When I started attending Emory, I searched everywhere for to-do lists. I wanted a roadmap for college, but I didn’t find one. Instead, I created lists upon lists for myself, thinking that those filled-in boxes would bring me closer to achieving my goals. They did.

I quickly realized, though, that the professional advice I wanted was actually personal advice I needed. So here, I offer a few bullet points from my own to-do lists that shaped my Emory experience, and made me better for it.

  1. Visit the National Scholarships and Fellowships Program Office — as a freshman.

As early as possible, go talk to Dr. Friddle. She does have checklists, and she offers thoughtful advice for every stage of college life. Dr. Friddle encouraged me to explore my passions and advised me on becoming a competitive applicant while remaining true to my interests. She helped me shape my trajectory and plan for the future in ways I could not have done on my own.  

  1. Keep a journal.

So many great moments happen at Emory. While you hopefully have a resume recording the larger ones, write down the rest, too. Allocate a notebook for a joke your friend told, the late-night runs to Buford Highway and the dorm-room conversations you don’t want to forget. I started a journal the day I started college, and I’m so glad I did. Two thick notebooks later, I can flip through pages and pages of memories I might not otherwise recall.

  1. Go to lectures.

Even more importantly, attend lectures outside of your field. Find another department’s talks that relate to your own interests and take notes. Odds are, those discussions will offer exciting new ways to think about your own work by putting it into a broader context.

At the very least, seek out people who think differently than you. Don’t try to convince them of your opinions, but rather, use their arguments to inform, strengthen and reshape your own.

  1. Find a non-Emory passion.

Develop yourself outside of an academic, extracurricular or resume-building context. For me, those passions include exploring Atlanta, reading for pleasure and running. After making time for myself, I slept better. My mental health soared. For the majority of my time at Emory, I truly felt happy. If that isn’t motivation enough, the anecdotes I share in scholarship interviews, grad school visits and office hours all come from these moments. By making time for myself through non-academic pursuits, I became a more interesting person.

So, what makes you interesting? How have you challenged yourself recently? The answers to these questions will shape your time here for the better, as they did mine.

Leigh is from Sheboygan, Wis., and served as copy editor for The Emory Wheel, IDEAS fellow and Omicron Delta Kappa president. After graduation, she plans to pursue graduate studies in English Criticism & Culture at the University of Cambridge.