As I reflect on my past two years at Yale I want to be able to offer some deep and profound advice. As an incoming college student you will hear so many different things from different people, so here’s my condensed version of those words of advice: Just be yourself and follow your dreams! You belong here and will never feel like you don’t! Attend every single class or you will fail! Nailed it.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure if those are the right words of wisdom to offer. I had a million questions when coming to Yale, and while many of them were answered with a quick Google search (for example, “Where do I buy college bedding?”) many were not. As much as it’s possible to prepare for college, there were so many aspects of Yale that I never expected.
I was convinced I would become Rory Gilmore and rule campus.
To set the scene, I’ll explain a bit of my own background. When I finished high school, I was attending a tiny private school, where my graduating class across two campuses was less than 20 students. As I could personalize my own schedule, by the end of my senior year I was primarily doing EMT training and going to high school for 2 hours a day. I worked at a pool full time, and thought I was the most adult I could get. I was 110% sure that I was going to be an emergency room doctor or trauma surgeon. I was going to double major in some form of biology (likely Biophysics and Biochemistry) and political science, and I had the color coordinated 4-year class plan to prove it. My goal was to study every evening, and make sure I had all my homework done before hanging out with friends, and be asleep by 12 a.m. every night. I would obviously ace every single class and earn every form of distinction ever. I made a joking promise to a friend to never get involved with a cappella because it was silly, and instead I would be the president of the Yale Political Union and Yale Daily News in my time at Yale.
Flash forward to now: merely writing that last paragraph made me exhausted. I am not the Rory-Gilmore-figure that I envisioned when picturing myself at Yale, instead I am a much more realistic version of a college student. I am a Political Science major - so I did get that aspect correct - but that’s about it. I attended one Political Union meeting and zero Daily News meetings before deciding both of those groups weren’t for me. I am the co-Business Manager of my a cappella group despite my promise, and a proud member of the Yale Admissions team. I volunteer regularly, and am a member of a sorority. I am a member of the Human Rights Scholar program, I’ve done a musical, and rotated through many other campus groups in an attempt to find what I want to pursue on campus.
My cohort of Yale Admissions student workers.
Looking at my resume now is probably less impressive than the one I envisioned. I certainly did not ace every single class; I vividly remember looking at my first semester grades and being heartbroken. Four semesters into college, and with only four more to go I can recognize that there are things more important than grades, though I am sure I would have said that before my freshman year as well. I have grown so much as a person while at college in ways I never expected, and in ways I’m sure I still don’t recognize. While you are legally an adult when you enter college, there is so much growth still left to be had and so many important lessons to be learned.
My a cappella group, The New Blue, running to get our new members.
There are so many things I have learned while at school, and tons of them did not come from the classroom. So, as a sage junior, here are some words of advice from me personally: making friends over late night food is a great way to find out who you are compatible with. Sometimes skipping class for a mental health day or to nap is the best thing for your education. Professors do care about you but you will never know this if you do not talk to them. Ask for help when you need it: The Writing Center and tutors are incredible resources. Don’t do activities just for your resume. You will find your best friends in places you would never expect, so don’t be so quick to judge. If your parents ever offer you money, please take it as snacks add up quickly. Crocs are the most comfortable shoes and everyone should wear them always, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. Chase your passions and allow yourself to discover new things.
I convinced my sophomore year suite to throw a holiday party and let me send out fancy invites so I could wear this Christmas sweater that actually lights up.
If I’m being honest, offering advice to my freshman self would have been hard. I was incredibly stubborn and very sure of my path. And that’s okay. While sometimes I regret not exploring all the classes and activities from my first moment on campus, at the end of the day I am so grateful and happy to be a Yale student. There are certainly days that I feel like I do not belong at an institution like Yale, and there were days where I was incredibly homesick for California. But despite everything, I have found a home that I never expected in my friends, my residential college, and New Haven. I’ve met people I am sure that I will love for the rest of my life, and have friends who I am so excited to continue to grow with.
So, I’d like to say WELCOME to all our new incoming first year students, and get ready for the ride of your life.