Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Advice to the Sarah Lawrence Class of 2014

Following SLC on Facebook and Twitter, I was asked last week to provide some advice to the newly accepted members of the class of 2014. I provided the obligatory 140-character tweet, but it got me thinking about all the things that don't quite fit into that. And so I want to share them now, while indulging in a little nostalgia.

1. Take a chance on an over-registered class. Is there a great course taught by one of the institutions at SLC? You know, one where every interview is tripled up and everyone seems to have it as their first choice? Go for it. There are 15 spots, and the chance that you will get one of them is just as high as it is for anyone else. Why not put yourself out there to take a class with one of the greats; what's the worst that could happen?

2. Well, the worst that could happen is that you get bumped. Getting bumped is not the end of the world, even though it might feel like it at two in the morning when you check MySLC, see that you only have two classes and realize you won't be spending Saturday morning sleeping in and enjoying brunch, but running around campus doing more interviews. Thoughts flash before your eyes, of truly boring classes, something you would never want to take, with books you can't even understand and a teacher who hates you. You see your entire year go up in smoke, from potential amazingness to certain doom.

Snap out of it! It's not the end of the world. I've been bumped from a "rock star" class, and I ended up registering for what turned out to be my favorite class. There are plenty of classes out there, and chances are that alternate registration is going to show you some great options you didn't even notice the first time around.

3. Don't return your books at the end of the semester/year. There are books I tossed aside that I wish I still had. After staying up until the wee hours trying to read just enough to get by, you might hate the sight of it, but that book might be worth a second read one day, or it might just be worth the sentimental value.

If you are absolutely sure you aren't going to want a book, at least don't return it at the campus bookstore. Sure, it's convenient, but it wears away at your soul to buy books for hundreds of dollars, only to return them for a few quarters each, knowing that next semester, someone will be paying another few hundred dollars for them (I am not exaggerating). You are better off going to eBay or another website designed to exchange books between students. Also, chances are your class will be offered again, and if you wait until that happens, you can get a lot more for your used copy because there will be people with an immediate need for it.

4. Go to the on-campus events. It's all to easy to fall into the apathetic mode of the Sarah Lawrence bubble, lock yourself up in your dorm and ignore the great shows and other events going on all around you. The theater department does some great things, and the dances are a fun way to blow off steam. The same reasoning goes for joining clubs and being generally involved in the community. Don't be a hermit, because four years goes by in a flash, and you're going to wish you went to some of these crazy things. One of my favorites was the song night in spring, where a particular class has spent the semester preparing a show of pop songs, performed cabaret-style. Look out for that one.

5. Get out! There's plenty to do one campus, but there's exponentially more to do in New York City (well, duh). When you're coming from states away, half an hour by train seems like nothing. But when you're actually on campus, it seems like such a hassle sometimes. Take advantage of the Met van that runs between campus at the Metropolitan museum over the weekends as often as you can, and explore the coolest city around. Not every weekend, but don't go too long without doing something fun.

6. Having a crazy-stressful conference week is a tradition you don't need to follow. It's common knowledge that once the library goes into 24/7 mode, that's when things start getting insane, and as the end of the semester gets closer, it only gets worse. People will go for days without sleep, plowing away on three conference papers all due the next morning. They are fueled only by stress and greasy Pub food. This affliction, though common, is avoidable. Here's how: planning.

My personal plan of attack was always to count up the number of pages I was going to need to write, add at least 7, and then that number of days before the due date, I would start writing a page a day. Simple. So when you've got two 15-20 page conferences, you start about six weeks out. It lets you take tiny nibbles at your work, and though 20 pages is intimidating, one is easy. Just take one idea, one source at a time and work through it. Some days you can do more than one page, but as long as you get just one, you'll be all set. And with those extra 7 days you have a week to edit. You could even send the professor some of your draft to make sure you're on track, knowing you have room to change it.

This routine served me well for each and every conference paper I completed. And while I did miss out on the midnight library experience, I was able to enjoy midnight breakfast a lot more than those who were rushing french toast before returning to their books.

7. Just enjoy it. If you've read this blog before, you know I am suffering from serious post-grad separation anxiety. I would love to do all four years all over again, but I can't. You, the newly accepted class of 2014, are the ones with all that time, all those classes and all those experiences ahead of you. Know that you are one of the lucky ones, and know that I am supremely jealous.

Also, live in the old dorms at least once, and explore your study abroad options, even if you end up staying in Bronxville for every semester.


  1. Great memories Joanna!
    For the those “responsible” Mom’s, Dad’s, Guardians, etc. amongst you some limited advice.
    1. Understand the unique SLC processes – especially not having registered in classes for the Fall semester without traipsing around campus, interviewing Professors, and meeting with a Don to request class participation, and conference week. They are nothing like you ever experienced (unless you too, were lucky enough to attend SLC),
    2. Listen and make possible (if you can). This is a once in a lifetime thing, and difficult to repeat – 2014 will be here before you know it!
    3. Buy a Stop’n’Go gift card at the beginning of Freshman year (and keep it loaded) – cravings can be satisfied on a whim without considering pub hours and choices.
    4. Enjoy SLC – I miss it too!

  2. I love the Old Dorms. Sure, I have no kitchen senior year, but damn, these are gorgeous rooms.

    This is making me try to enjoy my last few weeks of undergrad here instead of rushing through them. Thanks for reminding me how awesome this school is dear.