Thursday, September 18, 2014

Welcome, Class of 2018!

Northwestern University, where I teach, runs on the quarter system (elsewhere called the trimester system), so classes don't start here until next week.  Admittedly, this timely welcome I'm offering to our incoming first-years will be belated for students on most other campuses, though I wish everyone in school, at any level, a fantastic year.

I was so happy to score the gig giving the opening-day address to all 1150 first-years in our Arts and Sciences college.  My remarks were inspired equally by questions and worries I've heard from my own freshman advisees over the years, and by my own memories of excitement and uncertainty my first year in college, and by things I never stop thinking about.  For example, Project Runway.  And the Oscars.  Frequent readers of this site or listeners of Nathaniel's podcasts won't be surprised by any of that.

I wish I could give this advice to many more college students, and maybe other students as well, about controlling stress, admitting vulnerabilities, cultivating patience, and prioritizing happiness, even amidst hard work.  In hopes of doing that, I'm posting the text here, complete with what every campus address needs: a full-scale FYC for Secrets & Lies and a couple sung bars of "Let It Go."  Make the most of the coming year, everybody, or the coming four years!

Wildcat Welcome Address – September 17, 2014 – Nick Davis

If you have further or different advice you'd offer to entering undergraduates, please share it in the Comments.  And feel free to circulate, with attribution.  (Don't just lift it, or I'll be all up in your business like a Wendy interview.)

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Anonymous Kristina said...

I wish someone had told me not to focus on what I thought my major was going to be (English) so that I could have spent the first two years pfaffing about the Humanities, taking classes I was interested in, rather than the classes I thought I had to take.
So that's a big one.

9:58 AM, September 18, 2014  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Kristina: Thanks for that! I only took two courses toward my major out of eight during my first year, and did a lot of the pfaffing you describe (great word!), which resonated wonderfully with me. When students are especially unsure of the direction they're headed, I tend to suggest taking at least one or, if possible, two courses in different fields that potentially interest them, just to get a feel for what they're actually like. When they already have a clear idea, I encourage them to do as you're suggesting and not make everything about the major immediately (although some tracks, like pre-med, necessitate this to some degree). Anyway, thanks for sharing this advice, and not just because I totally agree with you!

10:16 AM, September 18, 2014  
Blogger Jonathan said...

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7:45 PM, September 19, 2014  
Blogger Jonathan said...

'm always intrigued when people talk about university 'majors' as, for the most part, they don't really exist all that much in the UK university system. I took one module in total during the three years at uni that wasn't part of my ostensible degree subject: a Cold War history course, which I was immensely grateful that I had the opportunity to study, even if it resulted in by far my worst marks! Indeed, when applying to unis in the UK, admissions bodies expect applicants to know exactly what they want to study for three years and to demonstrate on the application form their aptitude for and desire to study said subject for 3-5 years. The concept of deciding what you want to do when you've already been at uni for a while is completely alien to lots of students in the UK! Sometimes I look back and think what it'd be like if I'd done an Emma Watson and upped sticks to an American institution with the extremely broad education that you guys get... but then part of me likes the really in-depth knowledge that a concentrated course gives you, as well as - in my case - completing it in 3, as opposed to 4-5, years. As much as I loved my time at uni, it's not something I want to go back to any time soon.

Oops, this is already way too long and I've buried the lede: I loved the piece, Nick! Although I must say that it's a wonder how my friends and I turned out like we have when our Oscar year contained the Dances with Wolves avalanche and that Andy Garcia nomination and Ghost getting more statuettes than Goodfellas!

7:49 PM, September 19, 2014  
Blogger Colin Low said...

I love the generous variation in this speech: how you can so masterfully endorse the passions you love, and yet also shift analogies to couch things in the idioms that students with different interests can understand. I've swerved from one pole to another but I'm still learning the delicate balancing act you pull off here.

2:59 AM, September 24, 2014  
Anonymous Manny said...

These are words any young adult should live by, college student or no. Thanks for sharing them with the rest of us, Nick, and for making your address so hilarious and relatable.

1:54 AM, September 27, 2014  

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