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Parting Wisdom: Advice for Prefrosh

The year’s coming to a close. In less than three weeks, classes will be over, and I’ll be cramming for exams. It’s unbelievable how fast this year has gone by, and more importantly, how far I’ve come. Less than eight months ago, I was just arriving at Harvard, scared and overwhelmed by all of the opportunities on campus—and honestly, I still sort of am. 

Students at Convocation ceremony
Above: My Roommates and I on Freshmen Convocation!

However, every step of the way, I’ve had an incredible support network cheering me on. I could have never made it this far if not for my Proctor, Peer Advising Fellow, Faculty Advisor, Yard Dean, close professors, alumni who’ve reached out to me, my friends, and above all, the continual love and support of my parents. But, all of that said, there are things I wish I had known going in and things I wish I had done differently. I’ll try to be brief as I share the lessons learned from the best year of my life: 

1. Reach out to Adults!

It can be daunting. You won’t want to disturb a professor or an administrator. However, it’s important to remember that they work here because they enjoy interacting with students. It never hurts to ask for help, and it’s helped make my experience so much better having done so. Just be sincere and willing to learn. From advice to recommendations to, most importantly, friendship, reaching out has helped guide my time at Harvard, and I hope you learn to reach out early on if you ever need help!

Student with his favorite professor
Above: My Favorite Teacher and I!

2. Don’t Overcommit Yourself!

My biggest regret from freshman year was signing up for too many extracurriculars. At the end of the day, you should do something for the love of it, not because you think it’ll boost your resume. But that said, FOMO (Fear of Missing out) is such a real thing, and it’s easy to go overboard, saying “Yes!!” to every opportunity that arises. My FOMO led to my becoming overwhelmed, burning out, and numerous existential crises as I was left questioning what I wanted out of my Harvard experience. I realize now that I want is more time with my peers and more time for myself. Next year, I will still be involved, but I will try to be more reasonable and understanding of my limitations. I made a mistake my freshman year, so I know it’s hypocritical. But, I hope you learn from my mistakes and take things slow. Add on more when you’re certain you can handle it and appreciate the treasured “Me Time.”

A Student Holding a Microphone
Above: Me Speaking at the JFK Jr. Forum

3. Remember Where You Came From

This might be the biggest struggle, but never forget your roots. It’s easy to get trapped in the Harvard bubble, but it’s important to remember everyone that’s rooting for you back home. It’s important to appreciate all of those who have helped you along the way. It is also essential to your happiness to remember everything you’ve overcome to get here. It’s easy to get bogged down comparing yourself to others’ successes, but Harvard is an incredible place to simply be “average” at something or even “bad” at another. Dean Khurana once told me, “You must always remember that Harvard is the best glass floor in the world.”

Harvard Students at Harvard-Yale
Above: My Friends and I at Harvard-Yale!

Whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed or that you’re not doing enough, I hope you remember to appreciate those here that are supporting you, those at home who are rooting for you, and lastly, yourself and your own accomplishments which have gotten you this far.

Three People at a Wedding
Above: My Parents and I at Their Wedding!

About the author

Hi there! My name is Braeden Foldenauer, and I am freshman from Mississippi studying Government. Outside of class, I serve as Outreach Chair for the JFK Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics,... View full profile

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