Freshman Fifteen

A little while ago, I was delighted to receive an email from a friend back home. She had been admitted to Harvard and wanted to ask me a couple questions. Amid mundane worries about the weather in Cambridge and about Harvard’s many course offerings were some more provoking in nature: How happy are you on a day-to-day basis? How often do you compare yourself to those around you? What advice would you give to a freshman entering college?

I want to touch on that last one because while advice is ubiquitous, it is often difficult to apply. “Start a fresh chapter,” people will say, or “be open to new possibilities.” What that means now in hindsight is change your name, cut your hair, and dump your boyfriend.

Life moves in limps and lurches. College, especially the beginning of college, is a sprint. And in the spirit of giving useful advice, here are fifteen actionable tips to help you run faster.

1) Harvard’s best attractions are the less obvious ones: rock climbing at Lowell House, glass flowers in the Museum of Natural History. For rare cosmic occurrences there’s the observatory; for romance, the roof of Mather tower.

2) Don’t confuse Lowell Lecture Hall and Lowell House.

3) When friends from home visit, take them to the balcony above Annenberg. Light filters in through the stained glass windows, and on a sunny day, the whole hall glows.

4) Knowledge may seem to flow exclusively from professors to students, but professors want to learn from you as much as you want advice from them. So tell them about your interests and goals, and get them talking about politics and education. Academics need not constrain your interactions.

5)  Eat at Hillel. The selection is small and delicious.

6) Once a week, sit by yourself for dinner in the middle of the dining hall. Don’t read a book; don’t look at your computer. Being comfortable alone is a strength.

7) Skim the Crimson at breakfast. This can be done in less than half an hour. Use it as a source of conversation topics throughout the day.

8) Sunflower seeds go well with steel-cut oatmeal.

9) Get off campus. Take the green line to Haymarket Station and eat dinner in the North End with your roommates.

10) The beautiful White Mountains in New Hampshire are about two hours north of Boston, easily doable in a weekend. Bring brainteasers and a girl.

11) Start running. The loop around MIT along the Charles takes about forty minutes, Fresh Pond and the Medical School a little longer.

12) Much of Harvard’s social scene revolves around dorms and houses. Go to study breaks and play intramural sports. Buy some sparkling cider and invite people over to do nothing in particular.

13) There are a couple fashion purchases everyone succumbs to, so you might as well get them now and at a discount. For girls, a Longchamp Le Pliage bag and Hunter rain boots. For guys, Sperry boat shoes and salmon-colored shorts from J.Crew.

14) Take the hardest math class you can handle, even if you don’t intend to study science.

15) Study science.

-Ren and Robert