Welcome, class of ’15, to Amherst, the best undergraduate institution in America (no matter what U.S. News says). The next four years are going to be full of new, exciting and distinctly Amherst-ian things, such as hanging out with friends in the common room, joining strange clubs and, of course, developing a healthy dislike for purple cows. So, because the food at Val is unlikely to give you the typical freshman 15, we’re happy to fatten you up with 15 tips on how to get the most out of your Amherst experience.
1) Read the paper. There’s no better way to keep abreast of campus happenings than to read The Student (the Opinion section is always a particularly fun read). In addition, the student government provides copies of The New York Times in Val for a wider spate of news.
2) Take advantage of your first two weeks. This is the time when people are the most friendly and outgoing, you haven’t been bogged down by schoolwork and opportunities abound to branch out and make friends with people outside of your dorms, classes and activities.
3) Avoid the “Amherst awkward.” After those first two weeks, people tend to retreat to their group of established friends. Try not to.
4) Go to sporting events. The College has one of the best athletic programs in Div. III, boasting two national championship teams last school year alone. Cheer on the Lord and Lady Jeffs, and make the opposing team really feel the heat of coming into the ’Herst.
5) Don’t let class names scare you. Because of the College’s open curriculum, you can take just about any class as a first-year. Colons, big words and upperclassmen aside, if you’re interested in a course, take it! Explore new subjects; you’re bound to switch majors at some point, so you might as well make it early. And if the going gets too tough, you can use the Freshman Drop option to salvage your grades and your sanity.
6) Forget your test scores. AP, IB and college entrance exams may have helped get you here, but they’re meaningless now that you’re a Lord Jeff.
7) Get off campus. Amherst is a cool place (in moderation), but there’s a whole world out there, and going into town helps remind you of that. Explore the local shops and restaurants, and beyond — check out the A&L section for information on the major sights.
8) Go to your professors’ office hours. It’s a great way not only to make sure your professor recognizes yours among the sea of faces in your intro-level courses, but it gives you a chance to talk to some genuinely sharp, engaging people about anything under the sun.
9) Listen to concerts. We’re not the “Singing College” for nothing. The College has awesome music groups, from choir to jazz to a cappella to orchestra, and it’s well worth your time to check them out.
10) Be nice, especially to the College staff. The servers at Val, the janitorial staff and the Campus Police are largely underappreciated, even though they keep this place running. A simple “hi” or “thanks” every now and again makes us all a little happier.
11) Join clubs. While you should avoid getting over-involved, one of the best things you can do with your college years is to join clubs for things you’re interested in, especially things that you’ve never tried before. There’s a club for just about everything, and they provide an opportunity to explore your interests while making some of your best friends.
12) Don’t be afraid to leave your table in Val. You don’t need to feel obligated to stay and talk after you finish eating because someone sits down across from you. Val conversations are great, but three hours into your meal there comes a point where it’s okay to leave and go do something.
3) Auto-forward emails from your college account. The Outlook interface is significantly less user-friendly than your Gmail or Yahoo accounts. Do yourself a favor and check out IT’s instructions for moving your email into the 21st century.
14) Plan your schedule around your schedule. If you’re not going to wake up before 10 a.m., don’t take a 9 a.m. class. Make sure you leave yourself time for meals, too, because nothing is worse than hours of class on an empty stomach.
15) Keep it real.