Posted a year ago
Dear Freshman Triple
You are about to embark on an amazing adventure.
By Triple Oswald
Dear Freshman Triple,
You are about to embark on an amazing adventure. College is one of the most unique times in life, and you probably will only get four years of it. Enjoy every sweet moment of those four years. Bask in the glory of jumping up and down with your freshman dormmates to trashy pop music at Full Moon on The Quad. When you get your first exam grade below a 50%, cry, then laugh and get back up. Take time to savor the taste of your coffee at 4 am, and then finish your all-nighter. Struggle through disagreements with your parents over skype, and enjoy the warmth of their hugs when you return home. Really feel the excitement when you step onto campus after being away for so long. Enjoy these things because after these four years you might never experience them again.
Enjoy the positive emotions as much as the negative emotions, because you will inevitably encounter both in your time at Stanford. There is a lot of pressure, especially in the paradise of Stanford, to be happy all the time, because at any given time a majority of your friends are happy. Don’t feel out of place if you aren’t. If you’re sad, be sad. If you’re scared, be scared. If you’re stressed, be stressed. Feel your emotions all the way through and talk to people about them. Don’t feel like you can’t bring your baggage to your happy friend. If you’re doing college right, you will build authentic relationships, and you can go to those people for help. Chances are they will go / have gone through something similar in their time at school.
On building authentic relationships, don’t fret if you don’t have any good friends by the end of the first quarter or a best friend by the end of freshman year. Relationships take time to grow. Keep spending time with the same people and eventually something will come out of it. You’ll either develop great friendships or realize they aren’t your people. If they aren’t your people, find your people. Invest time in a new student organization, study group, or friend circle. However, be careful not to over-dedicate yourself. If you have too many close friends, you won’t be able to be a good friend to any of them, and your heart will crumble under the heavy burden. You can also over-dedicate yourself to work. If you take on too many responsibilities, you won’t be able to do a good job on any of them, and your mind will crumble under the heavy burden. There are SO many amazing opportunities at Stanford, but you can’t pursue all of them. You must learn to choose. Choose and you will flourish; overcommit and you will die. There will always be pressure to do more. Don’t buy into it.
As far as time goes, you should also be protective of unforeseen opportunities. It may feel right to be on the move from the time you wake up to the time it hits the pillow (if it hits the pillow), but if all the time in your day is given away, how will you pursue new opportunities as they arise? You will have friends who want to take a spontaneous weekend trip to the mountains, and as fun as that sounds, you won’t be able to go if you’ve already committed your weekend. You will have opportunities to dive into intellectual conversations with your professors after class, but you won’t be able to if you have a meeting planned right after. Commitment is a good thing and a bad thing. It must be balanced. Moreover, don’t devalue yourself because you can’t pursue every opportunity.
Other random and more specific advice I have for you is as follows: Dating in college is cool, but not dating is also cool. If you don’t have fun at parties, don’t go to parties. Mixing chocolate ice cream and chocolate milk at the dining hall makes a great milkshake. Go to office hours. You’re not dumb if you do; you’re smart if you do. The TAs will sit down and work through the problems with you. You will learn the material better and move faster through your homework. On the other side of that, spend some time attempting the problems on your own. There are many things to be learned from banging your head against your homework for a couple hours. If you finally solve the problem on your own, it builds self-confidence. If you can’t solve the problem on your own, it builds a tough epidermis.
This brings me to my final point: you can learn from anything, and you will learn from everything. You can learn from your textbook, you can learn from lecture, you can learn from a conversation over lunch, you can learn from campus protests, you can learn from watching a musical, you can learn from going to a party, and you can even learn from just staring into the sky. You can’t learn from sleep unfortunately, but sleep helps you learn, so do it! There are so many things to learn at Stanford besides whatever your major seeks to teach you. Learn to absorb a lesson from each and everything thing that you do. If you don’t, you’re robbing yourself of becoming a full person. Reflect often what you’ve learned, because that too will teach you. I have learned so much just from writing this letter. I pray you will learn as much as possible from your four years at Stanford and enjoy every unique moment of it. I’ll probably have a lot more advice for you in two more years.