Much to my own surprise, I am almost done with my junior year at Swat! I am almost a senior which seems both like it happened way too fast and also like I’ve been here for at least a decade. I have absolutely loved my time at Swat and have learned many things during my time here. There are many things that I know now that I wish I had known during my freshman year so I hope to offer some advice and guidance for any incoming Swatties that may be nervous for their first year here!
Remember to take care of yourself!!
Swarthmore is a very prestigious and rigorous school. I mean, our campus bookstore sells t-shirts that say “Anywhere else it would have been an A…really!” I feel like Swatties, especially freshmen, feel pressured to somehow prove their worth and that they deserve to be here and will often go overboard in order to do so. News flash! If you got in, you already deserve to be here! Regardless of your test scores, ACTs, SATs, AP exams, extracurriculars, etc. you deserve to be here just as much as anyone else! I remember really struggling with imposter syndrome when I first got here. I felt like all of my classmates were incredibly more intelligent and well-spoken than I was and that I somehow got in by a fluke or something. I combatted this feeling by putting intense pressure on myself to be the perfect student and would even brag about skipping meals to study. I highly discourage doing this. ALWAYS put your mental health and general well-being first! You can’t be alert in class after consistently pulling all-nighters anyhow so you’re really just shooting yourself in the foot. I really wish I had prioritized taking better care of myself when I was a freshman instead of stressing myself out. Remember that you deserve to be here just as much as your fellow classmates and you don’t have to prove that to anyone! Remember to be kind to yourself and relax and rest when you need to.
Learn how to prioritize
My academic life was forever changed when an older classmate told me in my freshman year that no one does all of the readings. Suddenly a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt reborn. I had spent most of my first semester at Swat attempting to read every single reading that was assigned which would include multiple novels a week, 50 + pages of theory, and various readings from each class, and I was at a complete loss as to how everyone around me seemed to manage this amount of reading just fine and why I seemed to be the only one struggling when this older student saved me. I suddenly realized the magic of prioritizing readings and the art of skimming. It is not humanly possible to read every single word for every single reading that is assigned so you shouldn’t hold yourself to that standard! Prioritize the readings that are the most important like if you’re leading a discussion on that reading for a class or know that the professor will be heavily focussing on a certain two over others. Some professors will even assign readings in order of importance which is incredibly helpful! Always try to do as much of the reading as you can, but also learn how to skim and find the most important information in a given reading.
Take advantage of pass/fail
Your first semester at Swat is a wonderful time that serves as a very important transition to college. Pass/fail makes this transition especially easy and I wish I hadn’t taken my first semester for granted! Given the fact that all of your classes will be ungraded, this really gives you the opportunity to explore without any fear of failure! If you’re scared about any classes, I highly recommend this as the time to take them. I was too worried and played my first-semester safe by taking classes in the subjects I felt most comfortable in. I really wish I had taken more STEM classes then as I am still currently trying to knock off that STEM distribution requirement and I desperately miss the ease of pass/fail. Try classes out that you’re scared of/think you’d be bad at/not familiar with! Now is the time!
Overall, I did have a wonderful freshman year but I had to learn a lot of these lessons through experience. I hope that these bits of advice will help smooth your transition from high school to Swat and that you remember to not stress yourself out too much and I hope you have a wonderful first year!