As a senior arriving back on campus for the last time, I am amazed by how quickly my time here has passed, but also by how much I’ve learned about Bates and its people. To start off the year, I wanted to share with the first-years some of the lessons I’ve learned along the way. My points of discussion can be considered in five categories: academics, activities, social life, campus living, and help.
The Main Point: Reevaluate your high school study habits.
The hard work and intelligence that got you through high school will certainly contribute to your success in college. However, you will almost certainly need to make some adjustments to your methods of learning and time management. First of all, you may find that the mindset with which you approach academics may require a drastic makeover. It’s possible that in high school you became accustomed to being “the best” and that you found your sense of validation from your ability to outshine your peers. However, you’ll soon find that Bates is full of students who thrived in the same way. Here, you are going to be surrounded by people who are just as bright and determined, which might be a little intimidating. What you have to realize is that your value as a student at Bates is not determined by your ability to compete with fellow students, but by your willingness to learn and to work together with your classmates.
All other academic adjustments are secondary:
Learn quickly how to get small amounts of homework done in between classes. Choose a location for working where you won’t be tempted to curl up in bed and fall asleep or spend an entire evening chatting with friends (if you really do need to get things done, at least). Rent your books from the internet whenever possible—you will save hundreds of dollars each semester—and learn quickly when it is and is not helpful for you to read textbook material before class. Do whatever you can to avoid printing five minutes before class starts, since even the most reliable printer on campus has been said to “smell fear” and consequently stop working right when you need it most.
Take classes you look forward to. Enjoy.
The Main Point: Try New Things.
My main regret from my first year at Bates stems from the realization that I simply failed to do things, partially because I was too nervous to put myself out there and partially because I wasn’t aware of all the events and activities that this school has to offer. Even though it may be scary, I urge you to try something that seems interesting to you, just once. It could make all the difference in the quality of your college life.
Read the Bates Today e-mail, and trust me when I say that this is not nearly as much of a task as it used to be. Every day there will be announcements for clubs, events, organizations, or teams that would have otherwise never come across your radar. If you have time, look on the Student Employment Office page of the Bates website or ask around about an on-campus job; it will give you something new to do, allow you to meet members of the faculty and staff, and give you some extra money to spend during the year.
Finally, you should know that campus activities are not lifelong commitments. If you try out a club or a sport and you find that, for whatever reason, it is more of a detriment than a positive addition to your life at Bates, it really is okay to walk away. Deciding to do what’s best for you doesn’t make you a quitter; it simply means that you’re able to make a mature decision about your own well-being. Conversely, you are allowed to jump into a group months, semesters, or years down the line. Believe it or not, people do it all the time, and many consider these decisions to be the best of their college careers.
The Main Point: You never know where you’re going to meet friends.
Making friends is not nearly as easy as some of your classmates will make it look, and I’ll admit that I struggled a lot with this my freshman year. It was easy to complain that “no one wanted to be my friend,” but in reality my social shortcomings mostly stemmed from my own refusal to open up to those who wanted to get to know me. I should have gotten to know my roommate, who made every effort to be a great living companion and friend (sorry, Jess!). I should have had the courage to sit next to acquaintances in Commons and learn more about them. I should have been more willing to work together with the other students in my classes. Once I started to do these things, my social life at Bates was transformed.
The Main Point: Learn the ropes.
There are a few tricks to living on campus that you just can’t know until you’ve learned the hard way. Luckily, I did the learning for you, so you don’t have to.
First and foremost, of course, comes food. Be aware that Commons will always be packed at noon for lunch and around 6:00 p.m. for dinner. Plan accordingly if that is something you want to avoid. The Den is also a great alternative for good food at pretty reasonable prices, which is great when Commons isn’t open or when you simply have no desire to eat what is being served that day. (Dining menus can be found on the Bates website, as well as on the Bates Connect app.) Additionally, while my fellow upperclassmen may not want me to tell you this, Harvest Dinner, which occurs the Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, is a very popular event. Students line up outside of Commons up to an hour before the actual dinner in order to snag a table. You’ll thank me for this later.
There are also a few things you should know about parking. It’s actually surprisingly easy to get a parking pass. The parking lottery occurs in the spring, but you can ask to be put on the waiting list and will most likely receive a permit. If you do have a car on campus, make sure to pay close attention to parking restrictions. Read street signs, don’t park in front of a yellow curb, and watch your e-mail for announcements about snow removal and lot closings.
The Main Point: Ask for it.
As a first-year, it can be difficult to know when to ask for help, and even more difficult to know where to find it. It’s important to remember that, whenever you’re feeling lost in any way, there is probably someone on campus who can point you in the right direction. A good advisor can make all the difference when you need clarification about academic requirements and possibilities, as well as options for life after Bates. The professionals in the health center do their best to provide adequate help for physical ailments, as well as counseling services that offer many levels of assistance. You can access counseling services at the health center by signing in at the front desk and then discussing your concerns with the nurse who sees you.
Of course, arguably the best resource for advice about life at Bates is the upper-class student body. A lot of what we know can be found on paper or on the Bates website somewhere, but no one truly understands the workings of a school quite like its students. We have made every mistake you will make, we have grappled with every dilemma that you will encounter, and we have come out the other side much wiser and more confident than before. We really are here to help you avoid as many of those pitfalls as we can, but even if you do fall into some of them, all will be well.
To the class of 2019, welcome to a great school. Feel free to contact me personally with any other questions you may have, and enjoy your first semester!