I ran across this amazing article the other day on a website called www.moreloveletters.com (check it out, its super rad!) that was essentially a letter to incoming Freshmen about all of the feelings they may be experiencing. Excitement, nervousness, loneliness, being scared, all the things we expect our incoming students to experience. However, I think we sometimes forget the realness of that feeling. Even though this article is written to a female specifically, we can definitely adopt this to all incoming students and tailor it even more for our special populations (first generation, international, out of state, transfer, etc.)
Sometimes I think we can get so caught up in the motions and the deadlines that we forget why we truly are doing what we do for the Class of 2017 and other incoming students. We become too bogged down in orientation themes, hall openings and welcome back bashes that we forget the raw emotions that these students are going through.
Of course we hope these programs will help ease the angst of our students, but perhaps the likes of a simple conversation that helps remind the student that their feelings are okay, that we were Freshmen too (some of us a lot longer ago than others!) as well as perhaps providing some gentle prodding and advice that this article speaks to.
What to remind these students:
1. These truly are the best 4, 5, maybe 6 years of your life. However we need to remind them that while these are the best times, it is up to them to take hold of the reigns and make it THEIR experience. The article says this time is for the student and they should be “entirely and completely selfish” which to me means every moment is an opportunity just waiting to happen for our students.
2. Remember that everyone is waiting for someone to make the first move! Why not encourage our students to be that person. Sure knocking on someone’s door you don’t know is awkward, but remind them they could be meeting their new best friend, their lifetime partner, or their best study buddy. Taking chances and feeling awkward for a few moments can lead to some pretty amazing rewards.
3. It is okay to call home…and to miss home…its okay even to cry. We should encourage our students to call home, not cut the proverbial “cord” when they step foot on our campuses. Our students’ families are a huge part of their lives, we would be doing them an injustice to encourage a full severance. Tell your students to embrace their feelings of homesickness, pick up the phone to talk to mom, dog, brother, aunt, etc. and remind them those feelings should go away eventually.
4. Go to class,study harder than ever, and think. Encouraging your students right away to get into a routine of studying, and attending class (whether or not they are at 8am, lunchtime, dinnertime, or nap time). Help your students realize this is a time for them to grow mentally, but also socio-emotionally as well. Have your students think about their goals, think about their fears, think about why the sky is blue. The more we encourage our students to think about things especially those that interest them, the more they will think on their own!
I challenge each of us to remember these things as we welcome the Class of 2017 to our campuses and as we interact with these students beyond the first weeks of classes. I know I will do my best to keep this in mind as I work with my University Experience course. In fact, I may even have them write a letter to themselves that they can read at the end of their first semester. Imagine that, a letter to themselves about all of their fears, apprehensions, goals, thoughts, whatever is going on in that amazing mind of theirs. That way, they can see how far they have come in such a short time. If you want more information or inspiration, check out the TED Talk Hannah Brencher facilitates from More Love Letters. (http://www.ted.com/talks/hannah_brencher_love_letters_to_strangers.html)
What do you all do to encourage your Class of 2017? Do you write #loveletters for your students and leave them around campus to encourage and inspire?
*image taken from http://www.moreloveletters.com/2012/08/25/a-love-letter-to-college-freshmen/