Op-ed columns are usually just exercises in narcissism. So let’s cut through the bullshit. Today’s column is all about me.
I’m a Bowdoin student and I’m important. I do things at Bowdoin and I’ll be doing things in the world one day.
Or at least that’s what I think my tour guide said. It’s hard to hear when they’re walking backwards. The hope that they’ll trip is too distracting. What they say must be true though—all the facts on tours are true. Just like how all the facts at political conventions are true. Just like Coles Tower is definitely the tallest building in Maine.
Let’s get back to me, though, and how I’m important. That’s why Bowdoin wanted me. It couldn’t live without me. My essays were flawless. I demonstrated unprecedented potential for personal growth, expressed a passion for community service, made avant-garde finger paintings, and dominated my high school athletic conference.
Did you notice our Forbes ranking went up this year? I assure you, it’s not a coincidence.
If I were an institution, my median SAT scores would be perfect. My letters of recommendation—biblical. Just as if the apostles had written them.
There’s just one thing I can’t seem to figure out, however. Why did they let these other people in? They’re certainly not as attractive as I’d hoped. Athletically speaking, they’re a disappointment as well. Not even a winter Olympian in residence. Not only that, but the other students don’t seem that interested in me. I went to a small liberal arts school to be a big fish in a tiny pond. Where are the trumpets? What’s going on here? What about the Bowdoin “hello”? My college guidebook said it was real. Why isn’t everyone saying hi to me? Why aren’t I friends with everyone yet?
Maybe I’m old and jaded and don’t have the energy to keep up anymore, but the best advice I could give any first year is, “Just relax!” You recently spent the better part of a year branding and selling yourself. Not only is that stressful, but it’s a little reality-warping.
Life isn’t and never will be perfect, no matter how glossy the new website looks.
You have a lot to offer Bowdoin. No one’s arguing that. But so do the people around you.
No one is either as awesome as their application makes them out to be or as generic as their button-downs and summer dresses suggest.
Making friends takes time. No number of icebreakers designed by ResLife can synthesize that. It takes finding common interests, common experiences, or—as I suspect is the case in organic chemistry classes—common suffering, to forge the epic college friendships that Hollywood fabricates onscreen.
When you’re off trying to make these new friends to journey to Mordor with, it’s easy to hear the stereotypes floating around Bowdoin and let them influence your decisions. The students and the administration have their favorites. You’ll also hear gossipy one and two-word character assessments of people told with utmost conviction, and think, “Hey, that sounds plausible.” Amidst all these voices, you can easily start to think you have this whole place already figured out.
While there are certainly grains of truth in Bowdoin stereotypes about athletes, NARPS, Crack House, College Houses, the Peucinian Society, and chem-free living, most of these are blown out of proportion. Fictions that spread arise from people rubbing the generalization genie too frequently.
The best approach is to find out for yourself.
Become an empiricist. Because when you discover the football player on your floor knows the songs to Grease by heart, or the nerdy kid in your math class is the sickest DJ at the school, the Bowdoin life and friendships you’ll develop suddenly feel a lot more exciting and full of untold possibilities and rewards.