Image from Pexels

Image from Pexels

For many of us, our first semester of college is over. From one perspective, it’s hard to believe; it feels like just yesterday we were hugging our parents goodbye as we moved into our dorms, it feels like just yesterday we spent our first night in what would become our new home, and it feels like just yesterday we experienced the awkwardness of freshman orientation. From another perspective, it’s been a long semester of studying and adjusting, and I know that I’m ready for a break.

But in the midst of preparing for a nice long break as well as the second semester, it’s worth taking time to reflect on the past semester and make a plan for the next semester. Especially with the whole mindset of New Year resolutions approaching, it’s worth taking time to create a list of second semester resolutions.

1. Academics

Looking back on first semester, I’m not sure about you, but for me academics is an area I always am hoping to achieve more in. I always feel as if I am falling short of my academic goals, as if I’m not spending enough time studying. But though it’s important to focus on areas in which we can improve, it’s also important to recognize the aspects in which we did well. I feel as though I took on a demanding course load and kept up with it well, especially in spite of the conditions of being a first-semester freshman adjusting to a different lifestyle. But also in regards to academics, I’ve thought a lot about the learning aspect; I didn’t focus as much on learning as I could have. I was much more focused on making the grade or finishing a paper than I was about absorbing the information or taking advantage of opportunities college presents us with in order to expand our knowledge even beyond what is taught in the classroom.

Looking forward, my resolutions in academics include continuing to take demanding classes and to slowly increase the demand of my schedule. I look to spend even more time on academics, especially now that life has settled down a bit. And beyond just making the grade, I hope to learn.

2. Extracurriculars

Looking back on first semester, extracurriculars were obnoxious. I told myself I’d be doing way less extracurriculars than I did in high school, especially since I already lacked focus within my extracurriculars in high school. I did exactly the opposite: I did all the extracurriculars I pursued in high school and then tacked on a few extra. Of course I stuck with my regulars of journalism, music, and dance. But oh, theater! Better add that now that I’m in college. And cheerleading? Yeah, I guess I should be a college cheerleader too. And I’ll get my feet wet in film! Yay! Let’s just keep adding extracurriculars! Until you’re running from meeting to practice to rehearsal to meeting to meeting.

Looking forward, I need to find a focus. I laugh as I say this because I never, ever want to drop any extracurriculars because I love them all and I know my goal of “finding a focus” will likely not happen. But it’s a lofty goal worth noting.

3. Professors

Looking back on first semester, I cringe at the thought of asking a professor for a letter of recommendation. Sure, I built good relationships with my professors. I embraced office hours for–well, most of–my classes. Many of my professors loved my work. But did I stand out enough for them to write me a letter of recommendation? I’m not sure. I realize it’s a superficial and self-centered thought to begin this with “letters of recommendation” as it seems to focus more on my personal gain for my future than it does for learning. But it reflects this area as a whole. Did I really get to know my professors? Did I really take advantage of their knowledge? Did I pick their brain at every given chance?

Looking forward, I need to turn my answers to those questions into an all-caps “YES.” Into an “absolutely.” My goal is to build strong relationships with at least most of my professors each semester, learning from them beyond what they teach in the classroom. Gaining knowledge in ways I couldn’t have imagined before them. Learning for the sake of learning. Ah, how easy it is to lose focus–to end up thinking about using professors for letters of recommendation rather than for the sake of learning. And that needs to change.

4. The Big Picture

Looking back on the first semester, it’s almost as if I was checking off boxes of a to-do list every single day. It’s almost as if I was fulfilling requirements of classes, drifting through extracurriculars, living in a circular motion as each day seemed to repeat itself. It’s almost as if I forgot what my real goals were.

Looking forward, I think that’s what I need to focus on most. Maybe those extra ten hours I put in studying for a quiz just to bring up my grade by one percent wasn’t really worth it. Maybe those hours I kill on that one extracurricular is more effort than the return is worth. Maybe instead of focusing so much on perfection, it’s better to leave myself free time to explore. To create. To take advantage of opportunities that will quite literally never again be available in my life. To meet new people. To talk to professors just for fun. To learn for the sake of learning. To take a random book off the bookshelf at the library and read it start to finish. To innovate. To create something longer-lasting than a test. To embrace all that college has to offer.

And I challenge you to do the same.

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the author

Annie Schugart is a high school senior from Kansas City, but she will be heading to the East Coast next year to attend Harvard. Annie is editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper, plays flute and was a part of the U.S. Army All-American Band, is the president of the National Teen Council, loves to dance, and is an avid tie-dye enthusiast. She hopes to run for president in 2032, and she hopes someday you'll join her and the world will be as one. ☮

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