“Question Norms,” and Other Sage Advice For New Students

August 31, 2010

Now that 2010 Orientation has officially begun, the Office of Public Affairs asked AmherstCollege’s Facebook fans and people on campus what pieces of advice they would offer new students. Here is a sampling.

  • Drive Route 9 all the way into the woods in the fall. Invite your advisor out to lunch, nevermind your nerves. Take any class that will make you interesting to chat with at cocktail parties. Jennifer Kaufman Aslan ’02
  • If you want to keep it, lock it up. Don’t leave your laptop, bicycle or other valuables unsecured. John Carter, chief of campus police
  • Make sure you eat and sleep well. Linda Celi, business manager for the theater and dance departmentimage
  • Take a deep breath, and realize you will be meeting a great number of truly extraordinary people in the weeks and months to come. Valedictorians [are] a dime a dozen, and double 800 SATs [are] no big deal. Be prepared to come down a few notches. Don’t let it bother you—you have a lot to offer as well, or you wouldn’t be there. Savor and enjoy every minute. It really doesn’t get any better. Steve Gunnels ’71
  • Take advantage of the extracurricular activities on campus. Really explore all of your interests. Howard Hanna, Web developer for Academic Technology Services
  • Take the time to walk around each of the FiveCollege campuses, to gain a sense of the seemingly endless range of options available. Ride your bike out to Belchertown, around to South Hadley and back to Amherst to appreciate where AmherstCollege actually is. Robert Hicks ’73
  • Think about what your comfort zone is, and then challenge yourself to step out of that zone. Try new things. The next four years are about trying things on and seeing how they fit. Karen Lee, assistant dean of students and director of student leadership at the Center for Community Engagement
  • Take advantage of living in the lovely PioneerValley. Go apple-picking. Visit the Quabbin Reservoir. Denise McGoldrick, director of health education
  • Get your butt out of bed, get to class, sit up front, take good notes, engage your professor, go to office hours and find someone smarter than you to study with! E.J. Mills, head football coach
  • Create an AC Dollar$ account. The ATM on campus isn’t always reliable. Michelle Phillips, cash operations supervisor at Schwemm’s Coffee House
  • Go to office hours—seeing your professors outside of class helps you get to know them and them get to know you. And not only can this be helpful in mastering course material, but it can also be useful when you need a recommendation for a summer internship or going abroad. Catherine Sanderson, professor of psychology
  • Climb MountHolyoke. Once you get your bearings, take a few classes in areas you wouldn’t normally. Go to any campus meetings or events that interest you and get involved in something. Your universe will expand. Ilana Schoenbach ’96
  • Continue intellectual conversations outside of the classroom, and challenge your professors and peers. While this may interrupt an uncritical easy-going flow at times, Socrates (while on trial for heresy) once said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Question norms, and don’t be afraid to smile at people you don’t know. Barry Scott ’11E
  • Go for long walks in the Bird Sanctuary at night with quiet friends. Swim in Puffer’s Pond. Talk to your professors about life and your friends about classes. Denise Steele ’02
  • Go talk to your professors—they are rather good at magic, you know. Lisa Wolf ’88
 

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Office of Communications
79 South Pleasant Street
Amherst MA 01002
(413) 542-2321
comm@amherst.edu

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