Wednesday, July 17

First-year students have much to look forward to and learn about college life


Ryan Conroy

This column is part of the Daily Bruin's Orientation Issue 2011 coverage. To view the entire package of articles, columns and multimedia, please visit:

The immoderate triumphalism of high school graduation tends to be the peak of a steep emotional crescendo, beginning with that acceptance letter to a top-choice university.

Private storehouses of hopes and dreams, painstakingly cultivated, find a happy home in those ritualistic processions, ceremonial robes and victory speeches.

However, the self-congratulation of graduation diminishes with time, and grains of anxiety begin to enter the equation.

Minor things like last-minute standardized test score submissions, housing concerns or missing financial aid documents can threaten to curb the flight of aspiration.

But new students should cling to the subjunctive, grammatical realm of the I-wish. They should preserve their wide-eyed enthusiasm. This is something to keep in mind during orientation, the confluence of all potentially sobering logistical desiderata.

Over three days and two nights, incoming first-years will be dealing with the institution that is the University of California, Los Angeles not as accepted applicants but finally as students, as Bruins.

After all, they will be carrying BruinCards. With more finality than any letter bearing the official seal and signature could ever manage, this nondescript piece of plastic declares the bearer to be a “student.”

That fee of $375 was definitely not wasted, as students are treated to an almost uninterrupted flow of essential information.

There will be “workshops on different majors, graduate school and career planning, involvement, residence halls, working on campus, money matters, and research opportunities,” according to the New Students & Transition Programs website. Furthermore, there will be academic advising. For those who need them, there will be placement tests. And finally, what better way to seal your identity as a Bruin than signing up for your fall quarter classes.

Orientation is the earliest point at which your hitherto untested notions of college abrade against the reality of unit counts, grade point averages and wait lists. Dreams of forming lifelong friendships, creating meaningful relationships with professors, or the hair-raising prospect of zero parental supervision are liable to take the backseat to worries about how to pay loans or the suddenly ever-present specter of graduate school.

It does not help either that this year’s incoming batch of first-years is expected to be the most numerous. This probably just aggravates the sense of competitiveness and rigor, already high as it is.
But the hectoring lists of deadlines, General Education guidelines and pre-requisites should not lead you to drop all your romantic notions of college wholesale for an all-business game face.

Betraying the trademark cynicism of the Opinion section of the Daily Bruin, I say college is actually a magical place.

Of course some of the expected cliches are headed for disappointment. You probably won’t immediately find that soulmate who listens to all the same bands, reads the same books and can quote the entirety of your favorite movie with you. Not everyone will be intellectually stimulating either. Also, at least one of you will have an awful roommate.

Still, if you play your cards right, or even just marginally well ““ in between the drudgery of college, studying for finals, catching up with reading, writing papers of inhumane length, doing problem sets at the last minute, filling out applications for jobs and internships and worrying about grad school (but not really doing anything about it) ““ there will be time for a lot.

Time for finding that one person who just gets you. Time for “deep” conversations late into the night. Time for trips to the nearby beaches.

Although there might be more misses than hits, you will meet students who are relentlessly, infuriatingly interesting. And some might find this quality in you as well.

You will have mesmerizing professors whose lectures will inspire you and change you indelibly, whose ideas will guide the contours of your future thinking and even your future self.

All that vague talk of growth, of intellectual and personal maturation, blossoming, even ““ that can be arranged as well.

And yes, there will probably be parties.

Feeling dis-oriented? Email Dolom at [email protected] Send general comments to [email protected]

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