Although it has only been a few months, it feels like I have lived a whole lifetime since the beginning of my first semester of college.
This is notable given that I am only halfway through my second semester of college. However, the period between September and December of 2021 marked the beginning of my transition to college. Being now in my second semester, I’ve realized that what I often heard from college graduates is true: it does get easier. What do I mean by that? I mean being away from home, understanding how to manage your time, and learning to create a second home. It means actually being a college student. With that being said, if I could give some advice to the girl I was before starting semester one, there are three main points I would share with her. Now, as time travel isn’t really yet a thing, I will share these points here and hope that they will help somebody who is, or will be, in my shoes.
1. Find a way to manage your time:
In high school, time was usually structured for you. You went to class at the same time every day, and you knew when to work on your homework or study. In college, you’ll learn that every day is different, and no one will structure your week the way you've been used to. Even when you have the same classes—like on Mondays and Wednesdays, for example—there might be an additional section class on one day or a possible event for an organization on another. On top of this, you want to make sure you are allotting time to complete your assignments and review class material. Then, you also want to make time to meet people and develop friendships, attend office hours, do your laundry, and the list goes on. One great way to organize yourself so that you don’t become overwhelmed by this new freedom is to figure out how to best organize your day. For me, this looked like downloading a digital planner. On it, I included when I was in lectures, sections, club meetings, and other events that required regular attendance. After this, you’ll see when exactly you are required to be somewhere and when you have time to schedule things you need or would like to do. Developing your time management skills will help you stay productive and organized, both essential to have a less stressful semester.
2. Find with whom you belong:
This will probably not happen naturally, as you may not click with your suitemates or with the person you sit next to in class. It’ll take some work: to attend social events, to join clubs that interest you, to sit across from a stranger at Annenberg. Despite the work it will take, I can confirm that finding those people will help ease your college transition.
3. Call home:
When talking about internalizing and externalizing issues in my sociology class, my professor said something like “A student who comes into Harvard thinking they got in solely because of their merit is naive, but a student who leaves Harvard still believing that is truly ignorant.” Of course, you were accepted into Harvard because the admissions team thought you were a good fit for the college, which has to do with your abilities and merit. However, you are a product of all of those who supported and shaped you into who you have become. Make sure to call home, and take some time to nurture the relationships with those you are grateful for, even if it means blocking off just 10 minutes on a busy day. You can spare the time, and after all, it took a village.
These are only my reflections, lessons I've learned from my own experience during my transition to college. I am still getting more comfortable with Harvard, and I know there are lessons I have yet to learn. If you are soon to start on your own college journey, I hope you keep these suggestions in mind. But more than anything, know that if you are in your first semester and find yourself struggling with such a big transition, it’s okay. I can assure you (and only with one semester done!) that it does get better.