As the academic year winds down, an omnipresent and absurd question is inevitably directed at freshmen all across campus: What have you learned in your first year at college? Or rather, what would you have done differently? So I’ve decided to publish my answers to these questions, in the hope that my advice will be of some use to generations of freshmen hence.
To start out on a positive note, I’ve experienced a great deal of academic success. I managed all of my time impeccably, beginning each paper and problem set at least one month in advance. I’ve effectively set the curve for all of my peers in more than one class. This year, my lab work has led to a revolutionary new drug that will almost certainly cure AIDS. I’ve also been involved with numerous artistic exposés on racial inequality, and in my free time I volunteer as a kindergarten teacher at local a New Haven school, where I speak to children in four languages (five if you include the second dialect of Mandarin I have mastered).
Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I cannot yet speak Italian or French.
My extracurricular pursuits proved more of a mixed bag. On the one hand, I joined a myriad of activities to challenge my broad interests: I’m involved in the Bulldogs Racing team and Chabad at Yale; I’m also a saxophonist in the Yale Jazz Ensemble, and I’m active in Model U.N., where I single-handedly led Yale to victory with my eloquent speeches. I experienced my fair share of obstacles, however. I was unable to join the debate team, because they compete in both American Parliamentary and British Parliamentary style; regrettably, I am only comfortable with the former.
I managed these extracurricular activities decently well, so I decided to expand my social horizons, becoming the first woman to join the fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, setting a new record for my recent keg stand of four days, 20 hours and 59 minutes. I barely even felt buzzed afterwards. I also have an excellent boyfriend that I met at Camp Yale, with whom I have regular and wholesome sex. I had little difficulty making friends outside of my group activities, and flirted with the idea of pursuing a career in politics. But alas, that ship has sailed, since I am not already a member of the Yale College Council. All prefrosh should take heed: Don’t let your relationships and academic life get in the way of your political ambition.
In addition, I play several varsity sports, my favorite of which is women’s track and field. I led the team to a victory in the 800-meter race at nationals with a time of 1:15.96. I am also captain of the fencing team, the softball team and the squash team. I considered joining the women’s ice hockey in the fall, because I had too much time on my hands (I was getting a full three hours of sleep each night). Sadly, the team didn’t have space for me this year, so I’ll have to settle for being a four-sport athlete for now.
Disappointed by these failures, I resolved to begin my senior thesis a few months early. I’ve been working with various professors, including Paul Bloom, Sydney Altman and Peter C. B. Phillips to craft an interdisciplinary project that draws on psychology, biology and economics.
All in all, this year has been a bit of a let down. I’m rather embarrassed that I will only graduate in two years, not one, and I feel as though I’ve let my peers down by not creating a “perfect Yale” for all of them in the 8 months I’ve been here. Finally, I really cannot believe that my GPA is only a 3.92, after maintaining a 4.0 all through high school (unweighted).
I’ve written this piece so that incoming freshmen won’t make my same mistakes. All you bright-eyed prefrosh still have a chance. Don’t waste your first year as Yalies on “finding yourself,” “personal development” or “sleep.” Focus on what really matters.
Maddi Conlin is a freshman in Davenport College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .