It’s pre-frosh season again. I remember it like it was yesterday: the spam from colleges imploring me to apply, waived application fees to universities I’d never heard of, and the constant feeling of dread inspired by the Common Application website bookmark on my browser, an ever-present reminder that I would have to spend hundreds of dollars to have my seventeen year old life scrutinized and judged by total strangers who could theoretically alter my destiny. The nights spent on Naviance relentlessly comparing my statistics (GPA, SAT, ACT) to those of my classmates who applied to the same schools. The days pouring over essays, wondering if there’s a particular word choice or topic that will push me ahead of the thousands of other Jewish girls from the tri-state area with the same grades as me, applying to the same colleges. I spent months stressing over thirteen applications only to apply to Wesleyan through its binding Early Decision program at the last possible second. My suffering, which I now recognize as superfluous and entirely avoidable, has imbued me with a sense of duty to pass on the lesson I learned to current high school seniors, who will hopefully be wiser than I.
In recent weeks, Wesleyan has been flooded with tour groups, overzealous athletic coaches leading prized recruits around campus in the hopes of gaining a star quarterback who will bring the school athletic glory and the funding that comes with it, and pre-frosh here on overnight visits hoping to figure out what they want in a college through their brief stay. My college decision primarily centered around the experiences I had and the people I met at Wesleyan on my overnight visit a year ago. Thus, given the opportunity to influence a pre-frosh of my own, I want nothing more than to explain to them why I came here, why I love it so, and why they too can find a home here.
A close friend of mine from high school who also attends Wesleyan hosted a pre-frosh this past week. We brought her along to dinner and to a lecture on food sustainability. Midway through the presenter’s pitch on why Wesleyan’s dining service only uses wild Alaskan salmon, the unmistakable sound of a drum beat resounded from outside. Though clearly rattled, the lecturer powered through the rest of her presentation. We left filled with ideas over how to create more sustainable policy on campus – and walked straight into the middle of an hour-long freestyle rap battle.
I’ve slowly grown acclimated to spontaneous outpourings of talent on campus: my dorm hosts a weekly open mic night, there are bi-monthly poetry slams, and hearing original music blaring out of someone’s room is a common occurrence. Living in a place with so many talented people, you almost begin to take talent for granted, as if it were a spontaneously occurring process, as natural as breathing. It’s easy to get sucked into a collegiate whirlpool, forgetting what life is like on the outside. Having pre-frosh, who have not yet acclimated to the ins and outs of this now strangely familiar ecosystem, gaping at your side as freshmen and juniors battle each other over feigned issues of superiority, is a breath of fresh air in the bubble of college life. Pre-frosh remind you of how you used to be, the hopes and dreams you cherished a year ago about the outcome of the very process that led you here. They remind you that it worked out for you, because now you’re here having these experiences, no matter how difficult it may be to balance social life and academics. Pre-frosh are the manifestations of the ghosts of present college freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors – the innocence, the anxiety, and the aspirations that were the blueprint of our current lives. It’s so interesting to see my bubbled world through their eyes, and remember what drove me to be here in the first place.
Penina Yaffa Kessler is a freshman at Wesleyan University. She enjoys being barefoot, fresh fruit, live music, and all the other important things in life. Her column, Fresh Off the Block, appears here on alternating Saturdays.