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Letter to the Class of 2017


Welcome home, freshman! The next four years are going to be some of the most exciting in your life. As they drilled into you at NSO, the folks at 355 Galvez make no mistakes: Welcome to the Cardinal family. We’re so glad to have you.

Hard work pays off, and during the next few years you’re going to have more opportunities than you can humanly pursue. You’ll also meet classmates who are just as smart as you are and some smarter, not to mention professors, some of whom advise presidents. In the last year, I’ve casually run into Chris Christie outside an economics class and listened to Al Gore, Rachael Maddow and Jane Goodall speak.

It’s a different world than many of y’all may be accustomed to, but you’re now a part of it. In a few years, your friends (and maybe you) will snag that Google/Goldman Sachs/Microsoft/J.P. Morgan summer internship that could lead to a career. Summers will include traveling to exotic places or seeing Facebook updates from friends who did.

With fall quarter excitement in the air, I want to offer some advice as you start your Stanford career. I’m the first in my family to come to Stanford, and I didn’t have any idea of what I was trying to get out of my elite, private education when I came to campus.

It felt like Jesus had a performed another miracle when the acceptance came senior year, and I continued to move forward, despite being paralyzed by awe and jubilation for the majority of my freshman year, just trying to “enjoy college.” I worked my ass off in high school and had no intention of jumping back on that hamster wheel immediately. In retrospect, I had a fun freshman year, but I did learn some things that I’d like to impart to y’all, the Class of 2017.

1. GET INVOLVED. I can’t stress this enough. I loved being in an all-freshman dorm, but at the end of freshman year, the freshman dorm ceases to hold you and your friends and a new class moves in.

Go to dorm events: figure out what makes your neighbors incredible, but also find something outside of that to be a part of. The options are so numerous that it’s overwhelming. Join the Band; learn to twerk better than Miley with a dance crew; embrace the fact you’re a college student and join a capella or ultimate Frisbee. At some point in the year, you’ll have an interview for a summer program or a job or something you can’t imagine yet, but something you’ll really want to be a part of. This will help.

2. Ignoring that last point, get ready to fail. Stanford is inherently a competitive place. When there’s a Stanford in Government fellowship, a tour guide interview or a spot at Sierra Camp, you’ll be competing against Stanford students who, like you, got into Stanford.

You won’t get everything you apply to, but keep trying. When you take tests for Math 51 or CS106a, everyone in your class is smart. If you were used to sailing through high school and picking A’s off trees like apples, those days are probably over.In the excitement of coming to Stanford, it’s easy to forget it’s an extremely academic place. You might work as hard as you can and get a B. If you can reconcile this with yourself, you’ll be a happier person.

3. Find some classes that you’re super pumped to take and take them. Find something in the IntroSem book you got over the summer or enroll in CS106a if you’ve never taken computer science. (If you’ve recently moved to the Bay area, you’ll be hearing a lot of preaching about tech for the next four years.) Invite your professor to faculty night. If they’re busy, ask when they’re free and grab a meal.

4. Go to campus events. If you played a sport in high school, go watch our D1 teams play it. Paint up for football games, see the dance concerts and listen to our musicians at Bing. Stanford’s theater scene is incredible and talented: You should check it out.

You could probably go without a meal plan and just eat free food at all the campus talks. Stanford is bursting with energy, and you’re missing out if you don’t support the people around you.

5. Take care of your dormmates and your friends. If you go to the Row with someone, try not to forsake them and hold your friend’s hair back if it’s the right time. Partying is something you have the chance to hone in college, and try not to be that kid who got transported. Everything you learn in class is probably on the Internet, and the friends you’ll meet in the next four years are the best part about being on campus.

I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I know that you’re going to be incredible. A lot of people love you. We’re excited to see you thrive at the Farm.

Love, McKenzie

Contact McKenzie Andrews at [email protected]

McKenzie Andrews writes as an opinions columnist for The Stanford Daily. Originally from Nashville, McKenzie is a sophomore pursing a B.A. in Economics. She interns at the Graduate School of Business, serves as the Financial Officer for a Christian student group and competes with the traveling Model United Nations team. She covers global and local issues that affect the Stanford student body.