Sept. 2, 2015
Don’t skip class. Do your homework. Set your alarm. Be careful. Have fun. Make friends. Get a fan. Make good choices. Buy a bus pass. Pick a good major. Get good grades. Don’t take early classes. The regular advice goes on and on for new college students. (But seriously, get a fan…it’s really hot this week.)
Today marks the day the new Spartan freshmen start classes — and I’m sure each one has heard a lot of advice from family and friends. I’m also sure it is pretty good advice too. While I don’t have a student starting classes today, I thought I might as well jump on the bandwagon and offer some advice of my own.
- Be grateful. This isn’t just college. This is one of the most incredible opportunities ever presented to you. There are many young people around the world who would give anything to go to school and will never be able to. Never, ever forget how fortunate you are and remember to thank those who helped you get here. Don’t ever take being a Spartan for granted.
- Make the most of it. This is a very special place. You could simply go to class, do your work and earn your degree — but you would be missing out on so much more that’s offered here. Join one of the hundreds of clubs. Look into undergraduate research offerings. Volunteer in the community. Go to museums. Take in a show. The options are endless. If you are bored, you aren’t trying hard enough.
- Give back. You are now part of the Spartan family — more than a half a million strong around the world. This family believes that giving back is just part of who we are. You don’t have to cure cancer to make a difference (though some of you might do that too). Fill the bus. Tutor a classmate. Pick up trash. Run a food drive. Shovel snow for someone who can’t. You have talents and time that can help someone else and trust me; you’ll never feel bad about helping someone else.
- Be bold. Don’t sit back and let life happen to you — this is the only one you get so make it great. Try something new. Stand up for what’s right. Stand up for others. Explore everything. Look at the world of possibilities before you and attack them. You never want to have regrets.
- Be genuine. Don’t ever try to be someone you aren’t — everyone can see right through that. With more than 50,000 students on this campus, I guarantee that there is someone else who will like you just as you are.
- Be open to new things. College is about learning — so learn something! For goodness sake, find a way to do a study abroad course. Expand your worldview to one outside of our borders. Become a global citizen who understands other cultures. Talk to people everywhere who are very different from you. Expose yourself to diverse opinions, ideas and people and you will be amazed at how much you can learn.
- Never give up. Spartans don’t give up; they just don’t. College isn’t easy — if it were, everyone would do it. You will have challenges, but fight them head on. Find solutions to the toughest problems. Give everything your all and simply find a way. You might not be perfect, but never throw in the towel completely. But you don’t have to go it alone — ask for help when you need it.
- Be collaborative. This one kind of goes with being open to new things. Project an openness that lets others know you’re approachable, and approach others with a spirit of partnership. Every single Spartan has something special to offer the world, but our collective power is simply astounding. Find the best in others and work together to make a difference.
- Be passionate. College is a place where you can really discover what you love. You might start thinking you’ll follow one career path and find another that makes your heart sing. Follow what you love — you will spend a huge portion of your life working, so make sure it’s what you truly want to do.
- Seek out mentors. Life is hard and everyone can use some help. Talk to your professors or graduate assistants. Do an internship and find someone in the field to guide you. Never think you have all the answers and know that, most likely, someone else has faced whatever you’re facing. We old folks love nothing better than giving advice so use us.
- Be proud. Being a Spartan is something special and a privilege. Spartans will change the world and solve the most challenging problems. In the midst of all the schoolwork and fun, never forget that.
Christopher P. Long, the new dean of the College of Arts and Letters, is starting his first fall semester today too. He wants students to consider what sort of people they want to be and what contributions will they make to the world. He has some specific advice for students in his FACULTY VOICE: Paths to Explore.
Years ago William Brohn, this year’s Homecoming Grand Marshal, was an MSU student who discovered his passion for orchestrating music. The Tony-award winner says, “MSU is where I first encountered the music world as a profession, as a potential profession, and what it would require of me, what I’d need to do. I was shown by faculty, an extraordinary faculty, what the potential of music, of giving your life to music, might be.” Watch the video MSUTODAY FEATURE: Orchestrating a Musical Legacy, to learn more about his work.
Claire Jordan, a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources senior, is truly making the most of her time at MSU. She’s learning new things, meeting new people, exploring new cultures and discovering a lot about herself in the process. This summer she carried out a research project in Malawi as part of an Undergraduate Research Scholarship she received. Read her STUDENT VIEW: I Thought I Was a Feminist, to learn more about her experience.
This is definitely an exhilarating time on campus. The air, albeit hot and humid, is buzzing with excitement. I pass by fresh-faced students (are they getting younger?) and am a little jealous that they’re just beginning their Spartan journey. Some will follow the advice given to them and some will choose other paths. No matter what they do, since they’re Spartans, there are some things I’m certain of. Who will grow, change, learn, explore, give, solve and ultimately change the world for the better?
Photo of Sparty helping students move in on Aug. 30 by Jennifer Orlando