My last semester of college starts tomorrow (crazy!) and I like to think I have become a little wiser over the past four years. From my first trip to Nochs and my first all-nighter to writing my thesis and applying to MD/PhD programs, I have learned some useful do’s and don’t’s during the past four years.
1. Make sure to take classes you really like. Sure, most concentrations require introductory and mid-level courses that you may or may not love, but when you are choosing upper level courses and electives, take time to shop classes, read syllabi, and pick courses that you will enjoy taking. I have found that I learn the most when I am taking a course with subject matter that I am really interested in, and am pretty lucky to be taking classes this semester that I will really enjoy and that will be useful for the next couple years of my life.
2. Find a place on campus where you can study effectively, whether with your friends or with yourself. Freshman year, I lived in a six-person suite and studied in Lamont Library, where you can always find a fellow study-er. Sophomore through senior years I studied in my beautiful Mather single, although many of my friends cannot study in their rooms or they are at a high (around 90%) risk of falling asleep.
3. Take a break sometimes. Everyone I know at Harvard is involved in some combination of classes, research, extracurricular activities, community service – you name it, and someone is probably doing it! Every once in a while, if you feel stressed out, or have been sleeping less than you want to, take a break. Sleep and don’t set your alarm, catch up on your favorite TV show, go watch the BSO or one of Harvard’s many music and theater groups, eat a two hour dinner with friends, or go for a walk in Boston (assuming it isn’t -4 outside like right now). You will thank yourself later. (Also, learn to take naps. They are awesome. The red couches in the basement of Northwest Labs are particularly effective for this.)
4. Don’t focus on competition. Focus on yourself. This can be said for when you are applying to college, when you are in college, and when you are applying to fellowships, med school, law school, you name it. If you compete, compete with yourself. I find this quote by Eric Burns particularly apt: “Greatness is more than potential. It is the execution of that potential. Beyond the raw talent. You need the appropriate training. You need the discipline. You need the inspiration. You need the drive.”
5. Get involved in activities you are truly passionate about. Again, this can be said for high school, college, even (and maybe most importantly) your career. Try things out and find out what you like the best. Don’t do something just because it will look good. Do something because you will have fun doing it, and when you look back on the experience, you would do it all over again without hesitation.
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