosting for the 154th A-100 class, who start on Monday. I’m jealous of them. It’s definitely an exciting and memorable five weeks. (And I can’t wait to live vicariously through their bid list!)

As I’ve watched this new class gear up for tomorrow (my class hosted an online discussion forum for them over the last few weeks), I can’t help but wonder: if my today self could have communicated with my March 28 self, what advice would I have passed back?


  • Participate — Attend as many happy hours, dinners, poker games, camping trips and other unofficial class activities as you can possibly manage — even if you’re usually a homebody (ahem, me). This is when you really get to know your classmates. It’s important.
  • Appreciate the order — A-100 is a well oiled machine. Enjoy it while it lasts.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask — If you don’t understand how something works, now is the time to learn. Everyone (from your guest speakers to your course coordinators) will be very receptive to questions from you now. Once you finish A-100, though, it will be harder to get responses to emails, phone calls and inquiries. You’ll have to figure out a lot of stuff on your own. So take advantage of the opportunity to ask as much as you can.
  • Actually, be a little afraid to ask — Don’t be that person in class who has a question after every lecture, especially a question that’s only really interesting to anyone who did graduate-level work in, say, underwater basketweaving, like you. Some questions are better asked one-on-one, after class.
  • Don’t over think bidding — When ordering the posts on your bid list into highs, mediums and lows, don’t worry about how your classmates are bidding. And don’t employ a complicated strategy that you’re certain could only result in you getting your #1 favorite post. Just be honest. If you really want to go somewhere, bid it high. If you’d be okay going somewhere, bid it medium. If you’d prefer not to go somewhere, bid it low.
  • Involve your family — You’re going to be spending your days meeting interesting new people and embarking on an exciting new career. Your loved ones, however, aren’t. They’re going to be figuring out where the grocery store is, having frustrating conversations with the moving company delivering your UAB and struggling to find things to do in a new town where they don’t know anyone. Remember that. Keep them in the loop about what you’re learning and doing, and involve them in those after-class activities as much as possible.

Abbey would also like to offer some advice to pets of the 154th:

Bid high on places accessible by car, or this horrible thing could happen to you too.

That’s all I’ve got.

What would others add?

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4 Responses to advice for a-100

  1. Al says:

    I definitely agree with your bidlist strategy. I’ve met too many people who bid a post high and didn’t really want to go there.

    The last thing I would add is to be nice to local hires. I tried to implement the ‘Adopt a local hire’ program for my class. Every happy hour or night out, I’d always buy a drink or two for a local hire. I think it helps engineer good will in the class.

  2. nathan says:

    great post. nothing really to add, except for a warning about what one may call the “A-100 fifteen (or more like five)” in which a combination of the exhausting 9-5 schedule, constant happy hours and social eating out, the FSI cafeteria, etc. could lead to a little weight gain.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I will be starting A-100 on Sept. 9th and I didn’t realize there would be so much more to do with your classmates. This is a very exciting time, but I wish more information was given about the class. Such as, what are the hours that classes are held? 8-5? How can you prepare to settle in the State Department housing? What will be provided? Will I need a car? All I have so far is the date and place to show up. Could you provide any insight into some of these questions?

  4. Alex says:

    Once you’ve been invited to an A100 there’s a google group you can join set up by a recent A100 class where you can ask all those sort of questions.

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