Advice on starting college

Hello everyone! My name is Anna Dawson, and I am one of eight wonderful 2012-2013 Senior Admissions Interns. This means that I have the privilege of participating in this year’s admissions process by reading applications, performing interviews, participating in student visit days, and many other exciting tasks that go into assuring that the future freshman class at Whitman will be a knockout. Aside from being an Admissions Intern, I am an English and Studio Art major, I serve as the Creative Director for the Whitman Events Board, and I work for our award winning art and literary magazine, Blue Moon.

As I watch the class of 2016 find their way at Whitman, I’ve found my mind wandering back to my own freshman year experience. More specifically, I’ve been reflecting on the most memorable pieces of advice I was given before beginning college. My question is: what were the most helpful or memorable pieces of advice you were given going into college? Or perhaps even better, what is the advice that you were not given, but that you wish you had been?

I’ve compiled my top five best nuggets of wisdom. Some were given to me, and others I have constructed based on what I feel I could have benefited from hearing. Here they are!

1. Get to know your professors outside of class. Chat and engage with them. Ask them not only about the coursework but also about their own intellectual interests. But also never forget that it is equally important to get to know the custodians in your dorm, the security staff on campus, the people who work in the dining hall. Talk to them, ask them questions and thank them.

2. During the first few months of college, write a hand-written letter to someone back home who helped make Whitman possible for you. Tell them about your experience thus far, and make known the impact that they made on you. It will mean a lot.

3. Don’t forget to periodically stop and remind yourself what you really care about (it’s up to you to decide what that is!). But also challenge yourself by trying on new perspectives. Listen carefully to friends or professors who have wildly different views than you, and always be asking, “What can I learn from this person?”

4. Many things in the next four years you will have no control over: a difficult roommate, an incompetent professor, even not ending up on the major or career path that you thought you wanted to pursue, among other possibilities. But here’s the thing: you have absolute control over how you choose to navigate such obstacles. You can let them define you and your mood, or you can fight back and decide to not let that happen. Things that seem like the end of the world DO become funny and character building over time.

5. At least a couple times during your freshman year at Whitman, allow yourself to do something fun and irresponsible when you should be studying. I am entirely serious. It’s important to be rational and think about the future, but you won’t get all that you can out of Whitman if you’re not present. Think of it as far more than just a stepping stone.


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