Advice to First Years by College Presidents

It’s a tradition amongst college presidents to send out a letter incoming first year students a month before they embark on their collegiate journey. Since most first year students will be entering college this month, we thought we share some of the sage advice presidents of various colleges had to offer:

Dr. Johnathan Gibralter, President Wells College

  1. First of all, first years, take a deep breath and approach everything one day at a time.The nervous feelings you have those first few days will get better, and there are many people on your campus who care about how you’re doing. It’s normal to feel lonely and miss your family. Try not to call them too often. Instead, leave your room and get to know people on campus.
  2. Show up and study hard! Remember first and foremost you are in college to be a successful student. Faculty members are there to support you in class and during office hours. No surprisingly, they expect you to come to class, read the textbooks, be organized and put effort into your assignments. Not surprisingly, the students who do best in college are those who actually attend lectures and do the work. If you do your part, professors and teaching assistants can help you share your ideas through research opportunities, art exhibitions, plays and in many other ways. In short, remember why you are in college — to define the best parts of yourself through learning.

Dr. Adam Weinberg, President Denison University

  1. Take a wide range of classes.Students make the mistake of trying to narrow in on a particular major early. Partially, they do this under the mistaken belief that it helps with jobs (that is the topic for another article). The wider the range of courses you take, the broader the skills and world views you will develop and the better prepared you will be for life.
  1. Make Friends: Pick good friends who are at college for the right reasons and who bring out the best in you. Who you hang out with matters. Our college careers are shaped, more than anything else, by the people we chose to hang out with.
  2. Save a little bit of time for reflection: At least once a semester, take a few minutes to think about all the experiences you are having in college and what they are adding up to. What are you learning about yourself and the kind of person you want to be and life you want to lead? You can do this with some friends, an academic advisor, a mentor, a parent, or even by yourself.   

Julie Ramsey, Vice President for College Life & Dean of Students Gettysburg College

  1. Take care of yourself: Between class, writing papers and studying, attending club meetings and hanging out with friends, you may find it exhausting! Get enough sleep, eat well and exercise often. If you need help, contact the Health Center, Counseling Services, or Department of Public Safety.
  1. Join a student club. Follow up on the contacts made at the Activities Fair last week. Take some time every week to learn more about the 120+ student-led clubs and organizations on campus. If you don’t see what you are looking for, start your own club or initiative!

Richard A. Moran, President Menlo College

  1. Choose a “Walkup” song to keep in mind- something you can hum to yourself as you make an entrance on campus. A walkup song is a confidence-building song that says you're going to be someone.