6 Things I Learned from Sophomore Year

May 12, 2017
On Tuesday night, I took the last final of my sophomore year of college, and I have not quite yet wrapped my head around the idea that in two years’ time I will be anxiously waiting to don a cap and gown and graduate with a Bachelor’s degree. I might be looking a little far ahead into the future, but it is a reality that I have to come to terms with soon.

Looking back on my sophomore year, I’ve realized that so much has changed in a short period of time, and I have grown immensely since I began in September. I made a lot of mistakes, but I also made some remarkable triumphs, and I’m proud of everything that I’ve experienced and learned.

Here are five lessons that really stuck with me from my sophomore year

1. Planning changes lives.

Honestly, why didn’t anyone tell me about it before?? (JK, you hear it literally everywhere – you just don’t know it’s true until you try it!)

I adopted the Bullet Journaling system this year, and it really changed my productivity and my lifestyle. I became more responsible, was able to get ahead in my goals, and really got sh*t done. I don’t know how I could have possibly lived without planning as extensively as I do now, and I am so thankful that I discovered it when I did. Planning through my Bullet Journal also motivated me to plan out other things that were coming up in my life, not just my school assignments – I began thoroughly planning the semester that I hope to take abroad, and it has really eased my worries about getting things accomplished on time.

I love my BuJo

I took a “break” from planning a couple of weeks into the Spring semester, and it was only through that lapse I realized how many mistakes and miscalculations I can avoid just by organizing my day. Planning has become a therapy of sorts for me, and learning how to plan effectively is a lesson that I will truly carry with me throughout the rest of my life.

2. Grades and study habits are most definitely worth spending time on…

My freshman year I found myself focusing mainly on adjusting to life in college – making friends, understanding the way that my university ran things, and coming to terms with what I really wanted out of my college experience. Though it was good for my personal growth, my grades were definitely not the best they could have been, and there was a point where I was just striving just to meet the minimum of my expectations.
Coming into sophomore year, though, I was determined to change that, and I set goals to work towards a 4.0 for both semesters. Despite the fact that I didn’t really get to that perfect GPA, I saw a significant improvement in the way that I approached classes and in my grades in general. I was able to get my first-ever A in one of the most difficult college math courses in the calculus series all engineers have to take, and I truly have never been more proud of a grade.
On the other hand, I’ve also realized that you only truly get what you give – if you do not put in time to study those Organic Chemistry mechanisms because “you don’t feel like it”, you will not remember them come exam time (…guilty. But only one time!) . I learned that going above and beyond to figure out study patterns and methods that work for the classes I am taking is so important, and applying those things to the way that I prepare for exams and quizzes really had a strong impact on my GPA.

3. …but they aren’t everything.

Even though I wanted to focus on my grades this school year, I also knew that I wanted to make more time for other things I was passionate about. I threw myself into working as a writer and copy editor for my school’s newspaper, and I was able to produce an article or two that I am really proud of.

As a newly-appointed captain of the school dance team, I choreographed some of the best numbers I’ve ever choreographed and helped our season be as great as it possibly could have been in a rocky transition period.

A shot from the first group contemporary piece I’ve ever choreographed
I skipped a week’s worth of classes and traveled to Arizona with my family – we saw the Grand Canyon for the first time together, and were also able to enjoy quality time together while my sister played soccer.
My boyfriend and I managed to have some wonderful dates amidst all of the craziness in our schedules, one of them being a spontaneous trip to New York City for a stroll along the High Line, a trip to the Chelsea Market (where we got the same book!), and Black Tap Burger in the Meatpacking District for some milkshakes and amazing burgers. Beyond that, we tried to prioritize spending time with each other, whether that was through watching episodes of American Restoration together or staying up late just talking about life – I cherished those moments more than anything, and they helped me get through many a rough patch.
In spite of my determination to get that 4.0, the hallmarks of my sophomore year weren’t marked by aced exams or good grades, but rather the moments I got to spend with the people I love, doing what I love the most. Because of that, I know that I will prioritize these moments for the rest of my college career, even if it makes life a tad bit more hectic than it needs to be.

4. Self-care is important. Don’t forget it.

Self-care was at the forefront of my mind this year, solely because I found that my freshman year left me in a bad space mentally and physically.
When things got stressful this year, instead of traveling for Spring Break I decided to spend a week at home to try to regroup and rejuvenate myself – it was one of the best decisions I made this semester, because it helped me clear my headspace enough to deal with everything else that the school year ended up throwing at me.
I also started regularly working out for the first time, and I slowly began to prioritize my sleep and well-being when it came to highly stressful situations in school. Doing these things helped me in ways that I can hardly describe, and while the slump I experienced at the end of the semester kind of stopped me from participating in better self-care practices, knowing that they are possibilities is keeping me motivated to work even harder next semester to put myself first more often.

5. Don’t be afraid to talk to people!

When I was younger, I was for sure the definition of a blabbermouth – I talked to anyone and everyone. My mom even has this silly anecdote of us being on a long plane ride when I was around 3 years old: According to her, while the plane was flying I would walk up and down the aisles and say hi to each and every person in each and every row. I was fearless.
As I got older, that fearlessness disappeared quickly, and I became this weird version of an introverted extrovert – nervous to talk to people at first, but super willing to open up after that initial introduction. This approach to conversations with new people really began to hurt my chances at seizing opportunities, so this year I decided that I would maybe try to change my approach to talking to people.
Just by adopting a little bit of the courage I had as a three-year-old has done wonders for me – I made great connections within my university’s Honors College, I made new friends, and I was able to make the most of networking opportunities that normally would have left me dejected and confused.
I learned that talking to people is the best way to develop connections and build confidence, and in turn I’ve also had some amazing conversations with people I never would have dreamed of speaking to if I hadn’t just said “hello”.

6. Take Risks. Lots of them.

By far, this is the most important lesson I’ve learned throughout my year as a sophomore. If I could give this year a name, it would be the “Year of Risks”. I stepped out of my comfort zone so many times that I actually think I sort of redefined the boundaries of my comfort zone, and that is what I am most proud of out of everything I’ve accomplished this year.

I applied to an internship during September, not knowing whether I would be a good fit for the job or if I could actually handle the work, and I ended up getting the position & loving it. I was able to conduct research for a really cool project (a goal of mine from my entrance into college!), work under a great boss, find a wonderful friend in the other intern in my group, and have the opportunity to present the research at an international conference…not bad for my first risk of the year!

From there, everything fell into place like dominoes – I was hired for a summer internship, I was asked to moderate a panel at a Bioengineering conference at my school, and so much more. I became more confident in my abilities, and with this newfound determination I felt secure enough to follow through on more and more opportunities.

The idea of taking risks pushed me to start this blog, join my school newspaper, take 19 credits in my spring semester, and so much more. The concept of being brave really pushed me throughout the entire year, and I have that mindset to thank for how much I have accomplished.

A terrified/excited/awestruck me in front of the Grand Canyon!

Final Thoughts

This year was a whirlwind, and I am honestly happy it’s over – it really was difficult, but I can’t say that I would take back any of it. Thank you to everyone who helped me through this year, whether it was through a funny joke, a shoulder to cry on, or a comforting word or two. Little things really make a big difference, and it was the little things that truly made this year what it was.In retrospect, this year has changed so much for me, and I am excited to see what the future has in store. Junior year, here I come!

What was your school year like? What was the most important lesson you learned?

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