First-Year Advice from a Rising Sophomore

Molly Emmett

Class of 2016: Welcome to Whitman! There’s no doubt that this is a very exciting time for you. It’s a time for independence and a time for self-discovery, but sometimes, a little advice from someone who has been there before can help. After all, they say hindsight is 20/20. So think of these more as hints: things you can do, not that you must do. After all, you’re out of the house, right? And if you don’t follow my guidelines, I promise you won’t have to do any chores. Just keep them in your back pocket for safekeeping.

Do make a pact with your roommate to wake each other if one of you is in danger of sleeping through a class. Your parents aren’t there to do it anymore, so enlist the help of the person who will probably wake you up half the time anyway in those close dorm quarters.

Do visit professors’ office hours. It may seem scary or pointless, but some professors expect you to write about certain topics in certain ways that may only become clear through a one-on-one meeting. Ask upperclassmen who have had the professor in the past to see if they recommend the visit.

Do volunteer. There’s no denying that Whitman is a privileged school, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that. But there are parts of Walla Walla that would love some help. Mentor in a local school, join Adopt-a-Grandparent or become a Humane Society dog-walker. Paint trim at the Farm Labor Homes. Stop by the Student Engagement Center or check out the Community Service website to figure out where you might be interested in lending a hand. You’ll expand your perception of Walla Walla and gain a supplemental education.

Don’t miss an opportunity to do something crazy. This may sound dangerous, and, okay, it probably is, but it’s also an eye-opening experience. A few weeks before finals started last spring, Walla Walla had several days of evening spring storms, and the way the sky lit up from the lightning was breathtaking. People came out of the library and the dorms just to stand and watch––and, for a few, to streak––even when it started raining hard. It was a classic college experience. Sometimes you have to take a five minute study break, or else you’ll miss those moments.

Do apply for a lot of jobs early on. Whitman lists all on-campus jobs (when it’s updated) online and it doesn’t hurt to apply for as many as possible, even if one isn’t exactly what you’re looking for. Many employers give priority to students with work-study, but even qualifying for that doesn’t guarantee you a position. Especially when it comes to on-campus jobs, you should email those in charge of hiring early on to indicate your interest.

Do check your Whitman email twice a day, if you can. It’s the most reliable source for campus news, and wouldn’t you rather see that a class is cancelled before you make the THREE MINUTE trek across campus?

Don’t be afraid to remove yourself from listervs. These are the lists of emails that get put together when you sign up on contact sheets for clubs and other groups. If at some point you lose interest and don’t want to keep receiving emails from them, you can send a blank email to [email protected] Then maybe you’ll have less than 39 emails a day!

Do dress up if you get the chance. While it’s true that you mature a lot during your first year of college, don’t let that stop you from putting together that Lil’ Wayne costume you’ve always dreamt of. When you and your friends show up to a themed event in the Justice League costumes you spent an hour putting together, Whitties will definitely be impressed.

Do get tickets early for WEB concerts, theater productions, etc. If you really want to go to a performance, don’t be caught in line the day before when everything is sold out. Whitman is a small school, but there are usually more people who want to see a show than there are free tickets available.

Don’t get too distracted by Facebook, Twitter, or even sites like Whitman Encounters (whitmanencounters.com––check it out and you’ll see what I mean soon enough). A lot of students limit themselves to only checking the sites once a day or even deleting their account during busy times in the semester like finals week.

Do stay for Camp Whitman! It’s the time after finals are over and before commencement when the school lets you stay in the dorms and even continues to feed you. Sure, you’ll have to spend some of the time packing, but mostly it’s a great opportunity to spend a little summertime with all the new friends you’ll have to say goodbye to until August.

Do try going vegetarian or vegan, even for a week. Bon Appetit provides more vegetarian and vegan options than you’d find at a lot of other places. And they make it easy by doing the cooking for you.

  • Also, to avoid getting bored with the dining hall food, go for the unusual stuff once in a while. Sometimes the food is just as good in the short line as it is in the one that extends to the door. . . sometimes.

Don’t forget to call your parents, at least on holidays. Chances are they helped you get where you are in some capacity or another, and I’ve heard they appreciate knowing you’re still alive, or even that you’re really enjoying yourself! Weird, huh?

Do go downtown. Now, for those of us who come from big cities, Walla Walla’s Main Street and its three block perimeter do not constitute downtown. But it has a quaint small town appeal and you’ll be sorry if you only discover Brights or Sweet Basil during Camp Whitman.

Do explore the library. Get lost in the stacks one night before your schedule gets too crazy. There are some cool places to study and some great books and magazines in the libz, but don’t wait until you have a paper due the next morning to find them.

Don’t judge anyone too quickly. No one likes to admit it, but a lot of us judge new people without even realizing we’re doing it. Instead, challenge yourself to say hi to the person you think is your complete opposite. Whitties are pretty cool across the board, and your first year is the best time to make all the friends you can.

Do get to know your resident advisor (RA) and student academic advisor (SA). Your RA is the upperclass student that lives in your section with you and is like an older, more experienced friend whose job it is to hear your concerns and help your dorm experience be as great as possible. All RAs undergo a competitive application process and they are seriously awesome people. The SAs are there to provide academic aid and advice during your first semester. They can help you with registering for classes, creating outlines, editing papers and plenty more. They are also great, well-qualified people who can make your transition into college that much easier.

Do join as many intramural teams as you can fit into your schedule. You may find that you’ve got a knack for flag-pulling or dodging balls, and even if you don’t, you can still come up with a euphemistic name for your section’s mini-golf team.

Do take a breather sometimes. It’s tempting to overbook yourself with so much freedom and opportunity, and most Whitties do. But remember that staying in some nights and catching up on your favorite TV show or a new book is just as important to the college experience. A good balance of energy spent and saved will make your first-year absolutely kick-ass!