Avoiding trainwrecks

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August 19, 2010

1:37 AM

Dear class of 2014,

At this point — if we remember our own freshmen orientation experiences correctly, and we like to think that we do— you’re probably a bit tired of walking. You’ve been following around a pair of yellow-shirted ringleaders from activity to structured activity, to the point where you’re unsure whether you’ve ended up at a college, or merely a summer camp located at one. They’re telling you you’ve started your adult life, and then they ask you to play something called “Trainwreck.”

Don’t worry, you’ll get to your typical college experience — classes, coffeehouse study dates, throwing a Frisbee around on some clean-cut, collegiate sod — soon enough. This is just our way of welcoming you (and yes, putting you through the same welcome we endured is an aspect of it).

Hopefully, however many instructional seminars you’ve attended thus far, you remain more excited than disillusioned. We’re certainly excited you’re here. With a 32 percent acceptance rate, your class is continuing the trend of quality students attending the College for yet another year. You have, at 20 percent of the class, the highest number of students of color in the College’s history. Not to mention that 140 of you are the first in your family to attend college.

You’ve got the credentials. Now it’s up to you to figure out what you’ll do with them.

Advice, of course, is a little antithetical to the idea of self-determination. College is about becoming self-motivated, about freedom. Much like unlimited soft serve at the Commons Dining Hall, one must ultimately decide on one’s own the number of refills one will have, not to mention what flavors. Far be it from us to spare you the experience, and often the fun, of learning for yourself.

But we — the wizened, old sages we upperclassmen all imagine ourselves to be — are in a preaching mood. Here are a few things we wish someone had sat us on a stump and told us (find a stump for full effect):
Jump in. Try everything. College is both the place to expand on old interests and to explore new ones, and meeting others who share those interests is often the most exciting aspect of freshman year. Of course, as with everything, there is a limit; many of you will realize that attending three meetings every weeknight might not be sustainable.

Wander, but with the end in sight. Social life may be important, but extracurricular activities, whatever they may be, are just that. We can’t quite remember the details of the cricket and the grasshopper, but we’re pretty sure that one of the two stayed up too late drinking and almost flunked his biochemistry final. (Moral is: avoid biochemistry).

Set up rules with your roommate. It’s easy to hear that communication is key, less so to clean out a stack of dirty dishes once mold has set in. Set ground rules early.

Go to class. Yes, at some point, the issue of attending classes will shift from assumption, to question, and soon to a fierce internal debate. Better things will start calling — a warm bed, perhaps a hangover in need of nursing. Don’t give in; your GPA will thank you later.

Now take off your shoes and get back to playing Trainwreck. It’s more fun than it sounds.

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