Last spring, I was honored to be chosen as a freshman counselor, or FroCo, for Timothy Dwight College (Yale’s best residential college). The position might sound like a Resident Advisor position in a normal dorm, but being a FroCo is a very unique Yale experience. All Freshman Counselors get extensive training on everything from mental health to food allergies, so we’re ready to deal with any issue a freshman might encounter. My job is to be the best possible resource for my group of 8 freshmen, offering advice on everything from classes to New Haven’s best pizza (Modern. Obviously.)
FroCo love starts early in Timothy Dwight College. In July I sent each of my freshmen a handwritten note introducing myself and getting them excited about Yale. I urged them to contact me with any and all of their questions. I still have the handwritten note my FroCo sent four years ago; it was a precursor to a special relationship we developed over the year. I really want to create that same relationship with each one of my freshmen.
Starting your Yale experience as a freshman is awesome. As soon as a freshman arrives on campus, they’re immediately swarmed by the “TD Move-In Crew,” – a raucous group of upperclassmen who volunteer to welcome new TD students and move them into their suites. Freshmen and parents don’t have to lift a finger; all of their belongings are transferred to the room by this jovial bunch. A hand painted banner announcing “Welcome Timothy Dwight Class of 2019!” greets the freshmen and their families. Yours truly painted himself. (Okay, all the FroCos painted it, but I did a lot of the letter fill-in). Timothy Dwight is a close-knit community, and we make sure that starts from Day 1.
After move-in comes the whirlwind experience lovingly called “Camp Yale”: 5 days of activities and workshops to get the freshmen ready for classes. There’s the Academic Fair, where freshmen get their first exposure to Yale’s more than 80 departments and 2,000 courses. Next there’s the Extracurricular Bazaar, where the freshmen are swarmed by the 514 registered student organizations looking to recruit their newest members. There’s workshops on navigating all aspects of college life, dozens of open houses, concerts and events, plus nightly FroCo meetings to check in and see how everyone is doing.
After classes officially begin, the TD activities continue. One of my favorites is Community Music Night, where TD students and staff show off their hidden talents. This year the college Operations Manager, Bob Kennedy showed off his skills as an opera singer, and one of my outgoing freshmen gave a hilarious stand-up comedy routine. Later we had the TD freshman retreat, known affectionately as “Llamaland” (Yes, there are llamas roaming the backyard). There’s volleyball, grilling out, a FroCo vs. freshman football game (which the FroCos dominated). Oh, and the tradition of freshmen throwing their FroCos into the pool, which my freshmen made sure to honor faithfully.
I have eight freshmen guys in my FroCo group, and I really get to know each of them. One of the best parts of Yale is that it brings together people from diverse backgrounds, and my FroCo group is no exception. They come from places as diverse as Chile, New Jersey and Zimbabwe. There’s a guy on the cusp of chess grandmastership, a nationally recognized scientist, and a retired fencer. As a FroCo it’s amazing to see them already bonding, just like I bonded with my FroCo group my freshman year (we lived together until senior year and are still best friends).
Yesterday was one of my freshman’s birthdays. Birthdays are a generally big deal at Yale, and we made sure that he had a phenomenal day. I took the whole group out to frozen yogurt (fully subsidized by the Yale College Dean’s Office through the “Birthday Fund”) and we sat, talked and caught up for over an hour. After that, we escorted him to his room where a big surprise party was waiting to unfold. Yale, and TD, has been my home for the past four years and I don’t want to even think about saying goodbye. Somehow, helping eight guys out there get their start to the next amazing four years helps me put me at ease as I think about the next big traisition that awaits me.