So you made it to Stanford, huh? Eighteen long years of work have finally culminated in your arrival at this little slice of heaven. I was in your shoes just three years ago, but it seems like a lifetime since then.
I’m not going to lie — I’m pretty jealous. You’re about to be introduced to the wonderful world of IHUM (i.e., you can sleep in). All-campus frat parties will actually seem like a ton of fun. You’re getting here when our football team is actually good. You get to have a general lack of direction. This is probably going to be the first time in your life when you literally have no idea what to do — or even what you really should be doing. Just go with it. Embrace it. There’s nothing like it. When you’re a senior like me who needs to make sure to finish up all of your major’s requirements while still prepping for the LSAT, you’ll long for freshman year.
The people that Stanford attracts are obviously among the most intelligent people in the world, but I’d like to think that most of us know how to have fun, too. That’s why you’re here — and not at Harvard, MIT or Caltech. I’m not telling you to turn off your intelligence but rather to merge your intelligence with fun. If you’re anything like me, you probably felt high school was something like a chore — just a stepping stone to your eventual goal. Well, look, you’ve reached that goal now. You no longer have counselors telling you which classes to take or the ever-present specter of AP classes lurking around the corner. Have fun. Explore. You didn’t come to a world-class university to waste that opportunity. Sure, take Math 51 because it’s a necessary prerequisite for so many of your classes, but take something completely off the wall, too. Take a film studies or music class solely because it interests you. Or have you always wanted to learn how to golf? There are lessons available right here. Hell, we even have a wine-tasting class. How awesome is that?
You got accepted to Stanford solely because you’re (assumedly) a really intelligent, well-rounded and pretty cool person. (You’re going to be hearing that a lot over the next week, so I don’t want to be the one to boost your ego even further.) But here’s my point: now that you’re here, don’t lose that sense of exploration that ostensibly got you here in the first place. Try everything and regret nothing. You have the flexibility, so take advantage of it.
All of this talk of well-roundedness leads me to an important example to leave you with: in my personal pantheon of excellent films, Wes Anderson-directed movies hold a very esteemed position among my favorites. And in Anderson’s classic film “Rushmore,” the main character is a teenager named Max Fischer. Max might be something of a budding sociopath, but he is also involved in countless extracurricular activities at his private high school, Rushmore. From the “Yankee Racers” to the fencing club to the Rushmore Beekeepers, Max does it all. He’s a little obsessive compulsive, slightly unstable, a bit over the top and has way too many things on his plate to focus on schoolwork. And that is something all of us at Stanford can agree upon. I’m talking to the person out there among the new admits who has climbed Mount Everest or whose research might unlock the cure for cancer someday. But mainly, I’m talking to you — the seemingly average new Stanford student just trying to find your way. Get lost in this place. Never turn down a new opportunity because it seems too hard or too strange. Max Fischer wouldn’t do that, and you shouldn’t either.
Just remember: all of us here at Stanford have just a little bit of Max Fischer in us — otherwise, we wouldn’t be here.
Do you think you’re more of a Steve Zissou? Then email Shane at savitsky at stanford.edu.