Name: Alayna
School/University: Columbia University, Class of 2025
Area of Study: Computer Science

Non-Academic Interests: Cryptography, Art History (visiting art museums!), Astronomy, exploring cities via public transportation

What's your top study tip?

One thing I've sometimes neglected in the past is making sure that your study environment is comfortable! For instance, having a water bottle within arms reach will ensure that you won't dehydrate during lengthy study sessions. Doing your work in a well lit environment is also important—eye strain is not fun. Above all, being flexible with yourself and taking stretch/snack breaks when needed will help you continue to stay motivated.

What advice would you give to yourself before you began high school or college?

I would recommend that students pursue what makes them uncomfortable! If you push yourself to do something that is miles outside of your comfort zone, you know that you will definitely continue to grow. For example, in high school, I joined a competitive business club, DECA, where students make pitches to professional judges (think Shark Tank). As a reserved introvert, it was really nerve-wrecking to show up to weekly member meetings, never mind the annual competitions. However, I created many friendships and learned incredibly valuable public speaking skills that made the discomfort worth it. Last spring, I helped run Illinois DECA's Career Development Conference as a State Officer, addressing 3,500+ members through speeches. Long story short, go for what will help you overcome your fears! .

What’s your superpower?

I'm a good listener! One of my favorite things to do is get together with friends and ask about their current state of mind, goals, stressors, and problems. The saying "two minds are better than one" is so true! Oftentimes, we're able to brainstorm solutions together and spin our mindsets to think optimistically about next steps. In my free time, I also enjoy listening to podcasts (highly recommend both Short Wave by NPR and Crazy/Genius)!

What gets you up in the morning?

The possibility of everything that will happen in the day! I think it's really valuable that no two days are the same, meaning that we have the opportunity to learn new lessons, make meaningful connections with those around us, and become better versions of ourselves. With this excitement in mind, I find it difficult to not get up in the morning!

How do you use your planner and what are your best tips for using your planner?

There is certainly not one single way to plan and I've seen several strategies that I hope to adapt in the future! At the moment, I like using a physical planner to create To-Do lists each day. I find huge satisfaction from crossing off items after completing them! I've noticed that keeping things simple helps keep my tasks straightforward. Creating a system that is clear to you is also helpful! I like to use black ink to track homework assignment deadlines and red ink to record quiz/test/assessment dates. On the side, I also enjoy using Google Calendar to keep track of appointments, such as Zoom meetings!

Do you have any self-care tips?

I believe it's important to take breaks from electronics! As someone with a ridiculously high screen time on my laptop, my eyes usually feel pretty worn out by the end of the day from straining at text on-screen. Finding hobbies that don't involve any devices such as reading, exercising, or crocheting can create natural breaks in your daily routine to give your mind a break from electronics!

Check out Alayna on Insta!