To the Class of 2017:
My last week has consisted, primarily, of reading all of your Summer Blogging Contest entries, scouring your class Facebook page for any helpful hints or bits of advice I can offer, and trying to get my own self ready to head back to Baltimore this Friday to get cracking on Pre-Orientation work. To any rock climbers out there, I’ll be seeing you in just a few short weeks.
Heading into sophomore year, my mindset about moving into a new apartment, getting back together with friends, and starting up classes again is far different than that of July and August a year ago. I’ve been wrapped up in my own mind: making lists, ordering textbooks, going through Pre-O gear inventory, and playing an awful lot of guitar. With that said, however, your Blogging Contest entries have truly been a joy to read, and I think more importantly have caused me to go back to that mindset from a year ago, and really think about what perceptions I had of how college life was going to be, and how those perceptions were wrong, or in some cases right, and what last minute, pre-move-in advice I can offer all of you.
From your entries, it has become clear that many of you, and probably more of you than will admit, share some of the same fears and anxieties that I faced a year ago (and occasionally still find myself dwelling upon). Many of you write about leaving home for the first time, or if not the first time at least being worried about being homesick. You write about leaving your pets at home (by far the hardest part about leaving for college). You write about spending hundreds of dollars at Bed Bath & Beyond and not knowing if you got any of the right stuff. You write about second-guessing your decision to attend Hopkins. You write about how people seem disappointed when they find out that no, you don’t want to become a doctor (small confession: in certain conversations with certain people I’ve given up entirely on trying to confront this common misconception… As far as some people know, I’m studying to be a neurosurgeon… HA). You write about being worried about the difficulty of classes. You write about meeting new people. You write about taking the right classes. You write about expectations that you, and others, have for yourself. You write about nerves and excitement, doubt and confidence.
The unfortunate thing is that some of your worries and fears will come to fruition. You might fail a test or an assignment. You might not love your roommate right away. You might miss your parents (or more likely, your puppy). You might have packed way too much stuff for your dorm room. You might struggle with living in a dorm for the first time. You might not eat as healthily as you’re used to. You might forget to workout. You might second-guess your major, your classes, or your abilities. You might begin to doubt that you’re really cut out for this school.
In fact, more than likely, every single one of you will have at least one of these happen to you. Trust me. I was the most overconfident pre-frosh you’ve (probably) never actually met. Yeah, I knew it was going to be hard, but hey, I’m a tough guy, I was going to be able to handle it. The worst part about it all, I think, is that just when you think that you’re getting the whole college thing figured out, whichever of these doubts, fears, and anxieties you experience, they will probably all hit you at the same time. I don’t want to scare or warn you, or be that creepy guy at the gas station in the horror movie with that sign that says “You will die” that the eager teenagers ignore as they drive to their mysterious uncle’s lake house. I just want to help try to prepare you.
The fifth week of college is the hardest one. If I had to pinpoint it exactly, I would say that the Thursday of the fifth week of classes of your freshman year is the toughest day you’ll face in your college experience. That week, you’ll probably get back your first midterm, and maybe you won’t do as well as you’d hoped. You’ll be right in the thick of classes, and won’t have quite as much time to spend just hanging out with all of your new friends. You’ll start to miss Mom’s lasagna, or pork roast, or whatever your favorite food from home is. You won’t have had the chance to pet a dog since you left home, and you’ll notice it. Your high school friends will be totally immersed in their own new lives at college, and won’t have quite as much time to stay in touch as they did right when you all first left home. People will already be talking about second semester classes- YIKES. You just got your first college B or C on a midterm in a class in your major, and you’re supposed to start thinking about next semester?? That doesn’t seem right. You’ve got a paper due on Monday and a party you want to go to on Saturday, and on top of it all, you have laundry that you haven’t done for two weeks.
Take a deep breath. If reading that just sent your blood pressure through the roof, and now your heart is beating so fast it just feels like a constant buzz in your wrist instead of individual pulses, then just take a deep breath. I’m going to be real with you- college is hard. And on days like the fifth Thursday of classes, that is when, more than any other time, you’re going to find yourself doubting your decision to attend Hopkins, to move away from home, and to challenge yourself in a way that many of your friends at home maybe are not doing. But I have complete faith in every professor, parent, admissions counselor, high school guidance counselor, principal, coach, or friend that, along your journey to college, has told you that you are capable of excelling at a school like Johns Hopkins. Each and every member of the JHU Class of 2017 has been given an amazing opportunity. You’ve been given a chance to attend a great institution, to learn from fantastic experts in every field imaginable, and to surround yourself with some of the most brilliant and inspiring minds of our generation. Each one of you deserves to be at this school, and each one of you is capable of doing unbelievably well at Johns Hopkins. So when your Week 5 hits, be it the second, third, fourth, seventh, or twentieth week, take a deep breath. Chill out. Seriously. You’re going to be fine. You’re at Johns Hopkins for a reason; it is completely natural to feel scared and overwhelmed at times, but you can do this. Just by your acceptance of your invitation to join the Johns Hopkins Class of 2017, I am confident that each one of you is in the right place. And reading your blogs has only further solidified that in my mind.
So be aware. College is going to be tough. The fact that many of you are already expressing some of your fears and anxieties, though, gives me great confidence that when those fears are realized, or you start to become overwhelmed, you are perfectly capable of handling them and pushing through to the greatness which you have been given this opportunity to achieve.
In your last three and a half weeks at home, get packed for school. Make your lists, go through your closets, throw out clothes that don’t fit anymore, make trips to Goodwill, do whatever you need to do. But stay home for an extra dinner with your parents. Stay out extra late with your friends. Lay on the floor with your dog, or sleep in late with your cat. Keep making fun of your little brother or sister, and keep annoying your older siblings. Shamelessly buy a Taco Bell Taco 12-Pack for you and a couple good friends., and be sure to get 6 Doritos Locos Cool Ranch and 6 Doritos Locos Nacho tacos.
You’re growing up and moving away to college, but when times get tough at school, those memories of this summer at home are going to be what get you through to another day. So hang in there, and I can’t wait to see you all at Orientation.