Congratulations and welcome to the College of William and Mary. At some point in between meeting your roommate, exploring Williamsburg and the final parental goodbye, the overwhelming sense of arrival will suddenly hit you. You are finally here.
In the months and years leading up to this moment, you have no doubt been showered with all sorts of advice about college. Your parents have lectured you on the academics, your elder siblings have listed off the dos and don’ts of collegiate nightlife and your grandparents have told you about how they had to walk 40 miles in the snow to their freshmen orientations. While all this advice may prove useful in one way or another, it is our job to clue you in on a few valuable lessons we have learned in our time here at the College.
First, it’s important to come in with realistic expectations. While you certainly are the best and the brightest, you might not be the same world-conqueror you were in high school, and that’s just fine.
You had all A’s and B’s in high school, took the maximum number of accelerated classes and excelled in every one of them? So did we. While we would certainly never discourage academic diligence, remember that you need to strike a balance between academia and sanity. Don’t take 18 credit hours your first semester — it won’t end well. You have plenty of time to fit in all the required classes in your remaining seven semesters — take some classes that are outside your General Education Requirements and intended major. They won’t automatically revoke your chemistry diploma if they discover that you once took a film class for fun.
And yes, we know that you were very involved in your high school extracurricular activities. We know that you were “that guy” or “that girl” in high school who ran the place, but there is no award for being the president of 12 different campus organizations in college. Pick a small number of student organizations in which you are truly interested and stick with them.
As far as the social aspect of college goes, give it some time and give everything a try. Outside of the horribly awkward co-ed mixers, orientation really isn’t that bad. (Your parents are paying thousands of dollars for your college education, and the school threw in a week of summer camp absolutely free of charge!)
Don’t allow yourself to fall behind the social curve — don’t go home too often and don’t be afraid to cut your high school sweetheart loose if you are drifting apart. The only way to meet new people is to get out there.
Speaking of which, give the units a try. Some people love the fraternity party scene, while others quickly rule it out. (Word of advice —timing is everything. Get there late, but not too late.)
Be sure to participate in at least some of the College’s storied traditions. We are all well aware that the College has an exhausting number of traditions, but you should have expected that when you applied to a 318-year-old institution. Yes, some of the College’s traditions are exceedingly lame (here’s looking at you, Charter Day), but just do it. You will thank us later — probably when you experience Opening Convocation or hear College President Taylor Reveley at the Yule Log ceremony.
While all of this advice could seem daunting, we will simply crystallize all of the above sentiments into one compact, but lasting thought: Your freshman year is going to be tough — it will challenge you academically, socially and emotionally — but it will also provide lasting friendships, hilarious memories and really just a lot of fun. Today when you begin your freshman year with one of the biggest William and Mary traditions, orientation, don’t forget to enjoy it. You have worked hard for this. Be prepared for the challenges, but remember to have fun. We’ll see you on the other side of the Wren building.