Living History

An Open Letter To A First Year Student

August22

Dear First Year Student,

 

Welcome to your last weekend before you arrive at Wofford College.  Congratulations on becoming a member of the Wofford Class of 2017.  We expect great things from you and all your peers, and we are looking forward to getting to know you well in the days to come.

 

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to make a few suggestions for you, give you some tips that I think might help make your transition go a bit more smoothly.  My ideas come from having been a faculty member at Wofford since 1991, and having worked with first year students (you’ll forgive me if I slip and use the term freshmen, I am a bit old-school) every fall.  Here’s a list of things I think you need to bring, and a few to leave behind.

 

Bring your curiosity.  All those questions you have, all those conundrums you haven’t worked out, all those puzzles that keep you awake at night, pack them up and make sure they arrive intact. In college there are no ‘dumb questions.’  I can’t promise you that we have all the answers; in fact, some of your inquiries may be unanswerable.  But if there is a reason for the academy to exist, it is to ask and seek answers to questions in all disciplines and all experiences of life.  Whatever you are curious about, there will be someone at Wofford to talk to, a person who perhaps asked the same question or faced the same problem.

 

Bring your openness to others.  Your generation is praised for its acceptance, for the way it takes race, gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation in stride.  Bring your smiles, handshakes, and hugs.  You are Wofford family now.  Keep that in mind, especially during orientation, and you will find that homesickness can be kept at bay.  Instead of missing your first family, stay focused on getting to know your new one.

 

Bring your enthusiasm.  Bring your creativity.  Bring the joy of being so young.  There’s no shame in being a freshman, there’s only the knowledge that there’s a lot to learn in a very short time, so many things to master, from how to write a BIO 150 poster to how to wash your clothes.  It’s a ton of stuff, but you can handle it.

 

So what should you leave at home?  Trust me, you don’t need every t-shirt you own, or every electronic gadget, or a television with a screen that rivals the stadium jumbotron.  You don’t need a stack of reference books or even your Harry Potter collection. (We have a library.  Learn to use it!)  You don’t need your spelling bee trophies, you don’t need your beauty pageant ribbons or your little league mitts.  Sure there will be things from high school you will want with you as fond reminders of good times, but if you continue to wear all your old ‘spirit day’ shirts and brag about how you were the ‘Pumpkin Princess,’ then you may have trouble adapting to life at college.

 

What’s the most important thing to leave at home?  Without a doubt, the most important thing to stay behind is your ‘senior’ attitude.  Maybe you were a ‘big deal’ at your school.  Maybe you were class president and head cheerleader or valedictorian and football captain.  But so were a lot of other members of your class.  Nobody comes in as number one, and everyone has to work hard to do well.  If your academic attitude can be summed up in these words—‘well, I never had to crack a book to get good grades’—then it most definitely needs to stay at home with your parents.  Every year I try to say this to freshmen, as nicely as I can, and every year some of these young people roll their eyes and sneer.  About a month later, they’re wiping their eyes and blowing their noses, wondering ‘how could this terrible grade have happened.’  Welcome to college—you’re not in high school any more!

 

This is one of the most exciting weekends of your lives.  You’re saying goodbye not only to family and friends, but also to a version of yourself.  A new place waits for you; you can become a new person within it.  Take the best of who you are, of your good attitudes and attributes, and try to leave the trivial, the unnecessary, and the unflattering aspects behind.

 

We can’t wait to meet you.  We’ll see you soon.

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