Secrets of Top Students (and Other) Updates

Many thanks to Nancy Ruhling for writing an article about me that appeared in the Huffington Post!  I am now officially an “Astoria Character.”  Check out the article here.

In other news, I’m super excited to be giving a talk about academic success at Stern College/ Yeshiva University next week.  I’ll be introducing the SMARTER system (SMARTER is an acronym for some of my top studying strategies).

I also recently went on a trip to Turkey.  Did you know that the city of Istanbul is full of beautiful, friendly cats?  It was like I had died and gone to heaven!



How Stuyvesant Influenced My Writing Career

On Sunday, June 23, I was honored to participate in the “Writer’s Block” event at the Stuyvesant High School all-class reunion, along with eight other writers who are Stuy alumni: Richard (R.B.) Bernstein, Robert Timberg, Joe Dorinson, Peter Wortsman, Eugene Schlanger, Rebecca Pawel, Richard Herschlag, and Becky Cooper. They asked us to talk about things like the road to publication and the impact Stuyvesant has had on our writing careers. I thought I would include the questions that were asked, along with a summary of my answers.

The Secrets of Top Students

The Secrets of Top Students

(1) Tell us a little bit about your work (most recent or favorite) and what inspired you to write the book? Include why you choose the genre you did.

I just came out with my first book, The Secrets of Top Students. It’s an advice book for high school and college students on how to succeed in school. I was inspired to write this book because I felt like I had so much to share with other students. I’ve been a top student all my life – I was valedictorian of Stuy, class of ’99. I graduated from Columbia with the highest GPA in my class. I also have experience in a wide range of subjects – I have a B.A. in History, an M.A. in Art History, and a B.S. in Computer Science. Over the years I developed lots of techniques that helped me excel in school, and it just felt natural for me to write this book and share those techniques.

(2) What is your writing practice?

I just write whenever I can. My mind is usually the clearest in the morning, so I’m most productive then. I usually write at home, but I write outside whenever I can. I’m a pretty slow writer. I write a few pages, and then I spend a lot of time editing. Some days I’m much more productive than others.

(3) Describe the road to publication, from idea to release.

This idea started when I was getting my last degree, a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia. I started writing down all the techniques that I was using, and all the things that my classmates were doing wrong – things like cramming for tests, not taking enough notes, not managing their time well, not asking for clarification, etc. After I graduated I wrote the first three chapters, did a lot of research, and surveyed forty-five other top students to get their insight into what it takes to be a top student. These people are Rhodes scholars, Goldwater scholars, Fulbright recipients, students at top law and medical schools, and even a National Spelling Bee winner. A few months later I got an agent, Coleen O’Shea, and she helped me find a publisher/ get a book contract. It then took me a few more months to finish the book, which came out in May. The whole process, from idea to publication, took 4 or 5 years – but the idea was gestating for a long time.

(4) Describe how you went about finding an agent and how you went about finding a publisher or decided to self-publish?

I got a book called The Writer’s Market, which has a great listing of literary agents. I sent query letters to agents who accepted non-fiction books, and luckily I got one! She helped me work on my platform and create a book proposal. Then she submitted my proposal to a couple of publishers. I had phone interviews with a few of them, and Sourcebooks gave me a contract! I was really happy because Sourcebooks has a great education division. They publish books like The Fiske Guide to Colleges and Gruber’s Test Prep series.

(5) Was there a Stuyvesant Muse? Describe whether attending Stuyvesant High School had an impact on your writing endeavors.

I wouldn’t be here today without Stuyvesant. I learned how to be a great student here. Stuyvesant has such high standards, and the student body is so talented, that I had to develop powerful techniques to succeed. I’m sure many of you will agree with me that college was relatively easy compared to Stuyvesant. And of course, being valedictorian of Stuyvesant has a certain cachet that helped me get a book contract in the first place.

I’m not sure if I would use the term muse, but I was really inspired by Dr. Nikol, who taught AP European History. He was a great story-teller and made history come alive, as they say. I remember I did pretty poorly on the first few tests in his class because they were so detailed, and I had to readjust/ refine my study habits. He was one of the most demanding teachers I had here, but I learned so much. He was a big part of the reason why I specialized in medieval European History at Columbia. I still have a love of history, and that’s why I’m writing a historical fiction novel set on Crete during the time of the Minoans, which is currently a finalist in the James Jones First Novel Contest.

The Best Birthday Present Ever

My copies are here!

My copies are here!

Today is my birthday, but more importantly – for me, at least – it’s also the official release date of my book, The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College! As a birthday gift from my publisher, I got fifty free copies of my book – which I now have to distribute to influential people, I suppose. (Anybody in the media or education want a copy?) But it’s such a cool feeling to hold my own book in my hands. It’s kind of like holding your baby for the first time.

