Thursday, August 17, 2017
I am always surprised to learn that perfectly smart and socially adept young people who are admitted to the very best colleges and universities in the country fear their first experiences on campus. These students talk intelligently, scored off the board on admissions tests and are ranked at the top of their high school classes. Why then, do they freak out at being on their own in a new environment for the first time? I submit the experience of one of these college freshmen as proof that you can overcome the "jitters" and have a fulfilling experience doing so.
A Harvard freshman wrote about her first-year experience in an alumni newsletter. Let's call her Carol. Carol's first weeks at Harvard were packed full of activities. Placement tests, proctor meetings, dorm socials, losing her cell phone and finding it, picking classes and, all the while, feeling lost, overwhelmed and homesick. These comments pretty much summarize the experiences that most freshmen have during their first weeks on campus.
To add to Carol's stress, she ran around frantically auditioning for a number of different singing groups. She was accepted by several and then faced the "agonizing" decision of which one to choose. As fate and good fortune would have it, something happened that made her selection obvious and easy. It was called a "sing-in."
As Carol related it, one Sunday night, two students whom she had met during her frenzied auditions knocked on her dorm room door, guided her down four flights of stairs and outside. In front of her were 60 students holding candles and singing Claude Goudimel's "O Combien est Plaisant." They then walked to a reception for more singing. Carol returned to her dorm that night knowing she wanted join the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum.
The "sing-in" was only the beginning. She met a wonderful group of friends and decided to live with some of them her sophomore year. She became involved with the Collegium Executive Committee and later auditioned for and joined the Chamber Singers, a 12-person subset of Collegium.
The point is that it is easy to get lost in the whirlwind of first-week college activities and intimidating, brilliant colleagues not to mention the universal difficulty of making a transition to college life. To any incoming freshman Carol has this sound advice: "find something you love doing and to which you can wholeheartedly devote yourself."
By immersing herself so completely in Collegium, Carol found relief from the stress of academic work, insights into the field of music administration and a possible career path. More importantly she met a wonderful group of friends and found her place at Harvard.
Know that it is normal to experience pre-freshman year anxieties. Of course, you will miss your high school friends and family, but take advantage of all of the activities and socialization offered for new freshmen and a new normal will kick in sooner than you think.
What is ahead can really be the best years of your life!
Tags: Colleges and Universities Harvard
Gerald Bradshaw is an international college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting in Crown Point.
Colleges and Universities, College Consulting, International Students
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