Dear underclassmen

Feb. 9, 2017, 7:15 a.m.

Wherever you might find yourself on your Stanford journey, it’s easy to feel completely lost sometimes — or a lot of the time. Have I found “my kind” of people yet? What will my major be? Am I doing college right? Whenever our lives get busy as we try to balance school, work and relationships among other things, we should slow down once in awhile and remember that it’s more than okay to ask for help.

Reaching out to those who have already been through similar phases and experiences is the best first step you can take instead of trying to navigate any struggles on your own. Take advantage of the knowledge and guidance readily available all around you, whether it’s from your RAs, classmates, or professors!

The following is a range of thoughtful advice from just a few of our wise and wonderful upperclassmen who have been through it all:

1. “Take more diversified classes”

Derek Lee ’17 advises underclassmen not to “be afraid to challenge yourself and be uncomfortable academically. You never know what new interests you might discover.”

2. “Don’t overcommit yourself”

Vianey Villalobos ’18, currently the co-chair of Hermanas de Stanford, says, “It’s okay to not do everything and simply stick with the things you are truly passionate about and interested in.” You don’t necessarily have to stretch yourself so thin in order to get the most out of your four years here.

3. Take risks

Lila Thulin ’17, a senior who is passionate about and deeply invested in the arts, reassures us that “it’s chill if it takes you a while to find your niche.” Just remember to “step out of your comfort zone — go abroad, take a class you normally wouldn’t, consider living somewhere you originally wouldn’t think you’d enjoy; it’s all a growing experience. Also, meet as many of these amazing people around you as possible!”

4. Work hard, play hard

Football player Taijuan Thomas ’17 tells us that if he were to do things a little differently, he “would’ve gone to office hours more.” But besides that, he urges all the underclassmen out there to simply enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime college experience!

5. Make a Tinder account and make some friends

Currently studying abroad in Paris, Ei Thazin ’18 says that “it’s hard to go to every social event and try to talk to everyone — it’s draining. But, on Tinder, you can easily sort through people who look interesting, not just attractive. And it doesn’t have to be meeting up with them for a date, you could just have a friendly coffee at Coupa or CoHo. Really great way to start talking to people outside your friend group. And if you’re lucky, like me, you might find someone you fall in love with.”

6. “Invest in other people!”

Reflecting on her own freshman year experience, RA Alyssa Morrison ’18 says, “Honestly I think I have learned more from my friends and peers than I have in my classes, and I am so grateful for that. Stanford lets you learn so much about the rest of the country and the world without even leaving your freshman dorm; take advantage of that. Growing sounds nice in theory, but, at some point, you realize it normally requires being pushed and feeling uncomfortable. Don’t run from that. Try to give it a chance and see what might happen if you stick with it.”

7. Stop doing everything, start doing what you love

Also an RA, Luciano Santollani ’18 reminds us that we’re no longer high school students getting involved in every little thing to get into our dream school. “You shouldn’t go through Stanford as if you’re trying to get admitted. Once you’re already here and you’re already admitted, you don’t have to keep doing everything, so I think it’s important to focus on what you enjoy.”

8. “Mental health is non-negotiable”

Olivia Reyes-Becerra ’17, a senior and a coordinator for the Women’s Community Center, reminds us that “mental health is non-negotiable. It can take a while to figure out your rhythm on campus. It’s helped myself and other friends to read, hang out, go see a movie and get off campus at least twice a quarter. Pick a date and stick to it! Daily rituals like reading for 10 minutes, meditating and writing down things that made you happy that day are also simple ways to take care of yourself.”

And in terms of branching out and expanding the horizons of your knowledge, she recommends asking open-ended questions. “Most of the time, we don’t even know what we don’t know. Keep an open mind and ask questions that lead into a discussion rather than a yes or no answer.”

9. Don’t forget your home and your own self

First-year law student Cynthia Amezcua says one of the most important things you can’t forget to do in college is to “nurture the relationship you have with yourself and with your family — the individuals that feel like home to you.” In terms of self-care, “strive for a balance of being kind to yourself and pushing yourself to be the person you’d like to be. But don’t get too caught up with yourself; remember you’re part of a ‘we.’ Let your familial relationships teach you how much more important and meaningful it is to live for each other than to live for your own self-interest.”

Above all, your college experience is entirely up to you, and it’s ultimately what you make of it!


Contact Clarissa Gutierrez at cgutier ‘at’

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