Leighton Rowell
Leighton Rowell Credit:

A year ago, I was just like any procrastinating high school senior—relieved to have most of, if not all, my college applications submitted. As acceptances and rejections trickled in throughout the spring, my family, teachers and older friends offered advice about the collegiate experience that awaited me.

Among the most popular tips that would help me tackle freshman year was the warning that there was much more work in college than there was in high school. With that in mind during the first few weeks of French, astronomy, history and religion classes, it was not until after I’d adjusted to my new academic routine that I fully enjoyed the subjects I studied.

I had never before had to work so hard for a good grade in history—my favorite subject—but despite the heavy workload, my passion for examining topics like Napoleonic Wars and Italian Unification motivated me to pore over every book, write each lengthy essay and attend all classes. College is definitely more demanding than high school, but because assignments are also more engaging, the rigor is not as daunting as one might expect.

Having decided to attend the University of Georgia as a Foundation Fellow—like former Reporter Newspapers intern Megan Ernst—I knew that my four undergraduate years would be different from those of most of my friends.

Though I was impressed at the Foundation Fellowship interview weekend by the countless testimonials attesting to the program’s myriad of benefits—including a full-ride and travel stipends—I find UGA’s Honors Program just as magnificent. Honors students receive priority registration for classes, the opportunity to earn a joint Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in four years, and access to some of the University’s best advisors and faculty.

Finding a niche has proved difficult for some of my friends, so I feel fortunate to have my family of 25 fellow Fellows.

We will get to travel throughout the world together during college. In March, the older Fellows will spend their spring breaks in Costa Rica and South Africa. The freshmen will travel to New York and Washington D.C. to connect with distinguished UGA alumni, talk with economists and writers, and explore the two cities. What we are most excited about, however, is the chance to meet with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts.

Two months later, we will fly to England and spend our “Maymester” at Oxford University, choosing from classes like International Conflict and Biomedical Ethics.

From left, Caroline Moore, Leighton Rowell and Treva Tam, all freshman and Foundation Fellows at the University of Georgia, enjoy a home football game against Florida Atlantic University.

Of all the colleges I considered attending, that I have been given such a rich experience in my home state of Georgia has been beyond belief.

Prior to starting college, I was advised to leave behind a few things from high school. Several people told me to room with someone other than my best friend from home, which worked out nicely because her dorm is only five minutes away and my roommate has become one of my greatest friends.

Many advised against being as involved in extracurricular activities as I was in high school. I went to a few organizations’ information sessions, but last semester my only outside activities were copy editing for The Red & Black and working with the Young Democrats.

While being overly committed is risky, being without responsibilities to anything other than homework is deeply dissatisfying. Although New Year’s resolutions don’t usually work, I am intent on joining new clubs in the second semester.

Having taken most of the advice I received, I felt it was my duty to compile a list of my own suggestions for people in my position during senior year. Here are my findings:

–The library is an unbeatable study spot because no matter how great your friends are, they will never follow you there.

–Taking astronomy because you think it merely entails stargazing is severely misguided. That class is weeding out the weakest of our world’s future astrophysicists; it really is rocket science. — Challenging classes help test your limits in the classroom, but prevent you from going downtown—in a college town like Athens, this is a blessing for some and a curse for others.

— Finally, as tempting as it can be, watching an entire season of a television show in your free time instead of writing a massive paper is similarly inadvisable. Netflix isn’t going to disappear, but your high average just might.

I’m only a second-semester college freshman and I wouldn’t dare say I have everything figured out, but this handful of important realizations is what got me through my first semester. Here’s to hoping the next one is as good or better.

Leighton Rowell attends the University of Georgia. While a student at North Springs Charter High School and an intern for Reporter Newspapers, Leighton wrote occasionally about her experiences applying to colleges and choosing one to attend. For this issue, she writes about her experiences during her first term at UGA.