Top Ten Tips For the Class of 2019
Issue   |   Thu, 09/03/2015 - 16:52

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.

You don’t have to choose a major tailored to your anticipated career path. The point of the open curriculum is to try new things. Don’t feel pressured to pick a major because you think it’ll land you a post-grad job more easily. For the most part, no one after college cares about what you studied. Picking a major is ultimately far less important than learning how to think, solve problems and express your ideas.

There’s no such thing as the Amherst Awkward. The Amherst Awkward is like that one person who says “OMG this is so awkward” during a lull in the conversation — the silence wasn’t awkward until they said it was, and now things are uncomfortable. Don’t be that person. Say hi to other people when you walk by them!

Go to office hours. This may be the most repeated piece of advice you hear during orientation week, but seriously, just do it. Attending office hours is a win-win situation: your professor gets to know you and sees that you’re genuinely interested in the course, and you get to know your professor and see that she’s a human and not some scary passing-grade-hoarding boogeyman.

Don’t be afraid to ask RCs for advice. Your RCs are an invaluable resource precisely since they themselves have gone through what you are starting to go through now. No two Amherst experiences are exactly the same, but they also had to choose classes, balance extracurriculars, navigate Amherst’s social scene — so all RCs can provide some guidance for your own journey.

Explore. We live in a bubble. Weeks can fly by before you realize that you haven’t seen the real world in an unhealthy amount of time. Venture out beyond campus and go exploring! You’ll find a lot of cool places: in Amherst, Northampton, the Holyoke Range state park or wherever else you choose to investigate.
Structure your time. It can be absurdly easy to waste time in college. Being able to go on Netflix marathons whenever you want might seem great, but when you suddenly realize it’s 4 a.m. and you have a solid understanding of Don Draper’s character development from seasons three through five, but zero words on the Word document for that paper due in a few hours, it doesn’t seem so nice. Structuring your time is crucial to doing well and being happy here.

Don’t limit your circle. Maybe you came into Amherst as a member of a sports team or you got into an a cappella group. That’s great, and you will undoubtedly meet lots of cool new faces there. But don’t only hang out with the people who do the same activity as you. There are so many interesting people from diverse backgrounds at Amherst, and it’s worth making the effort to get to know them.

It’s OK to quit some activities. While it is important to get involved on campus, it’s equally important to know when you’re getting overwhelmed. Quitting doesn’t make you a loser or a wimp; it just means you know what you can handle.

Things will not go according to plan. No doubt all of you are looking forward to making this year a great one, to starting off on the right foot and avoiding all the mistakes you made in high school. But some things are inevitably going to fall apart. And when that happens, know you’re not alone. It may look like all your peers are sailing smoothly through their first year of college, but we promise you: They’re not. No matter how well prepared you are, parts of college will be hard, and that’s totally normal.

It may take a while for you to find your place here. Perhaps you won’t become besties with your roommate. Maybe your next-door neighbor won’t turn out to be your soulmate. More likely than not, your college experience won’t be exactly like what you saw in “How I Met Your Mother.” That’s OK. Just remember that one year does not an experience make. If by the end of your first year you still feel like you have not settled in, know that you have three more years ahead of you to grow and change and find your place.