This summer, I spent five weeks at Williams as part of their Summer Humanities and Social Sciences Program. I was with 23 other members of my incoming freshman class, all of us first-generation/underrepresented minority.
I felt incredibly lucky to be a part of this program for several reasons because: 1. We were chosen by lottery, 2. Williams was my biggest reach, so I still can’t believe I am going here, and 3. It would give me a head-start in preparing for Williams. I would be taking four courses and learning about the resources available to me.
Five weeks were the longest I had ever been away from home, so leaving for this program started feeling like the real deal, what I had worked towards my entire life: college. I was scared about adjusting to the workload, making friends and dealing with impostor syndrome.
We arrived on a Sunday. Classes started on Monday for some of us and Tuesday for the rest. Before the first day of class, we had to read 13 chapters of “Moby Dick,” over 80 pages for our Cultures of Childhood class and 50 pages for economics. Welcome to college.
I didn’t feel entirely unprepared, however. I went to Eastside College Preparatory School. I boarded. I had a rigorous curriculum. I knew what to expect. But we all soon realized that whatever we learned in high school was not enough.
What do you mean we can’t read every single word of every text? Professors are encouraging skimming? How do we start this paper? Do I know how to write? Am I ready? Do I belong here?
The five weeks flew by in retrospect, but some days definitely felt long. The challenges ranged from struggling on an assignment to struggling to come to terms with our place in an institution of higher education. Although I by no means feel ready to tackle college, here are the biggest things I learned from being a part of SHSS that I would have wanted someone to tell me if I didn’t do the program:
Don’t fall into the pretense false perfection. Just because it looks like others have it under control, doesn’t mean they do. We were all struggling in our own ways. It’s college. It’s supposed to be hard. You are going to be pushed. But you can do it. Don’t spend time looking at how others are doing -- focus on your own strengths and weaknesses!
Reach out for help. Professors, staff, upperclassmen, classmates, friends‒people want to help! Embrace the fact that you are learning and growing. You won’t always be able to do everything on your own. Reaching out for help will help you grow and build new relationships!
Utilize your resources. The students who have the best grades are the ones who use the Writing Center the most. Go to office hours. Introduce yourself to the deans. Reach out to a professor or staff member working in a field you’re interested in. It could go a long way.
Make time for self-care. Make sure you de-stress after being productive. Go for a run. Treat yourself to your favorite snack. Grab ice cream with friends. Know when you are overwhelmed and need a break! Prioritize your health (in other words, get food and sleep)!Believe in yourself. As cheesy as it sounds, a part of succeeding in higher education is realizing that you are there for a reason. If you can make it there, you can make it out. One of the deans at Williams said something that stuck out to me‒ “You can’t always go around bowing your head, saying ‘Thank you!’, ‘Thank you very much!’ and being submissive. No‒you are here for a reason, and at some point, you have to be able to say to yourself, ‘This is where I belong.'”