I was nervous about setting off for college because I had no idea what to expect. What should I buy or do to get ready for college during the summer? How long would it take me to make some friends once I got there?
If I was still sitting alone in my room on Saturday nights playing with my Troll collection by, say, October, should I be concerned?
My older friends’ answers were unsatisfactory. They used a lot of phrases like “trying new things” and “finding yourself.” My summer remained angst-ridden.
You, however, have no excuse to worry. Princeton Review’s list of “hits” (classes) and “misses” (New Haven) is a little vague, so what follows is the Official Freshman Rites of Passage Timeline. Study it, memorize it, share it with friends and loved ones — and get excited, not anxious.
First week of July: Make five lists of “college essentials” and order a parent to take you to Bed, Bath & Beyond. Spend $250 purchasing Yaffa blocks and extra-long sheets. Then go to an overpriced music store and buy posters of eclectic musicians that you want your roommates to know you listen to, such as A Flock of Seagulls.
Second week of July: To battle your growing inferiority complex regarding your future classmates — who all come to Yale speaking five languages or having invented something — write a list of “Great Books” you must read before September. This list should include “Wuthering Heights” and “The Wealth of Nations.” Read one of these books for ten minutes and then decide to watch “Party of Five” reruns on Lifetime.
End of July: The Blue Book arrives. Read it cover to cover and spend 20 hours trying to figure out the correlation between your Advanced Placement scores and Yale acceleration credits. Conclude that with your seven AP tests, if you take all advanced biology and math courses and plan to graduate in six years, you can easily take one semester off.
August 20: Finally receive your housing information. Try to remember if your assigned residential college is one of the ugly ones. Then call up your future roommate from Pennsylvania, exchange pleasantries and ask her if she knows your friend Mary from speech and debate camp in 10th grade who also lives in Pennsylvania.
August 31: Arrive at Yale. Begin hauling boxes up to your room while your dad makes seven trips to Information Technology Services trying to get your computer hooked up to “the network.” Sadly watch your dad’s manhood crumble as he snaps the third malfunctioning ethernet card in half and mutters profanities at the computing assistant.
August 31, 11:30 PM: Break down and let your roommates drag you to the Awkward Freshman Dance at Commons. Rock back and forth to Top 40 music, occasionally check yourself out in the windowpane reflection, and try desperately to deny that you are at a bad high school dance on your first day of college.
September 1: Attend the freshman convocation. Listen to Dean Brodhead tell you how amazing you are.
September 1: Say goodbye to your parents. Realize that you are all alone, and that your roommate has decorated her side of the room with posters of glaciers that say “Success — one inch at a time” and others of kittens hanging from strings that read, “Hang in there — you’re purr-fect.”
September 2: Go to Beinecke Plaza for the Freshman Bazaar. Realize you attend a school with 20 a cappella groups and a Freestyle Dueling Association. Emerge 40 minutes later, tattered and carrying seven pounds of colorful flyers from the Tory Party, the Anti-Gravity Society and Yale Students for Christ. Remember that for every one of the dozens of times you spinelessly gave in and signed your name on a clipboard, you will receive four mass e-mailings each week for the rest of your college career.
September 2, evening: Have “the sex talk” with your freshman counselor group, complete with condom demonstration. Bond with your college-mates through juvenile inside jokes and nicknames.
September 5: Shopping period begins. Try to shop four classes in one time slot, but end up walking from the Hall of Graduate Studies up Science Hill and back, failing to find any of them at the locations listed on the “online course information” Web site. Recall the “locations subject to change” and “Ha! You think these course listings reflect reality?” disclaimers.
September 6: Have 197 “what’s your name/where’re you from/what college are you in?” conversations. Talk a lot about how people from the Midwest pronounce all their vowels like nasal a’s and how New Yorkers say “on line” whether they mean the deli or the Internet. Make friends with a girl in your entryway who can’t get her e-mail to work, either.
September 2001 through the next four years: Stop every once in a while, look around at the trees, the frisbee players and the ancient Gothic architecture, and have trouble believing that this place is real, and that you’re really here.
This is the Cliff’s Notes version of the opening act of your Yale career. But beyond all the nervous small talk and excessively large “Welcome 2005” banners, these are your first weeks as a student at Yale University. They are the reason you spent months taking Kaplan practice SATs and squeezing your philosophy of life into the 500-word personal essay limit. They are the fruits of eighteen years of labor, and they will be delicious.
Just stay away from the “cod bites” in the dining hall.
Molly Worthen ’03 is in Jonathan Edwards College. She is a staff columnist for the Yale Daily News.