It’s been two weeks or so since you’ve finally arrived. You spent your summer whining to all your friends how you couldn’t “wait to go to school,” and chafed at your parents’ mandate that you spend time with your grandparents, your little sister or – heaven forbid – them. You have your TCF hoodies, M-planners, your crew from your residence hall and your bright-eyed zeal. Gone now are the pre-socialization jitters about roommates and evening plans. The awkward dust from being thrown from the safe — if somewhat constricting — arms of your parents into your new lives has finally settled. Are you as blissfully free as you had imagined?
Probably not. It happened to all of us. The first week is a whirlwind of moving in, welcome week and the first few days of classes. Then, suddenly, you have a new pressurized song and dance – one of homework, extracurriculars and planning for your future. Now is the time of mass meetings, mixers, CTools assignments and schedules.
This time last year, I was fresh from a land of all girls and plaid uniforms. As you can imagine, Ann Arbor became my playground. I’m not going to sit here rattling off ways to “get involved” through clubs, tell you about the many places to study and wax nostalgic about community center activities or whatever. Instead, my advice is to do absolutely nothing.
On its website, the Office of New Student Programs “strongly [encourages you] to take advantage of everything the campus and community has to offer.” It’s impossible for anyone to experience “everything” the University has to offer in all of their time as a student here. Some of the greatest triumphs of our school — its diversity and excellence in a myriad fields — are also what makes it overwhelming. Last year I deleted almost every single e-mail regarding dorm events, clubs that I signed up for and service opportunities only because of the fact that it was exhausting. It’s ridiculous how freshmen are continually prodded to “try new things.” College is a new thing, and for many students it’s enough of an adjustment without worrying about padding a resume for grad school.
Reason number one to take it easy for now: You just spent four years trying to get here. Four years of putting together the right GPA, test scores, the ideal blend of activities and finally the perfect application. Get out of that mode. Stop trying to look good on paper. If you came to the University knowing exactly your career path, I salute you. But for the rest that have no idea where your interests lie, don’t look for them by blindly scrolling through Maize Pages. Most of you came from high schools that were rife with cliques, social mores and an overall identity. This school is wholly unlike any of them, and I urge you to find yourself during your freshman year before you get lost in the campus culture.
My second reason is that all organizations on the University campus are fervently – no, voraciously – seeking new recruits. Students on the Diag will attempt to lure you in almost daily with promises of candy or a cool-looking game, shouting at you to join up. Freshmen, please resist this overachiever-esque, psychological bullying. These people seem to be gentle, sane creatures, but if you are apathetic to their aims or maybe just want a pink Starburst, beware. They have been known to become hostile. For example, a girl once yelled at me for ignoring her, when in fact I had simply said, “No, thank you,” quietly. A tactic I find works exceptionally well when pressed with club hecklers is to hurriedly walk as if angry. It may not be possible to get to class without having brightly colored papers forced into your hand, but it’s better than the alternative of falling victim. Never give out your full name and guard your uniqname with your life. I assure you, if you express the least bit of interest in an organization, you will be hunted down.
Save yourself during your freshman year. You’re here at the mythical land of college and you’re still pretty free. Your first year is not the time to grow up, and chances are you’re still going to have to do some menial labor this coming summer instead of an internship in New York or D.C. or Timbuktu. You have three more years after this one to figure out the meaning of “involvement,” the right “career,” and the extent of that little sucker “responsibility.” In the meantime, go ahead, have a little fun.
Vanessa Rychlinski can be reached at email@example.com.