New Semester Resolutions

Although every Harvard student wants to write “Be the BEST at EVERYTHING” on his or her new semester resolutions list, this isn’t obviously, a realistic goal.

Instead, take these resolutions as a time to focus your energies on aspects of your life that need improvement. If your list is too scattered, you might as well not have a list at all.

Before you get back on campus, take a few minutes to reflect on your priorities/goals and strengths/weaknesses to kick your semester off with the right perspective.

1) Priorities for Freshmen

Priorities will vary depending on what year you’re in and what you’re studying.

But for freshmen, the priorities for the fall semester should be the same:

  • Make friends
  • Join activities
  • Ease into school work
  • Get familiar with Harvard

Because I know a few incoming freshmen are reading this blog, I’ll take the time to go into some detail. Freshmen fall is THE BEST TIME to meet people and make friends. You’re not going to be able to do this if you’re taking 3 huge introductory classes and an Expos class.

While you may want to hit the ground running (and chances are, you’ll probably be prepared to do so academically), you’re sacrificing what is the best time for you to get to know others. You can always take on 5 classes next semester (and every semester after that), but you’re not going to have the opportunity to make friends as easily as you move on. (Not saying that you won’t make friends later on, but people just end up being naturally more clique.)

2) Priorities/Goals for Everyone Else

Career advancement typically ends up being the top priority for non-freshmen. This could play out into finding a summer internship, e-recruiting for full time jobs, or working for a research lab. It’s important to understand what you when you should be doing what.

It’s easy to think “Duh, I just need to find a summer internship,” but it’s something else to connect that to: need to apply for grants by January and submit applications by February. A few of my friends ended up lapsing on the deadlines part, soo, learn your lesson from them. Mother Harvard doesn’t tell you what you should be doing when, but a little research on your end will.

Key things to always figure out ahead of time with regards to internship/application/study-abroad type things:

  • When are deadlines?
  • Do you need special approval? recommendations?
  • Do you need money? If yes, where/how?
  • What should you be doing or worry about RIGHT NOW?

Don’t let bureacracy and paperwork get in the way of your dreams!

3) What are your strengths?

Reflect on the last school year. What did you do well? Academics? Papers? Hanging out with friends? Keeping in touch with peeps back home? Getting to know your professors?

For the things you did well, ask yourself did you get the most bang for your investment of time/effort? Are there ways to make yourself more efficient at writing papers if you’re already pretty good at writing them? Can you decrease research time? Or bump up that check of research topic with your TF ahead of time?

You should try to quantify the amount of TIME it takes for you to do a “good” job for a given task. For instance, before I took Studio Art AP in high school, I had no idea how much time it would take for me to do a larger colored pencil drawing. Now, I do, and it’s about 8-10 hours. Similarly, I know I can crunch out a usable web site in about 2 long evenings.
Once you understand your limitations, you can grab opportunities they come your way. For instance, if I just heard about a design opportunity, but it requires an online portfolio, I know that I can crank it out in a few days. If I didn’t know how long it took for me to design a website, I would’ve probably missed out on that opportunity.

4) What are your weaknesses?

Some of my chronic weaknesses is not making enough time for friends, stressing out and over-committing. These will probably always be my weaknesses, but as long as I recognize them, I can begin to come up with plans to work on them.

For instance, I say to myself, no more new activities (this never actually works out). Or, try to truly hang out with friends once a week. Or, go out to dinner with people I don’t know as well once a month.

Give yourself an action plan and then a concrete time frame.

I generally like to tell my friends what my goals are, so they can start to pester me if I’m noticeably not meeting them.

5) What’s the point?

Asides from the obvious reasons of writing New Semester Resolution, the main benefit comes from being conscious of your college experience. It’s super easy to let things fly by, and if you came into college with goals/expectations, you’ll want to make sure that you get what you came for. :)

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3 Responses to “New Semester Resolutions”

  1. 1 2012er

    Forgive my ignorance, but why does taking 3 large introductory classes inhibit your ability to make friends? Is it just because you don’t engage much with other students during the class, or because of the type of work assigned or some other factor?

  2. 2 Luyi

    Taking 3 large introductory classes sounds pretty “standard” until you drill down to what those classes may be:
    Comp Sci 50 (heavy workload)
    Ec 10 (huge class, variable quality of section leaders, variability of economic ability)
    Math 21/23/25/55 (all require a more intuitive understanding of the Math, time spent increases exponentially with course number)
    Life Sciences 1a (huge class, variable quality of section leaders, huuuge variability of incoming students, long problem sets)
    Physics 15a (large class, difficult problem sets)
    Other humanity intro courses that I have no idea what they entail (History, English) but are sure to be reading and writing intensive.

    So, if you pick 3 of the above, you’re looking at large class sizes, heavy workload, higher expectations than what you may have been used to AND if those courses are ACTUALLY introductions for you, you might end up having to do some catching up.

    Harvard students being Harvard students have generally prioritized academics. Thus, a freshmen who takes higher stress classes generally spends more time on said classes, time that could be spent getting to know your dorm mates or joining activities.

    Generally speaking, it’s good to take a lighter course load. Obviously, if you’re premed, then that’s hard to get out of. The key to taking any intro. course is to, of course, form a study group, which thus allows you to make friends while studying. Obviously, if you like to study by yourself like I usually do, then this isn’t the way to make friends. Also, this usually means that the friends you do make are all academically related to you (not a bad thing, but hey, I like to know people from the design/writing world even though I’m ec).

    From conversations I’ve had, I haven’t heard anyone regret not taking a HEAVIER workload freshmen fall. (Although I have heard MANY regrets regarding Freshmen Seminars — which are hit or miss, but most likely a “that was cool, but I could’ve done something else more productive” type of miss.)

    So, 2012er, moving forward, you just need to evaluate how you handle stressful academic situations, understand how relaxed you are when it comes to making new friends, and realistically project how well you will *transition* to college/dorm/not-at-home life.

  3. 3 Frosh

    Thanks for the advice Luyi!

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