Freshman Year Biggest Mistakes and Best Decisions at Bryn Mawr


By Megan Fortgang Unigo Campus Rep at Vassar Bryn Mawr is a school different from any other. We are a very small and close-knit community – sometimes the campus just feels too small! We joke that a Bryn Mawr girl never does anything but homework, and sometimes it is more reality than a joke. My biggest mistake of my freshman year was not getting involved in the community, both at Bryn Mawr the local area. Bryn Mawr offers endless chances to become involved in campus clubs and organizations as well as opportunities to participate in events and service in the surrounding community. Looking back, I think if I had participated in more activities beyond my homework I would have had fewer moments of stressful exasperation. I had become so acclimated to doing nothing but work after junior and senior year of high school that I forgot the importance of making time for something just because I enjoy it. Getting off campus and participating in activities just for fun helps to blow off some of the steam built up in this very competitive academic environment. It is always difficult when the work keeps piling up to take a few hours to go enjoy yourself without some lingering guilt in the back of your mind. In the end, it is your best interest to get out of the library. All of the recreational opportunities offered take into consideration that Bryn Mawr students have huge amounts of work to do. These service projects, clubs, day trips, and all sorts of other activities are tailored to fit into the schedule of the average Bryn Mawr girl. The program coordinators want each of us to have the opportunity to participate and not feel overwhelmed.  I wish I had known that before! College is as much about growing as a person and learning for the sake of learning as it is about getting a degree. My advice to incoming freshman: have a life! Homework will wait. Part of the essence of Bryn Mawr comes from the emphasis on community bonding through traditions. Though often quirky and misunderstood by outsiders, our traditions build a bond between students that is beyond compare. My best decision of freshman year was being part of these traditions. Nothing else gave me the same feeling of being part of the culture of Bryn Mawr. The five traditions freshman participate in – starting with Parade Night in September and ending with May Day – added something more to my understanding of Bryn Mawr’s history and gave me a sense of self as a Bryn Mawr student.  The traditions are silly and fun; the upperclasswomen look forward to them just as much as freshmen. The upperclasswomen hope to share the wonderful experience they had with a new class of Mawrtyrs. By the end of Hell Week in February, if I can speak for the rest of the class of 2011, you feel like you’re home. Other Mawrters weigh in on their biggest mistakes and best decisions from freshman year: Andrea Dykyj  ‘11 says, “Academically, my biggest mistake would most likely have to be coming into BMC with my mind set on what I wanted to do. Not that being decisive is a bad thing, but I missed out on SO much first semester because I THOUGHT I was pre-med. Coincidentally, my best decision had to be opening my mind enough second semester to be able to experience different courses Bryn Mawr had to offer outside of my prospective major, taking everything from Ethics to Economics and meeting different people (professors and students) from each department.” Andrea Milne ‘09  says, “My biggest mistake was trying to conform my BMC experience to your popular understanding of what ‘the college experience’ is. When I finally stopped and took a look around, I realized I had everything I wanted, but it took a good semester or so before I understood that my expectations entering college had been totally warped. My best decision was staying, for sure. I thought about transferring all through first semester, and when I went home and talked to my friends, I realized that I was happy, happier than they were. So, even thought was desperately homesick, even though there were problems at home I thought I should be there for, and even though I hadn’t had my dream first semester, I stuck around. It was probably the best decision of my life” Danielle Menard ’11 says, “The biggest mistake I made freshman year was choosing to close myself off from my new environment. I came from four years of being the most involved student in my high school. I was tired. Freshman year was going to be a nice break, time to adjust and ease into college. I regret believing that community involvement would be an overload. By only focusing on my studies, I lost great opportunities to expand, meet new people and learn more about my new home. Bryn Mawr is an academically rigorous institution, but also a tight knit community. The best decision I made was to change my attitude half way through the year. One’s first year of college is universally challenging due to the multitude of changes one experiences. I had closed myself off and was not enjoying college life first semester. I made the decision that it was time for an attitude adjustment and realized, to my shock, that I did in fact love my school. Second semester was amazing when I decided to make it so.”

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