Opinion

Take it from a former freshman

Dear freshmen,

Judging by the 50+ posts a day going up on the Facebook Class of 2017 group, I’d like to think that you’re very excited to arrive on campus. You could also be very bored during the summer, but I’m going with the first one.

In that case, let me assure you that the campus is likewise very excited to see you. We do appreciate your color-coordinated school swag, and if you come to our club meetings once, we’d happily give you a T-shirt.

I just finished my freshman year, making me assumedly much more knowledgeable about being a freshman than I am about say, my field of study. Reminiscing about the doubts and uncertainties I once held, I felt obliged to pass on some nuggets I realized later than sooner, in the hopes that they’re actually helpful to you.

Putting on my dad hat, remember that you experience $40,000 worth of school. Repeating that, forty thousand dollars. You could buy an Audi for that price (many of your classmates probably have). Without forcing conclusions upon you, I’d point out some facts: you attend one of the finest universities in the nation; at the end of this school year you will have completed a sizeable fraction of undergraduate education; there will be a life to live after college, one which cares more about your skills and grades than liver or lungs; tuition is expensive, whereas parties are not, because the value of tuition is ultimately much greater than that of parties.

Try to know more about campus than the tour guides who showed you around during your high school, or any of your hundreds of new orientation best friends. If you aren’t an expert in knowing about, and taking advantage of, everything you’re paying for, then you are wasting your money. There’s an entire world outside of Chartwells and the gym, and knowing where the Academic Resource Center, Counseling Center or office hours are may save you. As an important corollary, know whom to ask for help when your expertise fails you.

Most importantly, don’t hold on to your initial expectations about anything. One of the great things about college is how it tears away at your preconceived notions to help you better understand yourself and your world. You should expect moments of uncertainty and doubt, when you question professors, your goals, your character, your friends, and your surroundings. If so, good. Only by trying to embrace and resolve these questions will you actually benefit and grow and know why you’re here.

Obviously you don’t have to take the advice of a newspaper hack. But my freshman year wasn’t that long ago, and if I knew then what I know now, I can only imagine how much more I would’ve gotten out of it. These words are my hope that you can, too.

Patrick Quinlan is a sophomore majoring in international studies and political science.

August 27, 2013

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Patrick Quinlan


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