When I first stepped foot on campus, I was an anxious 18-year-old who had acne and was academically burnt out.
In high school, I had moved from a rural town in Montana to a college town in Texas, where everything—especially the classes—was so much more advanced. It took me a long time to adjust, but I did! Then, before I knew it, I was off to a new school across the country: Harvard.
My first year definitely had some ups and downs. The pandemic added to that—online classes made it easier to procrastinate. When sophomore year began and everything was in-person again, it was tough to adjust. I had gotten used to procrastinating and that wasn’t working anymore. I didn’t know what to do!
In the spring semester, I signed up for a 9:00 am class every day of the week, which I was dreading. I hadn't woken up that early for classes since high school! In addition, my professors' office hours were scheduled on weekend mornings, meaning I might not be able to sleep in on Saturday and Sunday mornings like I was used to doing.
I worried that spring semester would be the bane of my existence, but as I worked through that first week back, I surprisingly felt different. Waking up for my 9:00 am classes would give me so much free time throughout the rest of the day that I could actually work on problem sets throughout my day, rather than cramming all my work into the few days before the deadline. There's also just something about seeing the sunrise over campus that is so motivating, but also calming. My weekend office hours also forced me to get to the Science Center (the central hub for all things STEM at Harvard) early, so I didn't have an excuse to procrastinate over the weekend. The empty libraries on Saturday morning are quite peaceful.
And it's not like I spent all my extra free time studying—many, many Starbucks runs were accomplished with friends, reality TV episodes were watched, and naps were taken in between studying. I felt better and more relaxed about going out, because I didn't have the weight of unfinished problem sets or essays lingering in the back of my head.
So, this is the story of how I figured out that I am, after all, a morning person! Waking up early in the mornings motivates me to not procrastinate and helps me to avoid falling into old habits. It took a few semesters, but I think I'm getting the handle of Harvard now.
Whether you're a high schooler reading this in shock because you're already used to waking up at 7:00 am (or earlier!) for school, a pre-frosh excited to start at Harvard, or just someone who can relate to this struggle, then I encourage you not to give up. Change can happen at any point in your life—you don't have to be starting at a new school or beginning a new semester to make some needed adjustments. I'm not saying to pressure yourself into habits that will make you dread getting up every day, but it might be helpful to step outside of your comfort zone. For me, at least, doing something I usually don't do was a huge help. There's value in pushing ourselves for better change.
Who knows, maybe next year I will look back at this blog and say that I was wrong, and that I've found a better way of pursuing productivity. But for now, I'm finally happy where I'm at—here at Harvard.