Mistakes To Avoid in the First Month of School

By Angel Zhang

New school year, new me… right? At least, I hope so. As we wrap up our first full week of classes, I’m looking back at past me to reflect on the mistakes I made in previous back-to-school months so that you can avoid these boo-boos for this new school year.

Subscribing to too many email lists

When you first get on campus, whether it be for the very first time or simply just returning from a summer away, you want to be in the know about everything: all the House events, all the club info sessions, all the festivities. You may also want to get involved in a bunch of new activities, since this is supposedly your calling to find a new passion or hobby. As a result, you’ll find yourself adding your email to every single sign-up sheet you see. You think, it’ll be fine, I’m just tossing a wide net to catch all the events so I’ll never miss out on anything. Wrong. For the rest of the school year, and honestly for the rest of the existence of your college email, you will get email spam about every. single. event. happening, no matter how relevant it is to the email list(s) you subscribed to. And to make it even better? The same email will get sent to the five email lists, so you’ll just get five iterations of the same email. Your inbox will never be empty again. Be selective with your email — don’t let it fall into the wrong servers.

Giving in to FOMO

Similar to above, there will be so many activities and events going on, especially during the first few weeks when classes haven’t picked up yet. You may be riding off that back-to-school adrenaline high for now, but sooner or later, the fatigue will catch up to you, reminding you that your body needs rest. Listen to your body!! You may be hesitant to take a break, especially if all your friends are still going out and having fun, but trust us, burning out in the first month of classes is not how you want to kick off the semester. Don’t exhaust yourself — you’ll have plenty of time and opportunity to do everything you want to do.

Not establishing guidelines with roommates about common spaces

It doesn’t matter if it’s your childhood best friend you’ve known since diapers or the randomly assigned roommate that you met for the first time when you forgot your key five minutes after move-in and had to ask them to open the door for you, YOU NEED TO SET CONCRETE, WRITTEN BOUNDARIES WITH YOUR ROOMMATES!! Sometimes, even with the best intentions at heart, miscommunication happens between people and it can lead to nasty living drama. While some may argue that’s a canon event, it still sucks. So, be sure to set roommate expectations early about guests coming over, hosting gatherings in common spaces, and, if applicable, bathroom cleaning. That last one can really flush away even the strongest of friendships.

Not doing assigned readings

I know that our generation’s attention span has been absolutely destroyed thanks to social media like Instagram Reels and TikTok, but yes, you still have to sit down for a set period of time and do your assigned readings for class. Trust us, it’ll be much better to be on top of your readings at the beginning of the semester because before you know it, you’ll be so behind that you’ll need to read 1,000 pages a day just to catch up. Don’t do that to yourself. Pace your reading. And if you can’t do it in one sitting, don’t! Space it out over the course of a day or two, but remember to give yourself enough time to do that while still staying on schedule. Snacking can help too, with both motivation as well as brain fuel. Pro-tip: try letting yourself have a bite every time you finish a page.

Buying textbooks (If you’re a STEM kid)

First of all, they’re so heavy. Secondly, most STEM professors have designed their curriculum to either a) not require textbook readings at all, b) suggest textbook reading as additional information, or c) include free access to an online version of the course text. And, unless for some reason you really just prefer having a physical textbook (nothing wrong with that as well!), there’s always a way to access your textbook online…

Not going to office hours

Your professors are so cool! Your TFs are so cool! You too can be cool, by getting to know the teaching staff during their office hours. Especially if you’re in a large lecture class, going to office hours is a great way to get to know your professors and TFs on a more personal level. You don’t even need to have questions about the content — just pop in for an introduction or a quick chat! You can even take advantage of Classroom to Table, where you can take your professor out for coffee or food and Harvard will cover the bill. I truly cannot emphasize this enough: your professors and TFs are all such amazing people, and you can build really strong connections with them just by going to office hours. (Added bonus: they’ll also obviously provide pset help, so that’s a double win!)

Not comping Flyby?!

Technically, I did comp Flyby my freshman fall, so that’s one thing I did *right* during my start here at Harvard. Yes, this is a self-promo. Yes, you should sign up to comp The Crimson, and comp Flyby specifically. ;)

Not leaving Harvard

I know, I know, making the transition to Harvard and college life is hard enough; there isn’t enough time nor energy to do that AND explore Boston. But if you have the time, take a few hours on a nice Saturday or Sunday to go into Boston and see what’s happening lately. There are farmers markets, open streets, art museums — and if all else fails, shopping and/or dining out! Don’t get trapped in the Harvard bubble, because you’re going to be spending so much time here for school anyways. Might as well take the chance to explore what’s on the other side of the river, too.

Well, there you have it. My first “advice” piece as a senior. Though, I don’t really know if I’m qualified to be giving advice when I’m still figuring things out too. But hey, glad we’re all on this journey together. <3

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