By Wynne Chase, PZ ’26
Hello freshmen! My name is Wynne, and after just finishing my impactful first year of college, I wanted to share ten pieces of both general and practical advice to freshmen in hopes that you can learn from my experiences!
Once in a while, it is important to just slow down. There will be so many opportunities and activities— and you should go to many of them! Take advantage of events, yes, BUT don’t overbook yourself.
Appreciate and create decompression time. College is an extraordinarily busy time for most, so I encourage you to say no to activities if you feel tired or drained. Additionally, if you make sure you’re well rested mentally and physically, you’ll be in a better place for the activities that really pique your interest.
Find your spot.
Find a location on campus that feels like YOUR place. Be it a new job, a unique study spot, your room, a specific tree on the mounds, or wherever feels right. This is kind of an idiosyncratic and unobvious piece of advice, but once I did it, I felt so much more at home while away from home. It can be hard to feel comfortable at college initially, so setting down your roots in a physical place that’s right for you–and a place that you can continuously return to–will be a useful grounding tool. This is also a fun one because, as you look for your spot, you get to walk around and explore Pitzer and the 5Cs.
Allow people to be surprising.
When I first got to Pitzer (and even beforehand) I had already heard the stereotypes of the 5 schools (as well as had already picked which school would be which Scooby Doo character, and further categorized them in my head). It only took me a few days into a CMC Spanish class to fully realize that students from the other colleges are NOT their college’s stereotype. Assuming somebody’s personality and beliefs based on their college can hinder potentially wonderful friendships. Just because somebody attends a certain school does not mean their beliefs entirely align with those of the school or those of the stereotype, and it is so easy to believe that would be the case.
P.S.- Pitzer is Shaggy.
Don’t put pressure on orientation friendships.
In the first few weeks, you don’t have to – and likely won’t – meet everybody who will be important to you. My closest friends from school are people I met later on in the year.
The girl I moved to sit next to in one of my classes became my best friend because we found, through deeper class discussions, that we shared similar perspectives on many issues. Additionally, I started to work at the Grove House, and through my shifts there, I met many people that I likely would never have met otherwise, who are now some of my closest friends as well. You’ll fall into your friendships naturally, and the best ones will come from delving into activities that interest you, which you will likely only encounter as the school year progresses.
Talk it out.
Living with people can be a great opportunity to create a healthy emotional transparency between you and the people around you. It’s possible (and even likely) that conflict that would’ve been avoided in high school will come up now because you’re spending every moment with your peers.
Just by the nature of living with others, you will likely see each other at your highs and lows. So, when your home is a place that you share with 3 other students, it’s beneficial to open up and work through the difficult parts, especially early on in the school year. Have the hard conversations with your roommates, friends, and RAs.
Last year, my roommate was unsure of why I suddenly was less social in the colder months. I should have explained to her earlier that the winter can be hard for me emotionally. Having this conversation earlier in the year would have allowed more time for us to figure out how to navigate those months, and given her more context for why some days will be harder for me to socialize than others. These conversations are difficult for a reason, they’re personal and emotional, but the year will progress in a much smoother manner if there is a shared understanding between yourself and the people you live with about how you operate.
Create connections with older students.
When I registered for fall classes, my wonderful upperclassman friend came and sat with me and fielded all of my questions myself and the other freshmen didn’t yet know the answers to. She guided me through something that would have otherwise been admittedly stressful and chaotic.
In the same vein, upperclassmen also have the best lived advice, they will be able to tell you how they dealt with certain situations you may be facing (class registration, living with others, balancing work and school, and more). Their advice is incredibly important because they know from their own experience how to best handle (or how NOT to handle) a situation. Additionally, from their experience at Pitzer, upperclassmen can sometimes connect you with influential people who specialize in your interests.
If talking to upperclassmen to get advice is daunting, other wonderful resources include your academic advisor, your professors’ office hours, and your OA leaders! All of these people want to help your transition to college as best they can.
Do something that scares you … often.
In high school, I would have never believed that I would walk in a fashion show. But in December, there I was on the runway at CMC. And I was terrified for sure! I was probably the shakiest one out there, but also now it is one of my most badass stories.
You don’t have to be in a fashion show, but I recommend putting yourself out there because there are so many wonderful chances to do so at Pitzer, and they will make for the coolest memories to keep you company when you’re older.
Now for more practical, immediate advice:
Try not to accumulate too many things.
Just to look sooo far ahead in the future: move-out will be anxiety-inducing enough as is, but with a nearly unused printer, pencil sharpener, desk organizer, and more, it’ll be even harder. In my experience, you really only need the basics to have a great college experience. You can always buy something if the situation arises.
Journal/take lots of photos.
This is probably the most common piece of advice, but it is so important that it is worth repeating. So many minor events (which actually, in retrospect are major) happen every day, so stopping to memorialize or reflect on what happened has been so helpful for me.
When I’m away from school, I miss it. I love looking back at photos that I’ve taken or reading through my old journal entries, because there are so many important memories that would have otherwise gone forgotten. Photography and journaling are certainly not for everybody, but I believe that any way that you can record what you’ve learned or done or experienced is important and special.
Set up a hammock if your dorm is on the first floor.
Again, not for everybody, but the minute my suite set ours up, I wished that it had been there the whole year. We put the hammock up directly outside the door of my dorm, and we absolutely adored it. They are about $15-20, and a worthwhile investment in my opinion. Hammocks provide the perfect spot for reading, writing important philosophy papers, talking to your upstairs neighbors, etc.
Enjoy your year and I hope some of this advice has been helpful. 🙂
Feel free to reach out with any questions, firstname.lastname@example.org