Welcome to Amherst! We know it can be a difficult task to navigate a new set of surroundings, so we have compiled a brief list of tips for you that will hopefully make your transition smoother.

Amherst is often called apolitical. Unlike our counterparts at Wesleyan, Middlebury or Swarthmore, Amherst students are seen as far too busy with academics to engage with the world outside the Pioneer Valley. Our heads are in the clouds discussing Socrates in our “Friendship” seminar while students across the country collectively organize to fight against oppressive power structures and modern-day challenges to liberal ideals of equality.

In a recently released video by the Social Project Work Group, “Jess,” a fictional first-year student having trouble finding her place at Amherst, finds a diverse group of friends in the “Coolidge Club.” Social clubs have generally been presented as a panacea for students facing the challenge of finding themselves and their place at college. The promise of instantaneous friends and an inclusive environment without the classic “fraternity problems” seems too good to be true. That’s because it is. In fact, social clubs have the potential to further divide an already fractured community.

Think of any college movie you’ve ever seen. Buying into the classic collegiate stereotypes, the protagonists probably get drunk at a big football game, cheer for their mascot at the track meet or attend an underground a capella battle. Before stepping on campus, most future Amherst students probably imagined they would frequently support their classmates, neighbors and close friends at events, performances or sports games. They most likely imagined they’d spend their weekends wrapping themselves in purple apparel and screaming “Go Amherst!” until their voices turned hoarse.

There’s an old saying in politics: Laws are like sausages — no one wants to see how they’re made. Most American citizens want their roads plowed, mail delivered and bridges kept structurally sound. Yet, less than half actually show up to vote during the presidential elections every four years. That number drops dramatically for the state and local elections in which most legislation is actually passed. The candidates in many elections for crucial senate seats run unopposed as both they and their district have lost any of their original inspiration for change.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: You and your four friends are trying to get a suite in Taplin, but it only has four rooms. Perhaps your group will have to draw straws. Maybe you’ll all just decide whom to kick out based on messiness, sleep schedules or high volume of sex. The room draw process is stressful, messy and ruinous to friendships. It’s rumored that room draw keeps the Counseling Center in business. In short, it is a commonly held belief that room draw destroys friendships and should be avoided at all costs for the sake of your mental and physical well-being.

Current students might know Tony Marx for recently appearing on Humans of New York to advocate for the modern relevance of the public library. But the former Amherst president should be noted for his agenda that has changed the campus makeup and culture. Pushing for a level of diversity unheard of by our peer institutions, he created some of the generous financial aid packages that allow the Admissions Office to operate need-blind. There should be no doubt that the Admissions’ Office commitment to creating a diverse student body has done wonders for this college.

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