Remember your Bulldog Days? That first dance at Toad’s; that first introduction to extracurricular life on campus; that first hookup with a future classmate; that first new college friend?
Let’s drop those shiny, plastic-wrapped first impressions that will inevitably be replicated on college campuses across the country this time of year. The spa water buffet and Solo Cup of beer aren’t as special when we realize that they are similarly doled out in New Haven, Cambridge, New York, Philadelphia — anywhere overrun with gaggles of overeager high school seniors.
Prefrosh, I would implore you to move past the easily consumed experiences, the fun facts that have been hurled at you over the past three days. Put aside the famous professors and their master classes and the twenty billion dollar endowment and all the supposed perks that come with it. Yes, the information found in your glossy brochures is mostly true. But while it may differentiate Yale from other institutions, it is not, in essence, Yale.
Yale is the all-nighter that you pull because you would rather sit in the common room with friends drinking Franzia than write a paper. Yale is the recognition that you are not the smartest person in the room. Yale is Adam at GHeav and Annette at the Berkeley dining hall swipe desk. Yale is the one and only Wenzel.
To our prefrosh: You have occupied space on this campus for some three days now, but you have yet to experience the real Yale. That selfie with Handsome Dan is truly glorious, but the real stuff has yet to come.
When you’re forming expectations of a Yale education, you must move completely beyond the tangible. The real prize isn’t made of lambskin. It’s not something you can hold, something waiting for you at the end of four years.
It’s the way your classmates and educators will push you, compelling you to encounter, maybe for the first time, a sense of comparative inadequacy. It’s the moments that will force you to question your sexuality, gender and ideological and philosophical persuasions. It’s the hope that you will talk about taboos — like socioeconomic class and personal failure — and help us all move beyond topics that still leave many hamstrung. Simply put, you will learn.
Class of 2018 (damn that sounds rough), despite what you might have heard, your time on campus doesn’t automatically promise great success. It doesn’t promise perpetual happiness. It promises only growth — growth that is sometimes less than evident and sometimes painful, but growth nevertheless.
Seeing all of you here certainly brings back a flood of memories for me. With about a week left to make the decision about where you will spend the next four years of life, I am sure you have many great expectations. When you do finally make your decision, I hope that you know that Yale can’t meet all your expectations, but it can meet the greatest expectation — growth.
So if you are ready for change, I have only this to say: Welcome. I can’t wait to meet you in the fall.
Kyle Tramonte is a junior in Saybrook College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .