An upperclassmen offers sage advice to first-years
New faces, innovative talents, and fresh meat, welcome to Carnegie Mellon University. Inherent in your enrollment and payment of tuition is an unwritten bill of rights afforded to you upon joining the Carnegie community. First-years are subdued for weeks with undiversified talks of diversity, ice cream sundaes, and merrymaking under the guise of Playfair and related activities. Yet, all the joyous revelry aside, have you been informed yet of where the loopholes, enjoyable avenues, and special spaces hide?
Let me, one who has surged, stumbled, and recovered in the path to self-realization offer a map to avoid similar pitfalls. It would be a grievous error if you looked back four or five years from now and reflected without a smile coming to your face. However, this is not a simple task. Many students arrive in their upperclassman years jaded and longing for May to arrive as quickly as possible.
Waiting to exit is not a proper exit strategy.
The ability to recognize your own talents is one of the great gifts university is intended to bring. Perhaps, in high school, the jack-of-all-trades mentality got you through the day, and perchance even into college. The university setting is designed, or at least classically intended, to provide you with an accessible environment for determining true interests and skills. If you prefer languages to mathematics, stop pretending and embrace what you are driven towards.
If your father works on Wall Street, that alone does not mean that you are required to stay in Tepper when your heart is really in CFA. Many unhappy students fall into that frightful rut by denying their true interests and thereby falling out of the realm of intellectual honesty. There are countless examples of students finding their niches and becoming great successes in fields they never previously considered.
Socially, expansion and networking should become prominent in your repertoire. Remember to never become too comfortable in a single social circle. While good friends are wonderful and necessary for support, never pigeonhole yourself into a role. Once you decide to make yourself exclusive to only one group, or a specific social type, you lose great opportunity for intellectual development.
Writing off a person or group simply due to prejudice or predetermined thought will inevitably come back to haunt you later on in your academic career. Specifically, intellectual circles that are too tight stifle diversity of thought. In the future, when the lessons learned in university require professional application, lacking of a healthy diversity of thought is a serious hindrance.
Use the University, because the University uses you as well. Many students may not enjoy their classes, but that alone is not an excuse to write off the faculty. The faculty — especially here at prestigious Carnegie Mellon University — are rich with a life’s bounty of experience and academic trendsetting. At 40-plus thousand dollars a year, you should strive to take at least as much away from Carnegie as you put in. There are ample opportunities available, and once you acheive intellectual honesty, there are whole sets of students and faculty with similar interests with whom you should collaborate to pursue interests of your own. Whether you want to work on Middle Eastern foreign policy or build unmanned military vehicles, there is someone else here that shares your interests.
Venturing into Pittsburgh proper is key: Never settle to live your Carnegie Mellon community life only on and near campus. This is a decent city, rich with venues and libations factories. Live music and theater can be found at every turn. There are activities on campus that are excellent, but make sure to hop on that bus and venture around. You will find that interaction in the community will aid in keeping proper perspective when inside the Carnegie Mellon bubble.
Lessons learned over the years compel this advice. Remember through your time here to be ever expanding intellectually and socially. A great danger of finally being on your own is falling into the trap of exclusivity and close-minded thought. There will always be events that rile up the populace, and at times one might find oneself attached to a number of activist causes. Exercise your newfound freedoms, and always speak up when something is on your mind. Never falter, and never allow others to impede your personal progress. Welcome to Carnegie Mellon; this is now your school.