Wait…I Have To Go To Class? Tips for Surviving Your First Year

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Chris Gonzalez ’15 is one of two Senior Editors this semester. Previously, Chris served as the editor of the Features section. Chris is an English major.

To the Class of 2017, welcome to the next four years of the start of the rest of your lives! I know, I know, you can’t believe you’re actually about to embark on this journey called college. And Vassar of all places! How zany is that? For some of you it probably seems like only yesterday you were wearing your cap and gown, hugging your friends goodbye with tears in your eyes, lying to each other about how you’ll still be best friends forever as super cheesy pop music blasted in the background while the world’s most perfect sunset dipped down beneath the earth, closing this chapter on your perfect high school life. Or…if you’re anything like  me after I graduated, you’ve been rockin’ that cap and gown look all summer because it makes you feel special and you’re completely aware that your life has peaked in high school, meaning these next four years are just the start of the slow crawl to death. And that’s alright. That’s alright.

As a person on the cusp of adulthood and legal drinking age, I refuse to look ahead because that’s just scary. Instead, I’d much rather look back on my own freshmen year and give you, young first-years, some helpful tips. Actually, I prefer to call them reality checks. Cash them at your disposal.

Let’s get this out of the way: You’re not as smart as you think you are.

“Psh, poppycock!” you exclaim over your steaming cup of denial. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, I know, so I suggest you drink a lot of water. Now I’m not saying you aren’t smart or that you’re stupid (you are attending Vassar, silly!), but I am suggesting that you take a step back and realize you’re coming here to learn, to grow and fulfill your life with knowledge. If you knew all of the things, knew more than your professors, odds are you wouldn’t even need college. And you probably would have gotten into your first choice (I’m looking at you, Brown rejects). Once you admit this to yourself, you’ll come to terms with the fact that…

…sometimes you won’t get As, because sometimes you don’t deserve them.

It’s a surreal experience getting your first “bad grade.” I remember when I had gotten my first satanic compound grade—a wonderfully sexy B-/C+. Look at that beaut! I mean, I should have expected it given that I had done exactly 3 percent of the reading and my only form of studying involved yelling “Jesus, take the wheel” before opening my blue book. And you know what? I survived. My world did not in fact burst into flames. Plus, the following semester I got a D on an econ test and just laughed and laughed and laughed at myself for ever taking that class. We all make mistakes. The point is as long as you actually try, be happy with whatever grades you get. GPAs don’t actually matter…unless you’re going to grad school. But that’s talking about the future and the future makes me cry.

Speaking of tears. When packing for college…

…make sure to leave any and all forms of dignity at home.

Why? College is like one big social experiment that is bound to curb-stomp the ever-loving crap out of you. It’s great! And we all need that from time to time. It keeps us young. While none of this is to say that you should completely give up any of your self-worth, I am warning you that you may lose your dignity on The Mug’s dance floor, somewhere along the TH path, in the bottom of a toilet bowl, at the Acrop diner at 3 a.m., the Deece, or basically anywhere. Odds are you won’t make it through these four years without regretting some moments. Maybe I shouldn’t have tried to down a fifth of tequila my first night drinking. Maybe I shouldn’t have declared my love for this person in front of everyone at the omelet station. Maybe I shouldn’t have forgotten to wear clothes on my first day of class. Listen, you’ll definitely make some mistakes and embarrass yourself, but as long as you’re making memories worth having with some great people, it’ll all be fine. Because at the end of this journey you don’t want to look back on these years and think, Maybe I should have lived, do you?

And that’s it. That’s all I got. I can’t help you with everything, first-years. It’s your time to figure it all out. Welcome to Vassar.

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