Letter to Myself - By: Michael Silva
Essential Tips for Mastering Amherst: Transfer Version - By: Anna Kelley
Photos of Amherst College - By: Anna Kelley
A Letter to Myself
It’s you—six months from now. Of course you’re going to want me to authenticate that claim, so here it goes: When you were 18 years old you wanted to go see a movie (a “chick flick” rather) but were afraid to admit it to your friends, so you went to a theater, fifty miles away, alone. I won’ say what that movie was, but I know all about it.
Believe me? Good. Anyway, I’m going to reveal to you some happy news. First thing, you got into Amherst and everything is going well; you live in a sheik dorm with beautiful hardwood floors, the food isn’t as bad as you anticipated (they have a lot of vegetarian options), and you’ve met a lot of interesting, intelligent, and warm people. Life is good.
But that’s not all. There are a few things that you need to know before you go. What follows is a list of “things you need to know about transferring to Amherst”:
1.) Transfer students don’t have the option of pre-registering for classes, but this isn’t something to worry about. If a class is closed, email the professor, explain that you’re a transfer student and most of the time they’ll give you permission to register.
2.) Try to go to as many of the organized gatherings for transfers. It is a good way to meet other people who have transferred and the information they have is invaluable. They know where everything is, they’re aware of most of the colleges policies, and can give you a heads up on the “who’s who” of the college’s faculty.
3.) If you want to avoid the crowds in Valentine (this is the campus dinning hall) there are “prime times” when most people are piling in. 10:30-11:50 am (breakfast or lunch), 12:50-1:50 pm (lunch), and 4:30-5:50 pm (dinner). There will be no waits to get food if you go before or after “the rush”
4.) If you are having any problems with your classes, make an appointment with your class dean. They’re all reasonable people who sincerely want to help the students.
5.) If you’re having trouble with an assignment don’t hesitate to email your professors. In my experience, the professors here are happy to work with their students.
6.) Make friends with Luciana Fernandes, or Lu for short. She is the person in the housing department who works with the students. If you have any trouble with your housing situation, she is a great resource to have.
7.) Don’t rush out and buy a computer, you’ll max-out your credit cards, in turn accruing interest. The financial aid office will give you a no interest lone for the system that you want to buy. You won’t have to start making payments until nine months after you graduate.
In may take some time to adjust to life at Amherst College, but when you get settled in you’re going to love it here. Make sure that you bring your A game when you come, no one is going to sugar coat the truth that you’re going to have a lot of work to do; so make sure that you take classes that you enjoy, I wouldn’t recommend taking a class hoping that it will spark an interest. Take classes you know you’re going to be enthusiastic about, otherwise it might be difficult contributing to class discussions.
Again, I’ll say congratulations! You should be looking forward to coming here.
PS: you make an ass of yourself at one of the orientations. If a girl says she wants to major in anthropology, and that she wants to be the female Indian Jones, do not attempt to correct her by saying (out loud in front of fifty people) “Indiana Jones was an Archeologist”, not only will you come off as being rude and pretentious, but you will be wrong—Archeology is physical anthropology.
Essential Tips for Mastering Amherst: Transfer Student Version
1) Pack for a wide variety of weather.
I'm from upstate New York and thought weather could change rapidly there, but it's nothing compared to the speed with which the weather in Amherst can change. One day you wake up and it's 32 degrees and sunny out. You go to class for fifty minutes, and upon exiting the building discover it's now 52 degrees and raining. Do you have an umbrella with you? Of course not, because who thought something so drastic could happen in less than an hour? But it can, and does. Pack for every kind of weather you can imagine, and accommodate yourself with layers even throughout the day.
2) Amherst campus is built on a hillside, bring proper footwear.
I know it wasn't the best of plans, but before I came to Amherst I had never actually visited the campus. When I arrived I realized that I would be spending a good deal of my time walking up and down a hill with thirty pounds of books in my backpack just to reach class. While the campus is relatively small, and getting to class never takes very much time, it is still crucial to have at least one pair of sturdy sneakers, if only to prevent blisters. The stunning view of the surrounding Berkshires, luckily, makes ambling up a hill much less tedious.
3) It helps to arrive on campus about a week before classes begin.
This may sound like common sense, but as a spring transfer student myself, I found that I didn't have the opportunity to arrive as early on campus as I would have liked. As a result, I spent the first day at Amherst waking up at 4 a.m. (for the lengthy car ride), arriving on campus and immediately scrambling to unload the car, run off to a registrar's meeting, attend a luncheon, wait in line at the health center, have a sit-down with financial aid, and attempt to maintain some kind of sanity all the while. I didn't stop until 10 p.m., and that is no way to introduce yourself into a new environment. If you can, plan to be on campus early, so that the activities I had to perform all in one day can be allotted several, more leisurely, days. It will make a lot of difference.
4) Connect with your professors.
Amherst was good about setting me up with an advisor in my intended field of study right from the start, which helped immensely. Regardless of whether or not you know your intended field, a faculty member will be paired with you so that you never have to go it alone. After meeting with my advisor, who also turned out to be one of my professors, I realized that it was crucial to touch base with my other professors. Even if you aren't necessarily struggling with classes, the professors are genuinely there to help, and are often interested in hearing your background. Transfer students can have many different background experiences then much of the student body, and sharing this with your professors is not only interesting to them, but can help them understand your situation and assist you if you need it later. I have never felt anything but support from
any faculty member I have encountered, and this safety net provides me with a comfort I had not previously experienced in a college.
5) Finally, Amherst has multitudes of on-and-off-campus activities and events available, attend some!
It is tempting to wind up staying in the dorm room more often then not; the food, the warmth, the social aspects. However, it would be a tragedy if you missed out on many of the cultural, intellectual, musical, and athletic events hosted and promoted by the college. In several weekends I managed to catch a lecture on being a comic poet, danced on stage with the Harlem Gospel Choir, was awed by a pristine performance of Britten's War Requiem, laughed my butt off at a Route Nine acapella concert, and even attended a student's euphonium recital. Recently, a center for community affairs was implemented at the college, and the events and issues presented by them have worked to sufficiently stir up my curiosity enough to instigate my desire for involvement. College is the time for exposing yourself to as many activities as you can, and Amherst is the perfect venue. Don't fall into the trap of letting the opportunities pass by.
Photos of Amherst College