Ok, so honestly, first year, freshman year, you will probably get your butt kicked. Seriously- different environment, high expectations, you’re on your own- even if you’re a beast academically, you will get your butt kicked. Even if you are a social butterfly, you would have to adjust to peers who seem like they have so much money, they don’t know what to do with it, and be kicked in the butt by your empty, angry wallet, or work hours and hours to afford a burger from the overpriced restaurant down the street (but those burgers are soo GOOD). Class matters at Harvard, (so many of my black peers at Harvard come from private school, high income brackets, or another country) and so does race – “the black experience, the poor black experience”(everyone turns to me- share your wisdom, oh poor black girl). Not obviously, of course, but definitely more than I expected. I was and am sometimes disillusioned, and to top it all off, I had more work than I knew how to deal with. Although I know this is a crazy thought now- I thought I was going to fail out of Harvard, be a disgrace to low-income, homeless and black females everywhere, and I thought I was a failure socially. Shouldn’t I be the social butterfly? It’s only a few papers and exams, why is this so difficult? WHY so much reading? I don’t want to see my report card. No. Intro Economics, I’ll pretend it doesn’t exist.
So, since I’m still posting, you can see that I did make it to sophomore year. And oh my goodness, I finished my first semester of sophomore year! And you know what, it was harder in many ways, but easier in many other ways. First off, those 300+ pages of reading a week, it’s doable, it really is. The papers, I’m figuring out my formula, and I’m using it to try to work on my papers. I’ve had to ask for extensions, but you know what, this time I knew what I needed, I hadn’t a clue before.
Basically, what’s easier about sophomore year is this awareness I now have. I’m aware of my own rhythms- I know never to do heavy reading late at night, and I know I must start a paper on Friday because it’s not getting done during the week. It’s just not. I know that 9 am class, even if I get up at 8 am every day (including weekends) should absolutely be considered cruel and inhumane treatment under the constitution. I’m aware of the importance of time management, looking at the syllabi and talking with professors in September- “So uh, I have 3 papers due within three days, may I turn in my paper in December on a different date?” Yeah, you can do that! (Ask, you never know, professors are pretty nice typically). What makes sophomore year different than freshman year is that you know better who you are, and you know your strengths and weaknesses. You get into a routine, you find your clique of friends, you’re more comfortable turning on and off the social butterfly (or keeping it off indefinitely, if that’s your thing).
So I promise, even when your butt gets kicked freshmen year, and your gpa makes you cry, it will get better. Your feelings of not belonging, of being a failure, the doubt, is all normal, and trust me, it won’t always be like this. Sophomore year, you’ll look back at your freshman self and wonder why, instead of cranking that paper out and getting the crappiest grade, you didn’t simply ask for a day extension. It will get better, because you’ll not only know yourself better, you’ll know how to work with, not against, your natural self. And with knowing yourself better, everything else begins to fall into place.