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Class of 2021: Reflecting on freshman year

Rising sophomores consider expectations, challenges

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The Daily sat down with three members of the Class of 2021 who shared the highlights — and surprises — that came their way when they experienced their first year on The Farm.

Initial expectations

When asked about their initial suppositions of the school, many admitted to having scarce ideas of what to expect other than the sunny weather — and the academic programs Stanford is notorious for.

“I was so stoked that I got to Stanford … that I forgot to think about what it might be like. Stanford does a really great job during NSO of just hitting you with everything they have,” said George Kingston ’21. “You see everything and … it’s cool, but it’s not quite what you’ll come to see later on in the year.”

But despite Kingston’s comment, he did express some preconceived notions of college going into his fall quarter.

“My main expectation, once I got familiar with the school, was just to meet truly amazing people,” Kingston said. “Everyday, I have crazy cool conversations with crazy cool people as long as I just put myself out there. And it may not be unique to Stanford, but I do think that that is what Stanford’s all about.”

Kingston was not the only freshman praising Stanford for having a diverse, interactive and level-headed student body.

“One of my favorite parts about Stanford that I didn’t know about while I was coming in is that everybody is incredibly humble about what they achieved,” Antonia Hellman ’21 said. People don’t really flaunt that and I think that is incredibly refreshing. There are so many people that have done great things and you’ve never heard about them because it doesn’t matter; they’re still your peers and learning with you.”

Facing difficulties

Some students aired certain qualms about the fast-paced, almost chaotic, nature of Stanford’s quarter system.

“One of the classes I took was CS 106A, and what I realized is that a lot of intro classes seem to set you up to fail,” Hellman said as the. “I was kind of overwhelmed with how much it seemed like [some] departments didn’t want people to do exceedingly well, especially in intro class[es], because they are known to be ‘weeder’ classes to get people not to pursue that major. And I don’t think that’s what intro classes should be about.”

While Hellman did attribute her academic challenges to the fact that she was still adjusting to college, other freshmen voiced similar concerns of the rapid rate of learning required.

Lucia Zheng ’21 said that her midterms began during Week 3 of academic terms, and they didn’t end until Week 7 — affording her just three weeks between the start of courses and exams, and another three weeks between when midterms end and finals occur.

“There is just not the time to really soak it in as much as I want to,” Zheng said. “Sometimes, I find myself wishing for a little more down time to reflect on what I’m doing and what I want to be doing, but you don’t get that much time.”

Both Zheng and Hellman have suggested breaking up lectures into multiple pieces, decreasing the size of classes and allocating more resources in general to help new students adjust faster.

In addition to concerns relating to the accelerated pace of classes, difficulties regarding adjusting socially to Stanford life were also brought up.

“At Stanford, it might take a second to get your feet wet and learn about not only the Stanford community, but about yourself and how you want to contribute,” Kingston said. “There are times as a freshman when you want things to be clicking much more than they are and you get flustered.”

Zheng also said that opening up to her new classmates was awkward and challenging at first. However, both students agreed that after actively pushing to engage with other students, they often found themselves in and eventually expected enriching conversations with fascinating peers.

In the end, Stanford has still lived up to its reputation as a rigorous, but rewarding school according to all three freshmen. While being interviewed, each freshmen recalled amicable memories of the past year, ranging from fountain hopping to late-night finals cramming dance parties to mathematical memes about multivariable calculus.

With sophomore year in the near future and a year of experience under their belts, these frosh have a lot to look forward to.

“[We’re] definitely getting the hang of things […] but it’s just the growing pains of freshmen year. Next year will be a lot smoother,” Zheng said.

Contact Casper Wu at the.casper.wu ‘at’ gmail.com