Dear Dartmouth Class of 2018,
(As I sit in my dorm, with my open book of op-ed clichés...)
It seems like this time of year, a lot of ink is spilled telling high school and college graduates just how we think they should live their lives. One may point out that I am no more qualified to write this letter and impart wisdom on the next crop of freshmen than anyone else in the Class of 2017, and to them, I say: yeah. But I’m the one with the column space and the free time.
In all seriousness, this letter is not meant to reflect the experiences or advice of the Class of 2017 as a whole. Rather, it’s an attempt by one ’17 to tell the incoming freshmen all the things that I feel nobody ever told me. In all fairness, maybe I was just so excited about getting my brand spanking new blitz account that I didn’t listen.
First and foremost, relax. That’s the one thing I wish I was told in the months leading up to coming here. It’s an exciting and unnerving time. You are probably worried about how people are going to see you in college, shaping your brand new image and the kind of people you will surround yourself with. Don’t. Worry about that when you get here.
This is the one summer in your life when you have the most freedom and least responsibility. Enjoy it. You and all your friends are going to different schools, and no matter how many times you say otherwise, it’s never going to be exactly the same. It’s not a tragedy; people grow and change, and once you get here you will make new friends. Still, take this time to cherish the way things are and really appreciate the people who are around you. And get the hell off of the class Facebook page already. There’s a very good chance that’s not where you will find your soulmate.
Once you get here, you’re going to be bombarded by Dartmouth from all sides, especially if you go on a Dartmouth Outing Club first-year trip. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I came to appreciate how much the people involved love the school, but it can be a little overwhelming. Don’t worry. Nobody’s going to accuse you of being a heathen (or worse, Crimson) if you don’t start dancing as soon as you put down your bags. Some people aren’t as outgoing and passionate about those sorts of things, and while I encourage you to go outside your comfort zone and embrace Dartmouth, it’s alright if your hair isn’t green by convocation. I promise, Phil Hanlon will not judge you.
You don’t have to impress anyone. After being told for months I was going to one of the best schools in the country, I was nervous that maybe I couldn’t keep up, and I imagine you are, too. Don’t be. Nobody is going to make you prove that you belong here. We all have faith that the admissions process can do that.
So instead of tattooing your AP scores on your forehead, just take a deep breath and be yourself. I spent so much time and energy trying to impress people when I first got here that I completely forgot that I was supposed to get to know them. Everyone is scared and intimidated. Don’t be afraid to talk to your classmates about it. You might just make a friend.
Finally, ask for help if you need it. I spent my entire first month here deathly afraid of upperclassmen. I honestly thought that as a naive freshman, I annoyed them, so I sucked it up and wandered right past the weird ’53 Commons looking for the place everyone called “FoCo.” What I didn’t know is that almost everyone who is here wants to be here (if they didn’t, why would they? It’s in the middle of the woods). Most of the older students honestly want to help make this a better experience for you and will help you out.
Best of luck, enjoy the summer and see you all next fall.
Dear Dartmouth Class of 2018,