It’s also been a crash course in marketing and publicity for me. I’ve already had some mentions in the press (for example, in the New York Post and the IMT Career Journal). And I’m lining up talks and at least one book signing. It’s pretty exciting, and a bit overwhelming!

I’m in the process of making a nice-looking flyer for my book, but for now, here it is in draft form:

Want to get better grades?

Then get The Secrets of Top Students:
Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College

Written by Stefanie Weisman,
Valedictorian of Stuyvesant High School
Highest GPA, Columbia University

With insight from 45 of the best students in the country

• How to take killer notes, improve reading comprehension, and write amazing papers
• How to get and stay motivated
• 50 Grade A test-taking tips
• Three game-changing learning techniques
• The mind-body connection
• And much, much more

“An insightful guide for high achievers—and those aspiring to such status—from an authoritative source.” –Alec Klein, Northwestern University professor, bestselling author and award-winning journalist

Available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine booksellers.
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc. ISBN: 9781402280795

New Book Reveals How to Get Better Grades

The following is my book’s official press release.  It’s getting closer!

Secrets of Top Students

Valedictorian Reveals Secrets to Being a Top Student

New Study Aid Features Straight Talk and Practical Advice on Making the Grade

Stefanie Weisman is the epitome of the successful student—valedictorian at Stuyvesant High School and recipient of the Albert Asher Green Prize for the highest GPA in her graduating class at Columbia University, among other honors.

How did she achieve academic success?

It may be surprising to learn that Weisman developed the skills that led her to become a top student because of an undiagnosed learning disability in which she struggled with listening comprehension.

Weisman, along with top students including valedictorians, Rhodes and Fulbright scholars, and even a National Spelling Bee champ, shares learning tips and techniques in her forthcoming book, The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College (ISBN: 9781402280795; MAY 7, 2013; $14.99 U.S.; Study Aids; Trade Paper).

Weisman contends that being a top student is a lifestyle and outlines practical strategies for studying smart, learning well, and staying motivated.

The Secrets of Top Students features a holistic approach to learning that includes:

  • How sleep, diet, and exercise can affect a student’s GPA
  • What motivates top students to academic success
  • 50 “Grade A” test-taking tips
  • Three game-changing learning techniques
  • The trick to taking killer notes and improving reading comprehension

Written in a conversational, down-to-earth tone, The Secrets of Top Students shows students how to maximize learning and get the grades they want.


About the Author: Stefanie Weisman was born and raised in Queens, New York. She was valedictorian of Stuyvesant High School and graduated from Columbia University with the highest GPA in her class. She has a B.A. in history, a B.S. in computer science, and an M.A. in art history.  Stefanie has received numerous awards including Best Performance in Columbia’s Core Curriculum, Best Senior Thesis in History on a non-U.S. Topic, Phi Beta Kappa, and Summa Cum Laude.  She was a Craig Hugh Smyth fellow at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts, where she specialized in ancient Greek and Roman art. She works in the technology industry in New York City.

Media Contact: Liz Kelsch – Asst. Publicity Manager – 630-536-0595 –

Are you considering starting a sweepstakes or promotion? Read this first.

It’s harder than you think! I’m considering starting one for my upcoming book The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College and I highly recommend this checklist provided by Santella and Associates. It’s chock-full of information about what’s legal and what’s not. (Hint: most things are not technically legal.)

Here are some other good links:
Legal Issues Affecting Promotions and Sweepstakes
Social Media Promotions and the Law
How to run a website contest without going to jail. This one’s particularly useful for writers.

The galleys have arrived!

The Secrets of Top Students Galleys

There’s nothing like the moment when you see your first book in print! I just got five galleys (advance, uncorrected copies) in the mail today from my publisher, Sourcebooks EDU. It’s such a strange and wonderful feeling to see all your hard work finally coming to fruition.

The book’s coming out in May, but you can also pre-order it on Amazon here:
The Secrets of Top Students: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Acing High School and College

Book Photoshoot – or, how I learned to channel my inner model

It’s been ages since my last post.  I’ve been working on my manuscript nonstop for the past few weeks, and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of each day was sit down and write a blog post.  But now the manuscript’s DONE – give or take a few edits – and I am submitting it to my editor on Monday.  I can barely believe I’ve written a book!!!  (For more info about Rise to the Top: The Valedictorian’s Guide to High School and College, click here.)

One thing I did make time for during my busy writing days was THE PHOTOSHOOT.  My publisher, Sourcebooks Inc., needs some pictures for publicity purposes.  By coincidence, a very talented photographer I know, Christopher Angello, asked if he could take pictures of me.  Perfect timing!  I had a blast being a model for a day – it was almost as much fun as writing.  After four locations and five wardrobe changes, here are the results.  Of course, not all of them are appropriate for a book, but I love the way came out.  Hope you enjoy them!

Give yourself the gift of great grades.  Order your copy of The Secrets of Top Students today!