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4 Lessons I Learned My Freshman Year that Set Me Up for Success

1. Stop Procrastinating (…Tomorrow)

Before I delve further into this topic, I feel it’s important to note that our HC articles are due every Sunday, and here I am – on Sunday – writing this article. So, I still have a lot of room to grow, but I’d like to believe that I’ve greatly curbed my procrastination since freshman year. As my freshman-year roommates (or anyone who has ever held a brief conversation with me) can tell you, I love to procrastinate. No matter how many weeks I had to complete an assignment, I would always wait until the night before (or two nights before if I was feeling productive) the due date to complete an assignment. To make matters worse, my procrastination wasn’t curtailed by any negative feedback grade-wise. In fact, I was doing pretty well in all of my classes. Because of this, I quickly fell into the mindset of, “Why stop if it’s working?”. I’ll tell you why. Constantly procrastinating left me in a perpetual state of anxiety and stress that left me yearning for the weekends and dreaming about the next break. Even though it did not affect me academically, it most certainly affected me mentally.

How’d I solve this issue? I wouldn’t say I’ve solved my procrastination problem; however, I’ve implemented a series of fail-safes that somewhat curb my procrastination. For starters, I got organized. My Google Calendar is my lifeline and without it I wouldn’t know what’s going on 95% of the time. Just having all of my tasks for the day shown to me visually really helped me to put things into perspective and manage my time more wisely. I also bought a cute little agenda book and went through all my syllabi for the semester so I could write everything down in advance. When I finished an assignment, I crossed it off and moved on to the next one. For longer-term assignments, I wrote them down every day up until the due date to ensure that I didn’t let it slip through the cracks. 

2. Give Yourself a Break

When I created my schedules for my two freshman semesters, I was more concerned about making sure I was checking off as many foundation requirements (gen-eds for anyone who doesn’t go to Rhodes) as possible. In addition to this, I had to make my 16 credits at Rhodes fit in with my 8 additional ROTC hours at the University of Memphis, my 10-15 hours at my restaurant job, and my 8 hours of work-study. This resulted in my free time being basically nonexistent. On my longest days, I would be in class from 5:45 am to 5 pm only to go to work in between classes and afterward. I hadn’t factored in times for meals and I was exhausted. I felt as though my life was on a never-ending (and miserable) loop that I was doomed to repeat for the rest of my college career. Sophomore year, I found out it didn’t have to be like that.

What’d I do different this year? Even if it meant not taking a certain class I wanted, or not getting a fan-favorite professor, I made sure that I had adequate time in between my classes to grab food, relax, and even get a little laundry done. Although it may not be possible for those with a more rigid schedule than myself, if you can make those little adjustments to make life that much easier, do it! It’s a win-win scenario. This year, I have anywhere from one to three hours in between the majority of my classes and it has been a godsend.

3. Go to That Party

I used to be that person that prided themselves on being one of the few to skip the party, or XYZ social event, to focus on school (or Netflix), but you really can have the best of both worlds. Every time my friends would invite me out to a party or another Rhodes-sponsored event, my answer was typically no. My excuse was either that I’d rather be indoors or that I had some studying to do. In reality, I feared going out because of social anxiety, which stemmed from my lack of experience in the social arena. See how it becomes a never-ending cycle? So, I hardly ever went out. This was a decision that was a huge hindrance to my integration into the Rhodes community and contributed to my feelings of loneliness and FOMO that I still experience to this day. 

How’d I combat this? Honestly, it has been an uphill battle. I started saying “yes” to girls’ nights and initiating some of my own – even when I would have rather curled up with another episode of Shameless. I started reaching out and got involved with the Bridge Street Newspaper and Her Campus. The feeling of community within both organizations has helped me to find a sense of belonging and fulfillment on campus. Reaching out to make plans or putting yourself out there to join a new club or group of friends can be daunting, but the benefits are well worth it. Not only do I feel less out of place, but I have also strengthened my network and now have an amazing group of people in my corner. (Not quite sure what you’re interested in? Rhodes has a calendar of events all over campus that you can check out!)

4. Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself

Freshman year was a never-ending cycle of self-deprecation. I was constantly beating myself up over every misstep or deviation from my “master plan.” When things didn’t work out how I had planned, I was instantly thrown into a tail-spin and worried about whether it would have a negative impact on my future. So far, they haven’t. Getting a bad test grade or not taking a certain class has not changed the trajectory of my future. It’s important to remember that no matter how far you seem to stray, it’s not the end of the world. What I learned to do was to take life one day at a time – while still keeping the end goal in mind.

Taylor is a Computer Science major and Spanish double major at Rhodes College and a member of the Army ROTC program at the University of Memphis. In her free time, Taylor enjoys cooking, exercising, and spending time with friends and family!
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